28 Spinach Companion Plants To Grow With Spinach
Spinach is a vegetable garden staple for many gardeners. But companion planting successfully can be the difference between bountiful yield and a wasted harvest. In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey looks at her favorite spinach companion plants, as well as what you should never plant with spinach.
Heart-healthy spinach is among the healthiest vegetables on the planet, and it’s also a joy to have in the garden. Certain plants can even boost the growth of spinach to maximize your yields and minimize crop problems.
Known for its high iron content and versatile uses in the kitchen, spinach thrives in cool-weather gardens. It’s known to perform well alongside a variety of other buffer-season crops. This nutrient-dense veggie is often the first green to yield in the spring. It’s also usually among the last ones standing in the fall.
Spinach is remarkably low-maintenance and can be harvested in a very short time frame (if you prefer baby greens). Better yet, spinach does not fall victim to nearly as many diseases or pests as other popular greens like kale or arugula.
However, spinach is prone to turning bitter and bolting in warm weather. Gardeners who want to enjoy this crop into the summer months may find that the greatest benefit of companion plants is providing shade to their delicate greens. Let’s dig into the best companion plants for spinach as well as what plants are best kept at a distance.
- 1 What Are Companion Plants?
- 2 How Companions Help Spinach
- 3 Companion Planting Considerations
- 4 Best Spinach Companion Plants
- 5 Vegetable Companions
- 6 Floral Companions
- 7 Herbal Companions
- 8 Avoid Planting Spinach With These Plants
- 9 Final Thoughts
What Are Companion Plants?
Companion planting is growing multiple plant species in the same place for the purpose of enhancing the growth of your crop. This method of organic, diversified gardening has been used for thousands of years to create more resilient agro-ecosystems that can better withstand the threats of pests, diseases, and harsh weather.
Symbiosis is the biological term for two species working together to mutually benefit each other. Certain companion plants help protect crops from pests with their strong scents or certain compounds they release in the area.
Others may attract beneficial insects like predatory wasps or pollinators. Still, other companions benefit a crop by providing shade, pulling nutrients from the soil, or using otherwise vacant space in the garden.
Companion Plant Benefits
- Repelling insect pests
- Detering animal foragers
- Attracting predatory insects
- Attracting pollinators
- Releasing compounds into the soil to repel disease-causing organisms
- Preventing crop diseases
- Enhance flavor of the crop
- Acidify or neutralize soil pH
- Providing shade on hot days
- Making more nutrients available to your crop
- Acting like a trellis or support for your crop
- Adding biodiversity to the garden
- Suppress weeds as “living mulch”
- Utilizing otherwise empty garden space
- Maximizing yields from a small space
If you want to maximize the yieldable space of your garden while creating robust ecological guards against crop threats, companion planting is a scientifically-backed method that can be implemented in gardens of any size or growing zone.
As a bonus, companion planting adds more colorful beauty and botanical interest to your space by integrating diverse flowers and herbs.
How Companions Help Spinach
Spinach is remarkably easy to grow and quick to harvest, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement!
Specific companion pairings with your spinach crop can help it grow faster, bigger, and more flavorful. You can also pair it with other garden favorites to make the best use of your garden space.
Companion Planting Considerations
If all the benefits of companion planting sound too good to be true, keep in mind that this method is as much an art as it is a science. Companion planting can go horribly wrong when the basic anatomy, spacing, timing, and competition isn’t taken into account.
Before planting two species in the same bed, it’s important to take into account:
- Will one plant shade out the other and compete for sunlight?
- Will the plants compete for nutrients or water?
- Is there enough space for both plants to grow to their full size?
- Does one plant attract or repel pests?
- Are they susceptible to the same pests?
- Can the companion plants interact badly with each other?
If these questions aren’t properly addressed, you could wind up with two crop failures at once. If you accidentally try out a companion combo that doesn’t work, rest assured it’s happened to the best of us! Thankfully, spinach is a very fast-maturing crop that can be planted multiple times during the season, so you’ve got plenty of opportunities to re-plant.
Symbiotic plantings may take a bit of trial and error to get right. Fortunately, decades of farmers and gardeners have left behind an abundance of knowledge for us regarding what plants spinach enjoys growing next to and which plants we should keep at a distance.
My personal experience in growing spinach on commercial organic farms throughout the United States has shown that it is remarkably resilient and adaptable. It is willing to cooperate with a range of vegetables, flowers, and herbs, some of which can improve yields dramatically!
The secret lies in understanding how two crops will interact. Think of yourself as a plant matchmaker seeking the best couple that will provide mutual benefits to their partner.
Best Spinach Companion Plants
Spinach gets along with a range of different plants as long as the planting has the proper timing and spacing. From other vegetables, to floral companions, there are a wide variety you can pick from for a very diverse garden. Let’s take a look at the most popular pairings of each type of plant.
If you have a small garden, you may want to interplant spinach with other vegetable companions for greater diversity and maximum yields from your space. Vegetable companions are great to plant in both raised beds, and in-ground gardens.
Sugar Snap Peas
Snap peas are a spring favorite that love chilly weather. Both of these crops are done producing by the time heat comes around, which makes them an excellent early-season combo.
Benefits: Fix nitrogen and provide dappled shade
Sugar snaps are members of the Fabaceae, or legume family, renowned for their ability to make nitrogen more available in the soil. Through their symbiosis with soil bacteria, peas “fix” atmospheric nitrogen by transforming it into plant-available form. This provides such a great nutrient boost that I never fertilize spinach that is planted alongside sugar snap peas.
Another benefit of sugar snaps is the dappled shade of their trellised vines that protect spinach from late spring heat. The afternoon shadow of the peas will prevent spinach from bolting in the event of any surprise hot weather spikes.
How to Plant: These vining peas are best grown on a trellis that runs north to south. You can plant spinach on either side of the peas to protect the tender greens from the harsh sun.
Kale is a Brassica-family plant that does excellently when planted with spinach. You can grow kale as baby salad greens (my personal favorite) or as full-size plants alongside spring crops.
Like spinach, kale is cold-tolerant and perfect for early spring or late fall successions. They are also very different botanically and physically. Kale won’t compete for nutrients nor will it attract the same pests.
Benefits: Maximize space and provide shade
The primary benefit of interplanting with kale is making use of excess space. You can essentially tuck spinach plants in throughout your kale beds. This is especially useful in the spring when kale transplants are small.
When growing baby greens, spinach and kale seeds can be mixed together and broadcast-sown for cutting at about 4-6” tall. They taste delicious together in salads and sautes.
In the late spring and summer, the shade of kale leaves can also help protect spinach from the heat.
How to Plant: When you first transplant kale into your spring garden, sow spinach about 6” from the baby kale plants. By the time the kale grows up and begins shading out the spinach, it will already be ready to harvest.
On the flip side, you can plant spinach 8-12” from full-grown kale plants in the late summer or early fall to take advantage of the dappled shade that will prevent tender spinach from bolting or wilting in the harsh sun.
Though they are both members of the same family (Chenopodiaceae or Amaranthaceae), rainbow chard and spinach make a lovely pair in the garden.
As baby greens, they grow together as great as they taste. As full grown crops, chard can provide spinach some much needed shade in the hottest months of summer.
Benefits: Maximize yields, loosen soil, and provide shade
If you want to maximize the space and diversity of your beds, seeding spinach at the same time as you transplant rainbow chard can provide two harvests in one. You can also grow these crops together in baby green mixes.
The beet-like roots of Swiss chard are also useful for loosening the soil and providing more aeration for loam-loving spinach plants.
How to Plant: When you’re growing chard to full size, give spinach at least 6-8” of space from its chard companions. I’ve found that it is best to directly sow the spinach and transplant the chard.
Cauliflower is known for being a large plant that isn’t recommended for small-space gardens. But you may be able to justify it if you’re able to integrate spinach into the same bed!
Benefits: Maximize yields and provide shade
The main advantage of pairing cauliflower and spinach is maximizing your space. If you sow spinach alongside newly transplanted cauliflower, you are able to harvest two crops from the same amount of space. By the time slow-growing cauliflower starts to get too big, you will complete the spinach harvest and let the cauliflower take over.
These plants have different root zones and require different nutrients, meaning you don’t have to worry about below-ground competition.
How to Plant: Seed spinach in rows or clumps about 6-10” from newly-transplanted neighboring cauliflower plants. Begin harvesting baby spinach about 30-40 days after sowing. Cauliflower can also provide beneficial shade in the event of hot weather spikes.
Are you noticing a trend here? Each of these larger size crops act like little umbrellas to protect tender plants from the harsh sun. Tucking the spinach alongside them is yet another way to get a quick crop out of an otherwise “blank space” in the garden.
Benefits: Maximize yields and provide shade
Broccoli is another cool-weather crop that gets along well with spinach. I prefer growing broccoli in a straight row down the middle with spinach sown 6-10” on each side. The big broccoli leaves are nice for providing some cool shade that retains moisture and prevents spinach from bolting in late spring and early summer.
How to Plant: Companion plant broccoli just like cauliflower. Be sure the spinach has plenty of space!
Just like spinach, bok choy (especially baby bok choy) can be planted for several harvests throughout the year. Both of these crops are cold-tolerant, heat-loathing, and have similar requirements for light, fertility, and water. Since bok choy is susceptible to flea beetle infestations, it can benefit from being planted amongst non-brassica companions.
Benefits: Add diversity and use bare space
Bok choy can be grown as full size or baby plants. I prefer baby bok choy for its tenderness, rapid maturity, and smaller space requirements.
How to Plant: Direct seed or transplant baby bok choy plants in rows 5-6” from spinach. You can also seed in bare spaces around baby bok choy.
Lettuces and mesclun mixes are very popular companions for spinach because they are tended in similar ways. Many lettuce blends have similar maturity windows (about 30 days). They also are light feeders that grow at similar heights, so competition is not an issue.
Benefits: Increase diversity and maximize space
Salad mixes often come pre-blended with a diversity of baby lettuce, mustards, and other greens. You can direct seed these salad mixes to add more diversity to your beds and confuse any potential pests.
How to Plant: Sow baby spinach 3-6” from rows of salad greens. Dense sowings tend to be best for outcompeting weeds and easier harvests (pro tip: harvest salad and spinach mixes with garden shears by holding a handful at a time).
Garlic works on an opposite schedule than most garden vegetables: it is typically planted in the fall and harvested in the summer. This actually makes it the perfect companion for spinach because spinach loves the cold weather and can match garlic’s hardiness through the winter in most climates.
Benefits: Garlic repels pests while spinach acts as groundcover and weed prevention
If you want to maximize your yields from a small space, specially timed companion intercroppings like this combo will bring extra harvests with minimal effort. Garlic spends much of its life underground, meaning there is a bunch of open space in late fall and winter for a shallow-rooted, quick-growing crop like spinach.
Not only does garlic repel potential pests such as aphids, caterpillars, and spider mites, but spinach also acts as a weed-preventing ground cover around the garlic.
How to Plant: Companion plant with garlic in the fall, winter, and spring. For fall plantings, spinach can be seeded at the same time that you set garlic bulbs. Broadcast the seed throughout the garlic bed so the spinach creates a weed-suppressing mat around the garlic until it sprouts in the spring. Harvest spinach throughout the winter or allow it to die back in the cold and mulch over it with straw.
For spring plantings, sow baby spinach in rows 4-6” from sprouting garlic plants. Spinach is a light feeder that shouldn’t pose any issues for their garlic friends.
Thanks to their similar sizes and maturity times, head lettuce can compliment full-sized spinach in several ways. Unlike the baby lettuce and baby spinach in the salad mix plantings described above, head lettuce and full-size spinach grow into leafy heads that both average about 6” in diameter.
Benefits: Complimentary growth, maximum yields and biodiversity
Though head lettuce may not help with any pest or disease issues, it is a lowkey companion that won’t compete for light or nutrients.
How to Plant: Alternate spinach and head lettuce within the row or directly alongside each other. A 6” spacing will be dense enough to outcompete weeds yet still allow both crops to form full size leaves. I prefer ‘Salanova’ or similar head lettuces for this type of intercropping.
Watercress is a fast-growing peppery green that can be grown as an annual or a perennial ground cover. It is a Brassica (cabbage family member) that won’t outcompete spinach or attract any similar pests.
Benefits: Maximize space and act as living mulch
When pruned back or harvested young, watercress can act as a low-growing living mulch around spinach plants while also maximizing the diverse harvests from small garden beds.
How to Plant: Sow watercress a week or so after spinach in rows or broadcasted plantings. Allow the cress to sprout around the spinach, leaving 3-6” inches of space between the plants. Harvest the cress as baby greens to prevent it from getting too tall and shading out your spinach.
Scallions grow fairly quickly and can tolerate the cool spring temperatures that spinach loves. These tasty green onions have a very thin leaf shape that won’t overshadow spinach or compete for root zone space.
Benefits: Repel pests and maximize space
Like many alliums, scallions have a strong scent that repels aphids, whiteflies, and mites. Scallions are also easy to tuck into small corners of the garden.
How to Plant: Transplant scallion starts from your nursery or plant onion sets at the same time as you plant spinach. You can also direct seed green onions into the garden. They only need 2-3” of space from neighboring spinach plants.
Long-season leeks are lovely cold-hardy companions for quick crops of fall and winter spinach.
Benefits: Repels pests and loosens soil
The pungent smell of leeks acts like a natural insecticide and pest repellant for spinach, particularly for carrot rust flies that sometimes feed on spinach. The bulky base and root zone of leeks is also great for aerating the soil of spinach beds.
How to Plant: Sow spinach near leeks at any stage of their growth. Leeks can take up to 100 days to mature, so you could hypothetically harvest 2-3 crops of companion planted spinach during that time window. Keep spinach at least 8-10” from the leek partners.
Strawberries grow about the same height as mature spinach. They also make a great combination in smoothies or salads!
Benefits: Maximize space
A bonus harvest of spring spinach is the perfect treat while patiently waiting for strawberry crowns to mature. Strawberries make great companions, and will allow you to maximize space in your garden.
How to Plant: To start harvesting from your strawberry beds before they fruit, plant a row or 2 of spinach alongside strawberry crowns at the time of planting.
The light shade of tomato plants helps prevent spinach from bolting (going to flower) in the hottest parts of the season. Tomatoes are fairly easy to grow, as long as you can handle the potential for pest and disease problems. They make great companions for lower lying crops, as they can help provide shade as they grow taller.
Benefits: Dappled shade to prevent bolting
As long as they aren’t planted too close together, tomato leaves act like a beneficial umbrella for spinach.
How to Plant: Sow spinach beneath young tomato plants in the late spring or early summer, providing at least 6” of space from the base of the tomato. Remember to choose heat-tolerant summer spinach for the best results.
Tender baby spinach can thrive in the shade of eggplant leaves during hot summer days.
Benefits: Maximize space, provide shade for the spinach and groundcover for the eggplant
Eggplants grow fairly tall and stay in the ground throughout the summer, providing plenty of opportunities to densely sow spinach in the understory.
How to Plant: Seed baby spinach at the time of planting eggplant, leaving a minimum of 6” of space between the species.
The broad leaves of cucumbers are another lovely shade companion for warm-weather spinach plantings.
Benefits: Prevent bolting and maximize space
Cucumbers can help prevent bolting in spinach. As long as it receives moderate sunlight, the spinach will gladly thrive in the shade of climbing cucumber vines.
How to Plant: Seed spinach in 1 or 2 rows alongside cucumber trellises. Remember that spinach is best interplanted with trellised cucumbers only. Avoid this combo if your cucumbers are vining along the ground because they will overgrow the spinach greens.
Like peas, beans are another nitrogen-fixing legume that can make spinach grow faster and larger.
Benefits: Improve vigor and prevent bolting
Spinach loves a little nitrogen boost to maximize leaf production. The slight shade of bush beans or vining bean trellis can also help prevent spinach from bolting in hot weather.
How to Plant: Sow spinach 6-8” from bush beans.
When interplanted in the garden flowers are at once beautiful and highly effective at repelling pests and attracting beneficial insects. You can even harvest fresh stems for bouquets and arrangements!
These are our favorite floral comrades for spinach:
You may recognize marigolds as the vibrant accessories to Dia De Los Muertos celebrations. Mexican (also known as African) Marigolds (Tagetes erecta) are most commonly used for the occasion, but French Marigolds (Tagetes patula) tend to be better for companion planting.
The pest-repellent properties of marigolds are well-researched, making them a popular companion for everything from strawberries to tomatoes to spinach. They have dazzling bright-colored flowers with a unique aroma that certain pests tend to despise.
Benefits: Repel root knot nematodes, aphids, and rabbits
One of the most unique things about marigolds is their ability to repel and suppress root knot nematodes. These pesky microscopic worms can cause spinach to appear yellow, wilted, and stunted. They feed on the spinach roots and create galls or lesions along with a bunch of weird hairy roots that grow from the main infected taproot.
Whether or not you have dealt with root knot nematodes before, you can plant marigolds as a preventative measure thanks to the volatile compounds they release into the soil
Above the ground, marigolds also keep pests away from your spinach. The flowers have a strong enough perfume to keep aphids and flies at bay. If you have noticed rabbits munching on spinach salad in your garden beds, marigolds may also repel
How to Plant: Plant French Marigolds at the row ends or in between spinach beds every few feet for a beneficial boost. I typically plant 3-4 marigold plants per bed along the perimeters of a raised bed or scattered throughout a row. Keep marigolds at least 6” away from the nearest spinach plant to ensure they don’t out-compete your greens.
Perhaps one of the most versatile and widely used companion plants, White Alyssum (sometimes called White Alyssum or Lobularia maritima) is one of the best all-around companions for almost every plant in your garden, including spinach!
Benefits: Attract beneficial insects and pollinators
Alyssum is most well-known for its predator-attracting nectar. Don’t worry, it won’t bring any coyotes or bobcats around! We mean insect predators, also known as the beneficial insects that eat or parasitize pests that may feed on your spinach plants.
Alyssum is very popular with green lacewings (Chrysoperla spp.), which are voracious predators of aphids and other annoying spinach pests. The lovely fragrant blossoms of alyssum also attract plenty of bees and butterflies.
Though spinach doesn’t need any pollination, having these pollinators around your garden provides plenty of ecological benefits to other crops and adds even more beauty to the landscape.
How to Plant: At full size, alyssum is a low-growing bush about 6” tall and 6-12” wide. I prefer planting them at the ends of spinach rows or in the corners of all my vegetable raised beds. Alyssum doesn’t tend to spread or compete with spinach for light, just be sure that it’s at least 6” away from the nearest spinach plant.
Borage is a deer-proof flower with gorgeous star-shaped blue flowers. It attracts beneficial insects, repels pests, and makes certain minerals more bioavailable to your spinach.
Benefits: Repel worms, caterpillars, and deer while attracting predatory insects and improving fertility in the soil
The main benefit of planting borage near your spinach is its ability to keep wireworms, cabbage loopers, and armyworms away from your greens. The distinct smell of borage flowers repels these pests while attracting beneficial predators that eat them. It is also a great pollinator-attractor to add more biodiversity and beauty to the garden.
Borage is also known as a bioaccumulator. Its deep roots pull trace elements from the soil and make them more available to shallow-rooted crops like spinach.
We also love that borage can deter deer from the spinach patch. Its fuzzy leaves tend to keep the hungry beasts in the woods.
How to Plant: Borage can grow into a huge flowering plant, so it is another great candidate for border plantings or row-ends. Avoid putting borage directly into your spinach patch or you may risk it overgrowing and out-shading your greens.
Calendula is a vibrant orange flower that is also used as a medicinal herb. But when it comes to spinach, these blossoms have the primary benefit of deterring hungry rabbits from your greens.
Benefits: Repel rabbits and pests
The smell of calendula blossoms is known to deter rabbits from spinach. These flowers can also repel aphids and flea beetles.
Although they aren’t particularly helpful for spinach, calendula also has extremely high pollen levels that magnifies pollinators to help other plants in your garden.
How to Plant: Calendula plants are very ornamental and grow about 8-12” tall and wide. Interplant them every few feet in your spinach patch or create a little “rabbit fence” by planting calendula along the margins of your salad green beds.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum spp.) is another edible flower that comes in a rainbow of colors. The lily-pad leaves and beautiful blooms are highly ornamental and happen to be very attractive to beneficial insects that can protect your spinach.
Benefits: Attracts beneficial insects and repels pests
Hoverflies and pest-eating bugs love nasturtiums. Their spicy floral aroma is known to repel (or at least distract) aphids and mites that may want to eat your spinach.
One caveat: some gardeners say that nasturtiums repel these pests, while others insist they are a “trap crop” to lure pests away from your crop. You may find aphids or Either way, at least the bugs aren’t going for your spinach!
How to Plant: Nasturtiums are pretty massive plants that should be kept separate from spinach beds entirely (they’ll quickly ramble over them). Instead, grow nasturtiums along the margin of your garden near your spinach planting. They can even climb along a fence for a beautiful display. Just avoid putting nasturtiums in the beds themselves.
A hardy, low maintenance plant, yarrow gets along with just about everyone in the garden. When it comes to spinach, yarrow magnifies predator bugs that help keep pests off of your spinach. Yarrow is also a lovely cut flower and herbal remedy, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Benefits: Attract beneficial predator insects
Green lacewings, ladybugs, hoverflies, and predatory wasps absolutely love the honey-flavored aromas of yarrow flowers. When planted near spinach, yarrow can bring these predators in the direct vicinity of aphids and worms that may be eating your greens.
How to Plant: When in full bloom, yarrow can grow several feet tall and provide a little too much shade for spinach plants. So it is best to plant this companion at a bit of a distance (at least 1-2 feet), either at the ends of the rows or along the margin of your spinach beds.
Sunflowers may seem like a strange addition to your spinach patch, but the dwarf types could actually be very helpful for growing spinach in the summertime.
These popular flowers love the heat while spinach absolutely despises it. But if you are able to choose a heat-tolerant spinach variety and give it a dappled afternoon shade, many gardeners have successfully grown spinach all season long.
Benefits: Provide dappled shade
Dwarf sunflowers typically take less than 60 days to bloom. As they grow, they can provide afternoon shade to your summer spinach, potentially delaying bolting. By the time the sunflowers begin to open their blossoms, you will have the spinach harvested and ready to enjoy.
How to Plant: This unconventional pairing takes a bit more trial and error than other types, so beginners beware! Seed dwarf sunflowers on the north-end of your spinach bed just before you seed spinach. Be sure that they are at least 8-12” from the spinach plants themselves.
Culinary and medicinal herbs can aid you in the garden as well as the kitchen. While they do their work as a symbiotic companion plant, you can also enjoy harvests of deliciously fragrant herbs for seasonings, cocktails, and teas.
Whether you love it or hate it, cilantro is a fragrant and zesty herb that can improve the flavor of leafy greens. When it flowers, the umbrella-shaped blossoms attract both pollinators and beneficial predators to attack leaf-eating pests.
Benefits: Maximize space and attract beneficial insects
Though it’s commonly eaten with tomatoes in summer salsas, cilantro actually loves the cool weather just as much as spinach.
How to Plant: Direct seed or transplant cilantro at row ends or in lines alongside spinach.
Young dill leaves are delicious additions to pickles and the mature large blossoms attract a range of beneficial insects. Dill has many uses outside of being a companion plant. Dill is easy to grow, and fairly low maintenance.
Benefits: Enhance growth and attract beneficial insects
Many gardeners anecdotally report that young dill enhances the vigor of its plant neighbors. But timing is key for adding dill to your spinach patch.
How to Plant: Wait until 2-3 weeks after spinach planting to transplant dill into the patch. By the time the dill is full grown, the spinach will be harvested and out of the way.
While it may not be as aromatic as other herbs, parsley’s fragrance can have pest repellant benefits for spinach.
Benefits: Repel pests and maximize space
Parsley is a delicious garnish for any dish and is particularly helpful for repelling flying pests from feeding on your spinach.
How to Plant: Plant parsley 2-4” from baby spinach rows.
A cousin of scallions, chives are a perennial vegetable that can be companion planted with spinach. These moderate size bushes provide an aromatic garnish while repelling pests, attracting pollinators, and potentially improving spinach yields.
Benefits: Attract beneficial insects and prevent disease
Allium-family chives have a strong smell that keeps pests at bay and potentially prevents powdery mildew from taking hold of your spinach crop.
How to Plant: Tuck spinach transplants around the perimeter of chives. For best results, planting chives in annual beds.
Some plants don’t get along with spinach, including:
Companion planting is a fun way to add flair to your garden, gain extra yields from small spaces, and prevent problems in your spinach. The most important thing to remember is that spinach needs enough space and light to grow to its full glory. While the dappled summer shade of some companions can prevent spinach bolting, it still needs moderate sunlight to thrive.