Lettuce Companion Plants

Lettuce can make a beautiful ornamental plant outside its traditional role in a vegetable garden. In recent years gardeners have been planting more ornamental types of lettuce such as heirlooms and colored looseleaf varieties to fill their garden beds and container gardens. These special lettuces include butterhead, romaine, and mesclun, in a wide range of greens, burgundy, and red. Mix and match them in a container to provide color contrast as well as greens for the salad bowl. 


Lettuce grows best early in the spring or fall when daytime temperatures are coolish and nighttime temperatures are near 40 degrees F. Plant lettuce in full sun while temperatures remain cool. During the warmer months of summer, lettuce will grow quite happily in partial shade, especially during the hottest part of the day. The extra shade may also delay bolting (going to seed) although plenty of varieties have been bred to resist bolting in hot climates. 

Plant lettuce in well-draining soil that remains consistently moist to avoid root problems. While lettuce is usually planted in a kitchen garden, it also looks good in a cottage garden or modern container garden. In particularly small gardens, lettuce can double as an ornamental plant until it is harvested.  

Shrubs To Plant With Lettuce

Lettuce can grow well alongside shrubs in deep, rich soil. This cool-weather crop will appreciate growing in the shade of hydrangeas, lilacs, forsythias, or roses during peak summer heat. Lettuce requires regular watering, so make sure any nearby shrubs can tolerate moist conditions through the growing season. Fertilize the lettuce only at the time of planting to avoid too much nitrogen reaching the shrubs.  


Perennials To Plant With Lettuce

Many perennials are easy to grow alongside lettuce. Among edible perennials, strawberries, asparagus, and rhubarb make wonderful companions. Many perennial herbs such as chives, mint, and oregano thrive in the same conditions as lettuce and have the same watering requirements. You can also plant lettuce under biennial vegetables and herbs like carrots, turnips, and dill until their seed is harvested. The shallow roots of the lettuce do not compete with the biennial tap root. 

To add flowers, consider planting lettuce in the shade of early spring bloomers like lupine, bleeding hearts, or hostas. The lettuce can act as a ground cover for the larger perennials and will benefit from the small amount of shade during the summer. 

Annuals To Plant With Lettuce

A multitude of annual vegetable plants grow well with lettuce. All of the root vegetables (beets, carrots, radishes) are ideal because their deep tap roots do not compete for nutrients or space with the shallow fibrous roots of lettuce. Climbing edibles like cucumbers, beans, and peas usually have space at their base to tuck in lettuce and maximize a small garden area. The climbers also provide shade that can benefit the lettuce later in the summer. Use catch crops such as nasturtiums, chervil, and alyssum to draw potential pests away from lettuce while providing nectar for many beneficial pollinators. 


Best Companion Plants For Lettuce in Containers

Planting a salad in a bowl is a great way to grow edible crops in a small garden or on a patio. Try combining a lettuce plant with a tumbler-type tomato and small pickling or bush-type cucumber plant for a decorative and edible container arrangement. Ensure that the container is large enough to contain at least three plants. Typically containers larger than 14 inches in diameter can hold one cucumber, one tomato, and two to three lettuce plants comfortably. 

When potting lettuce, use a potting mix that has plenty of perlite for drainage and moisture retention. Fertilize potted lettuce once a week with a diluted liquid formulation to encourage new leafy growth. Potted lettuce may need daily watering to counteract evaporation during hot summer days. 

Plants Not To Grow With Lettuce

Surprisingly, brassicas, including cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, mustard greens, and the like, do not grow well with lettuce. These plants compete with lettuce for nutrients in the soil and can affect the flavor of the more delicate lettuce leaves. Fennel is another poor companion because it inhibits the overall growth of most edible garden plants. Lettuce and celery planted near each other attract the same pests and diseases and can make for added maintenance. Parsley seems like it would be a great match for lettuce, but parsley causes lettuce to bolt earlier than normal no matter the variety. 

Best Plants To Grow With Lettuce

Lettuce is a wonderful plant to include in landscape plantings, not just for food value, but also for the color and texture it adds.The best growing companions include legumes (beans, peas, lupines), catch crops (nasturtiums, chervil, or alyssum), and shade-providing vegetables and flowers. Lettuce also makes an easy container plant in a smaller garden and combines easily with other edible plants. 

Sources: ”Lettuce Shows.” Wisconsin Horticulture, Division of Extension. hort.extension.wisc.edu