Companion plants for roses

Companion plants

Companion plants are grown for various reasons – they can provide year-round interest in their own right, flower at the same time as the roses, or fill in-between rose flushes. These plants need to be well behaved, have a non-invasive root system, and not ‘flop’ on their neighbours.

Sage, lavender, scented geranium, santolina, catmint and lamb’s ear that are grown for their foliage rather than their flowers and make good companions.

Tall growing plants with a see-through effect: cosmos, campanula, gypsophila, gaura and fennel can also be grown among roses.

There are several companion plants that can be planted in between roses – in general one would like a plant with a not too deep root system that will absorb the fertiliser and water that is meant for the roses.

Ground covers are good companion plants, such as alyssum, ajuga, campunula, Diascia, mazus, strawberry and Verbena.

With larger shrubs one would like to avoid a plant that is going to create shade on the rose – either plant them a good distance away or choose plants that grow upright rather than sideways; Phormiums, Acorus, Hebe, Cordylines, Coprosma, Kniphofia and Trachelospermum are good examples. Delphiniums look exceptionally good with roses.

Herbs like Rosemary and lavender can also be used and will aid in deterring insect from your roses yet these should be kept a 1.5m away.

Off course, roses can be used to under-plant larger roses.

Rose Companion Planting: Companion Plants For Rose Bushes

By Stan V. Griep
American Rose Society Consulting Master Rosarian – Rocky Mountain District

Companion plantings for rose bushes can add a nice touch to the rose bed. The companion plants can help hide the canes of the roses that have become bare as the rose bush has gotten taller. Companion planting can serve multiple purposes in the rose bed, just one of those being to hide the bare canes or leggy look that some taller roses and climbers get.

When to Start Companion Planting for Rose Bushes

With hybrid tea roses, wait a couple years before doing any companion planting, as they need to get their root systems going well prior to adding any competition for water and nutrients. Truthfully, I would apply this same rule to all of the rose bush plantings as a good rule of thumb.

Keep in mind that some companion plants can easily become overgrown, thus some maintenance to keep them under control will be required. However, we all know that the best looking gardens get to be that way due to the shadow of the gardener!

Rose Companion Plants

Here is a listing of some great companion plants for roses and some of their benefits:

Alyssum – Alyssum is a low growing and fragrant ground cover that comes in colors of white, shades of pink and shades of purple. This is

an easy one to grow and really does add some eye-catching appeal to the rose beds.

Garlic, Chives, Garlic Chives & Onions – Rose lovers have planted these in their rose beds for many years. Garlic has been known to repel many pests that bother rose bushes. Garlic chives have interesting foliage, repel some pests and their pretty little clusters of white or purple flowers look wonderful with the rose bushes foliage. Chives and onions have been said to make roses more fragrant when they are planted nearby roses.

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) – Lavender can be planted near roses. It has been noted in some cases to help keep aphids away from the rose bushes. Their pretty bloom spikes help dress up the rose bed and can be pruned back and the flowers can be dried and used for many purposes, perhaps a fine fragrant wreath for your homes décor.

Marigolds – Use the lower growing varieties to add beautiful enhancing colors to the rose bed. Marigolds have been known to repel many insect pests as well as help control harmful nematodes.

Parsley – This is a great looking herb in its own right with its ruffled foliage. Parsley is another of the companion plants that help deter some insects that tend to bother rose bushes. Plus, this herb can be cut back when it gets a bit leggy and it will grow back nicely, adding its pretty foliage to the rose bed all over again. Parsley can also be harvested for use in your kitchen for those culinary delights.

Tips About Rose Companion Planting

These are but a few of the companion plants that work well with rose bushes, as there are many more. Be sure to read the information available on any plant you are considering as a companion plant for your roses.

Watch out for plants that can become very invasive and a real headache in the rose bed. Also be sure to check on the companion plant’s growth habit as to height. In many cases, you will want lower growing companion plants, with the exception of climbing roses which may need taller growing companion plants to help hide some large bare lower canes.

Many of the herbs will work well planted in the rose beds but, again, check their growth habits to be sure. It really is no different than being sure to read the label on any pesticide prior to its application. We need to be sure we are not creating a harmful situation in our gardens.

One last consideration with companion plantings is to consider the pH level of the soil where the companion plants are to be planted. The rose bushes have an optimum pH of 6.5, so the companion plantings should also thrive at that pH level to perform as desired.

Gardening Advice: What to Plant with Roses


Q: What kinds of perennials do you recommend with roses – low creepers or tall spires? – Suzanne Larkins, Houston, Texas

A: It depends as much on the amount of care your roses need as on the visual effects you want. Fussy modern hybrids must have enough space around them to provide access for pruning, deadheading, and spraying. And though these roses produce gorgeous blossoms, they also have a stiff, unappealing growth habit. Soften the look with low-growing, gently cascading perennials; many have colors that consort well with roses. Verbena canadensis hybrids come in shades of pink, white, and purple. Lantana montevidensis (like Luscious® Grape) is a cool lavender that’s pretty with yellow or white roses. Purple tradescantia makes a sumptuous edging for deep-crimson roses.

If you grow species and old garden roses, options for perennial companions increase greatly. These large, rugged shrubs usually have graceful shapes as well as exquisite flowers. They need little care and take in stride the competition from large perennials. Select tall, vertical plants to contrast nicely with the rounded forms of the roses. Stiffly upright yet fine-textured, both purple Verbena bonariensis and airy white Gaura lindheimeri make long-blooming bedfellows. Spectacular summer bulbs to plant are the magenta-hued Gladiolus byzantinus and the fragrant white summer hyacinth, Galtonia candicans. For months of color, there are several sages that blend wonderfully with roses. Both Salvia guaranitica ‘Argentina Skies’ (cerulean blue) and the hybrid Salvia ‘Black and Blue’ (rich navy) gratefully accept the support of adjacent roses. Shrublike Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ is a superb Texas native that’s well adapted to hot, dry summers. And equally heat-tolerant Mexican bush sage, S. leucantha, sends up soft purple spikes that will grace your garden long after the old roses have finished blooming.

Rose Garden Design

What To Grow Under Roses: Tips For Growing Plants Under Rose Bushes

Whether you’re looking for ways to improve the look of your rose garden or trying to help encourage beneficials to the area, it’s sometimes necessary to add plants that grow well under roses. So what to grow under roses, you ask. Read on to learn more.

Reasons for Planting Beneath Roses

There are some rose bushes that have a growth habit of getting what is called “leggy,” which essentially means that for some reason the roses will shed all of their lower foliage, leaving nothing but their canes showing. The foliage and blooms are all up higher on the bush, making the lower portion bare and lacking a nice eye-catching look that we like for our gardens.

In order to bring out the desired look for such gardens, we need to find some lower growing plants that will not just bring back the eye-catching beauty of blooms or foliage but plants that grow well under roses too. Some folks believe that rose bushes are actually healthier with companion plants, as they help encourage the beneficial bugs and drive away the bad ones.

Plants That Grow Well Under Roses

When adding companion plants to the rose beds, it is wise to choose plants that do not have an unruly or spreading growth habit. Look for those that have a more well-behaved growth habit, perhaps even a growth habit that is similar to the roses themselves. Ensure that your underplanting rose companions are at least 12 to 18 inches away from the rose bushes to avoid disturbing their root systems. Roses do not like having to compete for available nutrients, water or sunlight, so keep this in mind with your companion plantings.

Although it’s usually recommended to contact your local extension service for the best plants in your particular area, it also helps to read the “growing zone” information available for all plants that are of interest to make sure they will grow well in your zone. Here is a listing of some plants that are considered good companions for planting beneath roses:

  • Anise hyssop
  • Bellflower
  • Catmint
  • Baptisia
  • Garden phlox
  • Lady’s mantle
  • Lavender
  • Lilies
  • Russian sage
  • Spurge
  • Wormwood
  • Yarrow
  • Annual phlox
  • Heliotrope
  • Larkspur
  • Million bells
  • Pansies
  • Flowering tobacco

In some cases, we may be looking for companion plantings that serve a multi-purpose of both interest and beauty, yet also help repel insects and such. Some of these plants are:

  • Onions – known to repel aphids, weevils, borers and moles
  • Garlic – repels aphids, thrips and helps fight black spot and mildew (for the best results with garlic, you will likely need to plant it with the rose bushes for several years)
  • Marigolds – tend to discourage harmful nematodes and repel many pests, and is considered a trap plant for slugs
  • Parsley – said to repel rose beetles
  • Mint – deters ants and aphids (be careful with mint though, as it can easily become overgrown and invasive)
  • Geraniums – repel Japanese beetles, aphids and other rose beetles
  • Chives – repel many insects
  • Tomatoes – help protect roses from black spot and add tasty food as well

For some foliage type plants try:

  • Hostas – good for zones 3 to 9
  • Heuchera – good for zones 4 to 9
  • Lamb’s ears – good for zones 4 to 9
  • Persian shield – good in zones 9 to 11
  • Coleus – good for zones 10 to 11

The shapes of the leaves and their colors do well to provide good contrast to the rose bushes’ classic form.

Many companion plantings will require a bit of shaping, pruning or thinning to hold them to their area and maintain a well-kept appearance. The need for this bit of work is not a bad thing, as it does us good to be in our gardens. If some companion plants do not provide the desired look, change them out until you get the appearance that most appeals to you.

Growing plants under rose bushes can help create a garden space of soul recharging delight so you can enjoy them to the fullest!

Roses are captivating when in full bloom, but come winter when plants are bare sticks, the garden may look lifeless.

Between flushes of blooms during the growing season, colour might go missing, and the bare thorny base of roses need camouflaging.

So it makes good sense to combine roses with other plants to keep up the colour and interest year-round.

Combination planting also creates greater biodiversity, encouraging beneficial insects for 
a healthier growing environment.

BHG SHOP: Shop roses here

Worldwide, garden design trends indicate more natural, less ordered gardens – for example, the renowned Royal Horticultural Society garden at Wisley in the UK and public rose gardens, such as Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, have reimagined their rose gardens combining roses with shrubs, perennials, annuals, herbs, bulbs and grasses for year-round interest.

We hope to inspire you to rethink “just roses”, by adding a mix of foliage, owers, textures and colours.

Best buddies

A good reason to plant roses with companions is to ward off rose pests.

Planting a mixture in preference to having a monoculture can confuse pests (or, better still, discourage
them all together) and provide an environment for beneficial insects and natural predators of aphids.

Scented foliage, aromatic plants such as herbs (think sage, thyme, lavender and rosemary) and members of the onion family (garlic, allium and chives) are great companions for roses.

How to coexist with success

Match the vigour of the companion plant with the roses so they will compete for available soil, water and nutrients. For example, grow vigorous roses with big, bold perennials, shrubs and grasses.

  • Avoid planting too densely – allow plenty of room for good air circulation and for maintenance, such as trimming, pruning and mulching.
  • Soil preparation is the key – add plenty of organics prior to planting, and top up these annually after winter pruning using compost-rich mulch.
  • Rose fertilisers won’t harm perennials, bulbs or annuals – they’ll enjoy the added nutrients. Apply rose food every four to six weeks.

Essential rose care

Whether you grow roses on their
 own or together with other plants, they require care to keep them in top shape.

  • Roses love full sun (minimum six hours daily) and grow happily in most parts of Australia except the tropical far north.
Roses grow in a wide range of garden soils, but good drainage is important.

  • Add plenty of organics (aged manures, compost) to the soil prior to planting, and
a good organic mulch (aged cow manure) ensures a healthy start.

  • Lucerne hay, sugar cane and pea straw are all excellent mulches for roses. A 50mm-thick layer will help suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.

  • Roses are heavy feeders, so apply organic rose food twice a season.
Water in well after application.
  • Roses respond well to pruning
by producing new canes and lots 
of flowers. Mid to late winter is
a good time for major pruning,
with the exception of spring-only bloomers and climbers – leave these until after flowering.

  • Once established, give roses a deep weekly soaking rather than a light sprinkling. Keep newly planted roses moist until new shoots are growing tall.

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Companion Planting With Roses

Companion planting is a fantastic way to enhance the natural beauty of your roses and increase the visual appeal of your garden. Not only that, companion planting can be an effective method of pest control.

What you need to consider when companion planting with roses:

  • Select plants that will thrive in same conditions as roses and require the same nutrients and water. Roses need plenty of water, sunlight and nutrients. for more information on growing roses.
  • Ensure that your rose will still receive plenty of air circulation, especially in humid climates. Good air circulation is important to help prevent fungal disease such as black spot and powdery mildew. Where fungal diseases are a concern, select lower growing plants.
  • Roses do not like competition. Avoid large growing plants as roses do not like to be overcrowded. Select smaller plants with shallow root systems.
  • Do not plant companions closer then 30-40cm from the base of a rose. This not only limits competition and disturbance of the roots but it allows for easy access for fertilising and watering.
  • When planting flowering companions, you will need to compensate when fertilising your roses. Roses are heavy feeders and require plenty of nutrients to flower and grow with vigour. Add enough fertiliser for both the rose and the companion plants.
  • Some companion plants help to discourage certain pests and encourage beneficial insects to your garden. This is a great method of pest control for organic gardeners or those that wish to limit their use of chemicals.

Companion plants that grow well with roses:
Mini agapanthus, Lamb’s Ears, Erysimum, Woodworm, Dianthus, Chamomile cultivars, Pansies, Petunias, Violets, Daisy, Strawberries, Gerbera, Daylilies, Bearded Iris, Statice, Baby’s Breath and Delphinium. There are many more options and extensive lists that can be found online.
Companion planting for pest control:
Oregano, Sweet Basil, Garlic, Lavender, Geraniums, Marigolds, Mint, Parsley, Thyme, Catmint, Yarrow.

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