Roses are some of the most beautiful and revered plants but suffer from a curious artificial problem.
Originally, roses were reasonably hardy plants that were easy to grow.
However, they’ve tampered with so much that they’ve become somewhat picky and vulnerable to numerous pests and diseases in exchange for increased cold tolerance and additional colors and growth habits.
Thankfully, complimentary gardening is a perfect way to accent the beauty of roses while also making up for these current shortcomings.
Rose Companion Plants: What Are The Best Rose Plant Companions?
Companion planting (also known as complimentary gardening) is the act of grouping plants together that complement aesthetically and protect one another.
This reduces the need for chemical interventions such as pesticides and herbicides.
Three Rules of Companion Planting
Companion planting comes with a few important caveats, but these are easy to learn and take only a little extra planning.
Rule #1: Beneficial, Ornamental, And Detrimental Planting
Chances are, you’ve only thought about ornamental pairings, i.e., those that look good with your roses.
However, when planning your bed, you should consider beneficial and detrimental plants.
Mother Nature has created plants that will attract or repel pests, and many of these same plants release chemicals that aid in the growth and overall health of other nearby plants.
However, some plants release chemicals that can harm certain other plants, stunting their growth or even killing them.
When choosing companions for your roses, avoid detrimental companions while aiming for beneficial and/or ornamental companion plants.
Rule #2: Consider Growing Conditions
Plants have different care needs, and you should never group plants with vastly different care needs.
For example, if a plant needs lots of water, don’t put it with a plant that likes dry soil or a shad4e plant with a sun-loving one.
There’s one exception to this rule, which is to sink containers.
By sinking terra cotta or plastic pots until only the top inch and/or rim shows, you can isolate the soil, and fertilizer, water, and soil type will be far less likely to harem an unpotted companion (and vice-versa) unless the care needs are drastically different.
You can also sometimes group shade-lovers under a sufficiently developed sun-loving plant, but only if that plant can adequately shield its companions from the sun, never the other way around.
One other important consideration is root depth.
Avoid grouping plants with the same root depth too close together and intersperse them with plants with shallow or deep roots.
This helps prevent competition over water and nutrients.
Rule #3: Think In Ripples
Plan your beds in concentric rings, with the most vulnerable or tallest plants in the middle. Put medium-sized, slightly more resistant plants around those, and the smallest and most beneficial on the outside.
This provides a beautiful mound display with the weakest plants fully protected by a defensive barrier.
When planting against a wall or fence, you can put the tallest ones against the wall.
However, be careful when planting beneficial plants that repel insects in adjacent beds to unprotected plants; this could send the pests into the more vulnerable plants.
Beneficial Companion Plants
These plants not only look good with roses, but they also protect them.
Here’s a small sampling of the possible companions.
Alliums (Chives, Garlic, Onions, and Shallots)
Alliums repel piercing insects such as aphids and Japanese beetles, reduce the risk of pest-related fungal disease, and boost the scent of roses.
They’re known to produce attractive purple or white flowers that complement several rose colors.
Avoid planting in adjacent beds, and be aware some species are taller than others.
Clematis And Sweet Pea
The vining clematis is a perfect combination for climbing roses when grown on an arch or trellis.
They’re late bloomers with blue flowers that look great with yellow to orange rose blooms.
Even better, clematis attracts insectivore birds that will go after insect pests.
Sweet peas are included here because they have the same benefits as clematis without the risk of it choking out perennials.
This member of the cabbage family is an excellent choice for hiding a rose bush’s bare legs.
It’s mildly toxic to rabbits and deer, protecting rises from these grazers.
In addition, it produces cardenolides, a group of chemicals that help protect butterflies from their natural predators.
As they bloom all year long, they’re perfect companions for roses in shades of white, pink, or red.
Attractive geranium plants can repel blackflies, gnats, and mosquitoes and reduce the risk of black root rot, Botrytis blight, fusarium wilt, Pythium blight, and Verticillium wilt.
Choose more miniature geraniums, as these make great underplantings, while larger species are better paired with a trellis or arch of climbing roses.
Basil, chamomile (and fleabane, which looks very similar), rosemary, sage, and thyme are all not only sound in the kitchen but help repel insect pests and look great to boot.
Lavender is one of the best companion plants, with its pleasant appearance and scent.
The essential oils repel numerous pests, including fleas, flies, and moths.
As they bloom around the same time as most roses, you’ll get a tremendous burst of color all at once.
However, lavender prefers drier soil than roses, so you will need to either sink them in pots or plant them in adjoining beds to avoid the risk of root rot.
Lilies follow up the first flush of rose blooms and last until the next batch of buds forms.
On top of this, they’re a perfect sacrificial plant, drawing harmful beetles away from your roses.
Just be warned, lilies, their flowers, and even their pollen are highly toxic to cats and dogs, so be sure to keep any pets away from any lilies.
Nepeta (AKA Catmint)
This attractive groundcover attracts pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
These plants bloom long after your roses are spent, attracting beneficial insects and birds while repelling deer and rabbits.
These similarly-shaped flowers add a lovely accent with their tall spikes while fending off black spots and mildew.
This food crop repels black spots but may not be the most aesthetically pleasing combination unless you mix in other plants or pair it with climbing roses.
These border plants repel cockroaches and moths with blooms that start early and last into the first rose flush.
Aesthetic Companion Plants
Sometimes what you need isn’t a functional companion plant for your roses, but instead, one that adds complementary shapes and colors.
In the case of bush roses, for example, underplantings help to hide the bare space at the bottom of the bush.
Meanwhile, climbing roses often benefit from being paired with taller or vining plants.
Miniature roses are too small for many companions but do well when paired with low-lying groundcovers.
- Climbing beans
- Foxglove (Warning: This plant shares the same vulnerabilities as roses and should only be paired in regions with dry summer weather)
- Grape hyacinth
- Lamb’s ears (for underplanting miniature roses)
- Swiss chard
Plants That Are NOT Good Companions
Some plants don’t mesh well with roses.
Irises and ruellas require wet soil that can lead to root rot in roses.
Nut-bearing trees such as hickory, oak, and walnut release chemicals that can kill rosebushes.
Also, while it’s good to surround roses with plants that repel insects, avoid placing repellant plants (including cedar, citrus, hot peppers, and mint) in an adjacent spot, or those insects will be repelled right onto your roses.