How to Choose Planting Companions for Roses

Learn what you need to know to play matchmaker between roses and other garden plants.
Cozy Cottage Garden

Cozy Cottage Garden

There wasn't much of a garden when the homeowners bought this cottage with the idea in mind to create flower beds that would soften the edges of an organic raised-bed garden. Their ultimate goal was to create a landscape where they could "graze throughout the yard on fruits, herbs and berriess," says HGTV fan Craighead. "We still have a long way to go, but we've at least started to establish a country-cottage feeling to our little bungalow in the city."

Photo by: HGTV fan craighead

HGTV fan craighead

Take a rose’s performance up a notch by pairing it with plants that support and spotlight this classic bloomer’s beauty. You can mingle roses and perennials, vines, bulbs or annuals—the combinations are limitless. As you survey the field of potential planting partners, use these clues to winnow your selections.

Consider cultural needs. Most roses flower best in full sun, so their partners should be sun-lovers, too. Also make sure soil needs between companions are simpatico. Roses like rich, well-drained soil with lots of organic matter.

Create some herbal sprawl. Herbs make terrific rose companions. The scented foliage of some herbs helps repel insects, while others discourage deer and rabbits from nibbling roses. Many herbs attract beneficial insects, which will keep rose pests in check.

Map flowering windows. If you select plants that bloom with roses, focus on flower colors that complement or contrast. With non-reblooming roses, choose companions like long-flowering perennials or annuals that will strut their stuff when roses are resting.

Plan a cover-up. Roses like hybrid teas, grandifloras and some shrubs need partners that graciously hide the knobby knees of the lower canes. Climbers benefit from taller mates that disguise the bottom 12 to 24 inches of canes.

Study plant habit and mature size. Some plants can ultimately overcrowd or overrun a rose, especially in ideal growing conditions. Avoid planting roses with these thuggish plants.

Think like an artist. Complement and contrast rose flower color and form. A round rose bloom and a spiky perennial makes a winning match, as do orange and pink, white and red or blue and pink.

Think about pests. Avoid creating a rose pest oasis by selecting plants that aren’t attractive to insects like aphids and Japanese beetles.

And nix plants that need dividing. Save perennials that need frequent division for other parts of the garden to limit disturbing rose roots.

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