How to Choose Planting Companions for Roses

Learn what you need to know to play matchmaker between roses and other garden plants.
Roses Over Iron Gate

Roses Over Iron Gate

Roses and clematis go together like tea and crumpets. Purple is a go-to color choice with pink rose blooms.

Photo by: DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Roses and clematis go together like tea and crumpets. Purple is a go-to color choice with pink rose blooms.

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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