Companion Plants for Roses
by Diane Linsley
Roses are lovely on their own, but they are even better with companion plants. Many garden designers have said that gardens should be a reflection of nature (minus the weeds). So why are there so many gardens with hybrid tea roses all in a row, and nothing but bare dirt below them?
Rose companion plants add beauty to the garden, and they also reduce problems with pests and diseases. My garden has over 600 varieties of plants, including about 50 roses. I never spray the roses with chemicals, and they are very healthy. This might be because the roses are interspersed with companion plants, which limit the spread of disease.
Sometimes in the spring, we have an infestation of aphids. But I don't worry because I know that ladybugs and other beneficial insects will show up for the feast when the weather warms. Hummingbirds also eat aphids. So flowers that attract hummingbirds are some of the best companion plants for roses.
I'm a fan of color schemes, so my favorite companion plants for roses are listed by color. When in doubt, plant blue flowers next to roses. They never fail to provide a beautiful contrast.
Best Companion Plants for Roses
Campanula rotundifolia -- Short, spreading perennial with violet-blue bells. Terrific flower for planting under roses. Larkspur -- Tall spikes of blue, purple, pink and white flowers similar to delphinium, but smaller and less formal. Nigella hispanica 'Curiosity' -- Violet-blue flowers with maroon centers, followed by ornamental seed pods. Blooms a little later than Nigella damascena. Penstemon strictus -- Stunning, violet-blue flowers on tall stems. Drought-tolerant, native perennial that attracts hummingbirds.
Penstemon cobaea -- Showy, purple flowers on a drought-tolerant perennial. Great color that goes with many roses. Salvia 'Violet Queen' -- Dark violet flowers on a bushy perennial. Attracts hummingbirds. Goes well with most roses.
Delphinium 'Astolat' -- Soft lilac-pink flowers. Best with old-fashioned roses or other roses in cool tones. Iberis gibraltarica -- Lavender-pink flowers with a long bloom season. Low-growing, evergreen perennial. Good for planting as a groundcover under roses. Linaria purpurea 'Canon Went' -- Perennial with tall spikes of tiny, snapdragon-like flowers in the softest shade of baby pink. Attractive, gray-green foliage. Sweet Pea 'Janet Scott' -- Heirloom sweet pea with a wonderful fragrance. Nice for trailing along the ground or climbing up old-fashioned roses.
Crimson Red Flowers
Lychnis coronaria -- Rose Campion. Purplish-red flowers and silvery-green leaves. Traditional companion plant for old-fashioned roses.
Scarlet Red Flowers
Geum 'Blazing Sunset' -- First-year flowering perennial. Fully double, scarlet-red blooms. Nice with white, gold or orange roses.
Calendula 'Pink Surprise' -- Apricot-yellow flowers with a pink tinge. Good companion plant for attracting beneficial insects to the rose garden.
Digitalis lutea -- Tall stems of pale yellow, tubular flowers for hummingbirds. The subdued color looks good with many roses.
Alyssum 'Carpet of Snow' -- Loads of tiny white flowers on low-growing plants. Nice at the edge of the rose garden. Attracts beneficial insects. Dianthus arenarius -- Fragrant, pure white, fringed flowers. Drought-tolerant perennial for planting with roses. I like it at the edge of the rose garden. Feverfew -- Vigorous, self-sowing annual or perennial. Nice filler and cut flower. Best with large rose bushes that won't be overwhelmed by it. Garlic Chives -- Clusters of starry white flowers in August. Christopher Lloyd recommends planting garlic chives under roses to deter pests. Gaura lindheimeri -- Tall, long-blooming perennial with pinkish-white flowers. Makes a nice filler between tall roses. Drought tolerant. Penstemon tubaeflorus -- Tall stems of pure white flowers in early summer. Attracts hummingbirds. Good for cutting.
Chartreuse Flowers or Foliage
Ruta graveolens -- Lacy, blue-green foliage and greenish-yellow flowers. One of my favorite companion plants for roses.