Companion Plants for Roses
by Diane Linsley
What are the best companion plants for roses?
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. Delphinium -- Tall spikes of flowers in stunning shades of blue, pink or white. There are also compact varieties for small gardens. Larkspur -- Tall spikes of blue, purple, pink and white flowers similar to delphinium, but less formal looking. 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.
Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender) -- Highly fragrant, lavender-blue flowers. The classic companion plants for roses. Penstemon cobaea -- Showy, purple flowers on a drought-tolerant perennial. Great color that goes with most roses. Penstemon hirsutus -- Native perennial with soft lavender and white flowers. Self sows nicely, making it a great filler in the rose garden.
Iberis gibraltarica -- Lavender-pink flowers with a long bloom season. Low-growing, evergreen perennial. Good for planting as a groundcover under 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.
Orange and Apricot Flowers
Calendula -- We have a nice selection of single and double varieties in shades of orange, yellow and apricot.
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 at the edge of a path. Feverfew -- Vigorous, self-sowing annual or perennial. Nice filler and cut flower. Best in a wild area 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 underneath roses to deter pests. Gaura lindheimeri -- Tall, long-blooming perennial with pinkish-white flowers. Makes a nice filler between tall roses. Drought tolerant. Hesperis matronalis Alba -- Fragrant, white flowers in early summer. Self-sowing perennial. Good for the cottage garden look. 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.