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
Blue Woodruff -- Spring-blooming annual with fluffy, lavender-blue flowers. Shade tolerant. Self sows. Campanula rotundifolia -- Short, spreading perennial with violet-blue bells. Terrific flower for planting under roses. Penstemon strictus -- Stunning, violet-blue flowers on tall stems. Drought-tolerant, native perennial that attracts hummingbirds. Sweet Pea 'Royal Navy Blue' -- Wonderful for climbing up rose canes. The dark, purplish-blue flowers look great with roses of any color.
Lavender 'Munstead' -- Highly fragrant, lavender-blue flowers. One of the best companion plants for roses. 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. Easy to grow from seed. Sweet Pea 'Matucana' -- Heirloom sweet pea with violet-blue and maroon-red flowers. One of my favorite companion plants for roses.
Iberis gibraltarica -- Lavender-pink flowers with a long bloom season. Low-growing, evergreen perennial. Good for planting under roses. Snapdragon 'Apple Blossom' -- Lovely, pale pink to rose-colored snapdragons. A warmer shade of pink for planting with modern roses. 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.
Digitalis lutea -- Tall stems of pale yellow, tubular flowers for hummingbirds. The subdued color looks good with roses of many colors.
Dianthus arenarius -- Fragrant, pure white, fringed flowers. Drought-tolerant perennial for planting under roses. 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 -- Christopher Lloyd recommends planting garlic chives under roses to deter pests. Tanacetum niveum 'Jackpot' -- Large, bushy perennial with loads of small, white, daisy-like flowers. Companion plant that attracts beneficial insects.
Unusual Colors and Foliage Plants
Bupleurum 'Green Gold' -- Blue-green leaves and yellow-green flowers. Great companion plant for roses of nearly any color. Ruta graveolens -- Lacy, blue-green foliage and greenish-yellow flowers. One of my favorite companion plants for roses.