What to Plant with Roses: Guide to Rose Companion Plants

What to Plant with Roses: Guide to Rose Companion Plants

We all like to have friends, and roses are no exception to this rule. The best companion plants for roses are the ones that bring out the best qualities in each other. They work together, share their soil and help fight off various pests and diseases. This is a great, natural way to avoid pesticides and use plants that work together for their mutual benefit.

So how do you know how to match up the right plants with your roses? It starts with simple things like the size of the companion plant you’re considering. Then, you’ll want to look to see if they have similarities with your roses, including growing conditions, disease resistance, etc. For example, you don’t want to put a plant that attracts Japanese beetles next to your roses. 

Still unsure? This guide is designed to get you started in picking the perfect best friends for your roses.

Step 1: Choose Plants That Look Good with Your Roses

This step requires a bit of imagination, but it’s a great start to choosing companion plants. You want plants that look aesthetically pleasing next to one another. Think about your rose or roses. Are they full of multiple, giant blossoms that rise up to about four feet in height? If so, you might want to choose something more like nepeta, with its mound-like quality and spiky blooms to provide unique texture to your garden without competing with your roses. If your rose is a climber, you may consider adding a couple of peonies around your rose to add more blossoms around ground level. 

You may also want to consider the color of your companion plants. For example, if you’re growing showstopping hybrid tea roses that produce bright yellow blossoms, you might not want to add a companion with pale purple blooms. The contrast between bright and pastel may clash. 

Step 2: Choose Plants That Can Help Your Roses Thrive

Companion plants for roses don’t just look good around your roses. They also help your roses look beautiful, too. For example, if you faced a difficult season with rose slugs, your roses’ leaves might not be looking their best. A plant like Agastache, also known as hummingbird mint, can create enough leafy foliage and flower fronds to hide away those less-than-beautiful areas of your rose while it recovers.  

grass walkway in rose garden

You can also choose mound-like plants that protect the roots of your roses too by acting as mulch for your roses. These plants will help to control the temperature of your soil, evaporation and ensure that your roses have the moisture they need for the healthiest roots possible. As a bonus, these companions also hide the bottom of your roses, which are never quite as beautiful as the tops which are filled with blooms. 

Add Stunning Hybrid Tea Roses to Your Garden

Step 3: Choose Plants That Won’t Compete with Your Roses

The last thing you want to do is add a plant that is going to steal nutrients from your roses. Your rose companions should work together with your roses. This means that they like the same sunlight and soil types, and they’re not going to crowd your roses and take over that area of the garden. Moreover, because your roses are always hungry for nutrients, you want companion plants that aren’t going to suffer from a rich fertilizing schedule. 

Plants like dianthus and coreopsis, and even bulbs like allium, are all excellent examples of flowers that work with your roses, share the sunlight and soil nutrients and won’t encroach on your roses when they’re in their prime during the summer months. 

Step 4: Choose Plants That Fight Pests

Pests are a natural part of having a garden, but there are natural remedies to ensure your garden is set up from success within. Plus, as an added benefit, the right plantings will help you avoid using dangerous pesticides. 

For example, you may know that onions can keep aphids at bay, but did you know that goes for their ornamental varieties, too, like allium? Many types of plants from the onion family can also help prevent black spot. This makes them excellent additions to your rose garden. 

There are also herbs that can help you get rid of pesky Japanese beetles, which can quickly ravage any garden. Parsley and thyme are great examples of this, along with oregano, catmint and lavender. 

Meet a New Friend in These Companion Plants

rose garden with chair

10 Best Rose Companions for Your Garden

There are plenty of great rose companion plants available for your garden, but these plants offer the biggest benefits when planted with roses. Here is our list of our favorite rose companions:

  1. Geraniums: While you can plant annual geraniums around your roses, the hardy geraniums are a great full-time companion plant. They cover the bottom of your roses and help to prevent certain diseases. Plus, bugs like Japanese beetles and other types of beetles and aphids don’t like geraniums, so they’re less likely to stick around where the geraniums are planted. 

Of course, geraniums also come in a variety of colors, making it easy to aesthetically complement your rose garden. 

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  1. Marigolds: You may already know that certain types of marigolds repel rabbits, but they also keep away certain types of bugs, including nematodes, whiteflies and more. This makes them a beautiful addition to your rose garden for not just their repellent qualities, but their beautiful blossoms and their ability to act as a low mulch for your garden. 

beautiful marigolds rose garden

  1. Peonies: While peonies won’t necessarily fight off any bugs or diseases, they will offer a stunning backdrop of rich green foliage for your roses. This is because while your peonies might have a short blooming window, their leaves stay big and green. This makes them the perfect companion for roses, who typically bloom later than peonies because the rose blossoms will appear even bigger and brighter. 

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  1. Bee Balm: When thinking about rose companions, we’re often thinking about repelling things, but bee balm will do the opposite in the best of ways. Bee balm is a favorite of bees, hummingbirds and butterflies, and they can attract these helpful pollinators to your roses.

Remember, though, many types of bee balm get quite large — even larger than many varieties of roses. This means that as a companion plant, you may want to add them behind your roses, rather than in front of them, or you’ll cover your roses instead of complementing them. 

bee balm attracts pollinators

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  1. Butterfly Weed: If you’re familiar with milkweed, then you already know the benefits of butterfly weed. While milkweed can grow wild on roadsides, certain types of butterfly weed are cultivated to have vibrant colors and unique leaf shapes. But don’t be fooled — butterflies, especially Monarchs, absolutely love any variety of this plant.

Butterfly weed is easy to grow and can add color and texture around your roses, while drawing in pollinators with its sweet nectar. One thing to note is that certain types of butterfly weed can be more aggressive than other types. You should keep an eye on your butterfly weed to ensure it doesn’t encroach on your roses’ space and start to crowd it.

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  1. Russian Sage: Russian sage is a pollinator-friendly addition to any garden, but it can make an absolutely stunning backdrop for roses. Its long, wispy stalks create movement in the wind, and their spicy-sweet scent can’t be missed in their area of the garden. If you have shorter roses in your garden, add Russian sage behind your roses and every bloom will pop even brighter.

Because Russian sage thrives in most areas of the garden, it can get big and spread around your roses. Make sure to give it enough space so it doesn’t crowd your roses and try to steal the show.

stunning russian sage rose garden

Russian Sage 

  1. Coneflowers: These North American natives have become more and more popular every year with gardeners, and that has led to an influx of new colors and varieties of coneflower. This means you can pick the perfect partner to your roses. To add to that, they resist many fungi that are found in gardens across the country. As long as they have proper airflow, they won’t draw fungus to your roses.

One thing to note: Coneflowers love to have their space, just like roses, and can get tall, so make sure you place them appropriately around your roses to ensure that you’re not overtaking your rose garden. 

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  1. Phlox: Another pollinator favorite, phlox can be a stunning companion planting for your rose garden. They can also complement any rose bouquets you cut, too. Phlox can last when cut and added to a vase, making it a great addition to your arrangements. 

While some types of phlox can be prone to powdery mildew — and you don’t want that near your roses without great airflow — there are many varieties of phlox that are resistant to that type of mildew. Choose one of those to ensure you’re not risking cross-contamination.

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  1. Coreopsis: There are certain types of roses that put all of their energy into blooming only once a season. These antique varieties are a favorite of gardeners everywhere, but they require companions to fill the space until it’s time for the showstoppers to bloom. This is where coreopsis comes in. 

There are so many varieties of coreopsis to choose from, so you’re sure to find one that complements the color of your roses. If you’re a beginner gardener, coreopsis is also a great perennial to add because it can handle most soil types and weather, including drought. You won’t have to worry about spending too much time taking care of your coreopsis. It’s self-sufficient all season long.

coreopsis great perennial

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  1. Heuchera: If you know anything about coral bells, you might be wondering how it’s possible that it made the list. For rose gardeners who have full, established roses that serve as a hedge or shrub wall, heuchera can be the perfect addition to your garden. This is because while other plants on this list prefer a lot of sun, heuchera prefers partial sun. Planting it next to your established roses will add visual interest in front of your rose garden, and your roses will give the coral bells the shade they prefer. 

Heuchera is a fun addition to your rose garden because while their flowers are delicate and lovely, most gardeners grow them for their unique and colorful foliage, ranging from lime green to deep reds and purples.

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There are so many more rose companions to choose from, so don’t be shy if you want to add a different type of plant to your rose garden. As long as it’s not going to draw in pests or disease, chances are it can work around your roses and complement them perfectly when you step back to enjoy the view.

garden with flowers walkway

How to Add Rose Companions to Your Garden

You’re ready to plant, but you’re not sure how. It might be easier than you think. First, give your roses a little bit of room, up to one foot, from the companion plant. This will help ensure that you don’t accidentally put a spade through your roses’ roots because you planted too closely. It will also keep your rose’s new best friend from crowding it. 

From there, follow the instructions included with your flower’s insert. If you know your flower will get to about two feet wide, you’ll want to make sure that you give it enough space to reach its full potential without growing over the top of your rose. Finally, keep your roses and flowers in the best condition possible. This means pruning them and clearing debris from around your plants.

There are no secrets to adding companion plants. It’s just about recognizing what your roses need and what these new friends can offer them. Once you plant them, if you realize that they’re not working out, you can always move them to another spot in your garden and try a new companion plant. Adding companion plants to your rose garden is a great way to keep them healthy and cut down the amount of work you need to do in your garden.

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