Find Rose Companions

If you thought roses had to be relegated to a bed by themselves, think again. These flowering shrubs make great companion plants. By adopting an informal approach to design, you open the door to limitless creative options. There are benefits to playing garden matchmaker. Here are eight great reasons to find your perfect pairing.

  1. Extend the season with non-stop color by combining annuals, perennials, grasses and even other shrubs.
  2. Perk up a blah border by adding contrast and texture with spiky blooms (foxglove or grasses), bold, coarse leaves (brunnera), or frothy inflorescences (baby’s breath).
  3. Attract beneficial insects, birds and bees with a diverse palette. Did you know that hummingbirds gladly eat the aphids off of your rose bushes as they cruise for nectar?
  4. Create the ultimate cutting garden in your own backyard. Opt for long-lived, bouquet must-haves.
  5. Add structure with evergreen shrubs such as boxwood, senecio, sweet box or holly. Even herbs like sage, artemesia, rosemary and lavender help to shape a space.
  6. Exude charm and romance by under-planting with rambling vines like clematis, or by allowing your favorite rambling rose to clamber up a tree.
  7. Get the blues (the one color roses don’t offer) by planting sky-hued beauties like delphinium, veronica, iris and bluebeard (Caryopteris).
  8. Go organic with help from popular herbs. Pungent and potent, good old garlic, geranium, and mint send pests packing.

Rose Companion Planting Guide

  • For a harmonious union, choose well-behaved plants with similar growth requirements as your rose.
  • Install companions 12 to 18 inches away from roses to avoid disturbing the roots.
  • Avoid plants that crowd or provide too much shade. Roses do not like to compete for water, nutrients or sunlight.
  • Choose clumping-type perennials or grasses that stay contained instead of spreading beyond their boundaries.

A loose cloud of purple geranium provides the perfect backdrop for the hybrid tea rose ‘The Bride.’ Long-blooming perennials extend the season, providing color, interest and textures.

‘May Night’ Salvia, yellow pincushion flower and boxwood compliment the David Austin shrub rose ‘Eglantyne.’

From left: blue geraniums and yellow daylilies mix freely with Rugosa Roses; the dainty, pink flowers of Paul’s Himalayan Musk provide contrast to coarser Horse chestnut leaves; Coralbells provide an airy backdrop.

Consider planting floral greenery or other long-lasting cut flowers as bouquet companions for your roses. In this arrangement, iris, asters, oriental lilies, Peruvian lilies, sword fern, bear grass and leatherleaf contrast nicely with red hybrid tea roses. Grow perennials among your roses to color between flushes of blooms.

What About Groundcovers?

At Heirloom Roses, we are often asked about groundcovers and which, if any, are suitable for planting around roses. Groundcovers are an inherently attractive idea for covering up the bare lower stems of roses, particularly hybrid teas, which tend to lose their lower leaves. However, many groundcovers are simply too aggressive to be compatible. Ground covers may also be in direct conflict with some of our most basic rose care, such as raking up leaves or deadheading, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them if you pick the right ones. Consider your rose maintenance practices to ensure a good match. Do you regularly remove spent blooms during the summer? Some groundcovers resent being trampled on while others are tolerant.

Ground Covers We Love

  • Those that take light foot traffic, such as the Steppables collection, which includes violets, sedums and strawberries.
  • Prostrate, ground-huggers like woolly thyme, Corsican mint or blue star creeper.
  • Tough growers such as dwarf mondo grass withstand some raking.
  • Summer annuals that offer seasonal color, yet doesn’t get in the way of fall cleanup or mulching. Try alyssum, lobelia, lantana, petunias, summer snapdragon (Angelonia), million bells (Calibrachoa), verbena and pinks (Dianthus).

Clockwise from upper left: veronica, lantana, alyssum and Labrador violet all make excellent groundcovers beneath roses.

Companions for Pest Control

True companion planting is rooted in permaculture and vegetable gardening. Most organic growers know the secrets that marigolds, geraniums, basil, and mint hold in repelling pests, along with the aforementioned garlic (as well as chives, ornamental and edible onions). Did you know that members of the Allium family are reported to increase the perfume of roses and help prevent black spot in addition to warding off insect pests?

Clockwise from upper left: Ornamental allium, basil, catmint and marigold are some of the more popular companion plants used to repel insect pests.

Ward off Pests the Natural Way

  • Onions repel aphids, weevils, borers, moles
  • Garlic repels aphids, thrips and helps to fight black spot and mildew. For best results you may need to plant garlic with roses for several years.
  • Chives repel many pests
  • Basil repels aphids, mosquitoes, moles
  • Geraniums repel Japanese beetles, aphids and rose beetles
  • Marigolds discourages harmful nematodes, repels pests and is a trap plant for slugs
  • Parsley repels rose beetles
  • Mint deters ants and aphids
  • Tansy deters flying insects, Japanese beetles
  • Tomatoes help to protect roses from black spot

Companion Plants for Roses

Clematis (vine)
Coreopsis (annual/perennial)
Dianthus (annual/perennial)
Echinacea (perennial)

Long-Blooming Perennials

Grasses and Spiky Foliage

  • Blue Oat Grass Daylily (Hemerocallis)
  • Fountain Grass (Pennisetum)
  • Iris (Japanese, Bearded)
  • Montbretia (Crocosmia)
  • New Zealand Flax Ornamental Sedges (Carex)
  • Silver Grass (Miscanthus)
  • Switchgrass (Panicum)


  • Arctic Beauty Kiwi
  • Vine Black-Eyed Susan Vine
  • Bleeding Heart Glorybower
  • Clematis
  • Mandevilla
  • Moonflower Vine
  • Passion Vine (short varieties)
  • Rose Jasmine
  • Sweet Peas
  • Variegated Porcelain Vine

Long-Lasting Cut Flowers

  • Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila)
  • Bellflower (Campanula)
  • Black-Eyed Susan Carnation Coneflower (Echinacea)
  • Coralbells (Heuchera)
  • Cosmos Globe Thistle (Echinops)
  • Goldenrod (Solidago)
  • Japanese Anenome Larkspur (Delphinium)
  • Lilac Peony (Paeonia)
  • Peruvian Lily (Alstroemeria)
  • Shasta Daisy/Mums Speedwell (Veronica)
  • Stock Yarrow (Achillea)

Bouquet Greens

  • Camellia
  • Eucalyptus
  • Evergreen Huckleberry
  • Ferns (numerous varieties)
  • Japanese Euonymus
  • Salal (Gaultheria)
  • Sweet Box (Sarcococca)
  • Variegated Pittosporum

Evergreen Shrubs

  • Buxus (Boxwood)
  • Camellia
  • Lonicera nitida
  • Lonicera pileata
  • Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo)
  • Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly)
  • Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Boy’
  • Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’
  • Taxus (Yew)


  • Alyssum
  • Angelonia
  • Heliotrope
  • Lantana
  • Lobelia
  • Pansies
  • Petunias/Million Bells
  • Scented Geranium
  • Snapdragon
  • Verbena

Colorful/Contrasting Foliage

  • Artemesia ‘Guihzo’
  • Artemisia ‘Silver Mound’
  • Black Mondo Grass
  • Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’
  • Cimicifuga ‘Brunnette’
  • Dicentra ‘Gold Heart’
  • Dusty Miller
  • Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’
  • Euphorbia ‘Purpurea’
  • Fancy-Leaved Geraniums
  • Heuchera ‘Crimson Curls’
  • Heuchera ‘Lime Rickey’
  • Hostas
  • Lamb’s Ears (Stachys)
  • Lavender Cotton (Santolina)
  • Lobelia ‘Queen Victoria’
  • Physocarpus ‘Diablo’
  • Russian Sage (Perovskia)
  • Sambucus ‘Black Beauty
  • Senecio greyii
  • Sedum ‘Cape Blanco’
  • Sedum makinoi ‘Ogon’
  • Sedum ‘Vera Jameson’
  • Smokebush (Cotinus)
  • Spiraea ‘Goldmound’

Attract Hummingbirds

A visitor to the garden last summer asked why we grew so few roses. I explained that, out of the many varieties we’d tried, a large proportion had turned out to be too prone to fungal diseases for us to stick with them.

We don’t want to use chemicals at Perch Hill and certainly not fortnightly, the routine usually required to keep roses free of black spot and mildew. Our visitor then confirmed what I had read – that if you underplant roses with salvias, the roses will stay healthy. Alliums have the same reputation.

We’d just finished restoring a barn, and on the south side had created a new garden. We were about to fill the central six beds with herbs and put roses in the larger beds around them. We decided to experiment with the rose and salvia companion planting, so propagated all the salvias we had (see box, right – this is very easy to do and, if you have a propagator with basal heat, there’s still time this year).

In January, the roses went in, mainly strong forms in unusual colours, chosen for good vase life and powerful scent, such as the brown Hot Chocolate, blue-purple Rhapsody in Blue, bright pink Wild Edric and the dark and velvety crimson Munstead Wood and Darcey Bussell. Once the tulips were over in May, all our salvia cuttings were planted in between.

Credit: ©Jonathan Buckley

Well, it’s hats off to salvias, as all but Munstead Wood are still pristine now, so late in the year, without a sniff of fungicide. They’re still flowering and have done so (some having a break and then restarting) since the middle of June. That’s in their first year after planting, so it seems that it’s not just alliums that keep roses good and strong; the aromatic salvia family also do a great job.

Pretty partnerships

In terms of overall performance among the salvias, ‘Amistad’ – with its ink-black calyx and indigo flower – has stolen the show. It’s been in flower since May and is as covered in bud now in October as it was at the end of spring. It’s a truly marvellous plant that no garden should be without. In fact, it’s such a strong grower, it’s slightly drowned out the much slower China roses, such as ‘Mutabilis’ and the species R. glauca with which it is planted. It will go in a different place next year.

China rose ‘Mutabilis’ Credit: Getty Images

The most successful partner we’ve had with ‘Amistad’ has been the green-flowered pea species Lathyrus chloranthus, which, unlike its cousins the sweetpeas, is still happily clambering up and through the salvia, covered with new growth and plenty of flowers.

Better with roses are the lower-growing, spreading salvia varieties such as ‘Stormy Pink’, the similar-coloured ‘Krystle Pink’, along with the luscious crimson ‘Nachtvlinder’.

We also love the coral-pink and apricot ‘Tutti Frutti’, and similar-coloured but slightly larger-flowered ‘Señorita Leah’. With all of these, you can tuck the salvias in under the skirts of the rose. They’ve been a triumph, as well as the larger-growing, but not too drowning, rich, deep pink, S. microphylla ‘Cerro Potosí’.

Salvia microphylla ‘Cerro Potosi’ Credit: ©Jonathan Buckley

We’ve also had two good reds: ‘Wendy’s Wish’ is lovely for the fresh green of its stems, calyces and crenellated foliage, an excellent contrast to the flower colour; and ‘Jezebel’, which has slightly smaller flowers; these stand out strongly from the dark crimson calyces and stems.

Potted success

In the same garden, we’ve also had salvias in pots, and they’re all worth repeating. We have the true-blue species Salvia patens topping an old trough filled with Pelargonium ‘Marion Saunders’ and the felted, silvery foliage plant Plectranthus argentatus. The salvia and pelargonium are still covered in flowers.

Among the roses we also have a large pot containing Salvia ‘Dyson’s Gem’, with the royal blue Salvia ‘Blue Note’ creating a skirt around a purple bell vine (Rhodochiton) climbing over a woven silver birch tepee. This also creates the framework for a pot filled with the huge-leaved Salvia macrophylla. This is on the same scale as ‘Amistad’, by now at least five feet tall and also looking good growing with the purple bell vine.

In another pot I love the simple mixture of Salvia ‘Cerro Potosí’ planted with Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’. In previous years – like our roses – the green-flowered tobacco has been clobbered by mildew, but not this year. It remains utterly pristine.

Our experiment suggests that the line on salvias being the best natural fungicide turns out to be true.

Companion plants

Companion plants are grown for various reasons – they can provide year-round interest in their own right, flower at the same time as the roses, or fill in-between rose flushes. These plants need to be well behaved, have a non-invasive root system, and not ‘flop’ on their neighbours.

Sage, lavender, scented geranium, santolina, catmint and lamb’s ear that are grown for their foliage rather than their flowers and make good companions.

Tall growing plants with a see-through effect: cosmos, campanula, gypsophila, gaura and fennel can also be grown among roses.

There are several companion plants that can be planted in between roses – in general one would like a plant with a not too deep root system that will absorb the fertiliser and water that is meant for the roses.

Ground covers are good companion plants, such as alyssum, ajuga, campunula, Diascia, mazus, strawberry and Verbena.

With larger shrubs one would like to avoid a plant that is going to create shade on the rose – either plant them a good distance away or choose plants that grow upright rather than sideways; Phormiums, Acorus, Hebe, Cordylines, Coprosma, Kniphofia and Trachelospermum are good examples. Delphiniums look exceptionally good with roses.

Herbs like Rosemary and lavender can also be used and will aid in deterring insect from your roses yet these should be kept a 1.5m away.

Off course, roses can be used to under-plant larger roses.

Rose Companion Planting: Companion Plants For Rose Bushes

By Stan V. Griep
American Rose Society Consulting Master Rosarian – Rocky Mountain District

Companion plantings for rose bushes can add a nice touch to the rose bed. The companion plants can help hide the canes of the roses that have become bare as the rose bush has gotten taller. Companion planting can serve multiple purposes in the rose bed, just one of those being to hide the bare canes or leggy look that some taller roses and climbers get.

When to Start Companion Planting for Rose Bushes

With hybrid tea roses, wait a couple years before doing any companion planting, as they need to get their root systems going well prior to adding any competition for water and nutrients. Truthfully, I would apply this same rule to all of the rose bush plantings as a good rule of thumb.

Keep in mind that some companion plants can easily become overgrown, thus some maintenance to keep them under control will be required. However, we all know that the best looking gardens get to be that way due to the shadow of the gardener!

Rose Companion Plants

Here is a listing of some great companion plants for roses and some of their benefits:

Alyssum – Alyssum is a low growing and fragrant ground cover that comes in colors of white, shades of pink and shades of purple. This is

an easy one to grow and really does add some eye-catching appeal to the rose beds.

Garlic, Chives, Garlic Chives & Onions – Rose lovers have planted these in their rose beds for many years. Garlic has been known to repel many pests that bother rose bushes. Garlic chives have interesting foliage, repel some pests and their pretty little clusters of white or purple flowers look wonderful with the rose bushes foliage. Chives and onions have been said to make roses more fragrant when they are planted nearby roses.

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) – Lavender can be planted near roses. It has been noted in some cases to help keep aphids away from the rose bushes. Their pretty bloom spikes help dress up the rose bed and can be pruned back and the flowers can be dried and used for many purposes, perhaps a fine fragrant wreath for your homes décor.

Marigolds – Use the lower growing varieties to add beautiful enhancing colors to the rose bed. Marigolds have been known to repel many insect pests as well as help control harmful nematodes.

Parsley – This is a great looking herb in its own right with its ruffled foliage. Parsley is another of the companion plants that help deter some insects that tend to bother rose bushes. Plus, this herb can be cut back when it gets a bit leggy and it will grow back nicely, adding its pretty foliage to the rose bed all over again. Parsley can also be harvested for use in your kitchen for those culinary delights.

Tips About Rose Companion Planting

These are but a few of the companion plants that work well with rose bushes, as there are many more. Be sure to read the information available on any plant you are considering as a companion plant for your roses.

Watch out for plants that can become very invasive and a real headache in the rose bed. Also be sure to check on the companion plant’s growth habit as to height. In many cases, you will want lower growing companion plants, with the exception of climbing roses which may need taller growing companion plants to help hide some large bare lower canes.

Many of the herbs will work well planted in the rose beds but, again, check their growth habits to be sure. It really is no different than being sure to read the label on any pesticide prior to its application. We need to be sure we are not creating a harmful situation in our gardens.

One last consideration with companion plantings is to consider the pH level of the soil where the companion plants are to be planted. The rose bushes have an optimum pH of 6.5, so the companion plantings should also thrive at that pH level to perform as desired.

Best companion plants for rose beds

A classic cottage garden mixes old fashioned roses with annuals and perennials.

OPINION: The older I get, the more I dislike “rose beds”, with roses growing in splendid isolation.

It didn’t bother me when I was young and so in love with old roses, I filled every available space with them.

But when love became more temperate, as it always does, I looked at the garden with a clearer eye and realised that roses need company to look their best: not boisterous so they are overpowered, but gentle company so they appear well-dressed.

NEIL ROSS Nicotiana alata performs well and provides a splash of green.

* Top tips for rose care in spring
* The best rambling roses to fill a boundary
* What to do in the garden this week
When I first planted roses in my cottage garden, they had company, planted by previous owners, in the form of foxgloves, aquilegias and Nicotiana sylvestris scenting the nights with its white flowers.

All of these are still welcome, although wild aquilegias have a nasty habit of wrapping their roots around roses and need to be watched.

The low-growing Nicotiana alata is a bedding stalwart. I use the lime green one in containers where I plant it as soon as the tulips are finished, and if I dead-head religiously, it lasts through summer.

For a classic blue/purple and yellow combination you could plant bright yellow Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle) with the scented purple heliotrope, dark blue violas, or delight the cat with a clump of Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ (catmint).

Cosmos are a safe bet too – they’re the only flower, apart from nigella, I can reliably grow from seed.

I like to include a few herbs in the rose beds and this year I’ve chosen bergamot and hyssop because they produce nectar to attract monarch butterflies.

Heliotrope attracts plenty of bees.

Butterfly numbers are decreasing so it’s nice to include nectar-rich plants. I already grow the anise-scented agastache, and beds are edged with purple sage.

Roses will grow happily with almost any annual or perennial and your rose beds will look much prettier.

Just make sure the companion plants don’t get too near the roots or they will gobble up the rose food.

The lilac blooms of catmint, which cats adore. Hyssop is another bee-friendly herb.

NZ Gardener

  • Twitter
  • Whats App
  • Reddit
  • Email

What To Grow Under Roses: Tips For Growing Plants Under Rose Bushes

Whether you’re looking for ways to improve the look of your rose garden or trying to help encourage beneficials to the area, it’s sometimes necessary to add plants that grow well under roses. So what to grow under roses, you ask. Read on to learn more.

Reasons for Planting Beneath Roses

There are some rose bushes that have a growth habit of getting what is called “leggy,” which essentially means that for some reason the roses will shed all of their lower foliage, leaving nothing but their canes showing. The foliage and blooms are all up higher on the bush, making the lower portion bare and lacking a nice eye-catching look that we like for our gardens.

In order to bring out the desired look for such gardens, we need to find some lower growing plants that will not just bring back the eye-catching beauty of blooms or foliage but plants that grow well under roses too. Some folks believe that rose bushes are actually healthier with companion plants, as they help encourage the beneficial bugs and drive away the bad ones.

Plants That Grow Well Under Roses

When adding companion plants to the rose beds, it is wise to choose plants that do not have an unruly or spreading growth habit. Look for those that have a more well-behaved growth habit, perhaps even a growth habit that is similar to the roses themselves. Ensure that your underplanting rose companions are at least 12 to 18 inches away from the rose bushes to avoid disturbing their root systems. Roses do not like having to compete for available nutrients, water or sunlight, so keep this in mind with your companion plantings.

Although it’s usually recommended to contact your local extension service for the best plants in your particular area, it also helps to read the “growing zone” information available for all plants that are of interest to make sure they will grow well in your zone. Here is a listing of some plants that are considered good companions for planting beneath roses:


  • Anise hyssop
  • Bellflower
  • Catmint
  • Baptisia
  • Garden phlox
  • Lady’s mantle
  • Lavender
  • Lilies
  • Russian sage
  • Spurge
  • Wormwood
  • Yarrow

  • Annual phlox
  • Heliotrope
  • Larkspur
  • Million bells
  • Pansies
  • Flowering tobacco

In some cases, we may be looking for companion plantings that serve a multi-purpose of both interest and beauty, yet also help repel insects and such. Some of these plants are:

  • Onions – known to repel aphids, weevils, borers and moles
  • Garlic – repels aphids, thrips and helps fight black spot and mildew (for the best results with garlic, you will likely need to plant it with the rose bushes for several years)
  • Marigolds – tend to discourage harmful nematodes and repel many pests, and is considered a trap plant for slugs
  • Parsley – said to repel rose beetles
  • Mint – deters ants and aphids (be careful with mint though, as it can easily become overgrown and invasive)
  • Geraniums – repel Japanese beetles, aphids and other rose beetles
  • Chives – repel many insects
  • Tomatoes – help protect roses from black spot and add tasty food as well

For some foliage type plants try:

  • Hostas – good for zones 3 to 9
  • Heuchera – good for zones 4 to 9
  • Lamb’s ears – good for zones 4 to 9
  • Persian shield – good in zones 9 to 11
  • Coleus – good for zones 10 to 11

The shapes of the leaves and their colors do well to provide good contrast to the rose bushes’ classic form.

Many companion plantings will require a bit of shaping, pruning or thinning to hold them to their area and maintain a well-kept appearance. The need for this bit of work is not a bad thing, as it does us good to be in our gardens. If some companion plants do not provide the desired look, change them out until you get the appearance that most appeals to you.

Growing plants under rose bushes can help create a garden space of soul recharging delight so you can enjoy them to the fullest!

Companion Planting With Roses

Companion planting is a fantastic way to enhance the natural beauty of your roses and increase the visual appeal of your garden. Not only that, companion planting can be an effective method of pest control.
What you need to consider when companion planting with roses:

  • Select plants that will thrive in same conditions as roses and require the same nutrients and water. Roses need plenty of water, sunlight and nutrients. for more information on growing roses.
  • Ensure that your rose will still receive plenty of air circulation, especially in humid climates. Good air circulation is important to help prevent fungal disease such as black spot and powdery mildew. Where fungal diseases are a concern, select lower growing plants.
  • Roses do not like competition. Avoid large growing plants as roses do not like to be overcrowded. Select smaller plants with shallow root systems.
  • Do not plant companions closer then 30-40cm from the base of a rose. This not only limits competition and disturbance of the roots but it allows for easy access for fertilising and watering.
  • When planting flowering companions, you will need to compensate when fertilising your roses. Roses are heavy feeders and require plenty of nutrients to flower and grow with vigour. Add enough fertiliser for both the rose and the companion plants.
  • Some companion plants help to discourage certain pests and encourage beneficial insects to your garden. This is a great method of pest control for organic gardeners or those that wish to limit their use of chemicals.

Companion plants that grow well with roses:
Mini agapanthus, Lamb’s Ears, Erysimum, Woodworm, Dianthus, Chamomile cultivars, Pansies, Petunias, Violets, Daisy, Strawberries, Gerbera, Daylilies, Bearded Iris, Statice, Baby’s Breath and Delphinium. There are many more options and extensive lists that can be found online.
Companion planting for pest control:
Oregano, Sweet Basil, Garlic, Lavender, Geraniums, Marigolds, Mint, Parsley, Thyme, Catmint, Yarrow.

Roses are captivating when in full bloom, but come winter when plants are bare sticks, the garden may look lifeless.

Between flushes of blooms during the growing season, colour might go missing, and the bare thorny base of roses need camouflaging.

So it makes good sense to combine roses with other plants to keep up the colour and interest year-round.

Combination planting also creates greater biodiversity, encouraging beneficial insects for 
a healthier growing environment.

BHG SHOP: Shop roses here

Worldwide, garden design trends indicate more natural, less ordered gardens – for example, the renowned Royal Horticultural Society garden at Wisley in the UK and public rose gardens, such as Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, have reimagined their rose gardens combining roses with shrubs, perennials, annuals, herbs, bulbs and grasses for year-round interest.

We hope to inspire you to rethink “just roses”, by adding a mix of foliage, owers, textures and colours.

Best buddies

A good reason to plant roses with companions is to ward off rose pests.

Planting a mixture in preference to having a monoculture can confuse pests (or, better still, discourage
them all together) and provide an environment for beneficial insects and natural predators of aphids.

Scented foliage, aromatic plants such as herbs (think sage, thyme, lavender and rosemary) and members of the onion family (garlic, allium and chives) are great companions for roses.

How to coexist with success

Match the vigour of the companion plant with the roses so they will compete for available soil, water and nutrients. For example, grow vigorous roses with big, bold perennials, shrubs and grasses.

  • Avoid planting too densely – allow plenty of room for good air circulation and for maintenance, such as trimming, pruning and mulching.
  • Soil preparation is the key – add plenty of organics prior to planting, and top up these annually after winter pruning using compost-rich mulch.
  • Rose fertilisers won’t harm perennials, bulbs or annuals – they’ll enjoy the added nutrients. Apply rose food every four to six weeks.

Essential rose care

Whether you grow roses on their
 own or together with other plants, they require care to keep them in top shape.

  • Roses love full sun (minimum six hours daily) and grow happily in most parts of Australia except the tropical far north.
Roses grow in a wide range of garden soils, but good drainage is important.

  • Add plenty of organics (aged manures, compost) to the soil prior to planting, and
a good organic mulch (aged cow manure) ensures a healthy start.

  • Lucerne hay, sugar cane and pea straw are all excellent mulches for roses. A 50mm-thick layer will help suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.

  • Roses are heavy feeders, so apply organic rose food twice a season.
Water in well after application.
  • Roses respond well to pruning
by producing new canes and lots 
of flowers. Mid to late winter is
a good time for major pruning,
with the exception of spring-only bloomers and climbers – leave these until after flowering.

  • Once established, give roses a deep weekly soaking rather than a light sprinkling. Keep newly planted roses moist until new shoots are growing tall.

BHG Shop: If you’re thinking about investing in roses this winter, we’ve got a stellar offer on BHG Shop which you can see by clicking here with instructions below on the best way to go about introducing them to your garden world.

Companion Planting


I love to have roses in the garden, but I find that the old style of rose bed where nothing else is grown lacks appeal when compared with the cottage or country style garden where other plants are grown as companions amongst the roses. As far as the old belief that you should not plant anything under your roses because they do not like root competition, this is only partly true. Roses do not like the severe root competition from the likes of trees and large shrubs, and these plants will certainly diminish rose vigour and performance. As with any plant, once stressed for either water or nutrients, they are more likely to be affected by plant pests and diseases. If however, you avoid planting roses near large trees, combine them with appropriate perennials and groundcovers, and keep your roses healthy by feeding them regularly, root competition is not a problem. Remember that any additional under plantings will demand more from your soil, so ensure you have a regular fertilising program, especially for repeat flowering rose varieties.

From a design point of view, under planting or planting borders around the edge of garden beds containing roses, helps to tie the garden together. This is particularly important where you are growing a mixed collection of roses, perhaps one of each of your favourite colours. What tends to happen in a rose garden of this sort is the overall impression is too busy – the eye doesn’t know where to look. There are too many colours mixed together. In this case using the same plant repeated as a border will tie the bed together to create a more visually appealing effect.

The list of plants that look great when planted between and under your roses is endless, however my favourite plant to combine with roses is a catmint called Nepeta ‘Walkers Blue’. Its lavender flowers form a great show against its grey-green foliage, and match any colour scheme of roses. It grows to 45cm high and flowers from mid spring to late autumn.

Other favourites include:

Grey and silver foliage plants as they work with all rose colours: Lamb’s ears – Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears’ and thirkei; Wormwood varieties – such as Artemesia ‘Valerie Finnis’

Ground covers including Chamomile cultivars – Anthemis ‘E.C.Buxton’ & ‘Suzannah Mitchell’; Asteriscus maritimum ‘Gold Coin’; Veldt daisy – Arctotis x hybrida; Seaside daisy including sterile cultivar Erigeron karvinskianus ‘Spindrift’; Cranesbill – Geranium species

Perennials including Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and ‘Matrona’; Hummingbird mint – Agastache cultivars; Ornamental oregano cultivars; Alstroemeria dwarf cultivars eg ‘Princess Lilies’

Strappy leaf plants including miniature Agapanthus; daylilies – Hemerocallis cultivars; Bearded iris

Winter blooming plants as they flower when roses don’t: Lavender – French and ‘Avonview’; Wallflowers – Cheiranthus; Miniature daisy cultivars; Silver bush – Convolvulus cneorum; Spurges – Euphorbia species eg E. rigida

The other wonderful benefit of planting amongst your roses is that you will bring in the beneficial insects, resulting in less pest problems. The healthiest style of garden is one with diversity rather than just one sort of plants – a cottage or country style garden rather than a monotonous monoculture.

Aphids on your roses can still strike fear into the heart of rose growers. When aphids attack your roses the best thing to do is nothing, simply leave the natural predators to do their thing – unless you need perfect roses for the show bench!? There are a number of fabulous ‘good guys’ that will do all the hard work for you. There are ladybirds, hoverflies, lacewings, rose aphid parasitic wasps, dragon flies, damsel flies, insectivorous birds, spiders and micro bats. Understand that when you don’t interfere, it will take 10-14 days for the aphids to disappear and it is in this time that most gardeners panic and ‘nuke’ these pests. Don’t be tempted to squash the aphids with your fingers as this squashes lady bird eggs and the developing parasitic wasp within the ‘mummy’ aphid cocoon. The problem with using insecticides, even natural ones like pyrethrum, garlic and chilli is that these sprays do not distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys.

The best cure is to keep your roses as happy and healthy as you can. As the old saying goes, ‘Happy healthy plants don’t get sick’, and they are much less likely to suffer from pest and disease problems. Make sure your roses are growing in full sun, they are fed regularly with an organic based rose fertiliser that is boosted with potash to help strengthen the cell walls, and that they are not competing with severe root competition from large shrubs or trees. If you cannot bear to do nothing, simply squirt the aphids off. To be honest this does not really work as there will be a new crop back in several days, however if you do this every few days and keep it up for two weeks, we can keep you occupied while we let nature clean up the problem.

The following are a number of planting combinations that I have found to work well.

Underplanting companions for mixed rose beds:

Nepeta ‘Walker’s Blue’ – catmint

Dwarf lavenders eg ‘Avonview’

Miniature agapanthus eg ‘Snowstorm’ & ‘Streamline’

Stachys byzantina & cultivars – lamb’s ears

Miniature daisy cultivars eg Federation Daisies

Tulbaghia – society garlic

Verbena ‘Taipen’

Salvia species & cultivars

Ageratum houstonianum – perennial ageratum

Suitable combinations for pink roses:

Nepeta ‘Walker’s Blue’ – catmint

Alstroemeria ‘Sophia’ – Princess Lily

Agapanthus ‘Streamline’

Dianthus – pinks

Miniature daisy cultivars eg Federation Daisies ‘Summer Star’

Ornamental oreganos

Underplanting companions for yellow roses:

Nepeta ‘Walker’s Blue’ – catmint

Asteriscus maritimum ‘Gold Coin’

Alstroemeria ‘Dianna’ & ‘Sarah’ – Princess Lilies

Miniature daisy cultivars eg Federation Daisy ‘Sultan’s Pride’

Hemerocallis ‘Stella Bella’

Bidens ferulifolia – burr marigold

Underplanting companions for white roses:

Nepeta ‘Walker’s Blue’ – catmint

Stachys byzantina & cultivars – lamb’s ears

Erigeron karvinskianus ‘Spindrift’ – seaside daisy (sterile form)

Dianthus – Pinks

Miniature daisy cultivars eg Federation Daisy ‘Summer Star’ & ‘Sultan’s Pride’

Convolvulus cneorum – silver bush

Bidens ferulifolia – burr marigold

Anthemis cultivars eg ‘E.C.Buxton’ & ‘Suzannah Mitchell’ – chamomile

Underplanting companions for apricot to orange roses

Nepeta ‘Walker’s Blue’ – catmint

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

Geranium species & cultivars – cranesbill

Dwarf lavenders eg ‘Avonview’

Miniature agapanthus eg ‘Snowstorm’ & ‘Streamline’

Convolvulus cneorum – silver bush

There are many other varieties suitable for companion planting with your roses, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find your own winning combinations.

Happy gardening! Sophie Thomson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *