Rose Companion Planting: Companion Plants For Rose Bushes

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.

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The Best Companion Plants for Roses

A rose bush's long blooming time, intoxicating fragrance, and variety in color and form make the rose an adaptable stalwart for the flower garden. In the home flower garden, the charms of the rose bush, as well as its health, can be magnified by suitable companion plants.

By adding complementary perennial plants to your rose collection, you can add sophistication to your garden design, amplify the fragrance of your rose garden, and even fight common rose pests with plants that attract beneficial insects.

The Container Rose Garden

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Roses are gorgeous in containers and may be the perfect feature in an outdoor decor setting. Limited in-ground planting space or the need to dress up a hardscape area are key reasons to consider container gardening. One of the reasons that I grow many roses in containers is that I love roses and, unfortunately, my garden is in a really cold area, where many varieties simply are not winter hardy. Roses planted in containers fill my garden with color, fragrance, and gorgeous floral focal points. Choose varieties with "continuous bloom" for container gardening.

Choose a pot shape, color, and size that will complement the rose you choose. The featured planting should look balanced and the bloom color should be complemented by the pot color. Hybrid teas and floribundas perform well in pots larger than 14” in diameter and at least 14” deep (the deeper the better). Miniatures with a mature plant height of less than 18” are fine in a pot 10”-12” in diameter and 10”-12” deep. Hot Cocoa, a floribunda, is perfectly suited to this brown round clay pot.

Keep in mind that I am gardening in zone 3, where the growing season is short, and many of these container roses will not reach their mature plant size. Expect the growth in a container to be about the same as the first-year growth of a rose you would plant in the ground.

The Location

All roses need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight to develop and produce their flowers. Shelter from the wind will prevent the blooms from dropping petals prematurely. Be sure to choose companion plants that are compatible with the full sun conditions. Alternatively, the surrounding plants or structures may provide shade to the under-planted companions, while the tall rose will have full sun exposure. Your choice of companion plants will depend on these factors.

The Companions

Combination container planting usually is approached with the design method of using a "thriller, filler, and spiller." The thriller is the tall focal plant, the fillers are upright bushy plants, and the spillers hang over the pot edge. When you are working with roses, a different approach may be a better option. Think of the rose as the thriller and filler. The roses are quite bushy with beautiful foliage. Adding additional upright bushy plants to a rose combination planter may create a scene in which the fillers engulf the rose (not the most attractive sight). I like to use spillers that drape over the pot and hang down. This is especially true for hybrid tea and floribunda roses planted in pots that are less than 20” in diameter. Sometimes simpler is better.

Large, 22” diameter pots allow for a bit more room for additional plant material. A tall hybrid tea planted with an assortment of low-growing herbs is a lovely combination. Roses with an upright growth habit are a better choice for a combination planting than mounding bush shapes.

The top choice in my garden of a single container combo is a dark red hybrid tea and green leaf Creeping Jenny in a large urn-shaped pot. Lysimachia nummularia, Creeping Jenny, is a hardy ground cover, and I transplant it from my flowerbeds each spring. The golden leaf variety of Creeping Jenny looks terrible with a rose. I avoid using all plants with chartreuse foliage as planting companions in containers with roses.

Planting within a color theme is fun and very eye catching. I’ve done some “all pink” and “red & white” combos that were very pretty.


Grouping a number of different pots to create a container collection is one of my favorite garden projects. I have two beds devoted to container collections. One of the advantages is that roses are easier to maintain when they are in their own pots. Using pots of assorted heights or elevating some of the pots will enhance the display. These container beds have bark mulch under the pots to prevent weeds from growing in between the containers.

Container Planting Techniques

  • Ensure that your pot has drainage holes.
  • Cover the drainage holes with landscape fabric.
  • Pre-moisten potting soil and fill to a level where the transplant will sit about an inch below the top rim of the container. My favourite potting soil is Premier Pro-Mix BX. Use new soil each year in the smaller containers and recycle half of the soil in large pots.
  • The soil moisture level at planting time should be similar to a damp sponge. When you squeeze it, water will dribble out.
  • Loosen the roots to encourage them to spread with new growth. Position the transplant in the pot.
  • Fill in the remaining space with pre-moistened soil, lightly compacting the soil to eliminate air pockets.
  • Add rose fertilizer. My preference is a 4 -6 week granular fertilizer.
  • Cover the fertilizer with 1/4" of soil, finishing with a soil level 1" from the top rim. This will allow the water to soak in and not run off the pot when watering.
  • Mulch to help control moisture levels. Bark mulch is my first choice for mulching containers.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 cup of Epsom salts on top of the mulch.
  • Water until you see the water drain
    Trumpeter FloribundaClimbing Pinata Hybrid TeaNOID

No picture available, but Jeanne Lajoie underplanted with miniature Sweet Fairy is very pretty.

Maintenance Tips

  • Elevate pots with "pot feet" to ensure good drainage.
  • Follow a consistent watering schedule. Deep-watering until the water drains out the bottom is better for the rose than light watering every day. Allowing the soil to become parched or oversaturated will cause stress to the rose and the health of the plant will suffer.
  • Nutrients are depleted fairly quickly in container planting. I add granular fertilizer every 6 weeks throughout the growing season.
  • Add Epsom salts monthly to maintain plant health.
  • Take appropriate action when there is any sign of disease or pest problems.

Roses in Zone 5 or lower are not likely to survive the winter in pots without special overwintering techniques.

How to Choose Companion Plants for Roses

Last Updated: April 28, 2020 References

This article was co-authored by Lauren Kurtz. Lauren Kurtz is a Naturalist and Horticultural Specialist. Lauren has worked for Aurora, Colorado managing the Water-Wise Garden at Aurora Municipal Center for the Water Conservation Department. She earned a BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from Western Michigan University in 2014.

There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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Companion planting is a gardening method in which you place plants close to each other so that they can aid each others growth or so that the aesthetics of the garden are improved. These companion plants could add color at different times of the year, variation in shape and texture, keep away pests, increase certain nutrients in the soil, or encourage pollination. In the case of roses, good companion plants can be planted to encourage growth and blooming or they can be planted to create a well-balanced and complex garden design.

Using Knock Out Roses in the Landscape

Knock Out roses can be the utility infielders of your landscape. They can be foundation plantings, border plants, low hedges, or even specimen plants. You can plant them in containers, too. Because they bloom continually for nine months, they bring color to the landscape in late summer when other flowers are spent.

Plant Knock Out roses in a mass planting of the same color to make a striking hedge that's covered in blooms spring through fall. Line a driveway, a walkway or define the perimeter of your garden with an explosion of colorful roses. Space them 3 feet apart to give them room to reach their mature size and allow for air circulation. Prune them in the early spring to the height you want.

If you want a variant on the usual boxwoods or other evergreen shrubs, use Knock Outs as foundation plantings around your house. You'll have a mass of roses for most of the year surrounding your house. The bloom colors will pop out against dark houses. Put a row of short boxwoods in front of the Knock Out roses to define the perimeter of the bed and add a formal row of green to the soft mounds of colorful roses.


You can plant Knock Outs in containers, a good solution if your yard is mostly shade because you can move the pot where the sun is. Put potted Knock Out roses in matching pots on either side of your front steps or put a single potted Knock Out on a sunny patio for a pop of color. Plant one of the two varieties of Knock Outs with a scent — The Sunny Knock Out Rose and The White Knock Out — in pots and place by your front door so you get a waft of fragrance when you walk in or out of your house.

Use them as the thriller plant in a thriller/spiller/filler container recipe, mixing them with fillers like Artemisia, dianthus, coral bells, or bacopa and spillers like licorice plant, Blue Star creeper, Calibrachoa and sweet potato vine.

Some Knock Outs get up to 7 feet tall, so they can bring height to a flower garden when used as a solitary specimen plant. Place a Knock Out rose in a circular bed and surround it with low, mounding foliage plants. Or use a Knock Out rose in a cottage garden along with coneflowers, Shasta daisies and delphinium to add a touch of formality.

Knock Out roses can tolerate some shade, so they're a good pick for a naturalized border between a yard and an adjacent woodland. They can also be used in the middle or back of a mixed, sunny border, where they'll provide color in the late summer and early fall when other flowers are done blooming for the year.

Planting Your Roses

Where to Plant

Roses do well in a wide variety of soils with a pH of 6.5-7.0. They love full sun but also do well where they receive five or six hours of sun daily. Some actually produce better quality blooms with only morning sun for five to six hours. A few, especially Albas, Hybrid Musks, and a few others, do well in semi-shaded areas. Roses like good drainage.


One of the greatest mistakes in planting roses, especially old garden roses, is underestimating their mature size and planting them too closely together. A rose bush may look small when you get it, but it doesn't stay that way for long. Ramblers and climbers should be spaced six to eight feet apart. Bush roses should be planted as far apart as they are tall when mature.


The single most important factor in growing beautiful, large rose bushes is digging a big hole. A big hole is at least twenty-four inches wide by twenty-four inches deep. You can mix one-third compost with the soil from the top two-thirds of the hole. Discard the lower, usually infertile soil from the bottom of the hole. You might mix one cup of bone meal into the mixture also.

I am a firm believer in the benefits of manure, but I recommend mixing it 50/50 with the soil that goes into the bottom third of the hole as there is a chance it could be too fresh and might burn the fine feeder roots the rose will soon put out. When manure is at the bottom of the hole, these roots won't reach it for a year, and by that time it will have mellowed and be ready to give your rose a nice boost.

Plant your new rose in the middle of a big hole about one inch deeper than it was in the pot. I caution against planting a new rose in the same soil where a rose, or any other shrub for that matter, has been growing for years. The new rose will not perform well.


Roses love water. Give them at least one inch, preferably two inches, of water a week throughout the growing season. They will reciprocate with beauty and blooms. Well watered roses are more disease-resistant as water deprivation stresses the plant and makes it more susceptible to disease.


We recommend Alaska Fish Fertilizer or liquid fertilizers such as Peters every two to four weeks used as per label directions. We do not recommend granular fertilizers until the second season. Carefully fed roses tend to be more disease resistant. Here in Oregon we do not fertilize after mid-August.


When your roses have reached eighteen inches, we recommend that you pinch out the top two to three inches of growth to promote branching. Do not pinch ramblers and climbers. Once roses have bloomed, they should not be winter pruned as you would be removing next spring's blooming wood. They should be lightly pruned (removing a few inches to twenty-five percent of the top of the plant) after their spring blooming period is over. Take out all dead wood.

Climbers and ramblers also bloom on year-old wood. Again no winter pruning except to remove an occasional complete cane that is in the way or getting old (three to four years or more). You may also remove cross branches that are in the way. Ramblers have a tendency to put up many canes. You may want to limit them to just four to eight and keep the rest cut off at the base throughout the year.

Repeat blooming roses (English rose, shrub, hybrid musk, China, etc.) may be treated as large shrubs with little or no pruning except to cut the tips back a few inches, or if you wish, they may be shaped to your satisfaction and kept more compact by removing one- to two-thirds of the tops with winter pruning.

Watch the video: Companion Plants to Protect Rose from Diseases