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. 

  • 01 of 08

    Salvia

    Blue Salvia
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    The spiky blooms of Salvia plants are a texturally interesting counterpoint to the round, soft form of rose blossoms. As a bonus, these perennial plants are easy to grow. Varieties like 'Blue Queen' thrive in hot, sunny conditions, and attract butterflies and other beneficial bugs while shunning deer.

    The Salvia genus is large, but you can't go wrong with the interspecific hybrids of Salvia sylvestris, which include long-blooming favorites like the 1997 perennial plant of the year 'May Night.'

  • 02 of 08

    Bronze Fennel

    Fennel Flowers
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    For some gardeners, the rose is much more than a source of eye candy. Roses also have a significant role in herbal medicines, both due to their immune-strengthening vitamin C content and as a digestive and sleep aid. If roses feature in your herbal preparations, it's only natural to seek the most ornamental herbal companion plants, and bronze fennel should be on your shortlist.

    The ferny bronze foliage adds height and textural interest to rose plants, without taking over the space. Its yellow flower umbels attract scores of beneficial insects, including hoverflies and parasitic wasps. Swallowtail butterflies also use bronze fennel to lay their eggs, and the conspicuous larvae are fun to watch, as they munch their way through the foliage without causing much cosmetic damage. 

  • 03 of 08

    Common Wormwood

    Wormwood Artemisia
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    Silvery plants like those in the Artemisia genus positively glow at the base of rose bushes. 'Powis Castle' is one of the finest foliage plants out there, featuring finely divided foliage with an otherworldly silvery-blue hue. All wormwood cultivars demand excellent drainage, but tending to this matter in your garden will do nothing but increase the health of your roses as well. 

    In some parts of the U.S., Artemsia is considered invasive. Before you plant, check on whether it's recommended for gardens in the region in which you live.

  • 04 of 08

    Coreopsis

    Coreopsis and Roses
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    For gardeners that cherish antique roses, the disease resistance and unparalleled perfume make up for the fact that the roses only bloom once in the late spring or early summer. However, you can keep the bloom show going by surrounding your rose bushes with coreopsis plants, some of which bloom for three months or longer.

    Coreopsis plants are low-maintenance and drought-tolerant. Additionally, bees and butterflies are drawn to the blossoms, which is a benefit for all the plants in the surrounding garden. 'Moon Beam' is a tried and true cultivar, with scores of lemon yellow flowers from June until first frost. 

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  • 05 of 08

    Coral Bells

    Obsidian Coral Bells
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    The dainty flower stems of coral bells look lovely held aloft between rose bushes, but it's the showy foliage of the Heuchera genus that really steals the show. Aptly named varieties like 'Carmel' and 'Marmalade' feature gold and orange leaves that echo apricot rose blossoms. Moody purple varieties like 'Blackberry Jam' and 'Velvet Night' are a striking foil to green rosebush foliage. 

    Coral bells are low-maintenance plants that can be planted in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9 but thrive in zones 5 to 7. While they are considered shade plant, they can make do with plenty of sunlight, too.

  • 06 of 08

    Coneflower

    Coneflowers
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    Don't forget about plants that are native to North America as a great companion alternative for roses. Coneflowers have enjoyed an explosion in breeding, so in addition to pink flowering favorites like 'Magnus', you can complement your roses with electric orange 'Hot Papaya' or the golden blooms of 'Sandy Yellow'. Purple coneflowers, or Echinacea purpurea, are the most popular variety.

    Coneflowers need plenty of room for good air circulation but generally aren't susceptible to fungal diseases. They thrive in dry, hot climates but can tolerate a variety of temperatures and humidity fluctuation.

  • 07 of 08

    Phlox

    Garden Phlox
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    Roses may be one of the most popular cut flowers, but a bouquet filler like phlox will add interest and fullness to your rose arrangements. The upright blooms of garden phlox may bring back memories of a grandparent's flower garden, as many phlox cultivars are heirlooms and have changed little over the years. The 3-foot flower stalks are fragrant, and attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

    Like roses, phlox is subject to powdery mildew, so proper spacing to permit air circulation will result in a healthier flowerbed. Also, choosing a cultivar with excellent mildew resistance, such as the rosy pink 'Shortwood', will increase your chances of a disease-free growing season. 

  • 08 of 08

    Bearded Iris

    Bearded Iris
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    The rosebush is the backbone of the cottage garden, and bearded irises serve well as the cheeky sidekick in this type of garden design. A unique anatomical makeup of upward-growing standard petals, downward-facing fall petals, and a fuzzy beard provide many color combination possibilities to match or contrast with your roses.

    Bearded irises come in a variety of colors and sizes, so chose the cultivar that looks best next to your roses. Care is easy, and consists mainly of cutting back foliage fans in late summer and dividing crowded rhizomes every few years.