What Plants Grow Well With Roses? Our Top Picks to Make Your Garden Thrive

Roses are a quintessentially British stalwart and conjure up a typical mid-summer scene. Whether it’s a beautiful English cottage garden border billowing with scent and colour, or a formal stately home garden with regimented rows of roses perhaps edged with clipped box hedging or lavender, roses are a favoured addition to any garden and when paired with the right companion plants, they can truly shine.

As this month hosts Rose Awareness Week, we’ve shared our top tips for plants that grow well with roses and the benefits of companion planting, to rejoice in this historic plant and how best to use them in the modern garden. 

The Benefits of Companion Planting for Roses 

When considering what plants grow well with roses, it helps to understand the benefits various plants can bring to your garden. Companion planting is the term given to plant combinations that mutually benefit each other. In the case of roses, some plants can even help to deter black spot and mildew, such as Salvia. The sulphur in the Salvia’s scent profile also means that when they warm up, they release a natural fungicide. They come in various colours but Salvia Caradonna and Caradonna Pink are our top choices for plants that grow well with roses. 

Nepeta (Catnip) is perfect for planting with or under roses with its haze of blue, long-lasting flowers that work so well with any colour rose. The scented flowers attract pollinators, too.

Penstemon is another great partner to roses, as are hardy Geraniums such as Geranium ‘Rozanne’. Perennial flowers attract beneficial insects such as ladybirds and hoverflies which feed off aphids and greenfly, helping to keep your roses healthy.

Spring bulbs, bedding plants and Alliums can also be used to provide colour at a time when the roses are still dormant or not at their best.

Our Top Picks for Plants That Grow Well With Roses

There are a range of plants that complement roses beautifully. Our favourite varieties include those in our English Cottage Garden Border, designed to thrive at the base of roses and bloom before, during, and after the rose season. Here are our top recommendations:

Bergenia: This has evergreen foliage and flowers in spring before roses are even in leaf, the foliage also gives interest in the winter when roses are bare.

Erysimum: These have long-lasting purple/ mauve blooms from April, often fading when roses are at their best.

Nepeta: A lovely short one is Nepeta ‘Walkers Low’ or the even shorter and darker blue is Nepeta ‘Purrsian blue’, chop them back hard in mid-July for another flush of flowers later.

Alchemilla Mollis (Ladies Mantle): Complimenting any colour of rose, these plants are well loved by florists. The frothy, lime-green flowers often last for weeks and even the foliage is attractive.

Geraniums: Flowering from May to September under roses, be sure to chop them back sharply as soon as they get a bit unruly to encourage fresh growth.

Tips for Successful Companion Planting with Roses 

When planting around your roses, always remember to prepare the soil properly using soil conditioner and compost to add goodness and nourishment to the soil. Roses are quite greedy plants, so by adding compost and soil conditioner before planting this will help the new plants to thrive without having to compete with the roses. 

It’s important to try and avoid the main roots of the roses when planting around them, as damaging them can create suckers. Our ready-made borders can help with this, as most designs incorporate standard spacing to allow plants to have enough room to grow without smothering each other out. This same spacing of approximately 45cm centre to centre for your companion planting should work perfectly too.

Finally, always sprinkle chicken pellet fertiliser over the area before planting, at approx. one handful per square metre.

Enhancing Your Rose Garden With Perfect Companions

So forget the old notion that roses need to be in their own bed so you can spray them regularly with pesticides and fungicides (very 1970s!). Roses are happiest in a mixed border with complimentary plants that help them thrive, keep pests at bay and help against mildew and black spot. These plants that grow well with roses also fill in the gaps when the roses are not at their peak, offering colour and scent when roses are out of season. Contact our gardening experts for more information on companion planting and how we can help your garden to thrive.