The shapes, colours and scents of roses are undeniably beautiful, but their season can be short. If you combine roses with other plants, you’ll not only highlight the beauty of their flowers – you’ll also give your borders a much longer season of interest, too.
Planting other plants with roses also attracts beneficial insects and those that will prey on pests; some plants are also said to help reduce diseases such as black spot and mildew.
Nowadays, many rose gardens that were traditionally home to roses in dedicated beds are now combining them with spring bulbs, biennials, perennials and even grasses for added interest.
A combination of these plants provides colour before the roses bloom, accentuate their beauty when they’re in flower in midsummer, and provide further colour and structure once the roses have faded.
Discover 10 beautiful roses to grow.
Here are some of our favourite companion plants for roses.
Many roses are pruned in winter and aren’t very attractive at this time. Underplant with a succession of spring bulbs – snowdrops, crocus, grape hyacinths, narcissi, early-flowering tulips and late-flowering tulips, before the roses start to bloom.
Alliums come up year after year, and their violet, globe-like flowers look great with early roses. Alliums and other members of the onion family are said to ward off aphids, prevent rose black spot and even make the scent of roses stronger.
Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’
The perennial wallflower, Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’, starts flowering in spring, and continues through summer – a great foil for white, pink, crimson or red roses. It then continues flower for the rest of the year – keep deadheading it.
Most lilies come into flower just as the first flush of roses is beginning to go over. Tall, blowsy Lilium regale bear beautiful, white, pink-flushed flowers, and they pump out a delicious fragrance, too. They also make good cut flowers.
White, pink and purple foxgloves are at their peak in midsummer, coinciding with many roses, and their spire shapes contrast beautifully with them. The peachy foxglove ‘Sutton’s Apricot’ looks particularly lovely with creamy, pink or crimson roses.
Roses look great underplanted with hardy geraniums. Purple-blue geraniums like ‘Rozanne’ look good with many colours of rose, while pale pink Geranium x oxonianum ‘Wargrave Pink’ looks especially pretty with crimson roses such as ‘Darcey Bussell’.
Salvias come in a range of colours and make great partners for roses – they’re long-flowering, and their spire shapes give contrasting structure and interest. They also attract a huge number of beneficial insects, and it’s said that they help to keep mildew and blackspot at bay.
Verbascums begin flowering in May and are still going when roses begin to bloom. They come in a wide range of colours, including yellow, white and peachy orange (such as ‘Clementine’, shown here). Their tall spires contrast beautifully with roses.
Nepetas form a carpet of blue and look especially good with pink, crimson, red and even yellow roses. Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ can be quite vigorous, so if you’re short on space, go for Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’. They attract many pollinators, especially bees and hoverflies.
Penstemons not only look great with roses – they also keep the show going once they’ve finished blooming, often well into autumn. In shades of purple, pink, crimson or white, they look lovely with apricot, cream and pink roses.
English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, especially the dark purple-blue ‘Hidcote’ looks wonderful with apricot, pink, crimson or red roses. When not in flower, it offers neat mounds of evergreen, aromatic foliage.
Be sure to deadhead your roses frequently – it will encourage more blooms, keeping the display going for longer.
Other plants to grow