Companion Plants for Organic Roses

Growing flowers at home is a fun and rewarding hobby, and successfully growing roses may be the pinnacle of this for gardeners. Roses are endearingly popular and deliver in both gorgeous visual appeal and sumptuous fragrance.

One way to help your rose garden grow is to adopt companion planting.

companion gardening

What is companion planting? It’s simply the intentional and careful placement of mutually beneficial plants together. For example:

  • Taller plants provide shelter from the sun or wind for those placed underneath them.
  • Plants with different root depths will not compete for nutrients.
  • Climbing plants can protect plants they trail over, while the foundation plant provides support.
  • Legumes promote soil aeration and enable nitrogen conversion for other plants.
  • Herbs can confuse those insects which would otherwise destroy flowers.
  • Certain plants will actively attract pollinator insects and other beneficial little garden critters.

Companion Planting with Roses

companion plants

There are numerous plants which are ideal for companion planting with roses. Rose beds without any other plantings tend to not be as visually appealing as a country- or cottage-style garden which has other plants growing beneath or among the rose bushes. Under planting, especially if you have a variety of rose types or colors, gives the garden a more cohesive, lush, eye-catching look – especially in the dormant season when rose bushes are little more than bare twigs.

Combining rose bushes with the right perennials and ground cover plants also helps keep them healthy by creating a bio diverse garden. Getting the combination of planting right will reduce pests, attract beneficial butterflies, ladybugs, dragonflies, and bees, and boost the nutrients in your soil. Companion planted rose gardens are happier and healthier overall.

Things to Consider

  • You do need to understand that roses are not happy when they have severe root competition from shrubs or trees; this will lead to the diminished performance and vigor of the growth of your rose bushes. They will become stressed and hence more vulnerable to pests and diseases.
  • Plant companion plantings at least 30-45cm away from the base of the rose bushes so you don’t disturb the root system of the rose bush.
  • Avoid planting too densely. Your plants all need to allow room for maintenance (trimming, pruning, mulching) and air to circulate.
  • Roses need full sun – so ensure they are not going to be dwarfed by their companion plants.
  • Prepare the soil with plenty of mulch before planting. Use organic manure or compost.
  • Apply rose food every four to six weeks. Water roses thoroughly once per week.

Choosing What to Plant with your Roses

ladybug and aphid

The right companion plants won’t just look great – they will work to ward off rose-specific pests, either by confusing them or repelling them completely.

  • Plants that deter aphids and other pests – aphids, weevils, thrips, nematodes, slugs, snails, ants, rose beetles – these, among others, are the bane of rose gardeners. To repel them, choose:
    • Onions – repel aphids and weevils
    • Garlic – repels aphids and thrips
    • Chives – repel various insects
    • Mint – deters aphids and ants (but needs to be controlled as it can overtake a garden)
    • Marigolds – repel many pests, attract slugs and snails for entrapment and removal, and discourage nematodes
    • Geraniums – repel aphids and other beetles
    • Parsley – repels rose beetles
    • Thyme, rue, sage, anise, and oregano repel unwanted pests.
    • Yarrow attracts ladybugs – and ladybugs eat aphids!
  • Plants that reduce the risk of black spot – Black spot is a fungal disease of roses. Garlic helps fight black spot and mildew. Tomatoes also prevent roses from developing black spot.
  • Plants that improve the health of your roses – plants with aromatic foliage are ideal companions for roses. These include lavender, sage thyme, rosemary, allium, chives, and garlic. The onion/garlic family of plants will even increase the rose’s fragrance. Ground cover plants help suppress weeds and shade the soil, keeping rose roots cooler.
  • Plants that enjoy the same growing conditions as roses –
  • choose plants that are proven to grow well under roses. These include (but are not limited to):
    • Catmint
    • Lavender
    • Pansies
    • Dianthus
    • Heliotropes
    • Snapdragons
    • Petunias

Plants to Avoid Planting with Roses

Roses are not happy with competition. Avoid planting anything with aggressive roots, shrubby top growth, or very hardy plants anywhere close to rose bushes. These enemies of roses include:

  • Azaleas
  • Hibiscus
  • Competitive vines (e.g. sweet autumn clematis, trumpet honeysuckle)
  • Rampant wildflowers (e.g. morning glory, California poppy)
  • Flowers with competing colors  – a garden with soft pastel roses will not look great with vibrant companion plant colors.

Happy, healthy rose bushes will thrive – grow them in full sun, away from large shrubs or trees, and feed them regularly. Plant them alongside the right companion plants and you’ll enjoy gorgeous roses throughout their blooming season.

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