Best Companion Plants for Roses

 Roses have turned out to be one of my favorite flowers…coming in a close-second only to my beloved hydrangeas.  Some of the reason I enjoy growing them (& keep buying more of them): 1) They do well in my dry, high desert climate, 2) Other than some occasional dead-heading & fertilizing, they’re fairly low-maintenance; & 3) When other things have stopped blooming, the roses keep on going!  Even in the heat of summer, which is a huge bonus.  Here we’ll discover some of the “Best Companion Plants for Roses,” that provide great backdrops for these versatile, show-stopping flowers.

Rose + Delphinium, Best Companion Plants for Roses, Girl Who Gardens

The tall blue spires of delphiniums look beautiful paired with salvia & these gorgeous pink roses….

My favorite fertilizer for roses is undoubtedly Miracle Gro’s Rose Formula. After fertilizing, all it takes is about 2-3 days to start seeing new blooms on my roses….

Pink Roses

Rose Fertilizer

Climbing Roses

Quick Overview of Roses

  •  How Many Different Rose Varieties are There? 30,000!! Roses are one of the most prolific flowers on the planet ~ & the good news is: there’s almost guaranteed to be one you can grow in your garden zone.
  • Common Types of RosesFloribundas, hybrid tea roses, miniatures, shrub roses, English roses, Damask roses, climbing roses…& the list goes on & on!
  • Typical Hardiness Zones for Roses:  Zones 5-9 are ideal for growing roses ~ & in each of those zones, there will be a variety that works better/is more ideal. You can also grow roses in Zones 3 & 4, as well as 10: but they have to very cold-hearty in the former, & extremely heat-tolerant in the latter.  In my Zone 6 garden, for example, I must have roses that can withstand freezing temperatures.  So far, my best performers are Oh-Happy-Day Eleganza roses & David Austin’s English roses; whereas my Knockouts have struggled. Talk to your local nursery & find out which roses perform best where you live.
  • Are Roses an Annual or Perennial?  Perennial. As long as you’ve chosen a variety that works in your zone, your roses will come back year-after-year.
  • Growth Rate for Roses:  Relatively fast. Certain varieties grow faster & bloom more than others. But in general, it takes about 3-4 years for a rose to achieve its full height & bloom.
  • Mature SizeClimbing roses can grow anywhere from 8-50 feet tall ~ while shrub roses tend to grow about 3-8 feet tall & wide. But again, there are huge variations here, with there being so many varieties of roses.
  • Preferred Sun Exposure:  Full sun is where roses perform best, as they need at least 6 hours of sunlight to produce maximum blooms. In Zone 9 & 10 gardens, you may need to give them some shade in the afternoon ~ but in Zone 6, my roses that perform best are ALL in full sun (10+ hours/day), & are thriving.
  • Bloom Time for Roses: In most zones, roses bloom from spring thru fall. Warmer gardens (Zones 8-10), such as my mom’s Zone 9 Palm Springs garden, may see their best blooms from fall thru spring, as the strong summer sun can be rough on the rose.
  • Easy to Grow?  Easier than you think: as long as you choose a variety suitable for your climate. I stayed away from roses originally, because I thought they’d be hard to grow; this has not been the case so far. My roses have tolerated high winds, freezing temps, & HOT sun better than 90% of my plants, which is surprising. Fertilizing & occasional dead-heading are all I do to keep my roses blooming & thriving.
  • Fertilize Roses or Not?  YES. For the best blooms, & repeat blooms: fertilizing roses is a MUST. I love Miracle Gro’s Rose formula, & use it about 2-3 times during the growing season.
  • How Much Water Do Roses Need?  New roses need much more water than well-established ones. Expert sites like David Austin Roses suggest watering new roses every 2-3 days, with about 1-2 total inches of water per week. In Zone 6, my best performing roses are on drip irrigation, with the drip situated right at their base. In summer, I’m watering them every day for about 8-12 minutes total. In spring & fall, this drops down to about 3-6 minutes per day.

Best Companion Plants for Roses, Girl Who Gardens

Roses have turned out to be a much heartier plant than I expected! And they look great paired next to all kinds of purple plants…such as the salvia pictured here.

Examples of Companion Plants for Roses

 When thinking of great companion plants for roses, two colors in particular stand out to me as excellent “backdrops” for the rose’s showy display: 1) GREEN PLANTS: i.e. Boxwood, arborvitae, cypress, & all manner of green shrubs & deciduous trees, & 2) PURPLE PLANTS: i.e. Tall foxgloves, delphiniums, salvia, catmint, lavender, & lavender’s taller look-alike ~ Russian Sage.  Because roses tend to be pink, white, yellow, orange, & occasionally red, a deep green backdrop will make them stand out more…whereas purple plants look great right next to them, creating a great color contrast.

Great Plant Pairings with Roses:

  • Tall flowering plants like foxgloves & delphiniums look great next to shorter, shrub roses;
  • Tall native grasses, such as Karl Foerster, or other ornamental grasses, such as fluffy white or pink Pampas Grass, work well paired with roses in a more natural or wild garden landscape;
  • All manner of shrubs: such as blueberry bushes, dogwood, dappled willows, easy-to-grow “Lynwood Gold” Forsythias, or even better ~ anything that’s “evergreen” in your zone. The evergreen or shrub will provide structure & layout for your garden, while the rose provides seasonal color & a “WOW” factor.
  • Anything in the purple color family (as mentioned above), such as: lavender, catmint/Walker’s Low, Russian Sage, salvia, delphiniums, foxgloves, & even hydrangeas will look beautiful next to roses.
  • Colorful annuals like snapdragons, hostas, asters, lilies, vibrant daisies, ethereal white baby’s breath, violas, pansies, geraniums, or zinnias ~ just plant the annuals far enough away from the rose so it has room to breathe & spread;
  • In a more formal garden, or if you’re trying to achieve a French country look with a lot of structure: use boxwoods to surround roses for a very manicured feel; or grow a row of tall green arborvitae or cypress behind the roses, to give them “center stage.” By surrounding roses with deep greenery, it lets them really stand out in your garden.


  • Climbing Rose + Boxwood, What to Plant with Roses? Girl Who Gardens

    A row of manicured green boxwoods looks amazing paired next to this climbing pink rose…

Photos of Great Rose Plant Pairings

Now comes the fun part: let’s take a look at a lot of photos to give you maximum inspiration for your rose garden…

Best Companion Plants for Roses, Girl Who Gardens

Towering deciduous trees look sensational behind a thriving rose garden…as does the black iron arch.

Best Companion Plants for Roses, Girl Who Gardens

Plants aren’t the only thing to pair with roses: black wrought-iron looks fantastic next to these climbing red roses.

I love using black arches in the garden ~ you can climb roses over them, or easy-growing hops, & the dark background provides a wonderful contrast for any color of rose…

Best Companion Plants for Roses, Girl Who Gardens

Tall, deep green cypress trees & a nice wide, grass walkway make this rose garden really POP. Photo by Jackson & Perkins.

Best Companion Plants for Roses, Girl Who Gardens

Two rows of green boxwood frame a line of Knockout Rose trees…

What to Plant with Roses? Girl Who Gardens

Deep pink roses stand out the most against a delicious dark green backdrop.

What to Plant with Roses? Girl Who Gardens

Purple flowers, such as salvia, look beautiful planted right next to these light pink roses. Photo by Blooming Backyard.

What to Plant with Roses? Girl Who Gardens

Tall flowers like hollyhock, foxgloves, & delphiniums work well planted next to roses ~ as their height compliments, but doesn’t compete with the rose.

What to Plant with Roses? Girl Who Gardens

The stone structure of a fountain is another great pairing by roses….& it will attract pollinating birds to the garden as well.

This tiered fountain not only lends a refined, French country feel to my yard ~ it also provides a wonderful playground for all kinds of birds to play in, especially on warm summer days. It’s truly one of the best purchases I’ve made for my garden….& the pleasant sound drowns out the neighbors too!

What to Plant with Roses? Girl Who Gardens

Low purple salvia & a quaint stone footpath help highlight this English garden’s riot of climbing roses…

Great Companion Plants for Roses, Girl Who Gardens

This photo by Deborah Silver perfectly illustrates how an elegant row of boxwood provides just the right structure for the wilder, taller rose garden behind it.

Great Companion Plants for Roses, Girl Who Gardens

Colorful annuals like snapdragons look great paired with roses in a cottage garden-style.

Great Companion Plants for Roses, Girl Who Gardens

This photo is just about perfect: wild grasses to the right of the rose bush give a more natural feel to this stunning garden. Photo by Homes & Gardens.

Great Companion Plants for Roses, Girl Who Gardens

Peachy-pink climbing roses look amazing next to a natural stone wall, with white pampas grass in the distance…


Tiered Fountain

Pampas Grasses

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What to Plant with Roses? Girl Who Gardens

Good Companion Plants for Roses, Girl Who Gardens