How to grow Rose Companions

Rose Companions

Photo - Linda Ross

A swooningly beautiful rose garden isn’t just about the roses; it’s the plants that accompany the roses that complete the scene. 

Here we look at four different colour tones of the lovely rose and identify the complementary companions to add to your favourite roses to create relaxing and harmonious scenes.

Pink roses

Baby pink roses love soft-blue and lemon-yellow groundcovers, but they jangle and jar in the company of strong yellow, red or orange. Soft blue groundcovers such as the viola seen here, or catmint or forget-me-nots, are always winners with mixed pink roses. The cooling blue seems to ground the flowers. Here blue violas have rampantly self-seeded under rambling ‘Fritz Nobis’ roses. Accents of lemon yellow lift the scene (this one is Sisyrinchium,; we also like bearded iris in this context) and the result is reminiscent of a baby’s bedroom- calming, pretty and peaceful. Other rosy blue companions include love-in-a-mist (Nigella); delphinium; speedwell (Veronica); cornflowers; convolvulus; lobelia, phlox and campanula. But nothing beats the long flowering of catmint- up to 10 months of the year!


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Coral roses 

The colour coral lies in an undefined space between salmon and copper. In this scene the coral-coloured rose works well with the vibrant red valerian (Centranthus ruber). The overall effect is rich and rewarding. But coral-coloured roses, which include ‘Amber’ flower carpet rose; ‘Tournament of Roses; ‘America’ and the Australian-bred rose ‘A Passionate Gardener’ can be hard to use – they do not live happily with yellow or cool pink but do well with warm tones of apricot, orange, vermillion and scarlet.In nature coral often contrasts against turquoise, teal and green. You can mimic this energetic colour clash in your garden with a massed groundcover or solid garden edge of turquoise hen and chicks (Echeveria) succulent, with a verdant green background of dill creating a cloud of cool. For a more calm and complementary picture look for other coral-coloured flowers such as daylilies, dahlias, penstemon, artotis, geranium, azalea, pokers and poppies. Silver-grey foliage accents from plants such as artichokes will brighten the combination.


Valerian. Photo -

Purple roses

Garden lovers drawn to purple will tend to be devoted to this colour range and want to match their roses with lilac, mauve, violet and lavender. We suggest a hint of lime to really make this colour pop. Find it in Euphobia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ or Heuchera ‘Lime Rickey’. Purple roses have the added appeal of being uncommon. Some of our favourites: ‘Fragrant Lavender Simplicity’; ‘Charles de Mills’; and ‘Cardinal de Richelieu’. In cool temperate regions purple clematis are the perfect companions to complementing rich violet roses. In warmer climates purple sweet peas will intermingle and grow prettily through your roses: Lathyrus ‘Original’ (seed available from Yates) is a small-flowered, purple and maroon sweet pea that was first discovered growing in Sicily in the 1600s. Don’t forget purple-coloured foliages to deepen the effect of your purple haze, such as New Zealand flax, Heuchera, berberis, Pennisteum ‘Purple Fountain’, Euphorbia ‘Black Bird’ and purple sedum.


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Yellow roses

Yellow roses need sunshine-coloured companions like these happy and prolific Californian poppies. Plant them in late winter to enjoy their flowers all summer long. They are available from Oasis as seedlings or in Yates seed ‘Sunshine Mix’. Lemon-coloured petunias are a good alternative. Try Oasis ‘Soft Yellow’ and ‘Popcorn’. A silver groundcover provides a nice foil: artemisia and lamb’s ears are best. Yellow, lime and golden foliage contrasts also make great companions for yellow roses; try Phormium ‘Yellow Wave’, bearded iris and daylilies. A warning though, don’t plant these if there are red roses nearby. 


Californian poppies. Photo -

Where to buy

Swane’s Nursery -

Ross Roses - 

Treloars Roses  - 

Misty Downs -

Rankin's Roses -

Text: Linda Ross

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About this article

Author: Linda Ross

Garden Clinic TV