Companion plants that do not need much care

sammy zone 7 TulsaJune 11, 2014

I am looking for pleasant looking, low growing companion plants that look good with roses.

Often the small plants I purchase zoom or burn in the heat. I want to give my attention to my roses once I set up my beds, but too often the companion plants are the ones that demand attention.

I have boxwoods, red and purple salvia, artemesia (too fast growing), phlox, dahlia, Mexican heather, and a few others. I planted a red leaf plant, but it cannot take the heat now, so will definitely croak later one.

Our heat kills many plants or makes the ones we have larger. I often cool off my roses daily in the summer, yet do not want other plants to become invasive.

Actually I need plain green low growing plants that just sit there and look pretty.


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Perhaps some of the sedums might work for you? They make a low fuss ground cover here that loves sun and heat. There are some crazy coloured ones, and some weird alien looking varieties, but I have a plain green one that sort of looks like moss and I like it.

Agapanthus grows like a weed here (in fact, it is an environmental weed here), loves it hot, and is impossible to kill. Standard variety grows to under 2', and you can also get a dwarf variety. Evergreen, excellent weed suppressant, foliage looks good even when it's not flowering.

Some of the smaller grasses, like ophiopogon japonicus (we call it Mondo grass here) might work. It comes in green and purple/black.

Also perhaps consider freesias and some of the South African bulbs. They are great for "set and forget" type plantings.

In shaded areas I have violet odorata and pansies. They don't mind heat as long as they are shaded and irrigated. Other than that, they take care of themselves.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 9:27AM
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vmr423(Zone 8b, SC)

I've seen gaura blooming amongst roses, and looking gorgeous. It's a native here, but I'm seeing it being used in (photos of) gardens all over the world now.

Likes similar conditions to roses, and is quite heat-tolerant... There are several nice cultivars in white and pink...

Here is a link that might be useful: Fine gardening info on Gaura

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:04AM
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Desertgarden- Las Vegas, Z8b @ 2800 ft.

Lavender. Once established it does not require much water and will actually die if it is over watered.

Salvia nemrosa. There's one in the hot part of my yard, planted sometime in April that I need to add a drip line to. It has not been watered in about a week and as of yesterday it still appeared healthy. I must tend to it today....


With the exception of requiring dividing about every other year just about, iris and day-lilies.


This post was edited by desertgarden561 on Thu, Jun 12, 14 at 1:29

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:06AM
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I have Blue Wonder Nepeta growing among my roses, and it is a lovely soft blue. There are many varieties of nepeta, but this one is lower growing. lf you shear it back, it will rebloom all summer. Starts early in spring, and keeps on going, and spreads to fill in areas, but easily pulled out if you get too much.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:56AM
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Sammy, I just got some Shasta Daisy 'Snowlady", supposed to grow 10-12", Sage 'Ultra Violet' 18-20", and Sage 'Pink Friesland' 12-18". Too early to tell, we'll see how they do next year.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 12:17PM
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When my daughter-in-law lived in Oklahoma she grew Buddleia Ellen's Blue which, although listed at 4 feet, stayed about 3 feet tall and is a lovely blue. Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia, would probably do well and Boltonia might work for you. Boltonia looks like an aster but asters have never survived here. Boltonia thrives here on a steep hillside in full sun. If you just want a low growing green plant, try some of the herbs. Most usually grow best in dry sunny locations, for example, Lavender cotton, Santolina viridis would give you a nice green and the other Santolinas would be gray. Some of the thymes, yarrows, eryngiums and artemesias are nice.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 12:30PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Day lilys that are slow to spread (usually the prettiest ones are the slow ones). They can take the heat, too.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 3:26PM
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Salvia, Nemerosa, Victoria blue looks great with most things during the summer,
Red Salvia Splendens so many varieties

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 4:03PM
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lori_elf z6b MD

Campanulas are a good choice. I particularly like campanula punctate and secondly glomerata. The peach-leaved bellflowers have not been long lived here. Hardy geraniums stay low and have an airy look to the foliage which is also nice. Lavender can take heat and sun well, I like some of the dwarf varieties like Munstead or Hidcote. Dianthus (pinks) has some nice compact varieties too. Penstemon digitalis Husker's Red is a nice choice also.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 4:40PM
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nippstress - zone 5 Nebraska

For low growing easy care plants, I love the threadleaf coreopsis, like Moonbeam coreopsis. That one is a low mounding clump of thin green leaves with lovely lemon yellow daisy flowers coating the mound most of the summer. I've had good luck with Heucheras (coral bells) and Heucherellas even in our dry climate, as well as dianthus, penstemon, and lavender. I find the perennial geraniums and most catmints spread more and are taller than I like around the roses.

If you can get it to establish, there are photos on hmf by Dave and Deb Boyd of roses surrounded by reseeding white alyssum that are absolutely stunning, and zero care.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 4:59PM
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I highly recommend hardy geraniums, specially Rozanne. She always gets comments from anyone that comes to my garden.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 6:24PM
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poorbutroserich(Nashville 7a)

Sammy, you said, 'Actually I need plain green low growing plants that just sit there and look pretty'
Lemon thyme! YUM every time you prune or trod on it.
If you want a little more show I agree with the nepeta. You can rip out handfuls of it and it keeps going.
Also the cransebills, hardy geraniums in the blue shades.
I like to plant companions that are light and airy and just seem to make a haze of color rather than being able to distinguish individual blooms.
I've included a link to a photo. You can see the companions growing with my roses.
It's an untidy abundant look. If you prefer something tidier I think lemon thyme is a great choice.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 8:59PM
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Wow! Such great suggestions! I have butterfly iris and society garlic planted with mine. It gets really hot down here and they laugh at the heat!
In the cooler months I add in pansies, Johnny jump- ups, and petunias.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:58PM
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My cottage-style bed next to the house is a good laboratory for this question, as it doesn't have the thigh-high annual grasses that choke all competition in the big garden beds. Nobody has mentioned golden oregano yet, I believe. It's low and a nice color and spreads, but slowly. Annual field poppies and nigella are self-seeding and beautiful for color and character, and too delicate to crowd anything else. I have sweet violets and nepeta too and like them, though you do have to pull out the advancing tide once in a while. The smaller violas and Viola tricolor are annuals that self-seed and hybridize among themselves with interesting results. Various thymes are good if your soil isn't too heavy, and I second lemon thyme, but they all smell really good. Thymus longicaulus, pepper thyme, is a creeping thyme which might even be too invasive, but I never lose mine, while plain culinary thyme is too easily overwhelmed here, Heucheras do well for me here, too, spreading in slow clumps. They seem to like open woodland conditions: part shade and a soil rich in organic matter, with good drainage. I'm wandering a little away from rose gardens here. Another annual is perilla, looking a little like a coleus with purple-brown leaves. This gets 1'-1 1/2' high and self-seeds thickly, but is easy to pull where you don't want it. It has fragrant edible foliage. Spring bulbs are nice in spring and if your other plants aren't too invasive can hold their own.
These are all easy plants in my garden, not requiring much attention, nice to look at, and the roses are happy to have them as company. We're a zone 8 climate, with wet winters and dry summers and clay soil. The places these plants I've listed grow don't get any water and they're fine with that, though being close to buildings they get some protection from excessive sun and wind: they're not in the dryest and hottest parts of the garden. The annuals I've mentioned I let grow as filler around more substantial perennials, shrubs and subshrubs.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 1:29AM
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I agree with all the hardy geranium suggestions and especially the thymes.
Also would add - chives! any variety. And nepeta, but I got rid of the variety I had as it got very leggy without cutting back, and I too don't want to spend much time on the companions.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 3:14PM
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ArbutusOmnedo 10/24

I don't how well these would all do in your zone, but some I like with a decent amount of green are:

Green Santolina - I put in a short edging of this around a Tea rose bed at my parents house. Looks great in flower this time of year and is evergreen in this climate I believe.

Diascia "Ice Cracker" - A lovely twinspur that is covered in white flowers when summer rolls around, but a lovely billow grey-green tangle the rest of the year. I am a big fan of Nemesias and Diascias.

Thymus - Thyme of all sorts is great. I have lemon thyme planted near/under roses and I just rip out and use some every once in a while to keep it from spreading. The dainty flowers are nice to use as a garnish in drinks. I don't know if Chamomile could be used similarly, but I absolutely love my little herb plot of Roman Chamomile.

I also really like Centranthus ruber (Jupiter's Beard), Borage, Limonium (Statice/Sea Lavender), Penstemons, and Salvias (probably not the very drought tolerant varieties, but I really like Guaranitica hybrids with roses).


    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 4:03PM
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Low growing:
Thymes--lemon smells especially wonderful & the variegated lemon adds a neat leaf color contrast. There's a silver variegated thyme, too.

Silver ponyfoot (dicondra) loves heat has attractive silver leaves.

There are lots of hardy sedums with various leaf colors & textures.

Dianthus really thrives & blooms virtually all year.

Various natives--Blackfoot daisy, skullcap, coreopsis, gailardia, winecups, blue gilia, prairie verbena, storksbill, ox eye daisy, 4-nerve daisy, fleabane (erigeron). Look at what's thriving on your roadsides--those are the well-adapted plants for your area.

Frog fruit & horseherb make good ground covers here, in either full sun or shade.

Medium--yarrows, skullcaps (love dry heat) Mexican oregano, southernwood (looks ferny & smells great),
ruella, santolina, jewels of ophir (looks very tropical) germanders.

And most folks complain about their invasiveness, but I like mints & oxalis. They're easy to thin out & in my deserty climate they make a welcome thick ground cover.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 8:12PM
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cziga(Zone 5 -Toronto)

All suggestions so far are good ones and I have quite a few of them as companion plants already ... I would suggest, in addition to the above, to think about Heuchera. I know some people look down on them, but they are about as care-free plants as I have. Foliage is good virtually year round, and they look even better when not flowering, just as foliage plants. They require very little care, a bit of cleaning up the dead leaves in the Spring and that is about it. They'll take full sun to somewhat shady - although dark colours tend to lose a bit of colour in shade, and light colours can burn a bit in full sun. They come in a range of sizes, from large to quite compact varieties and they come in a range of different colours and fun names as well. I use them as border foliage plants throughout my gardens and they are very care-free. They also don't crowd the roses which is nice.

I would also second the Phlox, both tall and creeping, which is another virtually no-care plant in my garden (and one I want to add more of). Aside from occasional powdery mildew (which I tend to ignore instead of spray for), they grow and bloom for a long time with very little input from me. I definitely want more Phlox!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 10:33PM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

Thank you for all the excellent suggestions.
I have what I consider a large garden, but may be small for others.

I have loads of salvia, sage, day lilies, verbena, and a few others, but I often waste money on plants that I do not want to take care of -- plants that get too big to care for in our hot summers. Lavender is one that I have trouble with. I often set up the sprinklers, so the companion plants need to accept the water that the roses take -- loads of water.

I have read each response time and again, and would like to thank you individually, but daylight is coming, and there is so much to do.

You have given me great suggestions, and my list is long.

As I have re-read the list, dianthus is great as are phlox.

Our winter and spring were so bad that I am behind on controlling the beds. The herbs are my missing link. I will be looking for some larger green plants, but the herbs are what I need when it becomes so hot that the roses bloom for a couple of days, then rest a couple of weeks.

Thanks again.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 7:08AM
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Campanula UK Z8

organum vulgare, ajuga, santolina, salvia purpurescens.....sweet cicely, gallium odoratum.....low(ish) growing, no-maintenance apart from annual shearing, tough, beautiful, aromatic.
Throw in a few umbels (dill, anise, caraway, parsley) for a light and foamy look and there you go.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 7:30AM
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buford(7 NE GA)

I also love creeping phlox. I just grabbed a bunch from a patch I have (that was threatening to take over the driveway) and transplanted it to several spots. It usually blooms way before the roses, so it's nice early spring color and then it stays green, at least in my zone. Foxglove are also nice and reseed. You don't have to do anything for them. Daylillies are great. Thyme is great. I have to try the golden oregano. I have regular oregano and it's threatening to take over the back lawn. Not good.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 10:14AM
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These are all such great suggestions! I would love to know sources! Does everyone mostly do mail order, and if so, what is a good mail order source.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 12:01PM
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Sow_what? Southern California Inland

I like Their prices are good, their plants and bulbs are always big and healthy, and customer service and shipping are superb. I just placed an order Friday afternoon, and it arrived Saturday before noon. I've included a link.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link for companion plants

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 12:44PM
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poorbutroserich(Nashville 7a)

Whenever something is easy to grow from seed I always winter sow. That is super cheap! Also, there are sources on ebay for "plugs: (tiny starter plants) of lots of these. I have purchased nepeta and lavender this way. Look for them on ebay around March.
Joy Creek Nursery in Oregon is my go-to for harder to find stuff. They have a very large, quality clematis selection. Very nice plants.
For the perennial staples I like Bluestone. They ship very large healthy plants. I wait until late April/Mid May and they offer 1/2 off most stuff. They will likely have another sale again in the fall as they are about to stop shipping for the summer.
Neighbor and neighborhood swaps are great.
I forgot "Southern Charm" verbascum. Plants of this are reasonable at Burpeeâ¦
Got some interesting plants from Select Seeds. And Graceful Gardens sells 6 packs of large starters.
I would say most of my stuff came from the above sources.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 12:47PM
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Liatris (Blazing Star, Gay Feather) may do well for you. It is a native American prairie plant that comes in several species, one of which, L. spicata, comes in a dwarfish cultivar, 'Kobold'. Some species of Zephyranthus (Rain Lily) are native to Texas and I envy your ability to grow it. I can just see it flowing in sheets around the feet of roses in late summer.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:26PM
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Thanks sow_what and poorbutroserich! I'm going to check them out today!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:29PM
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lou_texas(8a N Central TX)

Sammy, here in North Central Texas, besides the various salvias, I use lamb's ear, dianthus, dwarf ruellia, and nepeta. All withstand the heat for me. I have started using more and more lamb's ears because their performance has been so good. They call attention to the roses without hogging the limelight. They can get very large, but not tall.

Also, if you want the roses to be the stars of the show, you might want to limit the dianthus to white flowers. Even that can get very showy so you may want to limit their use if you're going for a lot of green.

Probably the best care-free greens of those I've mentioned would be the nepeta and lamb's ears - albeit gray-greens.

Some good low-growing greens, similar to the salvia greggiis in that they are care-free, are the very dwarf yaupon hollies. I use very small Bordeaux hollies as a low border in a bed that borders the street. Works for me in sun or shade. Lou

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 2:41PM
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Ooo, lamb's ear--so pretty.

Lissa, get on the TX plant exchange forum. When swapping in-state, postage is modest & plants get there fast. Plus, you're likely to get good starts of well-adapted plants for your area. (list your zone or general area)

The TX gardening forum will also list local plant swaps you can attend. E.g. San Antonio does one April & Oct.. People start horse-swapping months ahead--listing stuff they have, stuff they'd like, etc.

I'm blessed with several local nurseries that stock lots of suitable natives--penstemons, salvias, primroses, various daisy species, plus many varieties of herbs & well adapted plants for very reasonable prices. Usually $2.50 for 4" pots, $8.00 for 1 gallons. Sometimes I'll pick up plants for someone who doesn't have them locally, or they'll do the same for me & we'll swap.

The company I've most recently ordered from is Companion Plants--good prices on well-rooted plants in 4" pots with reasonable shipping.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 2:59PM
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Desertgarden- Las Vegas, Z8b @ 2800 ft.

I second the Bluestone Perennials, and purchase the majority of my daylilies from Oakes Daylilies. Oakes has a great selection, sends good size plants and stands behind their products.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 3:25PM
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ArbutusOmnedo 10/24

If you want more green than Lamb's Ear generally offers you can always try to find some Betony, which is another type of Stachys. I forgot about Lamb's Ear, but it does well with minimal care.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 6:52PM
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Rose Campion is drought tolerant, here and has pretty silvery stems. It comes in rose pink and white forrms.
I grow it with blue geraniums and white roses.

Mexican primrose, blooms are c. 2 feet tall, drought tolerant here, and long bloom season.
another vote for Jupiters Beard, it comes in red and white forms.
snow in summer, is very low growing (C-something forgot its Latin name) has silvery foliage and small white flowers. Very tough in hot climates.
Gaura was here when I moved in and it spreads too much for my tastes. but it appears like an ethereal dream when in bloom.
Forget me nots are very pretty with roses.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 8:15PM
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Thanks bluegirl! I will definitely check out the forums and companion plants! I tend to just plant the same things throughout because we have difficult conditions to say the least! My husband and I are looking forward to moving "up the country" one day!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 8:48PM
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