Roses need a friend too

Winter hardy Canadian roses

Winter hardy Canadian roses

I love roses. Not the long stemmed, over-priced, hot house type. I like the shrubby, many stemmed, sweet smelling ones in the garden or in the medians in the shopping mall parking lot.

This is the first home where I’ve had enough sun to properly grow roses, so it is a new and fun experience. I’ve collected some from craigslist finds (that was another blog), from end of season sales at local green houses, and I’ve even got a few Parkland series Morden roses from Ebay that a Canadian sent me rooted clippings through the mail.

In a previous blog I wrote about companion planting referring primarily to vegetables and herbs. I recently read this great article about rose companions and was thoroughly intrigued. What follows is a synopsis of that article.

Flowers of all kinds like having a friend nearby, whether to support, feed or defend. Some plants just look pretty when planted near or amongst roses.

Roses beautiful aroma can sometimes be its downfall by attracting pests. Companion planting can help protect roses by masking the scent. In some cases the companion can actual deter pests from visiting the garden at all. In contrast there are some pretty herbs that invite beneficial insects.

Parsley will deter Fuller rose beetles. Rose beetle adults feed on the foliage of roses and the larvae feed on the roots. The rose beetle damage causes death of the plant during drought and makes the rose susceptible to fungal infestation. The Fuller rose beetle, found in 30 states including Wisconsin, also attacks citrus, strawberries, beans, peaches, rhubarb and potatoes.

Feverfew protects roses against aphid attacks. Aphids feed on the sap secreted by roses, attacking the undersides of leaves. A severe infestation causes leaves to wilt and turn yellow. Feverfew is a member of the sunflower family native to Europe. This short perennial produces daisy-like, yellow flowers, which bloom from July to October and exude a strong, bitter odor that repels aphids. The question is do you want a rose smell and deal with aphids and pest-reducing chemicals or do you want to ‘enjoy’ the odor of the feverfew?

As mentioned in my other companion planting article, marigolds are a tried-and-true method of repelling garden pests. Plant a double row of these fragrant annuals around the rose garden. The marigold’s strong odor confuses pests and a substance given off by their root system drives back nematodes. Invite beneficial insects like ladybugs and praying mantis by planting savory, chamomile and thyme.

Steer clear of nasturtiums that attract aphids.

White larkspur to deter  Japanese beetles

White larkspur to deter Japanese beetles

Unfortunately, no companion plants have been found that protect roses from Japanese beetles. Planting aromatic herbs such as garlic and fennel among roses may lead to an increase in Japanese beetle damage. In my personal experience bright flowers particularly reds and bright pink seem to attract the worst Japanese beetle damage. The white flowered versions of these plants seem to deter and in few cases kill the beetles catnip, chrysanthemums, geraniums and larkspur

Source materials and more info:


About Kary Beck

Mother and wife, gardener, wine enthusiast, avid online bargain hunter, and owner of two black-and-tan cocker spaniels.
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