Roses forum: Groundcover companion plants for roses

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Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
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zuzu
Jul 12, 2013 11:55 PM CST

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As I grow older, I find it takes me much longer to maintain my garden the way it should be maintained. I never liked the look of formal gardens or even of mulch in flower beds. I always preferred to pack my plants together so that there was no bare ground showing between plants.

Evidently, the look I preferred for my garden bothered an overzealous gardener who worked for me occasionally when I needed someone to climb up a ladder or wield a chainsaw or do other things I hope never to do again. When I was out one day, he took it upon himself to "weed" my garden. He removed all of the alyssum, violets, geraniums, sedum, and various other short plants that had been growing between my taller plants. When I came home and saw all of the bare ground, I was horrified, but he insisted that the other plants were weeds that had been "choking" the roses.

I then compounded the problem myself by removing many shrubs and large perennials from my garden because I just never had enough time and energy to deadhead and prune all of them, and because they were overwhelming some of the shorter roses.

All of the resulting bare spots quickly filled up with grassy weeds. The weeding takes much longer than the pruning and deadheading ever did, so now I want to restore the flower beds to their previous state, filling the bare spaces with plants that will keep the weed seeds from growing. What are some good companion plants that will fill the spaces (without "choking" the roses Hilarious! )?
Name: Dora
Calgary (Zone 3a)
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dorab
Jul 13, 2013 11:26 AM CST
I've got some nice sedum that spreads out over the ground without actually taking that much water. I've also dealt with bare spaces by placing containers in the garden.

I think it is valid to clear things out when there is so much growth that it interferes with the air circulation around the rose leaves, thus creating the conditions for powdery mildew to develop.

Question, did you see an improvement in your roses after they were de-choked?

Dora
Name: Cindi
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 7a)
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CindiKS
Jul 13, 2013 11:30 AM CST
Aaah, Zuzu! Your question gives us the perfect opportunity to try out the new image sets feature.
First, I'll answer with a list, and then tonight I will spend some time with a few photos and you'll see what I'm talking about.
The best plant I use as a companion is Homestead Purple verbena. It has proven hardy to -10 here. Temps have gone over 100 for the last week, and it's still growing and blooming. I also use the red version but it is not as hardy here.
Next, shorter growing dianthus. The Ruby series? I can't remember. Low growing, clumping. The blue tones on the foliage plays well with every rose color.
Profusion zinnias. These also are low growing and mounding. Mainly I use pink and white ones. They drop seed and return faithfully. Zahara Rose is another neat one.
Creeping phlox.
various sedums. 'Blue Spruce' is my favorite.
Clumps of tall spuria iris. The watering requirements are similar here, so I use spurias on the border of the rose areas.
Daylilies. In some places, I have daylilies that are the exact color of the rose. (Hot Cocoa, Cinco de Mayo, Koko Loco, Bengal Tiger are all easy to match)
Iberis
Silver Mound artemesia
Daisies, even though they are tall, they are pretty in among red roses.
Lavender
Rosemary
Garlic
garlic chives, but it took over
Kit Kat nepeta
Liriope with white and green leaves, can't find the exact name.
Veronica, 'Georgia Blue'
Clematis...I have a few that I allow to scramble on the ground.

This year I had two groups tour my garden. One was an organic gardening group, and a few days later, the local Rose Society. The first group absolutely loved the place, and commended my use of groundcovers and xeric plants. They loved the abundance of bees, birds, insects and wildflowers. The second group ...not so much. A few friends tactfully suggested that it is about time to thin the beds, pointing out how each plant would be better featured if there were not so many crammed into the beds. This is true, I said. But then, I would have to water more, replenish mulch more often, and either pull weeds or use chemicals. Most rose lovers around here leave plenty of room between plants, and that does help with disease prevention. I leave lots of room between roses...but crowd in lots of companions. Yes, from a design standpoint, I would not do that to a customer. But in my yard, I love it because I can have more plants and less work!
Bare dirt bakes hard. Mulch has to be weeded and replenished. Groundcover plants are win-win.
Love to hear what all other people use!

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses
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zuzu
Jul 13, 2013 12:06 PM CST

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Dora, I like the suggestion of containers. I have a bunch of containers, currently grouped together in no particular design, and they'd serve nicely between the plants as a stopgap. The alyssum and violets eventually will come back, but the containers will hide some of the bare earth while I'm waiting for their return.

It's hard to say whether the de-choking helped the roses. Powdery mildew only affects a couple of old ramblers in my garden, so that was never a problem. Removing the extra plants did make the small roses more visible in the beds, but they also began to suffer from thirst. I know it made a huge difference in my water bill, sending it soaring to $400+, but even that didn't provide enough moisture for some of the roses.

Cindi, I love your list of suggestions. Verbena, dianthus, creeping phlox, zinnias, sedums, etc. All of those will be great space fillers. Spuria irises would be too expensive for my present income level, I think. And they might not last long. I used to have lots of irises between my roses, but the gophers started coming for them after I began caging my roses. I'm afraid the smell of lavender, rosemary, and garlic would be too overpowering. I don't like strong scents in the garden. I can only grow veronica 'Georgia Blue' in the shade here, so it won't work, unfortunately.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
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RoseBlush1
Jul 14, 2013 2:42 PM CST
I have been experimenting with low growing thyme. I am a klutz in the garden, so I have to plant things I accidently step on that will pop right back up.

I have very little shade in this garden so anything I plant has to be very heat tolerant and since my winter night temps are always below freezing, the plants I select also have to be cold tolerant. I have dry heat which causes many plants to just fry.

I too am looking for plants that I can manage with my older body.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Cindi
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Plant and/or Seed Trader Permaculture Roses Ponds Peonies
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CindiKS
Jul 14, 2013 3:10 PM CST
Yes, Lyn! Pink Chintz, Orange, Silver Thyme, Mother of Thyme all grow well here in sun or shade. I use them next to walkways and never thought of putting them in the rose bed. I'm so glad you mentioned it!
Hurray!
Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Jul 14, 2013 5:15 PM CST
Cindi......

Thank you for naming specific plants. I can't get them in my small mountain town, so when I go down the mountain to go shopping, I have to take a list with me. Smiling

I know a lot more about roses than I do about other plants, so I have to do a LOT of research and truly need the suggestions.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Toni
Denver Metro (Zone 5a)
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Skiekitty
Jul 14, 2013 7:23 PM CST
I like salvias. I haven't lost a single salvia yet. Of course you have to watch to make sure that you don't get a MONSTEROUS one taking over your rose. But when I can find another "Purple Rain" salvia, I'm going to plant it with my Sheila's Perfume as she gets a bit leggie on the bottom.

May Night Salvia http://www.finegardening.com/CMS/uploadedimages/Images/Garde...
Rose Sensation Salvia http://i1235.photobucket.com/albums/ff422/sunraygardens/2012...
White Salvia http://www.jardinsdemmarocalles.com/images/Vivace_497.jpg
Purple Rain Salvia (my picture)
Blue Hill Salvia http://www.monrovia.com/img/plants/61/d/1176-blue-hill-meado...

Those are all the ones I have personally that I know work really well as far as not choking out plants. The purple rain is mixed in with my Ruby Ruby miniature, Betty Boop, & Henry Fonda. When I got the plant, it was about 2-3 feet away from all these roses. Now it's taken over that area.

I also use sediums & spirea (specifically Magic Carpet http://www.spireas.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Spirea-Mag...) for filler. I like delphiniums (specifically the Blue Butterfly series as they're more bushier and are more reliable in coming back for me http://blackthumbgardener.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Del...). I also have plumbago (http://i.parkseed.com/images/xxl/48437.jpg), agastaches (sunset, coronado, nectars, acapulco), and bluebeards, but the bluebeards get too big. I also have daylilies, but I'm not good at growing them.
Roses are one of my passions! Just opened, my Etsy shop (to fund my rose hobby)! http://www.etsy.com/shop/TweetsnTreats
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses
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zuzu
Jul 14, 2013 7:48 PM CST

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Salvias and spiraeas are the very things I removed from my garden in the last few years because they overwhelm the roses, blocking sunlight and water, and because they take too much work to keep them neat-looking.

Delphinums usually refuse to grow here, agastaches are too big and spiky (I don't like the look of spiky plants), and plumbagos want more shade than the roses can take. Daylilies and sedums are good ideas, though. Thanks, Toni.

I have several types of silenes that reseed like crazy and let sunlight and water through, even when they surround roses, so I'll probably be throwing those seeds all over the garden this year.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
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porkpal
Jul 14, 2013 8:01 PM CST
Toni, those salvia are beautiful; I wish I could grow them with my roses. With our long growing season, most of the plants you suggest get too big to fill in my rose beds. I tried day lilies but they didn't survive as I mistook them for grass! My roses can only be minimum care if they live solo, I'm afraid. Perhaps if I ever give up farming I will have time for the wild, lush look of the cottage garden that I so admire.
Porkpal
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Jul 14, 2013 8:58 PM CST
I agree with you, Porkpal, but my older body is not going to go along with the program of creating that kind of garden ! I am going to have to create something that allows me to play in the garden until I drop.

Also, I truly need plants I can step on. If there is a plant near a rose that I am working on, no matter how careful I think I am, I'll step on it instead of the stepping stones I put in place.

I am totally hopeless when it comes to that kind of thing.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses
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zuzu
Jul 14, 2013 9:33 PM CST

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Sweet alyssum is perfect for that, Lyn, and so are most of the short sedums. They aren't meant to be walked on, but stepping on them occasionally seems to do no harm. I think I also step on Iberis regularly without injuring it.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Jul 14, 2013 10:24 PM CST
Thank you, Zuzu. My Sweet Alyssum only lasted one season. Maybe it's the cold. I don't really know. I've stepped on the sedum I planted under one rose, but when I was pruning the rose I stepped on it too much ... ooops. I am planting the sedums in the rock borders surrounding the rose beds instead of in the rose beds. I do have Iberis in the garden, but not in the rose beds. Smiling

I discovered Mrs. J had planted some dichondra in her rose bed and I can step on that just fine. I don't mind stomping on the dang violets, but they smother the feeder roots of roses.

Now there is that weed that I am thinking of reclassifying as a ground cover. Maybe I should take a photo and see if I can get some help identifying it. Smiling

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses
Clematis Irises Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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zuzu
Jul 14, 2013 11:13 PM CST

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You definitely should take a picture of it. The people who frequent the Plant ID Forum are aces at identification.

Violets are killers, I agree. The shorter varieties of Alstroemeria are really nice between roses, but they're pricey. The tall ones flop over and look awful unless they're so dense that they do choke other plants.

I think I'll be heavily dependent on annuals as space fillers between the roses. They'll be dead by the time I prune, so I'll be able to step wherever I want, and our rainy season will keep the roses well watered even if the ground is bare. I'll just have to be quick about planting the annuals before the rain stimulates weed growth in March or April.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Jul 14, 2013 11:49 PM CST
I know I have self heel, which is considered a ground cover in England, but a weed in the the US. All I know is that it doesn't have burrs and grass doesn't seem to grow where it grows.

Thanks for the suggestion to post it to the plant ID forum.

Smiles,
Lyn
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Toni
Denver Metro (Zone 5a)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
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Skiekitty
Jul 15, 2013 8:51 AM CST
How about creeping phlox? I have some creeping phlox that's gone from a little 3" square to about 2 feet in 3 years here for me, so it should get huge for you guys pretty quick. And all my plumbago is in 100% full sun, no shade. Campanula? I love campanula.. I have some that are growing nicely and some that are kinda stunted. Another good thing I love is tradescantia, especially Sweet Kate. The Concord Grape gets too big, but my biggest Sweet Kate is only about 1' square, which is a nice fill size. I'm thinking about trying more Veronica (Speedwell) as well as that seems to grow very nicely for me here. And all my spireas stay about 1-2' square.. the oldest is.. 5? years old and is only 2' around. Guess that the difference between zone 9 and zone 5. Grow season here is, at best, 4 months long (May - Sept) before autumn starts up.
Roses are one of my passions! Just opened, my Etsy shop (to fund my rose hobby)! http://www.etsy.com/shop/TweetsnTreats
Name: Cindi
Wichita, Kansas (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Plant and/or Seed Trader Permaculture Roses Ponds Peonies
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CindiKS
Jul 15, 2013 10:23 AM CST
Toni, that's just what I was going to say. My season is longer than yours but much shorter than what Porkpal or Zuzu have, and plants like salvia and spirea don't have a chance to get big. I think the heat and dry air also limits some of the plants that might be invasive elsewhere. Tradescantia stays small here because the ground is dry.
My "formal" bed has low growing groundcovers. The roses in the mixed beds seem to do better, and they share space with taller perennials. It might be that the formal area is a raised bed with dirt I paid for, and the other areas are the soil that was here naturally. I never ever expected the native soil to be so much better than what I had hauled in, but it is! It also might be that i have all my Hybrid Teas in the formal bed, and many of them do get bare legs, which i think are just ugly. Too many variables to make any real conclusions, but what I do know is I like the look of full beds, no bare mulch.
Our extension service has a fabulous rose garden maintained by Master Gardeners and Rosarians. They have the same roses I have, and there's no comparison! They feed the roses regularly, and spray for insects and disease. Everything was planted correctly, mulched correctly, and watered often. THey really are beautiful, but when they are not blooming, there's nothing to look at. My goal is four seasons of interest in every bed.
Other low growers that do not have extensive roots are purslane and portulaca (rose moss). Purslane is not hardy here, and I can't afford to buy as many as I want since it is usually sold in 3" pots for $3. THis year, I found a nursery selling 6-packs of it for $4, so I planted more. I may try to overwinter it in my garage and use more of it in the formal bed.

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Name: Toni
Denver Metro (Zone 5a)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
Charter ATP Member Irises Salvias Xeriscape Birds I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Procrastinator The WITWIT Badge Region: Colorado Enjoys or suffers cold winters Cat Lover
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Skiekitty
Jul 15, 2013 10:54 AM CST
I like portulaca. We have a variety that's a weed here & doesn't produce flowers, but is sooooooooooooooo short.. it crawls around on the ground & never gets higher than say 1/2". There's some penstemons that might work as well.. they only get 2-3" tall and bloom nicely. I think I posted pix before. There's pineleaf penstemon & penstemon rupacola that are good ones for filler. Both of these are semi-evergreen in my area (mostly evergreen) and I know that if I accidentally squish either one they come back without squawking.

Pineleaf (red & yellow varieties) penstemon - this gets 3-6" tall and spreads.
Thumb of 2013-07-15/Skiekitty/4eea14

Penstemon rupacola - this gets 2-3" tall


I also have an electric blue penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus) that works out nicely for me as well. Not evergreen in my area though. Gets about 8-12" tall



Roses are one of my passions! Just opened, my Etsy shop (to fund my rose hobby)! http://www.etsy.com/shop/TweetsnTreats
Name: Reem
Rain reign & peekaboo sunshine (Zone 8a)
Roses Region: United States of America
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reem
Jul 16, 2013 2:53 PM CST
I have been yearning to learn about companion plants for roses! I spoke to Master gardeners at a local Farmer's market last month. They said strawberry is a good plant to have amongst roses. I was surprised.

Please provide recommendations for companion plants for roses in z8a. I would love to gather the information to share with others in my climate zone (8a - Pacific Northwest).

Thank you.

Reem
[Last edited by reem - Jul 16, 2013 2:54 PM (+)]
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Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
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lovemyhouse
Jul 22, 2013 5:33 PM CST
You could maybe try Golden Oregano. I have it in about six places, in with daylilies, roses, dianthus, and coreopsis. Very low growing and really pretty colors.
Thumb of 2013-07-22/lovemyhouse/d2a43a
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