Pairing one species of plant with another has long been known as companion planting. Normally used for fruits and vegetables, the symbiotic concept can be applied to other plants just as easily. In the case of rose bushes a smaller plant may be desired to offset the rose's dead appearance in winter for a year-round display. The difficulty here is twofold: finding plants that bloom in winter as well as finding plants that can thrive in the highly acidic soil rose bushes favor.
Hellebores are small, bushy perennials that grow up to 18 inches in height. They require partial shade and acidic, moist soil, making them perfect for growing under larger rose bushes. The root systems are small and stay near the surface of the earth. Rather than producing a central stem which branches out, the root system produces many stems right from the soil, each with multiple dark green leaves similar to banana leaves in miniature. At the head of each stem is a bud which blooms in late winter, producing a flower with five petals surrounding a deep cup. Depending on the species, the flowers are pale green, white, pink or purple.
The snow crocus (Crocus chrysanthus) is a species of perennial flower grown from bulbs that can survive in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9. The bulb requires moist, slightly acidic soil for maximum growth. Each bulb produces one 3- to 6-inch stem and multiple thin, straight, grass-like leaves surrounding it from the root system. The bloom arrives in late winter, often when snow is still on the ground. Each is vertically oriented, aimed straight up at the sky. Depending on the subspecies, the five loosely joined petals will be yellow, white or pale blue. The central stamen is showy, matches the color of the petals, and extends beyond the petals.
Cyclamens are a genus of hardy bulb perennials which live in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 10. They thrive in light shade and acidic soil. Each bulb will put out a bunch of ground covering leaves, each roughly 3 inches wide, heart-shaped, with dusty blue-green coloring and cream-colored veins. This normally doesn't happen until early spring, whereas the flowers will appear in the middle of winter. Each bloom rises above the leaves on a separate stem. There are four petals, each of which is crimped in the middle to create a curving V-shape along the edge. The petals often curl over backward to expose the central stamen, and range from light pink to deep violet.