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What Can I Plant Under My Rose Bushes?

By Joshua Duvauchelle ; Updated September 21, 2017

The rose shrub or vine is a common feature in backyard gardens. Roses are popular both for their variety—there are over 100 rose species available to the North American gardener—and the wide range of colors that may be exhibited in their sweet-smelling flowers. Gardeners who want to get the most out of their backyard's square footage may wish to plant flowers or groundcovers underneath their rose bush for a lush, full appearance.

Shade-Loving Groundcovers

Plant a low-lying groundcover if you are growing a low-hanging rose bush. Choose a groundcover that does well in the shade cast by the rose bush and doesn't need special maintenance that may interfere with your rose plant's care, such as specialty fertilizers or specialized watering regimens. For best results, the groundcover should not have climbing tendencies. Otherwise, the groundcover may crawl up into your rose bush and kill the rose itself. Examples of groundcovers that will do well under a rose include sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and the periwinkle (Vinca).

Shade-Tolerant Annuals

Select annuals for growth under your rose bush if you want a flash of color that can be renewed year-round, especially during times when your rose bush is not blooming. Choose an annual that is able to grow in full to deep shade if your rose bush is dense, and filtered to partial shade if your rose bush is not fully developed. Annuals can be selected for their flowers or their colorful blossoms. You may wish to select a plant whose color complements that of your rose blossoms. Examples of annuals that do well in shade include foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea), impatiens and the common pansy.

Shade-Tolerant Perennials

Perennials can be chosen for the rose gardener who wants a low maintenance option. Choose a low, sprawling perennial that reaches a height of 1 foot or less. Like groundcovers and annuals, the perennials must do well in shade to survive under your rose plant. Example species include the bugleweed (Ajuga spp.), forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) and primrose (Primula spp.).


Vines can be suitable for growth under and alongside vine or climbing rose species to complement the rose vine's shape. The vines can be shade- or sun-tolerant, depending on the environment in which the plants are situated. Example flowering vines include nasturtiums, morning glories and wisteria. Careful maintenance is required to ensure the climbing roses don't overwhelm and kill the vines, or vice versa.


About the Author


Joshua Duvauchelle is a certified personal trainer and health journalist, relationships expert and gardening specialist. His articles and advice have appeared in dozens of magazines, including exercise workouts in Shape, relationship guides for Alive and lifestyle tips for Lifehacker. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga and urban patio gardening.