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Silvered Leaved Companions for Roses

Some roses are beautiful in every way with abundant foliage and masses of colorful flowers. Many, however, could use a little help when out of bloom, or need something attractive to cover their straggly legs. The foliage of perennials and annuals can add color and texture as well as cover the flaws of rose bushes, and those with silver or gray foliage are especially valuable in this regard. Gray or silver foliage is especially good with white, pink, red, and lavender roses and can be used to great effect to blend the colors in the rose garden.

Here are five plants with outstanding gray or silver foliage that make good companions for roses.

Silver Thyme (Thymus vulgaris ‘Hi Ho Silver’)
‘Hi Ho Silver’ thyme is an evergreen culinary herb that is also a very attractive and useful plant for the rose garden. It is low growing and has more white color than other silver thymes.

    Height: 12″ H x 10-12″ W
    Light: Full sun
    Soil: Light, dry, well-drained, slightly acidic
    Hardiness: Zones 4-11

Lamb’s Ear (Stachy byzantine)
The soft felt-like leaves invite touching and are especially applealing to children. The plants spread quickly and form a dense mat that shades out weeds. Some cultivars send up shoots that bear small pink flowers, others are non-flowering.

    Height: 8-12” H x 24” W
    Light: Full sun to part shade
    Soil: Average, moist, well-drained
    Hardiness: Zones 4-8

Lavender Cotton (Santolina chamaecyparussus)
This fine textured evergreen shrub forms attractive dense mounds and produces small button-like yellow flowers in summer.

    Height: 1-3’ H x 1-3” W
    Light: Full sun
    Soil: Average, well-drained
    Hardiness: Zones 7-9

Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’
There are many beautiful Artemesias but ‘Powis Castle’ is once of the prettiest and is also more tolerant of heat and humidity than most. The leaves are finely and divided and feathery.

    Height: 2-3” H x 1-2” W
    Light: Full sun
    Soil: Poor to average, dry- medium, well-drained
    Hardiness: Zones 6-9

Bush Germander (Teucrium fruticans)
Bush germander is a fine textured evergreen shrub with gray-green foliage and lavender blue flowers. A native of the western Mediterranean, bush germander is heat and drought tolerant once established.

    Height: 4-6’ H x 4-6’ W
    Light: Full sun-light shade
    Soil: Average-poor, well-drained
    Hardiness: Zones 8-10

Silver leaved plants come in a variety of sizes from the low growing silver thyme to the tall bush germander. They thrive in full sun and some tolerate shade but at the expense of floppy growth. They also like dry to medium conditions and average to low fertility so when fertilizing roses avoid applying it to the silver leaved plants.

Rose pointer

Recommended Reading:

Amercian Rose Society Encyclopedia of Roses
Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener
Gardening at Sissinghurst