Roses are the jewels of the summer garden with their gorgeous color and fragrance, and they look equally at home in a cottage or formal outdoor setting. And, considering how many varieties are out there and how many types are long-blooming, with newer hybrids flowering almost non-stop from late spring to a hard freeze, it’s easy to see why they’re the focal point of many gardens. But, what should you plant with them? Are there ideal rose companion plants? And what does that even mean, really?

When it comes to what you should plant with roses, there’s an ongoing debate. Some gardeners believe that by growing certain companion plants alongside them, you may be able to protect your roses from diseases and pests. For example, it’s often thought that strong-smelling plants—such as certain herbs—will repel insects or nibbling rodents such as bunnies. However, the idea of companion planting is based mainly on folklore and anecdotal advice rather than scientific studies, and there’s actually little evidence that shows certain plants help (or harm) other plants.

With that in mind, it’s worth noting that a thriving garden includes many different kinds of flowers and plants, especially those that attract beneficial pollinators and insects. So, while companion plants may not protect your roses specifically, they’re certainly not going to hurt your garden overall. Just remember that whatever you plant with roses should have similar needs: well-drained soil and full sun, which means at least 6 or more hours of direct sunlight.

RELATED: The 10 Prettiest Plants that Will Bring All the Butterflies, Hummingbirds, and Bees to Your Yard

Here’s what to plant with roses:

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1. Lavender

This is a classic combination, with good reason: It’s incredibly romantic. Lavender is a perennial with upright spikes of fragrant purple flowers and foliage that contrasts beautifully with almost any color rose, especially shades of pink and cream. Some gardeners think the scent also may repel deer and rabbits who might want to chow down on your roses.

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2. Catmint

Catmint has silvery foliage with a spicy-sweet scent that some gardeners say repels nibbling rodents. Its purple flowers bloom for weeks and weeks, and it also attracts oodles of pollinators, so it’s a great perennial for rounding out any garden.

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3. Allium

Alliums, or ornamental onions, have pretty white, pink or purple globe-shaped flowers atop long stems. Some gardeners think their scent keeps away aphids. This pretty plant will return reliably year after year.

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4. Cranesbill

Cranesbill are also known as perennial geraniums, and they have spicy-smelling, attractive foliage that lasts all season long. Their scent may keep away rabbits. They have pretty blooms on long stems in late spring. Plant them under tall roses bushes as an accent.

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5. Parsley

Parsley is purported to ward off aphids and Japanese beetles from roses. Though that may not necessarily be true, it does attract tons of pollinators if left to flower. And you can snip off pieces to use while cooking, which is a nice bonus.

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6. Sage

Sage is a hardy perennial herb that loves lots of full sun, just like roses. The pungent leaves may repel the bad bugs, while if left to flower, the stunning flowers attract pollinators of all types.

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7. Yarrow

Some gardeners say yarrow attracts ladybugs, which eat aphids that can attack your roses. Whether that’s fact or fiction, yarrow is an attractive upright perennial with feathery foliage that pairs well with roses.

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8. Marigold

These annuals are reliable bloomers, and they come in colors ranging from creamy white to bright yellow. They provide a striking contrast to pastel-colored roses and are pollinator-friendly, too.

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9. Flowering Bulbs

You can plant some types of bulbs in spring to provide early color before your roses are in full bloom. Plus, they’ll come back year after year. Win, win.

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10. Sweet Alyssum

This charming low-growing annual makes a delightful companion planting for roses because of its long bloom period from spring to frost. It also attracts many beneficial pollinators that support the overall health of your garden.

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11. Blue Fescue

This is a less common pairing for roses, but the steely blue color of this ornamental grass offers interesting texture and color contrast for a border of coral or pale pink roses. Plant in groupings for the biggest impact.

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12. Blue Star Creeper

This low-growing perennial is not particularly well-known, but it’s a fantastic groundcover beneath shrubs (such as roses). Teeny blue flowers appear all summer long, and it’s deer- and rabbit-resistant.

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13. Salvia

Salvia has gorgeous, long-blooming spikes of deep purple flowers. These flowers contrast nicely with saturated colors such as peach or coral, so consider planting this sturdy perennial near your roses.

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What not to plant with roses

While there’s no evidence that certain plants are harmful to roses, roses do need full sun to thrive. That means you should not plant them under trees, and you shouldn’t plant new trees or shrubs near them that will mature and eventually shade your rose beds. The reason is that roses that receive insufficient sun tend to stretch for light and become scraggly, don’t bloom well and may be more susceptible to diseases and pests.

Also, be sure not to crowd roses too close to each other or building foundations. Good spacing around roses—aim for about a foot all the way around—helps them stay healthier, allowing air to circulate and reducing the risk of diseases such as black spot.

RELATED: How to Grow Roses (Even if You Can’t Keep a Succulent Alive)

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