Flowers You’ll Adore If You Love Hydrangeas

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Flowers You'll Adore If You Love Hydrangeas

If you’re a fan of the beautiful and showy blooms of hydrangeas (Hydrangea), but can’t grow them in your zone or want to explore similar-looking flowers for your garden bed, then you’re in luck. There are plenty of flowers available that offer a similar look to hydrangeas and come in an array of colors, including rhododendrons, peonies, and chives. In this list, we have included shrubs, trees, and ground flowers that are just as captivating and complementary for your backyard space as a big-leaf hydrangea.

Hydrangeas, also known as hortensias, are a beloved genus of plants. The most common species, the big leaf hydrangea, is popular for its whimsical ball-like structures that add instant, beautiful dimension wherever they’re grown. They are available in soft shades of purple, red, and other colors and can grow as large as 6 feet wide and 20 feet tall. This list includes smaller varieties, as well as some that can grow as tall as wide as the popular hortensia.

1. Rhododendron

Lavender rhododendron

Lordrunar/Getty Images

Rhododendron, like hydrangea, is a flowering bush with round clusters of petals. The flowers grow in many colors, including pink, purple, yellow, white, and red. Rhododendrons are larger than hydrangeas with some varieties being 20 feet wide. Their size and vibrancy make them an excellent border flower.

Bloom Season: Spring through fall

USDA Growing Zone: 3 to 11

Growing Conditions: Partial sun, shade

Soil Type: Acidic

Size: 6 to 10 feet tall, 5 to 8 feet wide (typically)

2. Ixora

Red ixoras

Priya Darshan/Getty Images

Ixoras (Ixora coccinea) look like tropical hydrangeas and thrive in warmer climates. Though they’re showy and bright, ixoras are beginner-friendly and in the proper conditions, they can bloom year-round. If you like the hydrangea look but live in zones 9 or above, you’ll love ixoras.

Bloom Season: Evergreen

USDA Growing Zone: 9 to 11

Growing Conditions: Indirect sun

Soil Type: Well-draining

Size: 10 to 15 feet tall, 4 to 10 feet wide

3. Snowball bush viburnum

White snowball bush viburnum

Endless luck/Shutterstock

The European snowball bush (Viburnum macrocephalum) has a delicate and traditional look much like hydrangeas. Some remain a perfect snowy white while others fade into a soft pink. They have an inviting appearance and are well-suited to line walkways and anywhere there’s foot traffic.

Bloom Season: Spring through Fall

USDA Growing Zone: 6 to 9

Growing Conditions: Full sun, partial shade

Soil Type: Acidic, well-draining

Size: 6 to 25 feet tall, 10 to 20 feet wide

4. French lilac

Large lilac blooming

stock_studio/Shutterstock

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is a popular flower famous for its beautiful color and fragrance. It also grows in clusters similar to hydrangeas, but the blooms can grow more oval-shaped. So, they bring texture and height to a garden.

Bloom Season: Mid-Spring

USDA Growing Zone: 3 to 7a

Growing Conditions: Full sun, partial shade

Soil Type: Neutral or alkaline, lilac does not thrive in acidic soil

Size: 8 to 16 feet tall, 6 to 12 feet wide

5. African marigolds

Field of marigolds

photo acorn/Shutterstock

African marigolds (Tagetes erecta) are ground flowers that have round blooms and soft petals. They come in warm colors and while they add drama to a landscape, they’re quite easy to grow. As an added benefit, they smell awful to deer and rabbits that may want to feast on other plants in your garden.

Bloom Season: Early summer to late fall

USDA Growing Zone: 2 to 11

Growing Conditions: Full sun

Soil Type: Loamy, sandy, or clay soil with an acidic, alkaline, or neutral pH

Size: 2 to 4 feet tall, up to 18 inches wide

6. Lantana

Warm-colored lantanas

Tanya_Terekhina/Shutterstock

Lantana (Lantana camara) blooms are smaller than hydrangeas but no less magnificent. The flowers grow in clusters with eye-catching colors and patterns. Lantanas are drought-resistant and thrive in sunny, warm climates, so they’re great for regions where more delicate flowers would wilt.

Bloom Season: Late spring, year-round in warm climates

USDA Growing Zone: 7 to 11

Growing Conditions: Full sun

Soil Type: Moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1 to 6 feet tall, 3 to 5 feet wide

7. Egyptian starcluster

Pink egyptian starcluster

sharohyip/Shutterstock

If the flower clusters attract you to the hydrangea, you might like the Egyptian starcluster (Pentas lanceolata). Unlike hydrangeas, starclusters have pointed star-shaped flowers. They add texture to a garden and come in white and a variety of pinks, purples, and reds.

Bloom Season: Summer

USDA Growing Zone: 10 to 11

Growing Conditions: Full sun, partial shade

Soil Type: Acidic

Size: 1 to 2 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide

8. Spirea

White silhouette spirea

Stas Malyarevsky/Shutterstock

Spirea (Sorbaria sorbifolia) is an impressive plant that is both large and in charge, yet adorable. Though its flowers are smaller than those of a hydrangea, spirea still provides a lot of color. It can even have a dramatic overgrown appearance perfect for blending into large garden displays.

Bloom Season: Mid-spring

USDA Growing Zone: 2 to 8

Growing Conditions: Full sun, partial shade

Soil Type: Moist with a high volume of organic matter

Size: 5 to 10 feet tall, 5 to 10 feet wide

9. Crape myrtle

Pink crape myrtle

Greens and Blues/Shutterstock

Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia) have a showy appearance that rivals the hydrangea. There are multiple bush and tree varieties that you can incorporate into your garden. Crape myrtles thrive in full sun and warm temperatures. Smaller varieties make great borders, while larger crape myrtles are attractive focal points.

Bloom Season: Summer

USDA Growing Zone: 7 to 10

Growing Conditions: Full sun

Soil Type: Well-draining, clay

Size: 5 to 20 feet tall, 5 to 20 feet wide

10. Heliotrope

Purple heliotrope blooms

Alex Manders/Shutterstock

The purple flowers of the heliotrope (Heliotropium) aren’t just rich in color, they smell amazing. Many gardeners liken the scent to almond with a touch of sweetness. Heliotrope grows best in zones 10 and 11 and does quite well in a container.

Bloom Season: Spring, year-round in warm climates

USDA Growing Zone: 3 to 10

Growing Conditions: Full sun, partial shade

Soil Type: Moist, well-draining

Size: 1 to 4 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide

11. Butterfly bush

Pink buddleja davidii

M9K/Shutterstock

The butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) may not have spherical clusters like a hydrangea, but it has much of the same appeal. It is bold, large, and comes in bright pink and purple. Its flowers grow together in tall pointed groups and as the name suggests, are especially inviting to butterflies.

Bloom Season: Summer to fall

USDA Growing Zone: 5 to 9

Growing Conditions: Full sun

Soil Type: Neutral pH

Size: 5 to 12 feet tall, 8 to 10 feet wide

12. Pompon or ball dahlia

Orange ball dahlias

Sve_M/Shutterstock

There are many types of dahlia, but ball and pompon dahlias have spherical flower clusters like hydrangeas. Dahlias are flashy flowers with layers upon layers of brightly colored petals and they range in size from 1 foot to 6 feet.

Bloom Season: Mid-summer into fall

USDA Growing Zone: 8 to 11

Growing Conditions: Full sun

Soil Type: Acidic, alkaline, or neutral

Size: 1 to 6 feet tall, 2 inches to 1 foot wide

13. Garden peony

Pink peonies in bloom

Pierre Suu/Getty Images

It’s hard to rival the majestic beauty of hydrangeas, but peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) are definitely a contender. When peonies are in full bloom, they’re striking. There are thousands of varieties to choose from, too, so you can create a landscape befitting a botanical garden.

Bloom Season: Late spring, early summer

USDA Growing Zone: 3 to 8

Growing Conditions: Full sun, partial shade

Soil Type: Chalky, clay, loamy, or sandy with an acidic, alkaline, or neutral pH

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide

14. Allium

Purple alliums

Lois GoBe/Shutterstock

Alliums are the showy ornamental cousins of shallots, leeks, garlic, and onions. They’re eye-catching flowers that blend well because of their minimal leaves. Alliums offer a rounded appearance like a hydrangea but are better suited for a mixed display of flowers.

Bloom Season: Late spring, early summer

USDA Growing Zone: 3 to 9

Growing Conditions: Full sun, partial shade

Soil Type: Chalky, loamy, sandy, and an acidic, alkaline, or neutral pH

Size: 1 to 3 feet tall, 6 inches to 2 feet tall

15. Chives

Blooming ornamental chives

weha/Shutterstock

Ornamental chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are another species of allium and therefore a prettier cousin to some of your favorite herbs. You can grow this plant on the ground as a part of a colorful display. Chives also turn away aphids, mites, and other common garden pests, so they are beautiful companion plants.

Bloom Season: Spring to early summer

USDA Growing Zone: 4 to 8

Growing Conditions: Full sun to partial shade

Soil Type: Chalky, loamy, sandy, or clay soil with an acidic, alkaline, or neutral pH

Size: 1 to 2 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.