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9 Hydrangea Look-Alikes

9 Hydrangea Look-Alikes

By Kristina Howley, Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs

You don’t need a reason to love hydrangeas. If you did, you’d probably mention big blooms, easy elegance, or the long-lasting floral display. However, we have suggestions if you need some alternatives to hydrangeas (maybe you already have a bunch, maybe they won’t grow in your garden, or maybe the deer love them too). Large blooms are the name of the game for gardeners longing for that hydrangea-like impact; the rest is just a bonus.

1. Clematis

Although this species has a wide range of bloom sizes, we have some options that offer true impact. Their wide petals are filled with a startling solid color, together these traits create a bloom that adds a coarse texture to the space. An easy place for the eye to rest.

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Still Waters™ Clematis

Flower width – 4 inches
Bloom time – spring, reblooms in summer
USDA zones 4-9

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‘Viva Polonia’ Clematis

Flower width – 6 inches
Bloom time – late spring, random rebloom
USDA zones 4-9

2. Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia)

This floral display is made up of hundreds of smaller flowers (typically an inch wide by an inch tall) packed together in a panicle form. It might remind you a bit of a panicle hydrangea, but in this case you don’t have to wait until the fall to get blazing color.

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Center Stage® Coral Crapemyrtle

Flower width – 4 inches
Flower height – 6 inches
Bloom time – summer
USDA zones 6b-10

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Center Stage® Pink Crapemyrtle

Flower width – 4 inches
Flower height – 3.5 inches
Bloom time – summer
USDA zones 6b-10

3. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra + Sambucus racemosa)

Wide, flat flowers immediately call your attention. Like a smooth hydrangea, it takes up a good amount of visual space and adds fine texture to the view.

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Black Lace® Elderberry

Flower width – 8 inches
Bloom time – late spring, early summer
USDA zones 4-7
Deer resistant

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Lemony Lace® Elderberry

Flower width – 3 inches
Bloom time – spring
USDA zones 4-7
Deer resistant

4. Lilac (Syringa)

Like a hydrangea, lilacs are made up of hundreds of flowers, packed into a panicle. Altogether, these blooms are the ultimate room freshener for your outdoor space and make a great centerpiece for the season.

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Bloomerang® Purpink™ Lilac

Flower width – 3 inches
Flower height – 4 inches
Bloom time – spring, reblooms in midsummer
USDA zones 3-7
Deer resistant

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Scentara® Double Blue Lilac

Flower width – 6 inches
Flower height – 7.5 inches
Bloom time – spring
USDA zones 2-8
Deer resistant

5. Rhododendron

Wider-than-tall bunches of single blooms look like bouquets tucked into the garden. Their relatively imposing size might remind you of a smooth hydrangea, but for the spring garden.

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Dandy Man® Purple Rhododendron

Flower width – 4 inches
Flower height – 10.5 inches
Bloom time – spring
USDA zones 4-8

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Dandy Man Color Wheel® Rhododendron

Flower width – 4.5 inches
Flower height – 4.5 inches
Bloom time – spring
USDA zones 5-9

6. Rose (Rosa)

Although roses have their own fan base, there are a few that might appeal to hydrangea lovers too. They provide the same kind of impact with summer-long displays of large blooms or smaller flowers gathered in wide and flat sprays.

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Reminiscent® Coral Rose

Flower width – 4 inches
Bloom time – summer to frost
USDA zones 4-9

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Oso Easy Peasy® Landscape Rose

Flower width – 1.5 inches each, gathered into 10-inch clusters
Bloom time – summer to frost
USDA zones 4-9

7. Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria)

Like a panicle hydrangea, these flowers grow in an upright manner. Unlike hydrangeas, though, the seeds are the main attraction. They color up impressively for fall and manage to be both wispy and dense.

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The Velvet Fog® Smokebush

Flower width – 6.5 inches
Flower height – 6.5 inches
Bloom time – summer
USDA zones 4-8

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Winecraft Black® Smokebush

Flower width – 6.5 inches
Flower height – 6 inches
Bloom time – summer
USDA zones 4-8

8. Spirea (Spiraea)

Spirea flowers are presented in clusters atop brightly colored foliage that provides a changing color story throughout the season. Spirea are low maintenance and very drought tolerant once established.

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Double Play Big Bang® Spirea

Flower width – 3 inches
Bloom time – late spring
USDA zones 4-8

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Double Play Doozie® Spirea

Flower width – 6 inches
Bloom time – late spring, reblooms summer to fall
USDA zones 3-8

9. Viburnum (Viburnum cassinoides + Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum)

Likely the most hydrangea-like flower on the list, these wide, flat blooms bring the same lushness to a garden. They might remind you of a classic smooth hydrangea or a native lacecap, but the deer don’t like these nearly as much.

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Lil’ Ditty® Witherod Viburnum

Flower width – 4 inches
Bloom time – spring
USDA zones 3-8
Deer resistant

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Steady Eddy® Doublefile Viburnum

Flower width – 6 inches
Bloom time – spring, reblooms summer to fall
USDA zones 5-8
Deer resistant

Find many more recommendations for terrific shrubs for your garden at Proven Winners.


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