9 Hydrangea Look-Alikes

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’ve got 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.

Clematis sp.

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. 

  • Flower width – 4 inches
  • Bloom time – spring, reblooms in summer
  • USDA zones 4-9
  • Flower width – 6 inches
  • Bloom time – late spring, random rebloom
  • USDA zones 4-9
Lagerstroemia indica

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.

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

  • Flower width – 8 inches 
  • Bloom time – late spring, early summer
  • USDA zones 4-7
  • Deer resistant
  • Flower width – 3 inches 
  • Bloom time – spring
  • USDA zones 4-7
  • Deer resistant
Syringa x pubescens + Syringa x hyacinthiflora

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. 

  • Flower width – 3 inches
  • Flower height – 4 inches
  • Bloom time – spring, reblooms in midsummer
  • USDA zones 3-7
  • Deer resistant
  • Flower width – 6 inches
  • Flower height – 7.5 inches
  • Bloom time – spring
  • USDA zones 2-8
  • Deer resistant
Rhododendron x

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.

  • Flower width – 4 inches
  • Flower height – 10.5 inches
  • Bloom time – spring
  • USDA zones 4-8
  • Flower width – 4.5 inches
  • Flower height – 4.5 inches
  • Bloom time – spring
  • USDA zones 5-9
Rosa x

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.

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

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

  • Flower width – 3 inches
  • Bloom time – late spring
  • USDA zones 4-8
  • Flower width – 6 inches
  • Bloom time – late spring, reblooms summer to fall
  • USDA zones 3-8
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.

  • Flower width – 4 inches
  • Bloom time – spring
  • USDA zones 3-8
  • Deer resistant
  • Flower width – 6 inches
  • Bloom time – spring, reblooms summer to fall
  • USDA zones 5-8
  • Deer resistant
Written by
Kristina Howley

Kristina Howley

I am all in when it comes to gardening. Almost every part of the experience delights me – new leaves emerging in spring, pollinators buzzing in summer, birds devouring berries in fall, and the somber beauty of seed heads in winter. Thanks to a background in horticulture and gardening my own clay-filled, flowery USDA zone 5b plot, I’ve learned plenty of practical things as well. I like sharing these joys and lessons with my fellow gardeners and soon-to-be gardeners any way I can.

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