Orchids (Orchidaceae) are flowering plants that come in various sizes, colors, and shapes. Orchids grow between 15 and 30 inches tall, depending on the variety. They can be terrestrial or epiphytic. Some are vines, while others are shrubs.
- 1. Bastard Balm (Melittis melissophyllum)
- 2. Aztec Lily (Sprekelia formosissima)
- 3. Hoya (Apocynaceae)
- 4. Bearded Iris (Iris germanica)
- 5. Purple Orchid Tree (Bauhinia variegate)
- 6. Darth Vader Plant (Aristolochia salvadorensis)
- 7. Nong Nooch Vine (Petraeovitex bambusetorum)
- 8. Rose Grape (Medinilla magnifica)
- 9. Cape Primrose (Streptocarpus hybrida)
Orchids are known for having brightly colored and attractive-looking flowers. And, although orchids are some of the most spectacular ornamental plants, they aren’t as easy to grow and maintain as some other plants.
Orchids are notoriously difficult to propagate. Fortunately, some other plants are much easier to care for and also produce the most exquisite flowers. Some of these plants even look like orchids, including:
- Bastard balm – the flowers look like some orchids.
- Aztec lily – the flowers and leaves resemble orchids.
- Hoya – the plant structure looks like an orchid.
- Bearded iris – the flowers look like orchids.
- Purple orchid tree – the flowers resemble orchids.
- Darth Vader plant – an orchid hybrid with peculiar-looking flowers.
- Nong Nooch vine – the flowers and plant look like an orchid variety.
- Rose grape – the entire plant reminds one of an orchid.
- Cape primrose – the flowers look like orchids.
While some of these plants can be mistaken for orchids, others have only a few characteristics that resemble orchids. Follow along to learn more about these plants and how they resemble orchids. These are nine orchid alternatives.
1. Bastard Balm (Melittis melissophyllum)
Despite its unfortunate name, the bastard balm is a beautiful flowering perennial. This plant is native to England and Whales. It grows about 18 inches tall and produces small, orchid-looking flowers.
Bastard balm flowers are small and waxy. They have three petals, the third forming a lip, just like an orchid flower. Bastard balm flowers are pinkish-white, and the lipped petal (labellum) is usually darker than the rest.
Bastard balms don’t produce the same column structure as an orchid. Instead, it has stamens that are visible outside the flower. Apart from the flowers, bastard balms don’t really resemble orchids. Their stems and leaves are covered in fine hairs. In addition, their leaves are oval-shaped and serrated as opposed to an orchid’s long, smooth leaves.
2. Aztec Lily (Sprekelia formosissima)
The Aztec lily is also known as an orchid lily because of how much its flower resembles an orchid. Aztec lilies are native to Mexico and Guatemala. The plant grows up to 12 inches tall. The bright red flowers have a similar structure to orchid flowers. Like orchids, they also have three sepals and three petals.
The leaves are long and straight, just like orchid leaves. However, Aztec lily flowers have long, thin petals that set them apart from orchids. Overall, these plants have similar characteristics and make great companion plants.
3. Hoya (Apocynaceae)
Unlike the previous two plants, the hoya doesn’t have orchid-looking flowers. Instead, the hoya has leaves and stems that resemble an orchid. Hoyas, like orchids, are vine-like plants. They can grow between 2 and 4 feet tall indoors, making them bigger than orchids.
Hoyas have small, waxy leaves and long, thin stems. Like orchids, their leaves and stems are smooth and green. However, this is about where the similarities end with orchids. While hoyas produce flowers, they don’t resemble orchids in the slightest. Instead of single flowers, hoya trees produce tiny flowers that grow in bunches.
4. Bearded Iris (Iris germanica)
Another plant with flowers that resembles an orchid is the bearded iris. There are many types of bearded irises, and they vary from 8 to 38 inches tall. Bearded irises are native to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean.
While bearded irises aren’t related to orchids, they have many orchid-like characteristics. The primary one is their flowers. A bearded iris has upright and cascading petals that make it look like the petals of an orchid flower.
Bearded iris flowers are slightly more papery than orchid flowers, however. In addition, they come in many colors, including white and purple. Another similarity between a bearded iris and an orchid is that both plants have long, smooth, sword-like leaves.
5. Purple Orchid Tree (Bauhinia variegate)
The purple orchid tree looks so much like an orchid that it is even named after the plant. However, purple orchid trees aren’t related to orchids and can grow up to 35 feet tall. Purple orchid trees are native to India and other parts of Southeast Asia.
The flowers of this tree have a striking resemblance to orchids. They have soft, waxy petals in all shades of purple and pink. But, like orchid flowers, the purple orchid tree’s flowers also have a lip or labellum that makes the flower look so peculiar.
But purple orchid trees have more pronounced flower stamens than true orchids. They also have large, round leaves that look nothing like orchid leaves.
6. Darth Vader Plant (Aristolochia salvadorensis)
The Darth Vader plant comes from Southern Mexico and Guatemala. It has the most attractive flowers, where it gets its name. The reddish-brown flowers have three pointed petals and form a cup around two white cauldrons. The flower looks like Darth Vader’s mask, hence the name.
Because orchids come in so many different shapes and colors, some people have mistaken the Darth Vader plant for some rare orchid species. The flower petals have a similar texture. Like some orchids, a Darth Vader plant is also an epiphyte. It grows on other plants in the forest.
While Dart Vader flowers look like orchids, the leaves of this plant are heart-shaped and smooth, making it easy to tell them apart.
7. Nong Nooch Vine (Petraeovitex bambusetorum)
The Nong Nooch vine is native to Indonesia and grows up to 4 feet tall. It produces large, oval leaves and bright yellow flowers. While the plant, in general, shares no characteristics with an orchid, the flowers do.
The flowers of a Nong Nooch vine grow in bundles. Yet each individual flower looks like a tiny orchid. This is because of the shape and texture of the petals. Apart from the flowers, the Nong Nooch vine resembles an orchid while young.
8. Rose Grape (Medinilla magnifica)
Like some orchids, the rose grape is an epiphyte. It is native to the Philippines and grows up to 4 feet tall. While the leaves of a rose grape are dark green, waxy, and pointed, the plant structure resembles an orchid’s. The flowers face downward and are bright, rosy pink.
The outer leaves form a cup from which round, grape-like structures hang. Although this might not sound like an orchid, the plant reminds one of an orchid when you look at it from afar. Especially when planted in a pot and kept as a houseplant.
Rose grapes are equally as striking as orchids and will provide some diversity in your home. They make good companion plants for orchids too.
9. Cape Primrose (Streptocarpus hybrida)
Another plant that looks somewhat like an orchid is the Cape primrose. This plant is native to Southern Africa and produces beautiful orchid-like flowers. The plant grows between 10 inches and 1 foot tall. It can have sword-like leaves like orchids or shorter, oval-shaped leaves, depending on the variety.
The flowers come in many different colors. Like orchids, different varieties of Cape primrose flowers also have different markings. Overall, the flowers have 5 petals that look like the petals of an orchid flower. Some varieties have labella, like orchids, while others have simpler petals.
The plant stems of Cape primroses are also the same color and thickness as an orchid stem. Therefore, it is easy to mistake a Cape primrose for an orchid.