Peonies are a classic element to a perennial border, adding romance and interest to your spring garden. They create a magical and breathtaking scenery when planted in groups, but their blooming period is so short it’s cruel. Fortunately, nature offers similar, equally beautiful plants that you add to your garden to keep the romance alive.
Peonies have been cultivated for over 2000 years. They are praised for their exquisite floral display of large, flouncy blooms with layers of petals in pink, purple, white, red, and yellow hues. The charming green foliage transforms into shades of orange and rust during the fall.
There are about 30 varieties of peonies which fall into three primary groups:
- Herbaceous: Herbaceous peonies grow 2 to 3 feet in a lush, bushy mound with blooms in a wide array of colors, forms, and fragrances.
- Woody: Woody peonies are upright and grow 3 to 7 feet. They typically bloom before herbaceous peonies and produce large, dramatic flower heads.
- Itoh: Itoh peonies are a hybrid between herbaceous and woody peonies. They have short, sturdy stems, growing up to 2.5 feet, and produce over 50 blooms.
Here are 7 plants like peonies that create an exquisite floral display in cottage gardens and borders.
1. Buttercup (Ranunculus)
Buttercups (Ranunculus) are tuberous perennials adored by florists and gardeners. They are beloved for their long-lasting, brilliantly colored voluminous blooms constructed from multiple layers of crêpe paper-thin petals. Like peonies, buttercups sport are available in a rainbow of colors and bi-colored tones.
The Ranunculi genus includes over 600 varieties of flowering plants, including buttercups, spearworts, and water crowfoots. The Ranunculus asiaticus cultivars are the most commonly purchased. Their stems feature lush, fern-like foliage, topped with loosely clustered, single, or double-cup-shaped flowers in colors including cream, peach, orange, yellow, pink, red, purple, and burgundy.
These cool-season flowers grow 12 to 24 inches high and perform best in mild winters and long, cool springs. Plant Ranunculus to add a pop of color and unparalleled charm to your spring garden. They are excellent pollinator plants.
The camellia is a broadleaf and flowering shrub with evergreen foliage and a compact and neat habit. These shrubs are prized as one of the best flowering shrubs, producing impressive amounts of lush petaled blooms that resemble peonies.
Camellias are queens of the winter flowers, blooming prodigiously from fall to spring.
The camellia group features over 260 species. You can find them in single or double-layered varieties in vibrant colors of white, yellow, pink, red, or lavender.
Camellia plants have a bad rep for being somewhat challenging to grow. Still, they are relatively easy to care for in favorable conditions, only requiring pruning. These shrubs thrive in hardy zones 7 to 9. Ensure to provide them with dappled sunlight or partial shade and well-draining, slightly acidic, and consistently moist soil.
Related: 9 Plants Similar to Camellia
3. English Garden Roses
English garden roses were developed by David Austin, a famous horticulturist, in 1969. He created hybrid roses that combine the rosette form and perfumery of old-fashioned roses with the lush colors and repeat-blooming habits of modern roses. The flowers have ruffled, soft, fluffy petals similar to peonies.
English garden roses will tickle your sense with their charm and delightful fragrance. There are various shrub and climbing varieties suitable for any garden space. You can find them in different shades of white, coral, pink, orange, and yellow. We love planting them along walkways and seating areas to take full advantage of their mesmerizing scent.
English roses grow 5 to 6 feet tall and are hardy to USDA zones 5 to 9. They need lots of sunlight and rich, fertile, well-draining soil to thrive. With proper care, English roses will provide vigorous growth and flushes of blooms from late spring until frost.
4. Carnations (Dianthus Caryophyllus)
Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) are known as the “flowers of the Gods” and symbolize love and devotion. They are the perfect way to reintroduce romance to your garden or patio. Also known as “Pinks,” carnations flaunt endless shades of pink, red, white, coral, and two-toned petals.
This perennial has charming mounds of silvery-blue grassy leaves. In early summer and fall, the blooms arise atop the foliage on sturdy stems and present an eye-catching display of fringed-petaled flowers with a spicy aroma.
There are two primary carnation groups: border and perpetual flowering carnations. Border carnations grow up to 2.5 feet tall and produce small, 2-ich flowers in a wide array of colors. In comparison, perpetual flowering carnations reach 3 feet high, have larger flowers, and bloom almost continuously in a greenhouse.
Related: Are Carnations Poisonous?
Lisianthus plants are tender flowering perennials often grown as annuals. They are the epitome of classy flowers, often favored for elegant bouquets or floral arrangements. Lisianthus flowers feature multi-layers, ruffled petals in white, cream, pink, purple, yellow, apricot, and bi-colored shades.
The lisianthus, unfortunately, has a bad rep for being a tricky plant to grow. But if you pay close attention to its specific growing needs, it will reward you with breathtaking flowers. The lisianthus grows as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10.
Tall lisianthus flowers are ideal for beds and borders, producing a welcoming, ample supply of blooms. You can even opt for a dwarf variety to plant in pots and containers. Don’t let the delicate-looking flowers fool you; they are famous for their beauty and ability to hold up well as a cut flower.
6. Double Tulip
Double tulips are also known as peony-flower tulips, thanks to their shape. The blooms are always large and double, featuring twice as many petals as traditional tulips. The charming spray of double petals transforms these bulb flowers into striking alternatives to peonies.
Double tulips are classified as double early or double late tulips, depending upon when they bloom. Double early tulips typically have short, stocky stems around 8 to 12 inches and bloom from early spring to mid-spring. Double late tulips boast taller stems up to 16 inches and bloom in late spring.
Double tulips are gorgeous spring bloomers for borders and pots. They come in brilliant hues from soft pink to royal purple and fiery orange and yellow. Our favorites are the fringed tulips.
Related: 6 Plants That Look Like Tulip Leaves
Hydrangeas have different-looking flowers than peonies, but their growing conditions, immense flower heads, and old-fashioned charm make them a perfect replacement or companion plant for peonies. Colors beguile with frosty white, pale green, clear blue, lavender, vibrant pink, red, and maroon.
Hydrangeas are deciduous flowering shrubs that reach up to 15 feet, depending on the variety. They are unrivaled for their showy, large conical flower heads and easy-to-cultivate habit. They tolerate most soil types and prefer partial sun with consistent moisture.
These shrubs make gorgeous garden borders, pot plants, and companion plants. Hydrangea varieties seem to abound every year, presenting gardeners and landscape enthusiasts with endless options of bloom sizes, colors, and growth habits.