Few flowers are as diverse as the eye-catching dahlia. Dahlias spread their showy florets in bright, hot colors like pinks, reds, yellows, and even purples in blooms the size up to a dinner plate.
Characterized by a single flower-headed stem that is also leafy, the dahlia is an easy grower with showy blooms. The dahlia boasts 42 different varieties that grow as tubers and are easy to propagate. Although dahlias are perennials, in colder climates they are often grown as annuals.
The dahlia is native to the Mexico and Central American regions. With its bright colorations, it might seem like the dramatic dahlia would be a prime target for bees, but it is not scented. No longer prized as a food source, it is now primarily grown for its showy, bright blooms that are hardy in even hot, dry climates.
The dahlia now is categorized by floret style and bloom type, and they are herbaceous perennials that bloom either mid-summer or late season that thrive in full sun environments. Well-drained soil works best, but plenty of moisture makes the dahlia happiest.
It is a quick grower, only needing 6-8 weeks to reach maturity, and is hardy in zones 7-10. While dahlias are a stunning addition to anyone’s garden, let’s look at 15 flowers that are similar to the dahlia in some ways but have their own unique beauty to add to your garden space.
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1. African Daisy (Osteospermum spp.)
With intensely colored petals radiating from an almost iridescent center, the African daisy’s look is unforgettable. Its nickname is the blue-eyed daisy, after the intriguing central bloom area coloring.
This variety’s petals can be pink, purple, white, orange, or bicolor with its bright hues complementary to the similarly toned dahlia. Originally from its namesake Africa and Asia, this daisy is hardy to zones 9-11. And just like the dahlia, the African daisy blooms summer to fall in full sun and well-drained soil.
This daisy needs plenty of moisture, as well. Only growing 1-2 feet tall with medium-sized blooms, the African daisy is not as useful as a cut flower but is often grown as a stunning addition to gardens for their visual interest.
2. Allium (allium globemaster)
The stunning ornamental allium is an herbaceous flower that smells like garlic. While the dahlia does not have a scent, the allium also has a spectacular bloom perched on top of stems reaching up to 3 feet in height just like the elegant dahlia. This large variety of allium’s bloom is a spherical shape and can grow to an impressive 8 inches across, similar in size and shape to some of the dahlia varieties.
The allium’s eye-catching blue color is not one seen in the dahlia, but both can be used as ornamental flowers. The large grouping of tiny flower heads makes for an excellent cut flower choice, just like the dahlia.
This hybrid variety grows best in zones 5-8, complementing many dahlia varieties. The bulb-grown allium loves full sun and well-draining soil, like the dahlia, and flowers mid-summer as many dahlias do.
3. Asters (aster amellus)
The daisy-like aster, or starflower, is a beautiful cool-toned perennial that is very popular with gardeners. Hailing originally from North America and Eurasia, the cheerful aster flower similarly loves hot weather, well-drained soil, and full sun, just like the dahlia.
With varieties that can grow from a few inches tall up to 8 feet in height, asters have as wide a variety in size as the dahlia family bloomers. Just like the dahlia, aster blooms are at their best in mid-summer through late fall and thrive in zones 3-8.
Color variations of the aster are mostly in the blue and purple family, but all asters have a contrasting center of yellow, pink, red, and white, making the aster a perfect visual companion to the dahlia.
4. Autumn Crocus (colchicum autumnale)
The autumn crocus flower starts out life as a bulb, called a corm, similar to the tuberous start of a dahlia. This variety loves well-drained soil and warmth. Native to Northern Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Greece, it needs full sun as it produces delicate pink, purple, white, and yellow blooms.
Differing from the dahlia, this crocus is hardy in zones 3-8 and also blooms in the fall just like the dahlia. A perennial, the autumn crocus will die back with frigid winters.
Unlike dahlias, this crocus can grow to its full height of 6-9 inches tall while growing on even rocky ground. The crocus is a perfect plant to use as a border or lush groundcover in a garden and is not a strong-stemmed flower that does well as a cut flower like the dahlia.
5. Chrysanthemum (chrysanthemum indicum)
This native Chinese flower, commonly called the mum, is an attractive and hardy flower. Originally cultivated as an herb and used in foods and beverages, now the main use for the herbaceous perennial mum is as a seasonally decorative flower.
The mum is characterized by multiple bloom layers of florets in a striking solid white, pinks, yellows, bronze, rust, lavender, or purple color. This lush bloom is similar in looks to multiple varieties of the dahlia. The mum is a fast grower that blooms in the fall, just like the dahlia, and should be planted in zones 3-9 in a full sun location.
While some mum varieties grow between 4-36 inches in height, like the dahlia, but they also grow up to three feet wide as well. Mums love a rich soil that is well-draining, just like the dahlia, but mums also need more moisture than the dahlia to be content.
6. Coreopsis (coreopsis spp.)
The coreopsis, or tickseed, is usually a bright yellow flower with a cheerful single layer bloom that grows up to 2 feet tall. While smaller than the dahlia, the coreopsis is used as a cut flower and as a garden ornamental. With its similar summer bloom time, the coreopsis is grown in zones 4-9.
These flowers are healthiest in full sun and well-draining soil, much like the dahlia. A native to North America, the coreopsis can actually come in yellows, reds, and pinks, and are related to the equally daisy-like aster. An easy-to-grow perennial, the coreopsis can self-seed easily.
7. Cosmos(cosmos bipinnatus)
The cosmos, often called the Mexican aster, is another daisy look-alike flower. Similar to the dahlia, the cosmos blooms summer through the fall with blooms in shades of yellow, white, pink, magenta, orange, red, and browns.
Not quite as tall as the statuesque dahlia, cosmos top out around 6 feet. Originating in Mexico and Central America, the cosmos adores full sun and a well-draining soil much like the dahlia.
Perfect in zones 2-11, this adaptable and sturdy plant is easy to grow annually that can be sown by simply seeding an area. Unlike dahlias, however, they attract insects and birds and don’t require much if any water once established.
8. Gerbera Daisy (gerbera jamesonii)
The gerbera flaunts its characteristic daisy shape with vividly-hued petals. Like the dahlia, the gerbera comes in reds, yellows, oranges, pinks, and white variations and looks spectacular in cut arrangements. Their single-layer blooms rise above wide stems and are uniquely round and sturdy.
Initially from South Africa, this flower is hardy to zones 8-10 and thrives in full sun and well-draining soil like the dahlia. Regular watering will keep this beauty content and ready to burst forth with its constant blooms from summer till fall.
Topping out at only 18 inches in height, the gerbera is a little smaller overall than the dahlia, but its presence is formidable with the gerbera’s simple but impactful look in the garden.
The herbaceous perennial is a very popular garden and arrangement flower since it is so easy to grow but is a standout in the daisy-like flower family.
9. Giant Sunflower (helianthus giganteus) L
This oversized bloomer provides a sought-after photo opportunity everywhere it is planted. Like the dinner-plate-sized dahlia, the Giant easily grows up to 12 feet in height and sports a similarly sized bloom. These outsized flowers need full sun and a lot of room to grow to be happy.
Situated in zones 2-11, giants need well-drained soil to be content. Their signature yellow petals surround a large black center that is equal or larger in diameter than the length of the petals. A fast-growing annual, the giant sunflower differs from the perennial dahlias who hold on over the cold seasons to bloom again.
This large flower needs a little bit more watering than the dahlia initially. Its roots are in the Americas, and its name derives from the fact that the head of the bloom rotates to face the sun as it grows, unlike the demure dahlia.
10. Japanese Anemone (anemone x hybrida ‘Queen Charlotte’)
This delicate flower is a late-season bloomer just like the dahlia. Blooming when many other plants die back, the Japanese anemone loves full sun and hot weather although they can tolerate partial shade.
Perfect in zones 5-8, this herbaceous perennial produces clumps of flowers that come back year after year. Misnamed, this flower actually hails from China, but the many varieties of anemones can be gorgeous red, blue, white, pink, or yellow.
They are popularly grown as garden bloomers but can be used as cut flowers just as dahlias. Needing little water, these poppy-shaped flowers have the nickname “windflower” because their delicate stems sway with the smallest of breezes.
The Japanese anemone only grows to about 2-3 feet in height and they sport a small bloom in comparison to the dahlia.
11. Mandevilla (mandevilla sender)
This spectacular flowering plant is tropical in origin, but it also loves hot weather just like the dahlia. Mandevilla blooms are also oversized like the dahlia, but none grow as large as the dinner plate variety.
This tropical beauty comes in hot pinks, reds, and white, like the dahlia, but only produces five petals leading to a golden throat on its bloom head. Similar to the dahlia, it needs plenty of moisture in well-drained soil and will continue to produce blooms up through the late fall as well.
Mandevilla, sometimes called the rock trumpet, thrives in zones 10-11, so in some areas, it would be a good growing companion with the dahlia. However, its fast-growing vine structure needs support to sustain the Mandevilla as it climbs its way up to 20 feet tall and just as wide.
Native to the Americas, full sun and humidity are needed for the Mandevilla to shine. This impressive flower is grown primarily as a spectacular, low-maintenance splash of color as vertical borders in gardens.
12. Mexican Marigold (tagetes erecta)
The pompon-shaped marigold shines in bright yellows and oranges, imitating the bright hues of the dahlia. But only growing to 3-4 feet in height, the flower of the marigold really pops with its spherical shape and multi-layered petals.
Unlike the dahlia, the Mexican marigold starts blooming in early summer and continues up until frost. Grown mainly as ornamentals, the marigold thrives in zones 2-11 and likes full sun and any well-drained soil.
This variety grows upright like the dahlia, rather than in bushier forms like other varieties. Mexican marigolds need regular watering, more than dahlias, to keep them happy and constantly blooming.
13. Peony (paeonia officinalis)
This gorgeous herbaceous perennial famously becomes the star of your garden. It can bloom spring to fall and develops multiple layers of petals on a bushier plant for a showy, lush feel.
Unlike the dahlia, the peony’s colors are mostly soft whites and pinks, but can also be reds and rich corals and purples. Natives to Europe and Asia, the peony grows in zones 3-9 depending on the variety.
Unlike the dahlia, it likes to be planted in the fall to give it rooting time before its growing season. Only about 1-3 feet tall, the peony flower is treasured for its beauty and is often used in cut arrangements and gardens just like the dahlia.
14. Rose of Sharon (hibiscus syriacus)
This tropical beauty hails from China and India, and like the dahlia blooms in late summer to early fall. Planted in full sun, this shrub will produce blue, purple, white, or red large showy blooms. Hardy in zones 5-9, the Rose of Sharon will grow up to an astonishing 8-12 feet tall.
Like the dahlia, these blooms are prized in cut arrangements and for espalier, but this shrub can be pruned into a tree shape as well differing from the dahlia’s standard flower disposition.
The blooms consist of large petals surrounding a unique pointed stamen. This hibiscus plant loves rich soil but is fairly drought resistant and low maintenance, like the dahlia.
15. Zinnia (zinnia elegans)
Probably the most like the dahlia, zinnias have hotly hued blooms that are prized in cut arrangements. Zinnias love full sun, and also bloom through the fall frost like dahlias. Their height is similarly 1-4 feet as well, and they also need well-drained soil in zones 2-8.
Hailing from South America and Mexico, the zinnia is annual if planted in zones 9-11 but a perennial in the southern zones 2-8. Drought-tolerant by nature, the steadfast zinnia is every gardener’s favorite cheerful addition.