This Hydrangea Look-Alike Is Just As Gorgeous & Easier To Take Care Of

Hydrangeas, with their beautiful bulbs of vibrant flowers and their honey-sweet scent, are a wonderful plant to have in any yard or garden. However, the problem with hydrangeas is that to look their best, they require lots of care and attention. In fact, these picky plants only grow well in acidic soil (which means you'll need to get your soil tested and possibly alter its PH before planting). Furthermore, hydrangeas need sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. They also aren't very drought-resistant and require plenty of water, or they will start drooping. Luckily, if you are looking for a plant that is just as beautiful as a hydrangea but slightly easier to take care of, then go for the viburnum.

Viburnum, also known as Chinese snowball or snowball viburnum, is a flowering bush or tree that looks almost identical to a white hydrangea except it's easier to take care of. In fact, the snowball viburnum can grow in the soil of any acidity, is more drought-resistant, and does well in full sun (but you can also find varieties that prefer shade). Furthermore, snowball viburnums grow larger flower balls than hydrangeas, can get around twice as tall, and have a pleasantly fruity scent with hints of vanilla.

How to care for a snowball viburnum

However, just because snowball viburnums are generally easier to care for than hydrangeas doesn't mean this plant will do well on its own without any attention. So, how can you make sure your snowball viburnum is as beautiful as it can be?

The first thing you should know about viburnums is that they grow best in zones 6 to 9 and can be planted in the spring or fall. Viburnums are difficult to grow from seeds, and you should purchase your plant from your local nursery or garden center when it is already around two to three years old. However, you will likely want to purchase at least two because viburnums are not self-pollinating and require another viburnum planted nearby to bloom and flower.

Once you have your viburnums and have planted them, you can then cover the base of the shrubs with mulch to help keep the soil moist and prevent weeds. Snowball viburnums, like hydrangeas, do require yearly pruning. Viburnums can grow quite tall and are often used as privacy hedges or as the centerpiece of a yard. If you'd like to make your viburnum into a flowering tree, you will need to trim off the lower branches so that it grows up instead of out.

Why you may want to choose hydrangeas instead

Despite viburnums being easier to care for and less picky than hydrangeas, there are still a few reasons why you may want to choose hydrangeas instead. The first reason would be if you live in a colder climate. While viburnums only grow in climates as cold as zone 6, hydrangeas can grow anywhere from zones 3 to 9 – this means hydrangeas can grow all over the continental U.S. except for a few of the hottest and coldest areas. Hydrangeas are also generally more cold-resistant and are more likely to survive a harsh winter than viburnums.

Another reason has to do with pruning. While both plants require yearly pruning, viburnums are more specific with their pruning window. Viburnums have to be pruned immediately after blooming or they won't do as well the following year. On the other hand, while hydrangeas need to be pruned, this flower is much more flexible about the timing and can be pruned anytime before the following summer.

The last reason why you might want to choose hydrangeas over snowball viburnums is that hydrangeas allow you to experiment with color. While viburnums are typically white or pink, the color of hydrangeas can be changed from white to pink and pink to blue by adding different nutrients to the soil.

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