alternatives to azalea plants

Azaleas are rightfully one of the most popular plants we grow and sell here at Australian Plants Online.

They do everything, after all!

  • Hedges and boundary screens
  • Potted colour for decks and balconies
  • Evergreen foliage
  • Bright large open flowers
  • Flowers for long periods, often twice a year
  • Flowers in sun and shade
  • Colours from white through peaches and pinks to red and purple.

Azaleas on Alkaline Soils

If you garden on alkaline soil - that's soil with a higher than neutral pH, your azaleas may take on a yellow sickly look.

It's called chlorosis - and it happens because the alkalinity of the soil interferes with the plants' ability to take up nutrients held within.

They don't like alkaline soil, and will probably need to be grown in pots in a garden with alkaline soil. Happily, azaleas don't mind being grown in pots and will still flower happily.


Azaleas and Biosecurity

If you garden in South Australia or Tasmania, we can't send you azalea plants (whatever your soil type) because of biosecurity restrictions.

It's the same for all nurseries outside your state borders; it's to protect commercial blueberry production.

We know how frustrating that can be... So we've put together a selection of our favourite azalea alternatives especially for you, so you can still get beautiful colour in your garden.


Azaleas and Pets

And if you garden with the help (or hindrance) of furry friends, then you'll want to avoid azaleas, if your pets eat your plants - they can be toxic to cats and dogs. (Although perfectly safe for humans.)

We've got alternatives that are pet-friendly plants.


So what can you grow in your garden, if you love the look of azaleas but can't grow azaleas?


Azalea Alternatives - Alkaline-Friendly Beauties

Azalea alternatives 

Hibiscus are the perfect azalea alternative for alkaline or neutral soils that can't grow azaleas successfully.

They share the bright vibrant colour palette, the flowers are similarly open and showy, and they can be grown individually in a pot or planted as a garden hedge.

They'll need a frost-free site or protection over winter, (except for the lavender-purple Blue Bird which is cold tolerant), and regular watering and feeding to help them flourish and flower to the maximum.

We can ship hibiscus everywhere in Australia; and they love to grow in alkaline soils.


Azalea alternatives 

If you love the repeat flowering and compact size of azaleas, then Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis) is the plant for you.

They are resilient shrubs that seemingly grow almost anywhere - coastal sites and inland, cold and hot, sun and shade.

Flowering in pink and white, the individual blooms are smaller than azaleas but they are produced in large clusters, to give you abundant colour.

We can ship Indian hawthorn everywhere in Australia; and they grow in alkaline or acid soils.


Azalea alternatives 

If you love the bright colours of azaleas, then cistus, also known as rock rose, are ripper little shrubs for hot sunny places. That's most of this sunburnt country!

Bonus - they are much more drought tolerant than azaleas too!

From the pure white of sage-leaf cistus through the silvery-pink of Silver Pink cistus, to the bright magenta of cistus Sunset

They're really generous with their bright happy tissue-paper flowers, which the beneficial pollinators love as much as we do.

We can ship these everywhere in Australia, and like indian hawthorn, they will grow in alkaline or acid soils.


Azalea Alternatives - Acid-Loving Glamour

Azalea alternatives 


If you love the big flowers and glossy leaves of azaleas, and you're in SA or TAS so we can't send you azaleas, don't despair. There are alternatives you can plant, that will give you a similar look in your garden

Acid or neutral pH soil, rich and loamy with plenty of organic matter, is ideal for growing gardenias.

They love the same growing conditions as azaleas - sunny but not too hot and dry; plenty of watering; good quality soil. And gardenias can be shipped to any state or territory.

Gardenias will need a frost-free garden for best results - they're not quite as cold tolerant as azaleas - but planted in a sheltered location they thrive in these conditions.

If you don't have perfect conditions, gardenias also grow well in pots - so you can give them perfect potting mix instead!


Azalea alternatives 

If you have acid or neutral pH soil, and it's loamy with plenty of organic matter, then that is also ideal for growing camellias!

These large showy shrubs love the same growing conditions as gardenias - sunny but not too hot and dry; plenty of watering; rich soil. They make great garden bedfellows; and like gardenias, we can ship camellias anywhere in Australia.

In warm humid climates up north, sasanqua camellias thrive better; in the cooler drier air and Mediterranean-style climates of southern states, japonica camellias come into their own.

If you don't have perfect conditions, camellias also grow well in pots too. You'll need a big pot for camellias...


Azalea alternatives 

Tibouchina brings the colour and flamboyance of an azalea bush in full flower to the frost-free garden. Admittedly, there's not the range of colour choice that you get with azaleas, but if you love white, pink, and purple shades in your garden, there's nothing better.

They will grow in neutral or even alkaline soils too, so you can plant with confidence.


Azalea Alternatives - Pretty & Pet Friendly

Azalea alternatives 

Camellia, hibiscus, and tibouchina above are all safe for gardens with dogs and gardens with cats.

We also love the four flowering shrubs above : bright fruity ixora, ideal for frost-free gardens, blooming red, orange, white, pink; miniature rose, this one is Cutie Pie; crepe myrtle - usually grown as a tree, but this can be cut hard back to produce a multi-trunked shrub flowering in deep pink, candy pink, white; and deciduous star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) in pale pink and white.

If you have pets, avoid these plants for dogs and these plants for cats and your pets will enjoy the garden as much as you!