Plant This Not That: Extraordinary Alternatives to Ordinary Plants

Plant This Not That: Extraordinary Alternatives to Ordinary Plants

Plant This Not That: Extraordinary Alternatives to Ordinary Plants
cream and pink compact hyrangea and compact pittosporum in garden border

Photos by Monrovia: Doreen Wynja

Thanks to nearly 100 years of growing experience, Monrovia plants just keep getting better and better. Every year, common garden challenges are addressed with new varieties and better plants. Many are more compact and tidy, making them fantastic alternatives to large and often unruly options. They also tend to be lower maintenance, more durable and disease resistant, and longer and more prolifically blooming than the older, ordinary options. 

Finding better plants is simply a way to increase your joy and confidence in the garden. Monrovia's New Plants Manager, Georgia Clay, says, "We believe better genetics make for better plants and greater success for the home gardener."

(Above) Borders like this one call for well-behaved alternatives to traditional varieties that can get unruly. Seaside Serenade® Cape Cod Hydrangea, a gorgeous compact specimen for tight spaces, is combined with another compact beauty, Cream De Mint™ Dwarf Pittosporum, in a narrow garden bed. 

To help you make better plant choices, we've compiled over 20 extraordinary alternatives to ordinary plants, all of which are easy to care for and absolutely beautiful. With our "Plant This Not That" guide, you'll discover compact, well-behaved varieties to replace old classics that are either too large or too prone to disease, or too unruly for your garden space. 

Find new and improved alternatives to roses, hydrangeas, boxwoods, and easy-care perennials below.

Disease-Resistant, Easy-Care Roses

Never plant regular old roses again! Unlike traditional tea roses which are known to be fussy and high-maintenance, these roses are incredibly tough and easygoing. From shrub to compact groundcover options, and even modern fragrant roses like the Eau™ De Parfum series, you have a variety of easy-care, tidy, disease-resistant, and long-blooming options that will thrive in just about any landscape. 

Grace N' Grit™ Pink 
BiColor Shrub Rose

A hardy shrub with stunning bicolor roses that bloom non-stop, even in the hottest summer weather. Disease-resistant, low-maintenance, and versatile, it thrives coast to coast as a dynamic hedge, barrier, or accent plant. Full sun. Up to 5' tall, 4' wide. Zones 4-9.

Nitty Gritty™ 
White Rose

This groundcover rose is not just beautiful but also remarkably durable, disease-resistant, and low-maintenance. An own-root rose with a self-cleaning habit, it produces abundant white double blooms spring through fall. Full sun. Up to 3' tall, 4' wide. Zones 4-9.

Seaside Swirl™ 
Pink Rugosa Rose

This extra-cold-hardy rose is a great choice for tough conditions, offering terrific amounts of beautiful blooms from mid-spring to fall. This compact variety is remarkably resilient, tolerating sea spray and road salt with ease. Full sun. Up to 3' tall and wide.  Zones 3-9.

Long-Blooming, Compact Hydrangeas

You no longer need a big garden bed, the perfect conditions, or just the right amount of shade to grow colorful, prolifically blooming hydrangeas. Newer hydrangea varieties like those in the Seaside Serenade® Series feature not only big, long-blooming, and colorful flowers, but also a tidy habit that rarely (if ever) requires pruning, and sturdy stems and thick leaves that stand up to harsh weather. 

Early Evolution 

A uniquely beautiful panicle hydrangea with five months of blooming. Its compact size makes it easy to fit in any garden bed.  Flowers start with lime-white buds in late spring and evolve to pure white, blushing as they age, and ending up as dark pink in September. Partial to full sun. Up to 2' tall and wide. Zones 4-9.

Seaside Serenade® 
Newport Hydrangea

This showy, compact rebloomer boasts a profusion of full mophead flower clusters that mature to a deep pink or purple; color varies with soil pH, shifting towards blue-violet in acidic soils and deeper pink in alkaline soils. Partial shade to partial sun. Up to 4' tall and wide. Zones 4-9. 


Seaside Serenade® Bar 
Harbor Hydrangea

This new, compact version of the famed Annabelle hydrangea is perfect for smaller spaces, boasting masses of big, white flower heads that put on a spectacular show all summer long. Its sturdy stems can withstand heavy rain and wind. Partial to full sun. Up to 4' tall and wide. Zones 3-8.

Compact Shrub Alternatives to Larger Classics

New, improved, and compact varieties offer an excellent alternative to their larger, older counterparts. Thanks to modern breeding and years of nationwide trials, they are perfect for small gardens, urban landscapes, and containers. Plus, they often bloom longer, have a more vibrant color, and require less pruning and maintenance. 

Lilla Smoke 

The dwarf version of the popular 'Royal Purple' cultivar is perfectly proportioned for smaller gardens, and offers all the color and interest of its larger counterpart. Wine-red foliage turns shades of bright orange, coral, and red in the fall. Partial to full sun. Up to 4' tall and wide. Zones 4-10.


Summerlasting™ Strawberry 
Crape Myrtle

This dwarf crape myrtle is perfect for smaller landscapes, and it can be planted en masse for a stunning sea of color. Incredibly dense blooms of bright pink flowers completely cover it, creating an intense display of summer color. Full sun. Up to 3' tall and wide.  Zones 7-10.

Little Darling® 

A compact version of a fragrant classic that also blooms twice a year. Abundant clusters of dark-purple buds give way to classic lilac-colored flowers. The first bloom occurs heavily in spring, followed by a lighter bloom in the fall. Full sun. Up to 4' tall and wide. Zones 4-8.


This compact, rounded shrub is a joyful harbinger of spring, as it produces densely packed, bright yellow blooms that cover its stems from top to bottom. Following the spring bloom, the shrub's small green leaves emerge. Partial to full sun. Up to 2' tall, 3' wide. Zones 4-9.

Butterscotch Baby™ 

With this variety, you can enjoy three seasons of color in a remarkably compact version of a favorite easy-care shrub. Its foliage displays a stunning deep caramel color when it first emerges in the spring, and again in the fall. In the summer, the pink blooms attract pollinators. Full sun. Up to 18" tall, 24" wide. Zones 4-9.

Petite Pillar™
Dwarf Boxwood

This outstanding dwarf boxwood has a columnar growth habit that develops slowly as it matures. It is an excellent choice for creating a low hedge or accent in small spaces, as it requires minimal pruning to maintain its tidy shape. Partial to full sun. Up to 3' tall, 2' wide. Zones 5-9. 

Boxwood Alternatives

Boxwoods are a nationwide favorite for a reason — they offer foundational structure and year-round interest with little care. Plus, they are perfect for shearing into formal hedges and topiary shapes. However, many gardeners are looking for disease-resistant and hardy alternatives to boxwoods, and we have the perfect options below. 


A great boxwood replacement thanks to its dense, rounded form and upright habit. Its glossy, dark green foliage transforms into an eye-catching purple-burgundy hue during the fall and winter months. Full sun. Up to 4' tall, 3' wide.  Zones 5-9. 


This adaptable evergreen shrub has a tidy, mounding habit and foliage that offers a burst of color with its orange-red new growth. It serves as an excellent substitute for boxwoods for lean, rocky soils in warmer climates. Full sun. Up to 4' tall and wide. Zones 7-10.

Emerald Boxer™ 

This male evergreen holly is an ideal substitute for boxwoods, as it can be easily sheared and shaped into formal hedges. The plant also features excellent resistance to diseases and mites, which contributes to its durability. Full sun. Up to 6' tall and wide. Zones 7-9. 

Improved, Compact, and Drought-Tolerant Plants

Low-maintenance favorites are getting even better! Improved, compact, and drought-tolerant plant varieties are becoming increasingly popular among savvy gardeners. These compact varieties are perfect for small gardens or container gardening, as well as a better alternative to unruly plants that can flop or take over a garden bed. Plus, improved varieties often have better disease resistance, and longer blooming periods (and more blooms), making them an excellent choice for any garden. 

Evolution™ Purple 
Crush Sedum

This plant has been specifically bred to exhibit vigorous basal branching that prevents it from falling open like many other sedums tend to do. It boasts dense, blue-green foliage with a deep purple tone that complements other sedums and succulents. Pink flowers add a touch of glamor during summer. Partial to full sun. Up to 15" tall. Zones 4-9.

Blue Jean Baby 
Russian Sage

Russian Sage is another waterwise favorite that is prone to flop, but Blue Jean Baby has stems that remain upright. Plus, it's a shorter and more compact variety that remains full and vigorous in any landscape. Aromatic foliage is finely textured and has a soft gray-green hue that complements its blooms. Full sun. Up to 3' tall and wide. Zones 4-9. 

Steffi™ Dark 
Rose Gaura

Unlike other Gauras, Steffi™ has a bushy and rounded form with robust green foliage and numerous upright spikes covered with dark rose-pink flowers. It offers vibrant seasonal color from late spring through early fall and is highly tolerant to both heat and drought. Full sun. Up to ' tall and wide. Zones 5-9.

Rocket Jr. Red 
Hot Poker

This extremely compact kniphofia packs a punch with its impressive flower power. It continues to bloom from early summer to mid-fall, showcasing vibrant red-orange flower spikes that are held tight within and above its upright, grass-like foliage. Full sin. Up to 12" tall, 9" wide. Zones 6-9. 

Bridal Veil® 

Clusters of large, pure-white flowers are held on shorter stems above its wide, strap-like leaves. Foliage and blooms are densely packed, resulting in a wonderfully compact plant. Partial to full sun. Up to 1' tall and wide.  Zones 7-11.

Shasta Daisy

Full, bright-white petals surround a yellow center on a tight and low habit, making it a compact plant. This is a real garden MVP that produces a profusion of blooms reliably from late spring to midsummer. Full sun. Up to 15" tall and wide. Zones 4-9. 

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2023-03-06 18:40:00