Troublesome Garden Ornamentals- Tough or Invasive?

We gardeners are always looking for the “perfect plant”. Although we all have different ideas of what this entails, depending on our space, climatic area and location, there are some common characteristics we all look for.

Is it tough? Is it attractive? Can it withstand harsh conditions? Is it hardy and long lived? Can it easily resist disease and pests? Does it need little maintenance? Does it suit my landscaping plans?

Rose Campion

Unfortunately, these are the attributes that can make plants a problem if they escape from our gardens. Once they establish themselves outside domesticity, they can take over the natural habitat and crowd out indigenous species.

Many of the plants we now see as problems were once introduced as new and attractive garden plants, look upon as beautiful and problem free. Unfortunately, until they escape from cultivated captivity, nobody realized just how invasive the actually can become.

Dame's Rocket

So, what should you, as a responsible gardener look for?

Avoid planting plants that self seed all over, especially ones that can throw or shower their seeds indiscriminately. These are a problem only if you allow them to escape from your yard, although they can start overwhelming your other plants and give you a really big weeding job!

Himalayan Balsam

Ten Common Ornamentals to Look Out For:

  • Rose Campion - Lychnis coronaria
  • Spurge - Euphorbia cyparissias
  • Lady's Mantle - Alchemilla lapeyrousii Buser
  • Dame's Rocket - (Hesperis matronalis)
  • Himalayan Balsam - (Impatiens glandulifera)
  • Baby's Breath - (Gypsophila paniculata)
  • Creeping bellflower - (Campanula rapunculoides)
  • Maltese Cross - (Lychnis chalcedonica)
  • Queen Anne's Lace - (Daucus carota)
  • St. Johns Wort - (Hypericum perforatum)

Queen Anne's Lace

Now that's not to say you should never plant these ornamentals. You just need to be careful where you plant them, and to remove the spent flower heads before your flowerbeds are inundated with seeds.

Periwinkle
Periwinkle

Troublesome Groundcovers

Aggressive groundcovers like variegated goutweed, ajuga, and periwinkle can also take over quickly. These plants are useful in difficult sites where it would be impossible to grow other plants. If you do choose to use them, confine them and trim them constantly so they don’t escape.

Wildflower Meadow - or Invasive Weeds?

It seems very eco-friendly to plant a 'wildflower garden'. How nice, you think to yourself. I'll just toss in these seeds and I'll have a wildflower meadow behind the house.

However these commercial seed mixes labeled as "Wildflower Mix" consist of flowering plants that are likely not indigenous to your area. Some of them can become very unwelcome and even dangerous pests. One example is the ox-eye daisy, which quickly crowds out natural plants in pastures and is toxic to grazing cattle. Tansy is another pretty but invasive and fast-spreading plant that can take over pastureland.

So, What Can You Do?

  • Before buying, do an internet search to find out if a plant has invasive potential. Use either the common or the Latin name of the plant. You'll likely find some information in Wikipedia and whether it is hardy in your growing zone.
  • Never purchase or grow ornamental invasive plants unless you know you can control them.
  • Remove any invasive ornamentals from your property, and dispose of them in a landfill. Alternatively, dry them in the sun and burn them. Do not compost them.
  • Don't transplant plants from ditches, vacant land & natural areas, or collect seeds for planting from these plants, unless you know what they are.
  • Do not allow possibly invasive plants go to seed, unless you're prepared to deal with the consequences.
  • Try to use regional native plants from an established grower. They are already suited to your environment.
  • Help to prevent the introduction of invasive plants in your area, and participate in the control or removal of current infestations.

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Comments 6 comments

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

I had a habit to pinch pieces from other garden or seeds and although they looked beautiful they were really invasive. I definitely got out ot that habit.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

We have been fighting the battle to get rid of oxolis ever since we moved here. They form tubers below the earth and therefore have to be dug out...not pulled as one rarely gets the tubers by pulling. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw some purple leafed ones for sale in a nursery a few months ago!

As to the ajuga...I actually like that as a ground cover and since the roots are surface ones, they can be kept contained quite nicely. Also can be given away to other gardeners. Actually wrote a hub about that. :)))

It pays to know the growing habits of plants! Excellent hub. Rated useful!


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 5 years ago from Maryland

Enjoyed your hub. Oh, how invasive vinca minor can be--and not as much fun to pull up as mint. I'd never thought of Queen Anne's Lace as an ornamental before but rather as an attractive weed/wildflower that grew along the sides of the road!


saif113sb profile image

saif113sb 5 years ago

Very nice and useful hub. thanks


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

It really is good to keep your tips in mind. I wish I had listened to my friend on a couple of plants. Never think, "How bad can it be?" when it comes to an invasive gift!


nancynurse profile image

nancynurse 4 years ago from Southeast USA

This is a great hub. I love to garden I am Nana too. Our granddaughter is almost 9 months old. Thank you for sharing.

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