Invasives in the Garden - Things I'm Sorry I Planted
Before you buy that ground cover or perennial touted for being hardy with a spreading habit, do some research. Invasive plants can take over your property, then move on to conquer the neighborhood as well.
Invasive plants are often exotics that move in and crowd out natives. But even native plants can aggressively commandeer an area. Most states offer lists of plants that are invasive in your area. Check out your local Department of Natural Resources for information specific to your locale. A plant that may be a pest in one place may be perfectly well behaved in another.
Some plants that want to take over the world spread by seed. The seed may be washed away by rain along ditches, or hitchhike a ride on a bird or animal. Others spread diabolical tentacles by their root systems. If you tear up the plant, the roots just send up new shoots like a Hydra, when you cut off the head and two more appear.
Once upon a time I walked past a hill near a local college. That hill had long been a favorite site. A beautiful statue of two students rose above a carpet of English Ivy. So I broke off a little piece for my home. At the time, my garden theme was favorite places.
I had plants from my childhood home, my grandparent's home, from the gardens of friends, and from visits to public gardens. (Public gardens often sell plants and seeds from their collections) Every plant in my yard had a story. It seemed beautiful. And when they razed that hill I once loved, I was glad that I'd taken some of that ivy.
Glad for about five minutes. English Ivy, I later learned, is an invasive plant in many parts of the USA. It crawls up the side of the house leaving rough brown spots when you pull it down. It's popped up on the other side of the house, sneaking into the branches of shrubs. Tearing it up is no fun, causing an allergic reaction that sends me into paroxysms of endless sneezing.
Trumpet Vine or Trumpet Creeper
Trumpet Creeper is a USA native vine that produces orange trumpet shaped flowers. In hopes of attracting hummingbirds, I planted one near a tall wooden fence. The vine quickly spread as its base thickened to the size you'd expect from a small tree. Trumpet vine climbed into the trees, engulfed shrubbery, and produced few blooms.
But that wasn't enough. The vines popped up out of the ground on the opposite side of the house. Little pieces of vine appeared out front. I dug up the new shoots, pulling up long roots. In retaliation, the sneaky little devil behaved like a hydra. It seemed that for every piece I dug up, two more appeared.
Yes, I spotted an occasional hummingbird but hardly worth my 20 year battle with this pesky vine.
Black Eyed Susan
Black Eyed Susan
Black Eyed Susan is the Maryland State Flower so it seemed a welcome addition to my yard. The sunny petals surrounding a black button center was cheerful and seemed to mean something, a little home state love in my own back yard.
Before long, Black Eyed Susan began popping up everywhere. The friendly yellow flowers just got a bit too pushy like a new neighbor who seems so friendly but soon becomes a nuisance and you have to crawl around behind the furniture so they don't see you when they come knocking at the door.
Years after I thought they were long gone, Black Eyed Susan still makes an occasional and unwanted appearance.
Chubby Fingers Sedum
Chubby Fingers Sedum
Chubby fingers looked like a nice little plant to fill in the front edge of the flower garden. The bright green succulent does not mind drought like conditions, wet conditions, or being constantly ripped up and chucked into a large paper recycling bag.
On one hand, chubby fingers chokes out weeds. It chokes out everything else too. One little piece will quickly root and spread. The cute little pest is everywhere like wall-to-wall carpet that looked nice when you saw the tidy sample square in the store, but proved to be a horror once it filled the whole house!
Beware of buying a plant because you've become nostalgic over a name that appeared to suit your latest idea for a theme garden (plants with the same name as dead relatives). This ground cover is currently waging a war with the chubby fingers to see which one will totally take over the world.
Its bright pale green leaves are attractive and brighten up an edge but it isn't called creeping Jenny for nothin.' It will creep into the garden, over the rocks, onto the sidewalk or the lawn. At least this one makes weeding easy. You don't need to look for weeds because they too are over run by this sneaky ground cover.
I don't even know where this came from. But the early Spring flowers light up and area under some trees and seemed perfect for a small woodland garden. Now they are popping up everywhere, even in clumps on the lawn. They are running rough shod over everything and choking out some very nice ferns.
The foliage does die back after the flowers have faded which is a mixed blessing. Once the flowers have fallen, and the plant disappears, you can't locate the plant roots.
Oh how I used to love bamboo! I've used giant bamboo to make fences, plant stakes, trellises, and a garden arch. I knew its reputation. But I thought that I could control it and keep it confined. With some diligence, I thought this possible. Success seemed a simple matter of policing the area. Maintaining a small patch of bamboo seemed as simple as weeding. Until I spotted a bamboo shoot growing up in the middle of my neighbor's lawn some 30 feet away.
I tugged at the pesky shoot. It was easy to pull the young plant up by its roots. I pulled and the root kept coming - a 30 foot, ropey cable that led back to my "neat" lilttle bamboo clump.That was the end of that foolishness.
There is such a thing as clumping bamboo that will not invade other spaces. Also, bamboo can grow in a large container. Plant in the ground in winter but dig it up and place it back in the container before it starts sending out scouts.
Japanese and Chinese Wisteria is an attractive vine that produces pendulous pinkish, violet, or purple colored blooms in Spring. Brought to the USA in the early 1800's, both species have taken root and become invasive in 19 states. The woody vine can climb up to 60 feet in a tree. As the vine winds around the tree, it slowly strangles it.
Wisteria not only kills native trees, but can deprive native plants of sun as well as water. In the home garden, wisteria will pop up all over the yard and will send shoots up through lawns. I had no qualms about tearing up my own plant. Though it crawled over everything else, it never bloomed.
American Wisteria ( Wisteria frutescens) is native to Eastern wetlands and produces a smaller, more rounded bloom. However, this native form can still be quite aggressive.
To avoid problems, Wisteria can be pruned into a tree form.
Mimosa Tree - Albizia julibrissin
Introduced to the USA in the mid 1700s, this pretty Asian tree with its fern like foliage and fluffy pink flowers is invasive in the South East. Due to its ability to thrive in poor soil, its prolific seed production, and the fact that the seeds can lie dormant for years, Mimosa is one tough tree. But this short lived tree shades and crowds out native plants and, in the Carolinas, will pop up like a weed all over the neighborhood.
Mimosa is quite controversial being both loved and hated as seen in many garden forums. Personally, I have had no trouble with new shoots as I live at the edge of the invasive area.
My own Mimosa came from the back yard of a dear, departed friend. Due to the sentimental attachment, and the fact that it draws butterflies and hummingbirds, I will keep my Mimosa for all of its short life. The scent of it in bloom is heavenly!
© 2015 Dolores Monet