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Invasives in the Garden - Things I'm Sorry I Planted

Updated on August 10, 2017
Dolores Monet profile image

An avid gardener for over 40 years, Dolores has landscaped for private clients and maintained one client's small orchid collection.

English Ivy

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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 neighbors 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.

English Ivy

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 uo 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

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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

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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

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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!

Creeping Jenny

There is some ground ivy mixed it.
There is some ground ivy mixed it. | Source

Creeping Jenny

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.

Wood Poppy

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.

Wood Poppy

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Bamboo

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.

Bamboo

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Wisteria

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.

Wisteria

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This Wisteria has been pruned into a tree form
This Wisteria has been pruned into a tree form | Source

Mimosa Tree - Albizia julibrissin

Introduced to the USA in the mid 1700's, 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 lie 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!

Mimosa

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© 2015 Dolores Monet

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    • Dolores Monet profile image
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      Dolores Monet 7 months ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Amy - the problem with invasive plants has more to do with the environment than our own convenience. Invasive plants are those that will move into natural areas and threaten native species. Birds and pollinating insects depend on native plants. When those food plants are crowded out by invasives, local wildlife and pollinators are without food supplies. When thinking of the trouble with invasive plants, think of kudzu in the South, a plant that has covered huge swaths of land.

    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 7 months ago from West Kootenays

      I really enjoyed this article and the photos were great. I'm sharing it.

      I'm kind of the opposite, though, and I'll explain. I have purposely planted invasive plants because I live on two acres and wanted to reduce my mowing. And it has truly helped. By planting huge, fast-growing bushes as hedging (so that an unmowed field is hidden), this has offered a natural solution. As well, in other areas, I've encouraged invasive flowers, such as mallows and phlox. Not only does it look gorgeous when they bloom, but it saves me having to mow for quite a spell.

    • Dolores Monet profile image
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      Dolores Monet 20 months ago from East Coast, United States

      Peggy W - Hi Peggy, the thing that can be confusing for people is that a plant may be invasive in one area but not in another. And native plants can be invasive as well. We need to learn problem plants in our own areas. I know what you mean about the wisteria, it can take over like crazy. Thanks!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 20 months ago from America

      I can't get any of the plants you mentioned to grow in my yard. I do have Snow On The Mountain, it just takes over. I'm always pulling it out. In some places, it looks great and I like it. When it gets in the flowers it's terrible.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 20 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Just the other day as we were driving we saw wisteria that had totally taken over an area climbing up trees, a telephone poll and elsewhere. Like you, I admire bamboo elsewhere but would never consider planting it. I got rid of our foxtail ferns because of what they do underground choking out nearby plants. I even wrote about it to warn others. There are so many invasive plants! One must be careful when planting things. Good article. Will share and pin to my gardening board.

    • Dolores Monet profile image
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      Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Glenis Rix - I've pulled ivy off my house, yanked it off an oak tree, and dug it up from the bottom of a fence. It's a constant war. But don't get me wrong about Wisteria. I love it and think that it's beautiful. It's just that in certain areas, it can become an invasive pest. Thanks for commenting!

    • Glenis Rix profile image

      GlenR 2 years ago from UK

      I agree that Ivy is a nuisance! It creeps into the mortar of brickwork and makes it crumble. Then the house needs to be repointed. I grew it up a fence and it was a total pain trying to get rid of the brown bits that cling on so tenaciously. Now I sometimes plant it in winter hanging baskets or pots. Another plant that is currently spreading all over my borders is cranesbill geranium.It was very pretty for a few seasons but now I'm about to dig it out. Sorry you don't like wisteria - it's so pretty and looks lovely on your pic of a pergola.

    • Dolores Monet profile image
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      Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

      tillsontitan - haha, bananas - I grow banana plants too! There are so many plants that become trouble makers in certain areas that it surprises me when they are sold in those areas. Thank you! I thought my BES's were long gone but this year, they are popping up everywhere. I am not familiar with Spiderwort.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      Sometimes I thought I was the only one to introduce a plant to my garden that just went bananas! I now have Black Eyed Susan everywhere!

      Can I add to your list Spiderwort? This plant has roots like the bamboo, they go on forever!

      This is a great hub and every gardener should read it to watch out for the pitfalls no one warns you about when you buy the plants.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared.

    • Dolores Monet profile image
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      Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

      billybuc - oh we all have invaders. In your area, you have Canada thistle, bull thistle, purple loosestrife, and common St. John'swort to worry about! Thanks!

      rebeccamealey - oh dear! I have 2 nandinas. I must check to see if they are invasive here!

      IzzyM - of course the trouble makers vary depending on where you live. One should consult or recall invasive lists when purchasing new plants. Foxglove being invasive in many areas seems so wrong. They are so pretty! But pretty doesn't mean a plant is not a trouble maker! Thank you!

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 2 years ago from UK

      Read recently that ticks are present in higher number in bracken, a particularly common type of fern, and one which is native to this area.

      Bracken is generally considered to be invasive, wherever it grows.

      It is also invasive in gardens. You tolerate one or two plants because they look majestic, but next thing you know you have 14, then 22...

      Relationship between invasive native plants and ticks?

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 2 years ago from UK

      Interesting topic and something we should all consider reporting on.

      Have just moved house, same town, and have been able to apply the knowledge learned through previous house about invasive plants locally.

      Have a huge job ahead of me to rid the garden here of the worse perpetrators which include foxglove, New Zealand Broadleaf, Ash and Pampas grass, among others.

      We could all make lists up, describing region, climate and local soil conditions. That would make an incredible reference library!

      Invasive plants are only invasive if their climactic conditions are met, perfectly.

      Some of the plants you describe as invasive in your area, I struggle to grow here, else they make excellent specimen plants and show none of the "take over the world" characteristics that make them so undesirable.

      Many of the plants I identify as invasive, are openly sold at market to gullible new gardeners.

      New Zealand seems to be a pretty good benchmark. They have a register of invasive plants that pretty well sits with what I see in Scotland, thousands of miles away. Must be a similar climate.