Invasive Plants You Should NOT Buy

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Robert Pavlis

You are at the nursery and have found a nice looking plant. Is it safe to bring home? Your friend has some extra plants and offers to give you some – should you take them? In both cases you can get into a lot of trouble by taking the plant home.

This is a list of invasive plants you should never, never, never add to your garden–unless you want them everywhere.

Nurseries should be restricted from selling them to unsuspecting customers.

What is an Invasive Plant?

An invasive plant has two common characteristics. It spreads fairly quickly either by seeds or a running root system. Secondly, the root system is near impossible to remove. Any small bit of root left in the soil will grow again.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does contain some of the worst of the worst. I have struggled with almost all of them.

Microbe Science for Gardeners Book, by Robert Pavlis

As one of the commenters below points out, invasiveness is regional. Something that may be invasive in zone 5 may not grow in zone 8, for all kinds of environmental reasons. This list of plants is invasive in zone 5, Ontario, in clay-type soil, and probably most of Northeastern North America.

 Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria)

Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria)
Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria)

 Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)  

Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)

 Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata)

Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata)
Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata)

 Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinacea)

Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinacea)
Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinacea)

Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Mint (Metha species)

Mint (Metha species)
Mint (Metha species)

 Sedum acre

Sedum acre
Sedum acre

 Lyme Grass (Leymus arenarius)

Lyme Grass (Leymus arenarius)
Lyme Grass (Leymus arenarius)

 Running Bamboo

Running Bamboo
Running Bamboo

 Bell Flower (Campanula punctata)

Bell Flower (Campanula punctata)
Bell Flower (Campanula punctata)

 References:

1) Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) Photo: Funki Sock Munki

2) Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis) Photo: yamaken

3) Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata) Photo: Sunchild57 Photography.

4) Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinacea) Photo: Learn to Grow

5) Periwinkle (Vinca minor) Photo: Patrick Standish

6) Mint (Metha species) Photo: Kham Tran

7) Sedum acre Photo: Sólveig Zophoníasdóttir

8) Lyme Grass (Leymus arenarius)Photo: Thompson & Morgan

9) Running Bamboo Photo: Heather Bailey

10) Bell Flower (Campanula punctata) Photo: Qwen Wan

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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

42 thoughts on “Invasive Plants You Should NOT Buy”

  1. I live on a farm in southeast Missouri and our invasive problems here include perilla mint, morning glory, callery pear, Canada thistle, Johnson grass, coastal Bermuda grass, cress leaf groundsel, multiflora rose, and poison hemlock. Our beekeeper has found a way to deal with callery pear. Whenever he finds one growing on any of his beehive areas, he cuts it in late winter and grafts onto it a limb from a fruiting pear which are not invasive and provide bees with flowers in spring as well as a few decaying fruits left on the ground in late summer. My grandfather followed the advice of the county extension office in the 1950s to plant multiflora rose as natural fences. We’re still grubbing them out today. Ditto with recommendations to plant Johnson grass for hay, and coastal Bermuda grass for lawns. The hemlock, groundsel, and perilla have only appeared in the past few years, but are insidious and all are toxic to our cattle.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for posting these plants. It is unbelievable how many people are clueless to what are non-native and therefore invasive species. Natural habitats are being destroyed by monocultures, insect populations are crashing, co2 is sky rocketing, and people can only think about themselves…”why are you taking my flowers away?” The real question is why do those selfish people think it is ok to contribute to the decline of our planet?

    Reply
  3. You really need to check your facts before publishing. With the exception of the Phalarais, NONE of the plants you list are considered ‘invasive’ in Oregon. And Oregon has one of the most detailed and comprehensive invasive plant listings in the country!!
    And there is a huge difference between an aggressive spreader and a true invasive. What you have listed are only aggressive spreaders or self-seeders and not true invasive species. In most cases, they rarely spread beyond the garden’s borders. True invasives by definition are non-native species that have the ability to take over natural areas and out-compete native plants. And this will be highly location dependent….what is invasive in one area of the country is not necessarily invasive anywhere else.

    Reply
    • You are correct. I did use the term invasive incorrectly, but it is the term most gardeners use for this type of plant.

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      • Odd for a blog extolling the virtues of fact and dispelling myths does exactly the opposite by conflating terminology with the excuse that that’s how most interpret the word invasive. Its not, and you should not be contributing to the problem or confusion. I have most of the plant you list, yes they can spread but they are not taking over my property or my neighbours. Not by a long shot. My current battle is with soap wort.

        Reply
  4. None of these plants are invasive in zone 8B, Portland Oregon .I’ve tried all of them. Nothing made it in my shady garden except the Bamboo I planted 30 years ago and it’s a small clump near the neighbor’s yard and hasn’t even spread into his yard. I have some varigated periwinkle in a large container and that is still alive. So don’t tell people not to grow plants that you are too lucky with. I wish I had your problem. I have clay soil …. ferns are happy here.. .thank God. Everything else I manage to keep alive in pots. I will admit ivy is a problem but they don’t sell it in our stores here anymore. Those other plants you mentioned are beautiful.

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    • Most of the plants on the list are invasive in Oregan. Just because they did not grow for you does not mean they are not invasive in other places.

      Reply
    • There are different types of bamboo. Sounds like you have a clumping bamboo that does not spread as running bamboo does. Running bamboo spreads but can be contained with a rhizome barrier and pruning trench around the grove and will only need maintenance a 3-4 times a year to cut any rhizomes that may possibly escape through the barrier. With this setup you can enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of bamboo without it taking over your property. My son has a bamboo nursery in North Carolina

      Reply
  5. Yucca, Trumpet Vine, and wild blackberry is my battle of the day. I will say that the yucca and trumpet vines were sort of in check until I went to eradicate them. Maybe I should have just let them be.

    Reply

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