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.

Plant Science for Gardeners 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!

44 thoughts on “Invasive Plants You Should NOT Buy”

  1. I’m in Western NY (now USDA zone 6a) and my biggest struggles have been with Vinca and a Polygonum knotweed sometimes called “Mexican bamboo”. This year I’m adding goldenrod and asters to the list- yes they are saintly natives, but give them an inch, they take a mile.

    I understand that running bamboos have been a problem, but it sounds like that problem always starts with neglect. They should only be planted where they can be kept within bounds by mowing.

    There is a lot of ignorance about bamboo- locals still call knotweed “bamboo”! Also, people who should know better conflate running and clumping bamboos. The tangled tale of bamboo would be an excellent myth to investigate.

    Reply
    • Japanese knotweed plant looks like bamboo (and is sometimes referred to as American bamboo, Japanese bamboo, or Mexican bamboo), it is not a bamboo.
      Interesting idea for a post.

      Reply
  2. 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
  3. 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

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