Gardening Blog

Buyer Beware: 7 Invasive Plants Commonly Found at Garden Centers

Garden centers and nurseries across the country commonly sell a number of known invasive species to unwitting customers. These plants are taken home and planted in the garden or yard, and before you know it, their unstoppable spread has taken over your property.

Invasive plants are the main cause of the decline in endangered and threatened species in the U.S. They grow quickly and spread easily, they compete for soil nutrients and eventually choke out native plants. On a more personal level, they’ll coat your entire property, killing your favorite trees and scaling the sides of your house before you even know what hit you.

7 invasive plants to avoid

1. Purple Loosestrife

purple loostrife

Photo via Creative Commons/Liz West

This perennial produces beautiful purple flowers all summer long and is available at most garden centers, even though it is quick to take over any area in which it is planted. If you’re trying to get rid of this feisty invasive, cut the plant down to the soil line instead of digging it up or pulling it out.

2. Japanese Barberry

Barberry

Photo via Creative Commons/Natureserve

This woody shrub is quickly becoming a problem plant all across the U.S. This adaptable species can grow in sun or shade and virtually any soil type. Barberry is usually purchased at home and garden centers as a decorative shrub because of its vibrant fall foliage. The spread of this plant is causing threats to native understory plants.

3. Norway Maple

Norway Maple

Photo via Creative Commons/Liz West

This less popular cousin of the beautiful sugar and red maples has been planted all over cities and towns as a decorative species. It can still be purchased in many plant nurseries even though it’s known to be very prolific and fast growing. One tree can produce hundreds of saplings in just a year. Plant this bad boy in your yard and you’ll be pulling up tiny trees for the rest of your life.

4. English Ivy

English Ivy

Photo via Creative Commons/Aaron Gustafson

This plant can be grown as ground cover or vines. It’s commonly sold in nurseries because it’s attractive and will grow in a wide variety of soil and sun. If it’s left alone, English Ivy will quickly take over your lawn, climb and choke your trees, and even cover your house. Save yourself the headache and leave this one at the garden center.

5. Wisteria

Wisteria

Photo via Creative Commons/Eddy Van

This gorgeous decorative plant blooms with beautiful purple flowers, making it a popular choice for landscaping. Its ability to grow quickly in almost any conditions qualify it for an invasive plant. Wisteria can be planted with success if it’s properly handled. If you do decide to add Wisteria to your property, take care to properly maintain it so it doesn’t take over.

6. Bamboo

Bamboo

Photo via Creative Commons/Moyen Bren

Bamboo might seem like a great way to grow a quick hedge for privacy, but it’s also a great way to thoroughly upset your neighbors. Bamboo spreads with abandon and has no consideration for boundaries, climbing over sidewalks and under fences to take over properties in just one season.

7. Japanese Honeysuckle

Japanese honeysuckle

Photo via Creative Commons/Joel

Honeysuckle can be used as a ground cover or a climbing vine. It grows rapidly and is extremely difficult to control, classifying it as a noxious weed in many states. Don’t purchase this plant unless you want to fight it tooth and nail for eternity.

What to do about invasive plants on your property

Don’t buy them, don’t plant them

They may be pretty, but don’t plant these invasive plant species in your yard unless you want it to be quickly overtaken. Garden centers and nurseries continue to supply these plants because customers continue to buy them. Purchasing and planting invasive plants on your property will not only cause you a big headache in the future, they can spread to outlying areas and cause severe destruction of the landscape. Just say “no.”

How to remove invasive plants

If you happen to have these plants already growing on your property, there are two options: destroy them or maintain them. Some of these plants can grow several feet in just a few days, making them difficult to control. If you really enjoy their beauty, take the time to prune or cut back frequently so they don’t take over the property.

Most invasive plants can be destroyed by hand pulling and throwing away the plants. Don’t put them in the compost or the problem will perpetuate itself. Some invasive species need to be cut down instead of pulled, as disruption to the roots will actually cause more spread. Be sure to do your research on each invasive plant before removing them.

You might also enjoy our post on planting bluebells.

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18 Comments

sandy

This is wonderful I am alone and stay to myself. Thank you.

Reply
Barb

I think it’s important to note that there are regional differences in the invasiveness of any plant. I’ve tried Norway Maple twice in my Wyoming yard and both have died. I’ve never seen a rogue Norway Maple out here. Keeping any tree alive is a challenge. Ivy is very unlikely to reproduce outside of irrigated gardens in this part of the country. It’s just too dry. And I’ve seen plants considered scourges here grown as specimens in public arboretums in wetter climates, where they are apparently quite well behaved. So please, don’t paint the entire country with the same brush when it comes to invasive plants.

Reply
Marsha

We’ve grown English Ivy on the blank wall by entry on two homes. During the summer, we’d spend 5 minutes a week cutting back small tendrils to keep it in check. The people who bought the house from us didn’t bother to cut it back and it has taken over a good portion of the roof. They obviously lack common sense.
Not much you can do with a 6 inch wide flower bed, so we did it on this house. Again, 5 minutes a week to maintain it. The vines give the brick a beautiful texture in the Winter.

Reply
Lisa

We are in the Northern California Central area. In our area, Ivy can grow several feet in just a couple of days. Other plants I’ve seen invade and do damage are Liquidambar trees, Blackberry bushes, Trumpet vines, Honeysuckle and Pampas grass. I saw someone plant Wisteria to where it covered a tall Evergreen tree. It was gorgeous in the spring until the Wisteria killed the Evergreen. Yet, my sister’s Wisteria is entirely under control.

Reply
Denise

I realise now that your website and comments are regarding the USA. Here is the UK some of these plants are not invasive. We garden on what was previously a clay field and have planted Purple Loosestrife in various places, as it is so pretty. It doesn’t flower here all summer and in our garden has never spread – I would be very happy if it did! Interesting to hear about US gardens and plants. 🙂

Reply
Jude Biscoe

And Acanthus! A wonderful plant but boy does it spread. Creeps under ground and comes up everywhere even between paving stones! Very hard to dig out and I have seen it at garden centres priced quite highly!

Reply
Karen

I’m pretty sure that Norway Maple picture is not of a Norway maple. I think it’s a red or sugar maple. Noway maple seeds aren’t so angled, like a V, but more straight across. (They’re also much larger, but I concede this might be an immature photo).

Reply
Lisa Casler

You can get bamboo that is clumping and doesn’t spread and run. I also have Wisteria growing as a privacy fence, stays well mannered and just prune it back in spring.
We have a problem with red maple seedlings in our yard. Every late spring it looks like a mini maple farm with all the seedlings everywhere that we have to pull or mow down. Their not suppose to be invasive but they are here. The one Norway Maple we have doesn’t have the seedling problem like the 2 red’s do and the sugars behave very well.

Like others have said, what is invasive in one area isn’t in another, it all depends on the climate and spoil where you live.

Reply
Patricia

like so many have said, you need to write about specific areas. They are not all the same and the invasive plants in south Florida are not the same as elsewhere

Reply
Tamara

And vinca!

Reply
Patricia Conrad

InMA. Norway maples are invasive. Loosestrife takes over the wetlands, English ivy is taking over though it was planted with good intentions. We also are taken over by the beautiful but invasive ” burning bush”. I must agree with all the notes here in Massachusetts

Reply
truckinmann

I fully expected to see Lily of the Valley and Cocks Combs on here. My grandmother planted one Lily of the Valley plant behind her house back in about 1975 and when she passed in the mid nineties they completely encircled her house and stuck out from the wall from three to five feet, depending on sunlight. She loved them. My wife bought a couple of Cocks Comb plants about four years ago. They have now taken over about a quarter of the front yard, though they are a brilliant red color and they last through the summer months. Keeping them in check isn’t easy. Another that might be added to the list is Red Clover, which some farmers use as a crop for feed and selling to the herbal remedy industry, as well as using it for honey bee farming, which does provide a delicious honey. This stuff has spread like wild fire across much of the country, though it’s not really something you’d buy at a flower store, but it is an invasive species.

Reply
Vicki

here in KY leave the Virginia winter creeper at the nursery along with the bush honeysuckle and burning bushes, also the camillian grass should be illegal!

Reply
Karen

Totally agree with Vicki in Ky. I have Virginia Creeper that took up here at my house here in Ala. I spend hours every spring pulling out the stuff. It runs along the ground and roots where ever it wants. A pest of the worst sort. A pain in my flower beds.

Reply
Jen L Dawe

Aegopodium podagraria….also known as ground elder, herb gerard, bishop’s weed, goutweed, and snow-in-the-mountain!
My gawd….this stuff is just horrible!!!! It grows everywhere if anyone plants it near your garden.
I have been in my house for 10 years, and I still can’t get it out of my gardens and lawn!

Reply
Mark

Maybe a part of the article could/should have related to education or lack of it on garden center staff and Jo public, on the nature, habit and suitability of the plants in question. Every plant has a place it is only us that decide to put it in a place that is not suitable. EDUCATION and clear labeling required not scaremongering.

Reply
Lisa

The same thought crossed my mind. The reason the plants become invasive is because where they take root is simply a healthy location for them. Not the fault of the plants, although we have had to fix some damage from, shall we say, happy plants. 🙂

Reply
Taylor Bishop

Thanks for helping me learn more about invasive plants. I actually didn’t know that bamboo falls under this category, and that it can climb over sidewalks. I’m interested to learn if there are methods to contain these plants or if they should be avoided all together.

Reply

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