There are many invasive plants I love, and I’ve learned over the years that the key is to plant them in a way that you can keep them within bounds. If you’re looking to fill in a huge space fast, they’ll give you exactly what you need. But they will take over your garden if you’re not careful.
Of course, invasive plants can also be beautiful, so as always in the garden, it’s a matter of choosing your battles! To see a couple of long lists of invasive plant species, scroll down. In the meantime…
Here are the pros and cons of 5 common invasive plants:
- PROS: English ivy grows in all light conditions, from full sun to full shade, with absolutely no watering or fertilizing needed. The leaves are a pretty shade of glossy, dark green.
- CONS: It grows up anything it touches, clinging to it with what can become massive roots. Ivy is terrible for trees, so you will need to prune around the base of them to make sure it doesn’t grow up them.
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Hedera helix
- PROS: Creeping Jenny has beautiful chartreuse color, soft leaves that are pretty to look at, but can withstand light foot traffic. I’ve planted this and it filled in half my backyard in a few years. In the twilight, it glows.
- CONS: It spreads its roots underground and its leaves will put down roots wherever they touch dirt. That means it’s hard to get rid of once you get it in. If you leave even part of the roots in the ground, it will spring forth the following spring.
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lysimachia nummularia
Lady Banks Rose
- PROS: Lady Banks Rose produces beautiful, scent-less sprays of pale yellow, pink, or creamy white flowers for about a week each spring. It’s one of the few evergreen roses, so you can enjoy the delicate, small leaves year-round.
- CONS: They don’t rebloom, yet the stems spread in all directions. Expect to get up on a ladder to prune what can become 15-foot-long stems.
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’
- PROS: Daylilies offer gorgeous blooms all summer long, in all different colors! These are no-maintenance plants. You just bury the tubers and you’re good to go. C
- CONS: Boy, do they self-propagate! If you plant five one year, you’ll have ten or fifteen the next. Plus, they can grow roots even from a small, chipped piece of a tuberous root. So, if you don’t dig them up all the way, they’ll come back.
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Hemerocallis species
- PROS: Periwinkle has pretty, dark green leaves that are a lighter shade when new. They spread quickly over the ground and don’t grow up things, plus they thrive even in full shade. This is one of the best ground covers for no-maintenance conditions. They flower for a few weeks in early spring, with blooms in shades of blue, purple, or white.
- CONS: They will keep growing and growing out unless you dig it up.
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Vinca minor
Here are more invasive plants you should consider carefully before planting:
Sometimes state governments will actually ban the sale of some plants because of their invasiveness. For example, here a list of prohibited plants in Maine.
- Acer ginnala (amur maple)
- Acer platanoides (Norway maple)
- Aegopodium podagraria (bishop’s weed)
- Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)
- Alliaria petiolate (garlic mustard)
- Amorpha fruticosa (false indigo bush)
- Ampelopsis glandulosa (porcelain berry)
- Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
- Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
- Berberis vulgaris (common barberry)
- Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
- Elaeagnus umbellata (Autumn olive)
- Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus)
- Euphorbia cyparissas (cypress spurge)
- Fallopia baldschuanica (Chinese bindweed)
- Fallopia japonica (Japanese knotweed)
- Frangula alnus (glossy buckthorn)
- Hesperis matronalis (dame’s rocket)
- Impatiens glandulifera (ornamental jewelweed)
- Iris pseudacorus (yellow iris)
- Ligustrum vulgare (common privet)
- Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
- Lonicera maackii (amur or bush honeysuckle)
- Lonicera morrowii (Morrow’s honeysuckle)
- Lonicera tatarica (Tatarian honeysuckle)
- Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife)
- Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
- Paulownia tomentosa (paulownia, princess tree)
- Persicaria perfoliata (mile-a-minute)
- Phellodendron amurense (amur cork tree)
- Populus alba (white cottonwood)
- Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)
- Rosa multiflora Multiflora Rose
One factor that makes plants more likely to become invasive is their ability to self-fertilize.
It’s interesting to compare the Maine list to the list of prohibited invasive terrestial plants in New York:
- Acer pseudoplatanus Sycamore Maple
- Achyranthes japonica Japanese Chaff Flower
- Alliaria petiolata Garlic Mustard
- Ampelopsis brevipedunculata Porcelain Berry
- Anthriscus sylvestris Wild Chervil
- Aralia elata Japanese Angelica Tree
- Artemisia vulgaris Mugwort
- Arthraxon hispidus Small Carpetgrass
- Berberis thunbergii Japanese Barberry
- Brachypodium sylvaticum Slender False Brome
- Cardamine impatiens Narrowleaf Bittercress
- Celastrus orbiculatus Oriental Bittersweet
- Centaurea stoebe (C. biebersteinii, C. diffusa, C. maculosa misapplied, C. xpsammogena) Spotted Knapweed
- Cirsium arvense (C. setosum, C. incanum, Serratula arvensis) Canada Thistle
- Cynanchum louiseae (C. nigrum, Vincetoxicum nigrum) Black Swallow-wort
- Cynanchum rossicum (C. medium, Vincetoxicum medium, V. rossicum) Pale Swallow-wort
- Dioscorea polystachya (D. batatas) Chinese Yam
- Dipsacus laciniatus Cut-leaf Teasel
- Elaeagnus umbellata Autumn Olive
- Euphorbia cyparissias Cypress Spurge
- Euphorbia esula Leafy Spurge
- Ficaria verna (Ranunculus ficaria) Lesser Celandine
- Heracleum mantegazzianum Giant Hogweed
- Humulus japonicus Japanese Hops
- Imperata cylindrica (I. arundinacea, Lagurus cylindricus) Cogon Grass
- Lepidium latifolium Broad-leaved Pepper-grass
- Lespedeza cuneata Chinese Lespedeza
- Ligustrum obtusifolium Border Privet
- Lonicera japonica Japanese Honeysuckle
- Lonicera maackii Amur Honeysuckle
- Lonicera morrowii Morrow’s Honeysuckle
- Lonicera tatarica Tartarian Honeysuckle
- Lonicera x bella Fly Honeysuckle
- Lysimachia vulgaris Garden Loosestrife
- Microstegium vimineum Japanese Stilt Grass
- Oplismenus hirtellus Wavyleaf Basketgrass
- Persicaria perfoliata (Polygonum perfoliatum) Mile-a-minute Weed
- Phellodendron amurense Amur Cork Tree
- Phyllostachys aurea Golden Bamboo
- Phyllostachys aureosulcata Yellow Groove Bamboo
- Pueraria montana Kudzu
- Reynoutria japonica (Fallopia japonica, Polygonum cuspidatum) Japanese Knotweed
- Reynoutria sachalinensis (Fallopia sachalinensis, Polygonum sachalinensis) Giant Knotweed
- Reynoutria x bohemica (Fallopia x bohemica, Polygonum x bohemica) Bohemian Knotweed
- Rhamnus cathartica Common Buckthorn
- Rosa multiflora Multiflora Rose
- Rubus phoenicolasius Wineberry
- Salix atrocinerea Gray Florist’s Willow
- Silphium perfoliatum Cup-plant
- Vitex rotundifolia Beach Vitex
And to compare it to the list of prohibited invasive plants in Florida.
To find out more about invasive species:
Check out the website of the United States Department of Agriculture. They have a very long list of all the plants that will invade your space if you let them! If you live here in the southern part of the U.S., check out the invasive plants list for the 13 southern states.