Plant Thugs


When you see certain words, run the other direction as they generally indicate you are looking at a plant thug. Those are the plants that look good at first but threaten your sanity in a year or two. You can find these at garden centers all over. The plant might be ornamental but is very invasive. It could spread in your bed, into your lawn (and your neighbor’s) or even into the wild, crowding out desirable native plants.

Establishes quickly—in two weeks it will be three feet across

Spreading—will attack you while you’re sleeping

Invasive—comes with its own artillery

Easy to grow—and keep on growing

Ground cover—covers and smothers expensive plants

Hardy—requires a personal nuclear device to eradicate

Before you begin choosing your ornamental perennials, check to see how invasive they are. You can even google “how to get rid of___” to see how much work they would require eradicating! Here are a few that should come with a warning and a shovel.

Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’) A beautiful, edible, tri-colored leaved plant that will quickly take over a yard.

Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum) also called Bishop’s weed. A beautiful green and white ground cover that never stays within bounds.

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) A huge plant that can take over the world! It can even come up through asphalt.

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) A sweetly perfumed plant with tiny bells which is nearly impossible to keep from spreading everywhere. It is also highly toxic.

Mint (Mentha spp.) and all its dozens of species including Lemon Balm. One plant can overgrow your garden and even escape a pot.

Moneywort or Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) This is a creeping groundcover often used as a trailing plant in pots can escape and root at every node moving into the whole bed and lawn.

Loosestrife (Lysimachia punctate and L. clethroides) Beautiful flowers, but very invasive. Many have invaded the wilds.

Chinese Lantern (Physalis) Gorgeous orange seed heads dominate these plants which can spread by both seed and underground runners.

Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinacea picta) This has been spreading since the Victorian age. There are many other grass species that spread rapidly. Enough said!

Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) An edible herb flavored somewhat like vanilla. It may behave for a while, but eventually explodes to smother anything in its path.

Yes, you can find any of these for sale. But once you invite these bullies in your garden, you will probably spend years regretting it. You can dig, sift, smother, spray, cut and still find them returning. So as pretty as they may be, think carefully about your choices.