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Potting

INVASIVE PLANTS TO AVOID

By Therese Ciesinski, GardenSMART

You’re wandering the aisles at the garden center, looking for a problem-solving plant to add to your landscape. Maybe you need to cover a stretch of bare soil. Or you have a new arbor and want a flowering vine, or want to add a shrub with good fall color to the front yard.

While lots of plants sold at garden centers and nurseries can fill those requirements, unfortunately some of the most popular are actually invasive in the United States. It may be hard to believe that invasive plants are sold at garden centers, but they are, all over the country. And the reason is that they are well-known plants and customers ask for them.

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These plants became popular in the U.S. because they were pretty or useful in some way. Most are from Asia and Europe, where the climate or natural predators – either insects or diseases – keeps them in check. Without those same limitations here, the plants spread, and spread, and spread.

While some nurseries might say the plants they sell have been bred to be sterile, and therefore won’t reproduce, in many cases follow-up studies have proven otherwise.

And they do a lot of damage. Invasive plants crowd and shade out native plants, depriving animals, birds, and insects of food sources. Many are water- and nutrient hogs, leaving little for surrounding plants. Some, like cogon grass, can even be fire hazards.

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Here, in alphabetical order, are 10 of the most invasive ornamental plants still sold at garden centers around the country.

 1.    Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry), shrub

 2.    Buddleia (butterfly bush), shrub

 3.    Euonymus alatus (winged burning bush), shrub

 4.   Hedera helix (English ivy), vine

 5.   Imperata cylindrica (cogon grass), grass

 6.   Ligustrum sinense (Chinese privet), shrub

 7.   Nandina domestica (nandina or sacred bamboo), shrub

 8.   Phyllostachys spp. (bamboo), grass

 9.   Vinca minor (common periwinkle or vinca), vine

 10.   Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria), vine

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Some of these plants are invasive only in certain parts of the country and not in other areas. But just because a plant isn’t invasive in your state right now doesn’t mean that’s a green light to go ahead and plant it. You could be helping an invasive plant establish in your area and become a problem in the future.

States have even banned the sale or cultivation of many of these plants and have “Do Not Sell” plant lists. You can find this information on your state’s department of conservation and natural resources website. Invasive.org has more information to help you determine which plants are invasive where you live.

And if you already have these plants in your landscape, seriously consider pulling them out and replacing them with native or non-invasive alternatives.


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