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Invasive Garden Plants

Diana was a Member of the Royal Horticultural Society. She & her family all love gardening. She enjoys photographing & painting plants too.

Plants Which are Attractive but Spread Rampantly to Take Over Your Garden

I first came across the phenomenon of invasive plants many years ago when I inherited a garden which had very little in it except snow-in-summer and grass in the back garden, and heuchera (London pride), a dog rose and grass in the front garden.

All attractive plants, thought I, but the garden looked a little empty and needed more variety.

In the end, I had to dig out all the snow-in-summer, as it spread all over my rockery. I left the rose bush to flourish as I couldn't bear to cut it down, and I wish I hadn't cut the heuchera back so vigorously, as it barely recovered and was not in fact at all invasive.

A Word of Advice:

Of course, it's important to remember that just because you have invasive plants - rampant growers - it doesn't mean that you need to ban them from your garden design. Just keep an eye on them, and control them, cutting back, uprooting, clipping, and whatever is appropriate to stop them taking over. Many invasive plants are very beautiful, but you need to let them know that you're the master.

Amazingly, Sixty Years After I Took Over My Garden, I Still Have the Same Heuchera I Described in My Introduction Above

These particular plants were not in fact invasive, but just vigorous growers in the right conditions, and they certainly have strength and fortitude.

I bought a few rockery plants over the next year or two, and the rockery looked quite appealing. The white flowers of snow-in-summer bloomed from about April to June, and the small fluffy textured silver-grey leaves were the perfect foil, even if the whole lot did look a bit straggly in summer. Gradually the innocuous-looking plants carpeted the whole rockery and the other rockery plants were subsumed and, one by one, disappeared. I was reluctant to cut them back because they were so beautiful. I would pull out bits here and there, and leave the rest. But in the end I dug the whole lot out...and then I was sorry.

Heuchera (London Pride) Is a Very Hardy Perennial But NOT Invasive

1. Snow-in-Summer

Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium) is Also Known as Mouse-Ear Chickweed, or Silver Carpet - Above is a Close-up Showing the Dainty White Flowers and Silvery Grey Leaves

This is a Perennial which tolerates drought and will grow in dry to moist soils. It prefers well-drained, loamy or sandy soil and requires full sun. It is grown as ground cover with a height of 6-8".It bears masses of small white flowers which bloom in early summer, May and June, above the dense mat of silvery grey foliage.

Trim plant back after flowering to keep it neat and compact.

2. Montbretia - Biological Name Crocosmia

Montbretia (Crocosmia)

Montbretia (Crocosmia)

The Flowers of Montbretia Grow in Delicate Racemes of Rich Golden Orange or Flame Colour

These are deciduous perennials which flower on an arched spike from early summer until autumn. This long-flowering season and satisfying flame colours makes them good value in my eyes, regardless of their bad behaviour. The long leaves are very attractive in spring, but after flowering they flatten and die back and can make the flower border look a bit of a mess if not cut back. They grow from basal underground corms . The corms are unusual in forming vertical chains with the youngest at the top and oldest and largest buried most deeply in the soil. The roots of the lowermost corm in a chain are contractile roots and drag the corm deeper into the ground where conditions allow. The chains of corms are easily separated, which enables them to become invasive and difficult to control in the garden.

Although they are natives of South Africa, Crocosmia are still winter-hardy in more temperate regions and flourish in full sun or partial shade

They are easy to propagate by division, removing offsets from the corm in spring: each corm will grow into a separate plant and they need to be planted in clumps.

They grow to about 1 - 2 ft high.

3. Euphorbia

There Are Many Varieties of Euphorbia, Some Invasive Growers, Some Not so Rampant

The buds start showing above ground in early spring, and gradually unfurl to show delicate yellowy green flowers with slightly darker yellow-green leaves which last through spring, summer and autumn - is that good value or what?. These perennials spread slowly, over a number of years, so you may not immediately notice the take-over. Just keep them under control, grubbing out the surplus, and you will have valuable plants, about 8 - 12 inches high which are very attractive and because of their modest colouring, they are a good foil to other plants.

4. Periwinkle - Vinca Minor

Periwinkle With Small Flowers is Called Vinca Minor, and the Larger Variety is Called Vinca Major

Evergreen low-growing perennials which flourish in sun or shade, even under trees, so they are particularly good ground-cover. They have appealing mauve flowers in spring, and then sporadically throughout summer and autumn. In drought conditions be sure to water them. They spread by a network of small roots which grow out of the stems as they creep along the ground. They are about 3 - 6 inches high.

Take care, because they are very invasive if they like their position, and win any battle where they are in competition with other plants. They are so lovely, with their shiny dark green leaves and little flowers winking at you, that I always feel reluctant to dig them out and cut them back, but you don't want a whole garden with nothing but periwinkle in it, do you?

Just be strict, make a decision where you want them, and don't let them spread beyond that.

5. Weigelia

Weigelia Is a Large Shrub, Reaching About 10 Feet High

Weigelia is a deciduous shrub. It flowers for a short time in spring and then does nothing much for the rest of the year except that it looks quite pleasant and green.

I grew one plant at the back of my garden, and it spread so much that it now occupies an area of about 50 square feet in the golf course just beyond my back garden, and still spreading, so I cut it back every year. But still worth keeping.

6. Anemone Japonica

Anemone Japonica

Anemone Japonica

Anemone Japonica - One of my Favourite Flowers With Shapely Beautiful Leaves And Delicate Pink or White Flowers in Autumn

Anemone Japonica always looks good - the new leaves start to develop in mid Spring and grow into a crescendo of large ornamental leaves and heads of flowers in late summer. When they die back, the woody flower stems can be cut and removed, leaving the leaves which remain ornamental. They spread by strong underground roots and you need to make sure you have dug out completely the bits you don't want, as it doesn't take much to get them spreading again. But keep them under control and you have a magnificent perennial with a long flowering season.

7. Forget-me-Nots (Myosotis)

Forget-me-Nots Are Rampant Self-Seeders but Easy to Clear

They are useful plants because they flower from late March to late May, giving a marvellous blue and pink display of delicate blooms. They self-seed vigorously and for this reason, some gardeners call them weeds, and pull them all out. Personally I love them, and only pull out the flowered plants once they have partially seeded, so that there will be a good display the following year, knowing that they are easy to control because they have short roots and I need only keep as many or few as I want.

8. Borage

Borage - Another Beautiful but Invasive Plant Which Seeds Itself Copiously

They flower from early summer through to Autumn and the blue flowers are very attractive. Borage is actually a herb, and as it is beloved by bees, is sometimes grown as a companion plant to vegetables which need pollinating.

They are annuals, and self-seed prolifically, so are inclined to take over large areas of garden beds, but are easy to control by pulling them out when they are still young, before the roots have taken hold.

9. Wild Geranium

Wild Geraniums are so Beautiful That it's Tempting to Leave Them to Flower

They start to bloom in late May for a couple of months. When they finish blooming, if they are cut back they will flower vigorously again in late summer and early autumn. They do tend to spread like mad, hiding any smaller plants, and gradually swamping large areas. Cutting them back rigorously gets them to bloom again, but, in order to stop them spreading where you don't want them, you do need to dig out the roots as well as just cutting back the very pretty leaves.

RHS Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers

Take the Poll Below About Invasive Garden Plants - See How You Compare With Other Voters

Invasive garden plants can be hard work to control.

But would you really want to dig them out completely, if they bear beautiful flowers, like borage and forget-me-nots in the pictures above?

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A YouTube Video About Invasive Plants

I Watched the Video on Invasive Plants And Could Relate Strongly to it

  • I have ivy growing round the perimeter boundaries of my garden. Beautiful, but it does need a lot of cutting back.
  • I grow vinca, also known as periwinkle, as ground cover. It is a bit difficult to get rid of, and needs to be pulled out when it spreads where not wanted, but very nice if you control it.
  • My neighbours planted willow trees next to our border wall, but when I printed out and gave them various website articles about their long and deep roots, and how it would undermine our foundations and drainage, they agreed to dig it out, thank goodness.
  • My neighbours on both sides grow wisteria, but I notice they have cut them back to almost nothing, as it's no fun when they grow up the front of the house and across the windows, so that a long ladder is needed to control them. Rather sad really, as they are particularly beautiful.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Do Leave a Comment - Maybe You Can Add to the List of Plants, or Talk About Your Experiences

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 11, 2019:

Well, at least the leaves, flowers and seed heads are ornamental. The slugs made a banquet of mine.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 11, 2019:

I tend to retain more periwinkle than I should, but pull it out wherever I see it encroaching on other plants. Still it multiplies excessively.

Carolan Ross from St. Louis, MO on June 02, 2019:

Periwinkle is my most recent battle with an invasive plant. It took over a HUGE area in ONE season. I dug it out, thought so, but many are coming back. Might be good ONLY if one wants only that, nothing else. Actually a pretty little vine, but results in way too much work to get rid of it.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on June 02, 2019:

We have wild garlic! One son dug a neighbour's garden for her and disposed of the excess soil in our garden, through the compost bin. He then spread it around the garden and lo and behold, we had crops of wild garlic everywhere! It is even growing in the lawn, though regular mowing is gradually getting rid of it. I have pulled bunches of it from different parts of the garden but it's also mixed in with the bluebells which I want to keep, so I can only remove it when both are flowering to make sure I keep the bluebells and get rid of the garlic. Ironic that our local farmers' market sells wild garlic and restaurants snap it up, especially the flowers.

Chazz from New York on September 21, 2017:

Very punny!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on September 21, 2017:

I have everything covered (pun intended)!

Chazz from New York on September 10, 2017:

Thanks for linking to our Perennial plants page and for spreading (no pun intended) the word about invasive plants.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on February 19, 2014:

@OhMe: Yes. my first daffodils are out

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on February 19, 2014:

I really have Spring Fever and am so ready to see some blooms in the garden. Enjoyed this page. Thanks.

GrammieOlivia on February 18, 2014:

Great lens on some over exubirant plant material! The one I dislike with a passion is goutweed! I shy away from anything that has "weed" as part of it's name!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on July 11, 2013:

I just keep digging them up, and giving them away to neighbours and people on Freecycle, with a suitable warning about invasiveness. Do any of you use your local Freecycle? It's brilliant for giving away and receiving other people's unwanted things. Yesterday I gave away a Castor Oil Tree, some Japanese Anemones and some Crocosmia (Montbretia), and in the last month I have received a book case and some sand.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on July 10, 2013:

I have a ground cover, that is a light green with white trim. It's called snow on the mountain. I don't mind it sending runners everywhere as it looks so pretty. The ones that escape the flower bed, I just pull up and put them in an area I want to fill.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on July 02, 2013:

@RaintreeAnnie: We have heavy clay in London too - best way to break it down is to mix a bit of sharp sand in it every year. Although my garden was indeed smothered in snow-in-summer for years and I dug it up, I am now thinking of planting some more, because it is so pretty, and has such a long flowering period - what I call a "good value" plant

RaintreeAnnie from UK on July 01, 2013:

I do like snow in summer even though it is invasive, it doesn't do so well here as we have very heavy clay so its not so bad! We did have an issue with periwinkle a few years ago and in the end decided to dig most of it out leaving a tiny patch which I watch like a hawk LOL!! Love your gardening pages :)

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 15, 2013:

@Cynthia Haltom: It's hard work, isn't it!

Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on May 14, 2013:

I didn't know some of these plants were invasive. Living in Mississippi everything seems to grow and rake over the yard and the garden.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on April 21, 2013:

@SusanDeppner: Probably best to do it earlier rather than later - a stitch in time saves nine, as they say

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on April 21, 2013:

@Elsie Hagley: Yes, it's hard work. And also it really tears my heartstrings to have to dig out beautiful plants which I love! I'm just about to dig out an invasion of forget-me-nots in my vegetable patch (but I think I'll wait till most of them have flowered).

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on April 20, 2013:

Nice photos. I enjoyed wandering through your plants.

Love gardening, have just about got on top of the plants that invade my garden, but you have to keep knocking them back, if you don't they will win in the end.

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on April 20, 2013:

These invasive plants really are gorgeous. I can see how they could easily get out of control. Thanks for the warning!

'Vikk Simmons from Houston on April 20, 2013:

Lantana is a big land grabber here. Enjoyed my read.

Sue Dixon from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK on March 02, 2013:

My parents who had the house before us planted gaultheria. Flower arrangers love it, and it can be pretty, but it comes up everywhere and is so tough! Lovely lens. Blessed!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on September 09, 2012:

@MizzMary: I tried unsuccessfully for years to grow hollyhocks, but eventually they did take, growing exactly where I wanted them, in colors of my choice, and look lovely - see my Squidoo webpage called Red Hollyhocks

MizzMary on September 08, 2012:

Stray hollyhocks are popping up all down my street and they originate from one yard. This is kind of funny because the people just bought that house and the flowers have taken up their whole front yard. I'm sure they don't know what's happening. They mow them down religiously, but guess what? The hollyhocks don't give up that easily! I should go ask them I can dig them up for them and bring them on home because they are one of my top ten favorite flowers and I don't have any yet. Great lens by the way!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on September 01, 2012:

@Frischy: I hadn't heard of creeping Charlie before, so checked and found it is also known as also known as ground ivy and creeping jenny, and I do recognize the pictures.

Frischy from Kentucky, USA on August 31, 2012:

Creeping charlie, vinca, mulberry trees. I am sure there are some others, but these are the most invasive plants in my yard. They really give me headaches!

poissonenciel on March 30, 2012:

Nice! Thank you

Kevin Wilson 2 on May 08, 2011:

I have only one thing to say: Japanese Knotweed. It's in my neighbour's gardens to left, right and over the back and I fight a running battle with it every year.

Chazz from New York on May 04, 2011:

Great lens! (When we moved in, our garden had been taken over by forsythia and wild strawberries, among other invasives like burdock) Blessings. Your lens is featured on "Wing-ing it on Squidoo" - our lensography of bless-worthy lenses.

MBradley McCauley on April 20, 2011:

Added this fabulous, extra informative lens to my Pot Gardens are Easy lens. You have a fantastic lens-ability.

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on October 28, 2010:

To a certain extent, a plant's invasiveness depends upon where you live and the circumstances. I once let several dill plants go to seed in my vegetable garden. Talk about invastive! I thought I'd be pulling up dill forever. On a similar note, when I lived in the Canadian prairies, morning glory was a desired plant that we cultivated as a flower. After moving to Vancouver, I discovered that out here it is considered an invasive weed and people do their best to rid themselves of it. Great lens, but the way. Enjoy your retirement. I am in the same boat. I work when I feel like it. Life is good. LOL

capriliz lm on September 25, 2010:

I had a plant that started growing this past summer near the neighbor's garage. I thought it had such pretty flowers. Before I knew it, the stems had become quite woody, and the plant had taken over the entire area! I think it was one of the invasive plants! Very nicely done!

anonymous on September 18, 2010:

Fantastic gardening information, thank you. When we moved here 20 years ago, I planted crownvetch in one ditch (we have two). I planted this for erosion control and to make it look nicer, they have little purple flowers and low growing. Little did I know it would completely take over both ditches, into our neighbours ditch and started to come up onto our lawn. I didn't realize it had become invasive speciies here. Fortunately we have new roads and ditches going in and dug out all the ditches and replaced with rocks. - Kathy

anonymous on May 17, 2010:

Strawberry: Lipstick- sm pink flower, does bear fruit

Very INVASIVE- 2 plants took over a 20x30 area , round-up to the rescue, now round 2.

poutine on March 19, 2010:

Vinca Minor : I love them and it's so true that they are invasive.

I dig some out every spring.

Poutine

Lee Hansen from Vermont on March 16, 2010:

In our climate nearly every plant can become invasive. We try to plant with this in mind, using fast spreaders in areas that need cover and welcome it. We're using periwinkle under a tulip tree where grass refuses to grow. It's been a great solution to stop erosion. Nicely done lens, with many excellent plant tips that I plan to try.

Moe Wood from Eastern Ontario on March 10, 2010:

I have the Vinca Minor and it does spread if you don't keep an eye on it. It is definitely not for neat gardens but would be a great filler ground for a large area. Another one I've had a problem but I can't remember the name off the top of my head. I'll have to check the tag when I go out.

poppy mercer from London on March 01, 2010:

I fell in love with the green stripey grass Phalaris arundinacea...ha ha. It does look so fresh, cool and beautiful with white flowers and ferns, but now it lives under my paths and pops up everywhere. I still love it, but would never plant it in a small garden.

Carol Fisher from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK on January 29, 2010:

Very interesting and informative lens - I never knew about Crocosmia corms going deeper into the soil, fascinating. Lensrolled.

justholidays on January 27, 2010:

Really interesting lens that relates to gardening; which is one of my many passions!

Dom.