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Bad Plants

Your Runaway Plants List

Lots of surprises in your comments about Gorgeous But Heartbreaking Plants.

A quick perusal of our community's Mea Culpa, Never Again plants includes vinca, blackberry, mint, sweet potato vine (Jesse, where do you live?), wisteria, straight and variegated bishops weed (pure purgatory), bittersweet vine (Celastrus orbiculatus, currently in running as the next kudzu), Chinese lanterns, liriope and junipers (quoting Chainsaw John on that last fiend, "Die monster die!").

Poor Sandy can no longer get a shovel through her lily of the valley. Even a billyclub can't helped Shari control her Lysimachia ciliata 'Purpurea'. And Nathan sat by horrified as English ivy turned his house into a chia pet (it shouldn't happen to a dog).

invasive plants strike again!

Invasive plants know no boundaries. Do not try this at home. photo credit: Grace Kerr hide caption

toggle caption photo credit: Grace Kerr

For sheer olfactory hell, though, consider the case of Lauren, whose oregano escaped its planter and spread poolside. The hapless woman now writes, "it's like swimming in an Italian restaurant".

Of course the list might have been extremely useful had I asked people to tell us where they gardened, because while the really bad stuff (English ivy, bittersweet vine, bishops weed) are bad just about everywhere, not all these invaders need be shunned. So if you'd like to confess about the worst plant you've unleashed on the neighborhood (trust us, you'll feel better afterwards), be sure to tell us where you live.

Just don't mention your address.



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I'm in Southern California - my oregano hasn't escaped the pool area yet. But several years ago, I planted alyssum. Alyssum re-seeds itself liberally. I don't have alyssum anymore - I've ripped it all out several times and replaced it with California Poppies. But as you walk down (I'm at the higher end of the street, so I mean 'downhill') the street, you can alyssum in the gutters here and there.

My neighbor's palm tree, though, is a monster. The entire neighborhood has baby palm trees everywhere. I dig them out of every blank spot in my front yard. They grow in sidewalk cracks, drain edges where debris has built up and even in the edges of utility boxes. They're awful and they don't even smell good.

Sent by Lauren Uroff | 1:46 PM | 9-17-2007

Ah! Here in central Indiana I have the Clustered Bell Flower, a campanula variety known as "Joan Elliot"...before I realized its nature, I gave it to a friend, who calls it "Jane Idiot". I've lifted every perennial in the beds (!)it grows in, dug down to my elbow for the tiny silken threads of its roots, sprayed with chemicals I'm loath to use and still it flourishes. Its rich purple flowers are beautiful in the early summer with the ubiquitous coreopsis (much easier to pull where its not wanted) but I still call to harass the friend who gave it to me after I've spent a full morning working to make it go away. Earlier someone mentioned verbena, bonariensis. I'd vote for that too and its millions of seedlings if the butterflies didn't love it so!

Sent by Jane | 10:04 AM | 9-18-2007

My sweet potato vine is taking over the neighborhood here in Savannah - I figured it would take over everywhere else as well, but apparently it just thrives in the coastal South? I laughed when I read about it in the link because it was described as a houseplant - I don't think you can actually keep it in a pot here as it flows over the sides and attaches itself to the ground, and the next thing you've got yourself a sweet potato vine problem!

Sent by Jesse | 7:31 PM | 9-18-2007

A few years ago I planted 2 Rudebeckia (Black-eyed Susan) because that was all I could afford at the time. What was I thinking! It has spread seedlings everywhere and is taking over a patch of monarda (bee balm). Yes I said monarda!

Sent by B.C. | 4:37 PM | 9-20-2007

I manage a nursery in Coastal NC. Many plants that I grew to loathe while cutting my teeth in Central Va are used here as ornamentals. Spiderwort, ivys, ruellias, and portulacas to name a few. I try to tell my customers that every plant has a use and a home, it's just not necessarily theirs! There is nothing more attractive to my eye than an English ivy that has been painstakingly trained to grow on(and cover) a brick chimney. If allowed to grow and grow, though, it will eventually take over the whole house.
You need to not only plant for the look you want, but for the effort you're willing to put in. A travelling salesman who lives in an apartment shouldn't own a greyhound, and a 70 hour a week workaholic should probably not have 90 percent of their beds as annual color.

Sent by Chris | 11:23 PM | 9-20-2007

Grape Hyacinth! The bulbs sprout year-round in Utah and are impossible to rid your garden of!

Sent by Jen Lyons | 12:31 PM | 9-21-2007

Don't know the genus and species...but it's called "cashmere bouquet." It's a tropical thing that I loved in New Orleans because of the very fragrant flowers in summer. I was warned, but I put some in my yard in Pensacola and I curse it daily. Blessedly, it dies back in winter. comes back with a vengeance every year despite brutal efforts to pull it up and stop it.

Sent by Betsy | 7:59 PM | 9-21-2007

If I'd only known!! Star of Bethleham (Ornithogalum) seemed a bright addition to my garden in Western Mass, but it is insidious, as it spreads by pollen, seeds, and each bulb will give birth to 20 tiny daughter bulbs!...I'm still digging it out after 20 years, and hope to get it gone before I die.

Sent by Rianna Larkin | 9:06 PM | 9-21-2007

I planted a baby trumpet vine, taken from my mother's house, in a sunny spot against my neighbor's brick garage, bordering our back yard. Indeed, it was a wonderful screen and a vigorous grower, but it eventually wormed its way into the roof of the garage, causing leaking during rain.

We guiltily removed the vines so that we could spare our neighbors more grief. We were so relieved to have gotten rid of them that we lazily didn't bag up the debris. The seedpods had time to dry nicely in the sun.

Much to my horror, my young kids and the neighbors' got together to pull the seedpods joyfully apart, scattering the thousands of seeds everywhere in the yard. The following spring, there were baby trumpet vines growing under the deck, throughout the grass, in every sidewalk crack, and throughout the bed where there had previously only been one or two vines... I have never met such a vigorous seed!!!

Sent by Katharine | 8:27 AM | 9-22-2007

I live southeast of Houston and can't begin to tell you the number of out-of-control species I live amongst. I started this venture to turn my yard into a wildlife sanctuary - with native plants that provide food for birds and butterflies - and until this year, it's been very nice. Cassias, firespikes, pentas, Lantanas, all kinds of Salvias, Hamelias, fircracker bush, etc. (my neighbors with the manicured boxwoods call my plants weeds...). In July I went away for two weeks, it rained every day I was gone, and since I returned, no matter how much chopping I do on the weekends, I still can't find my house. There is a point when a beautiful plant does, indeed, become a weed.

Sent by Cindy Howard | 10:10 AM | 9-22-2007