10 Beautiful Invasive Plants You Do Not Want In Your Garden

These invasive plants are all beautiful so you will be tempted to plant them in your garden. Find out which invasive species are not worth the hassle.

10 Beautiful Invasive Plants You Do Not Want In Your Garden

Since I’m in planning mode for adding a Japanese-inspired garden to my yard, I have been looking for plants that I will want to include in the space.  (You can see some of my inspiration for that HERE).

And I was surprised to find that some types of Japanese maples (a requirement for a Japanese garden if you ask me) are on the Invasive Species list!

That got me thinking about all of the experiences I have had with invasive plants over the years.  I know that I do not want to intentionally plant another one!

For one thing, invasive species add so much more work to the gardening process.  If you read my post on low maintenance gardening, you know that even though I love my garden, I also don’t want to spend all of my free time working in it.

And the second problem is that most of these plants can easily escape your garden. When they set up shop in a natural habitat, they really cause a lot of damage to the native ecosystem.

So in the interest of sharing, keep reading to see my list of beautiful invasive plants you do not want in your garden.

Note: Whether or not these (or any other) plants will become invasive in your garden depends on the growing conditions in your area.

The plants on this list can all be found on invasive plants lists maintained by state and university extension programs. Which means they have the potential to become invasive.

But if you live in an area where the growing conditions are not favorable for the plants, they may not cause any problems…or may not grow at all 🙂

If you’re not sure how a plant will behave in your area, talk to your local nursery and other gardeners in your neighborhood to find out. Or check the Invasive Plant Atlas for North America, which provides maps of where different varieties of plants are considered to be invasive.

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

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Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife by GartenAkademie (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is a very hardy perennial that spreads easily and can choke out a natural wetland (or field) very quickly.

The density of the shoots kills all other plants in its path, which is why it is on many invasive species lists across North America (and has even been banned in some places).

Cooper Marsh Purple Loosestrife

Cooper Marsh Purple Loosestrife By Saffron Blaze (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This picture of the Cooper Marsh Conservation Area in Ontario, Canada shows just how invasive it can be.

Garden varieties of Loosestrife are still for sale in some places, and are sometimes included in wildflower seed packets.

Since these can cross-polinate with wild varieties to create seeds, make sure to double-check what you are buying.

If you want more information, there is an in depth article on the Minnesota Sea Grant website.

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

Japanese Honesuckle

Forest & Kim Starr [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I have never actually planted Japanese Honeysuckle, but I do have first hand experience with how invasive it is.

Some of it is growing wild in the ravine behind my house and it is impossible to keep under control. I actually think it is worse than the kudzu…and if you live in a location where kudzu grows, you know how invasive it is…

This Honeysuckle has white and yellow flowers that are really pretty, and it smells wonderful when it is blooming.  But it is definitely not worth the trade off of trying to keep it from strangling all other living plants!

Once it escapes into the wild (as it inevitably seems to do), it is devastating to the environment.

Note: There are non-invasive varieties of Honeysuckle which will be just fine in your garden. It’s the Japanese version that can cause problems.

Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora)

Autumn Clematis
Autumn Clematis

Autumn Clematis is not a plant that I ever would have guessed to be invasive. All of the other clematis varieties I have grown have always been very well behaved.

I planted this on my fence a couple of years ago, and actually it never did very much in my yard (I thought it had died). Then I was out pulling the kudzu and honeysuckle outside my fence, and saw this other vine that was growing everywhere. The blooms looked a lot like the autumn clematis I had planted, but I thought it couldn’t be the same plant.

Then I looked it up and found it on the Invasive Plant Atlas for South Carolina.

Of course, there are many non-invasive varieties of Clematis which absolutely deserve a spot in your garden, so don’t be afraid to plant those ones!

Wisteria (all varieties)

Wisteria

Wisteria By Dcrjsr (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I hate to add Wisteria to this list (it is really beautiful when it is blooming!)…but having lots of personal experience, I really can’t leave it off…

When I moved to South Carolina, a lot of people warned me that I shouldn’t plant Wisteria. I even had a co-worker tell me a story about over-turning a rented Bobcat trying to pull out Wisteria from the ravine at the back of his yard…but that still didn’t stop me from planting it.

Wisteria is an invasive plant species

I read that the Chinese (Wisteria sinensis) and Japanese versions (Wisteria floribunda) of Wisteria were invasive (you can find them on the Plant Conservation Alliance’s Least Wanted Vines list), but the American variety (Wisteria frutescens) was not on the list.  So how bad could it be? (I have since found out that only non-native plant varieties are classified as “invasive”. So because this is a native variety, it isn’t on the list.)

Wisteria covering the fence

Now that I have it growing in my garden, I can vouch for the fact that once it gets going, even the native variety grows like crazy.

It starts out as a little plant, and it takes a little while to get going…but once it does, look out!  You have to be really vigilant about pruning to keep it where you want it. The picture above was taken in the spring after I had completely cut the wisteria down to the ground in the fall.  By the time it started blooming, it had completely covered the fence.

Then if you ever want to remove it, good luck 🙂 I tried to dig up a plant at the back of my yard 7 or 8 years ago, and I am still pulling rogue Wisteria plants out of the garden in that spot.  The lesson learned is…if you love the look of Wisteria as much as I do, you need to be prepared to do some work to keep it contained!

Painted Wisteria on Trellis Wall
Trellis Wall

Maybe I should just stick to the painted kind…like I did in my office a while back (you can see the instructions for that project here).

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Lily of the Valley is a pretty woodland plant that blooms in the spring and has a wonderful perfume.

They are very easy to grow and will spread like wild fire…which is the first reason you don’t want them in your garden.

But the second (and maybe more important) reason is that these plants are extremely poisonous. Any pets or children (or even adults) that eat part of the plant will require medical treatment for poison.

Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Vinca Minor

By Forest Wander from Cross Lanes, USA (Forget me not flowers) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Periwinkle is an easy to grow evergreen ground cover that does well in the shade and is covered with really pretty blue flowers in the spring.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

However, it also will overrun every other plant in your garden if you let it.

Trillium with Periwinkle
Trillium with Periwinkle

It starts out well mannered and seems like the perfect plant to add some interest underneath other plants in your garden.

But after if has become established (which takes a few years), it will start to grow up the stems of other plants and choke out any smaller plants in its way…except for the weeds which still seem to survive. You can see it in the background of this picture…it is beginning to get to the “takeover” stage.

This is another plant that I have spent many years trying to eradicate from my garden…without success so far…

Non-Clumping Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea)

Bamboo in Maui
Bamboo in Maui

Ever since I saw this bamboo forest on Maui, I have loved the look (and sound) of bamboo.

It adds such a relaxing feel to the garden.

Many bamboo species are very invasive
Many bamboo species are very invasive

And then I saw the bamboo that had been planted along the railway tracks in South Carolina to act as a sound barrier…and has now taken over whole backyards.  It is incredibly difficult to remove or contain once it has become established.

Since bamboo is part of the grass family, it is literally like grass on steroids.  If you’ve ever tried to keep a running variety of grass (like Bermuda) out of your garden, you know how hard it is.  Then think of trying to do that if the grass were the size of a bamboo plant!

There are some clumping bamboo varieties that are not as invasive, so make sure you plant one of these if you want bamboo in your garden.

Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)

Pampas Grass
Pampas Grass

Pampas Grass is another large perennial grass that looks beautiful and is very easy to grow.

It also grows very quickly into a large clump and will self seed freely.

And that’s where the problem starts. It can easily crowd out all other plants if you are not vigilant about keeping it in check.  Then if you try to dig it up, it has a massive root system that is very difficult to remove.

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

English Ivy by MurielBendel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

English Ivy by MurielBendel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Like a lot of people, I used to love using English Ivy in my hanging baskets.  It always looks so nice trailing over the edge of the pot.

But if even one little piece of it touches the ground, you will have more ivy than you know what to do with.

That’s also what makes it so hard to get rid of…you have to remove every little bit of it from the ground or it will grow back.

Carpet Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)

Carpet Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)

As the name suggests, Carpet Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) is another ground cover that on the surface seems like a great addition to your garden.

Low growing, evergreen with purple-green leaves, and beautiful blue-purple flowers. And then it starts to spread and it’s impossible to pull out…the roots are in there, and like the ivy, any little piece left in the ground will grow.

Carpet Bugleweed without blooms

In fact, in my yard, it not only takes over the garden but will totally cover the sidewalk, too if I let it.

If you are looking for a more comprehensive list of invasive plants, try the Invasive Plant Atlas for North America. The site was developed by The University of Georgia – Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health and the National Park Service, and is maintained by several university, state and federal extension programs.

invasive.org is another organization that maintains a database of all kinds of invasive organisms (not just plants) for North America.

Both sites provide maps with each plant listing that let you know where the plant is considered to be invasive.

Do you have experience with any other types of invasive plants? Tell us in the section below.

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253 Responses

  • Japanese barberry, campanula (creeping bellflower), tansy, knotweed, buckthorn, snow-on-the-mountain, and purple loosestrife all make my life difficult in northern Minnesota! I do gardening for a client who loves pink spirea, and now it has spread into her wild wooded areas.

      • I live in the Mpls-St Paul area and buckthorn is a huge problem here as well. Also have problems with Creeping Charley and Virginia Creeper. The latter has 5 leaves and will wrap around trees and can kill them. Very difficult to control. In this case, the “leaves of 5, let it thrive” motto does not apply!!

  • Grandpa Otts Morning Glory- I planted it once- thinking it would add some nice color along my garden fence- it self sows and years and years later- I’ll still see an occasional sprout!

    • Oh my goodness , don’t ever plant morning glory!I too thought it would be pretty and 10 years later it’s still coming up! Creeping Jenny is another one! Best kept in containers…Ih and I can’t forget to add ,Mint ! Awful …

  • Non sterile Alstroemeria is at the top of my invasive list in the Pacific Northwest. Planted it 20 years ago and still doing battle.
    Also most spillers that come in purchased hanging summer baskets! Beware and do not just throw them into your garden.
    Silver Latium is considered an invasive plant here.

    • Thanks, Judy! Good point about the spillers…I’ve made the mistake of accidentally planting them and came to regret it 🙂

  • Grape Hyacinths have been a major problem for me. I planted one packet of them and that one packet exploded onto thousands. Impossible to remove all of them.

  • Chameleon plant! Beautiful leaves with pink coloring but once they take hold, look out. For years I tried getting rid of one little plant. It keeps popping up everywhere!

  • Snow on the mountain is my problem now. Three plants took over our back flower bed. Even spread to my neighbors. I have been working hard to contain it but not a nice plant. It wraps itself around all my other plants and sucks the life from them. Serious extraction is required to get rid of it.

    I mean remove roots & then continue for months to remove any little starts that begin. One small root will grow back. YIKES if only we had know. It is pretty but so wrong.

    • Thanks, Robin! I have thought about planting it before (it is pretty). But after hearing all the horror stories about it, I know better now 🙂

  • Snow in summer has caused me problems as has pink evening primrose, but some of the plants on your list aren’t problems here in Utah. Your state’s extension service is probably your best resource for locally invasive species. I’ve also noticed that some plants are just fine if they’re in an area that naturally limits their spread or at least make it reasonably easy to limit their spread.

    • Thanks, Louise! Yes, I agree that checking your state’s extension service is a great place to find out which plants are invasive in your area.

  • I live beside someone who has bamboo in their yard, and it is containable. I put up a thick plastic shield 2 feet into the ground at a 45 degree angle. As its roots climb the barrier, I snip it off and paint it with RoundUp. I am here in San Antonio, and I like the Ajuga on my foot path. I have deep barriers on either side, and do keep it lightly trimmed. It hasn’t jumped the tracks, yet.

    Things that I would hope people would stop planting are Nandina (heavily toxic to birds), Soapberry (slow killer for birds), and Ligustrum, and for TX specifically, elephant ears, arundo and water hyacinth.

  • I have ground elder aaaaahhhh ,lovely white flowers when it goes to see but can’t get rid of it 😡😡😡

  • In Minnesota, large-leaved lupine has escaped cultivation and is spreading across the northern part of the state, wiping out important natives along the way. It’s pretty, but it’s destructive. My new yard is overrun with orange daylilies and they’re starting to spread down our hill towards our wetland. It’s going to take me forever to get rid of it all. It’s almost harder to deal with than the buckthorn!

  • Scotch broom is an extremely invasive non-Native shrub that has become an extreme problem in the Pacific Northwest. Each plant can produce 1,000’s of seeds & it has choked out many native plants in my area in Northern California. Another huge concern is it’s flammability as it can explode into flames in a wildfire, adding more fuel. Many counties are starting eradication programs, but not mine…

  • Forget me nots are just what they say. I have been fighting these in my garden. It is trying to overtake everything. Alb. NM

  • Here in Arkansas, creeping charlie, many species of nandina, which is sold in many local nurseries, wisteria, english ivy, which many people plant along the side of their houses, wild violets, Chinese privet, which spreads by birds eating the seeds and then defecating them all over the place, native blackberries, virginia creeper, callery pear (Bradford pear), probably the worst tree sold by nurseries, japanese honeysuckle, and autumn clematis, which is growing wild everywhere. I even saw a varigated creeping charlie for SALE at my local Lowes!

    • Thanks, Lynda! I have a Bradford Pear in my yard and the suckers are really annoying! I am always surprised that they still sell these kinds of plants, too.

  • Hi, I live in Southern MS, 40 miles north of The Gulf of Mexico, In the country. We have 2 acres of land and a lot of gardens. It’s harder now, since we are 67 n 72 to keep it like it was 5 yrs sgo. But, we have Bugleweed, Ajuga, n I Love it. Where I plant it, it doesn’t become invasive. I’ve put it in hanging pots and when it drapes over, it’s beautiful.
    Now, I have a ground cover that produces small pink flowers that hang a bit. I can’t remember the name of it. Can I send a picture for you to look at? If so , please let me know. I also have a shrub like plant that doesn’t get very tall n spreads. I’ve looked everywhere I could n still can’t find a name. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Margie

    • Thanks, Margie! Keeping the Bugleweed in pots would be pretty. If you want to reply to the comment email with a picture of your plants, I’ll see if I can help identify them.

  • Spiderworts!!!! It started with 2 plants, then began encroaching in all areas of the garden. Info I read said to divide them every 2-3 years, I should have just pulled them up. In no time they were everywhere. In order to completely rid yourself of them, after cutting them to ground level, you have to turn the soil over MANY times and remove every single root, some are very tiny. I learned the hard way and thought the tiny ones would just die. The following years I took a shovel, turned over every inch of soil (they spread underground) about 6″ deep and removed each and every one. Third year out, I’m still finding some popping up here and there and quickly remove each and every one! BEWARE!

  • Herman’s Pride is beautiful, especially after a rain, but beware if you live in Ontario Canada. It’s a ground cover, in the Lamium family, that will spread like wild fire once it’ established.

    • Thanks, Nicole! I have been battling Lamium for quite a few years now…so if Herman’s Pride is in the same family, I can imagine that it is hard to control, too.

  • MEXICAN PETUNIAS! OH MY GOSH!! I have been trying to get them out of my yard for FOUR YEARS now – they’re wearing me down; they just won’t stop and I go down as far as I can to get the roots. At LEAST once a month I spend ALL DAY – at least 8 hours – in an 8×15 garden in the front (We won’t even TALK about the back or side!) I think I’ve lost the battle… 😢😢

  • Snow on the mountain, Goose neck, trumpet vine and now Virigina Creeper (can be as allergic as poison ivy). All will take over and need to be dug up by the roots and thrown away- do not compost. virigina creeper will kill all that it covers- also can give a very itchy rash that can take a long time to heal (may need prescription).

  • Wintercreeper. Birds spread it and the roots are wet and slimy and impossible to get out of the ground. It will grow up trees and kill them. Nurseries sell it. Also known as euonymus.

  • I moved into a house that had a campanula (creeping bellflower) here and there as there were no flower beds. I pulled it all, sprayed each new plant and never let it to go seed again in the 12 years I was there. It was still sprouting! Each plant can drop thousands of seeds and they can lay dormant for years. Then there are the tubars. I dug up a black garbage bag full when creating a 4’x12′ flowerbed but that didn’t stop it even though I doused the ground with roundup, turned the dirt over and doused it again. Any little root left behind will make a plant or multiple plants.

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