20 Invasive Plants Sold At Nurseries You Should Never Use
We’ve all been there. You’re at the garden store, and an employee suggests the “perfect” plant to fill a space and feed your family. Little do you know that years down the road, those invasive plants could become a pest – if not a menace – to your garden and the environment.
Plants marketed as fast-growing, maintenance-free, or quick-spreading, might be garden attackers in disguise. You’d be surprised how many common plants are trouble masquerading as something beneficial. Next time you get ready to add a plant to your space, arm yourself with a little knowledge about invasive plants and aggressive plants that will do more harm than good.
What are Aggressive and Invasive plants?
Invasive plants are those species that outcompete native varieties and rapidly grow out of control. They thrive against all the odds and are difficult to eradicate. While not technically invasive, aggressive growers multiply quickly but aren’t necessarily capable of overtaking your property and competing with native flora.
Both invasive species and aggressive species can cause problems in your garden. Your city or town may have a list of particularly invasive plants that you should avoid at all costs. It pays to be aware of sneaky invaders since there’s always a chance that tricky plants might be sold at your local garden center without you even knowing.
Of course, not all impressive growers and easy-to-maintain plants will cause you trouble. If in doubt, stick with native species and don’t ever be afraid to ask plenty of questions.
Below, our list of invasive plants and aggressive plants includes information on characteristics, growth habits, and other tidbits you need to know as a gardener. Knowledge is your first step in avoiding trouble down the line.
Vines 1. English Ivy
Europeans spread this invasive plant as they colonized around the world.
What it looks like: A trailing, climbing evergreen vine.
Why nurseries recommend it: For privacy, wall and ground cover. It’s low-maintenance, drought, and low-light tolerant). It’s also winter-hardy.
Problems: It quickly outpaces nearly everything in its path, crowding out other plants and making areas unfriendly for some wildlife. Ivy will cover even large plants, blocking light and eventually killing them. The plant is also toxic to humans and some animals and may cause allergic skin reactions. If you leave English ivy on buildings or other infrastructure, it can cause serious damage.
Verdict: Avoid planting at all costs, because there are plenty of other great vines out there that are much better for the environment.
2. Japanese Honeysuckle
An invasive species originally from Japan.
What it looks like: A woody-stemmed vine that flowers pink, orange or yellow in late spring and early summer.
Why nurseries recommend it: It’s recommended as a reliable ornamental bloomer.
Problems: It can smother young trees and quickly grows to form dense cover overtop trees, blocking light to everything below.
Verdict: Avoid planting. If you have it on your property, keep a close eye on this species and prune ruthlessly.
Introduced to North America and Australia as a fast-growing ornamental.
What it looks like: An evergreen vine with pretty purple flowers.
Why nurseries recommend it: Periwinkle is a rapid growing, low maintenance ground cover option.
Problems: Not only is this invasive species capable of quickly forming a dense ground cover that suppresses everything beneath it, but periwinkle also doesn’t need much to survive, and it spreads rapidly.
Verdict: Pick a different ground cover like glory vine.
A Japanese plant introduced initially as an ornamental vine, kudzu is now considered an incredibly problematic weed.
What it looks like: A vine with purple flowers and showy leaves.
Why nurseries recommend it: For fast-growing shade and privacy, as a ground cover, or for its edible blossoms.
Problems: The king of invasive plants, kudzu spreads exceptionally quickly and chokes out other plants in its way. In addition, it is difficult to control and nearly impossible to eradicate.
Verdict: Stay away lest you want your garden or yard to disappear.
5. Chinese Wisteria
An invasive species that’s enticingly beautiful.
What it looks like: Gorgeous purple or pink flowering vines.
Why nurseries recommend it: As an ornamental because – we have to admit- it’s stunning.
Problems: Wisterias spread rapidly and outcompete other species. Furthermore, it is especially problematic in forested areas and capable of killing young trees.
Verdict: If you’re in the U.S., plant American Wisteria instead.
Edible Plants 6. Mint
Grown for its fragrant smell and sharp, fresh taste, mint is a great garden plant so long as you treat it accordingly.
What it looks like: Depends on the variety. Trailing or compact growth habit, small edible leaves.
Why nurseries recommend it: Mint is a favorite garnish and ingredient for many dishes.
Problems: Mint is more of an aggressive species than an invasive plant. It spreads quickly. In a garden, it’s important to keep it separate from other plants as it can soon outpace and choke nearby residents.
Verdict: Grow it in a pot or separate container to keep it under control.
7. Garlic mustard
An aggressive species, this biennial edible smells more like horseradish than mustard.
What it looks like: Lilypad-shaped leaves and a long taproot.
Why nurseries recommend it: It’s edible and will survive in many conditions.
Problems: Garlic mustard seeds are prolific, can scatter a long distance, and survive a long time in the earth.
Verdict: Forage garlic mustard instead of planting it. It grows wild in many areas.
8. Japanese mugwort
Mugwort is an invasive species with an ugly name originally from Europe or Asia. You likely won’t find this at your local nursery but may find seeds available from sellers that sell plant varieties used for medicinal purposes.
What it looks like: Green herb-like plant that resembles chrysanthemum
Why nurseries recommend it: It’s a perennial, so it returns year after year and it’s good for medicinal uses.
Problems: Spreads via rhizomes, which make the plant tough to eradicate, as well as causing allergies.
Verdict: Stay away. Choose other plants for your herbal remedies.
A cousin of watercress, wintercress is perennial that’s part of the mustard family. It is particularly invasive species in Japan.
What it looks like: Features long stems topped with dainty yellow flowers.
Why nurseries recommend it: Bee-friendly and not particularly demanding.
Problems: Considered a weed in many areas, pops up almost everywhere. It’s not too much trouble to get rid of, thankfully.
Verdict: It’s not the worst culprit on this list, but there are better varieties to grow if you’re looking for edible plants with pretty flowers.
Probably originally from Southeast Asia, purslane in an edible succulent that grows nearly anywhere without much trouble.
What it looks like: Succulent with chunky, rounded leaves
Why nurseries recommend it: It’s super easy to grow, and it’s a yummy addition to salads or sandwiches.
Problems: This aggressive species multiplies rapidly in any conditions and can quickly spread if left unchecked, choking out other garden crops.
Verdict: Grow it in a pot and enjoy this prolific edible in all types of dishes.