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Lawn & Garden

10 Worst Invasive Plants for a Southern Landscape


As a landscaper of over 20 years, there is so much I have learned by simply walking into landscape after landscape. I have evolved as a designer and, over the years, I have learned from my mistakes and the mistakes of others. Sometimes you go by trends in landscaping, whether it is the up and coming Bradford Pear tree or the beloved Nandina Domestica, sometimes it takes time for a plant to really burn you, to best learn your lesson.


What are some of the qualifications to become one of the worst plants?

Usually it is simply growth rate and the inability to control it. Other factors include things like poor disease resistance, insect problems, immunity to herbicides or physical characteristics. Let’s discuss some of my favorite plants to hate.


Pampas Grass, Cortaderia selloana is a great, terrible plant. This ornamental grass becomes huge, swallowing everything in its path. Is the Basketball missing? There is a good chance that it bounced into the grass and may never be seen again. I have cut down many of these grasses, at a hefty price to the customer, due to the fact that the edges of this grass are like razor-wire and you can guarantee that you will be bleeding after an encounter with it. I have also tried digging them out as well, which doesn't work.There are dwarf varieties of this grass, but with so many great ornamental grasses out there, why even own one of these?

 Image result for pampas grass home depot

Variegated Privet, Ligustrum sinensis is such a hated plant that most growers have stopped growing them and most nurseries have stopped selling them. What makes this plant so awful is the fact that it can reproduce sexually and asexually. That right, it produces seeds that birds eat and disperse everywhere and it reproduces from root suckers, vegetatively. If you have enough of these plants, they can grow faster than you can prune then.



The Bradford pear, like other pears, had to have a pollinator to produce fruit. For so long this tree was not really producing much fruit because there were not really many popular types of pears to pollinate this tree. This changed as growers started to come up with “better” cultivars that would not develop weak joints. Varieties like ‘Cleveland Select’, ‘Aristocrat’ and ‘Chanticleer’ were the solution.

These 4 varieties are all Callery pears and therefore, these trees started cross pollinating with the millions of Bradford pears that were over used. This produced inedible fruit that birds loved to eat. The birds would then start distributing the seeds everywhere.

The Callery pear rootstock was the tree of choice when it came to grafting Bradford pears. The Callery pear itself is not so desirable as it lacks the shape that comes with the Bradford and it has long, sharp thorns. When Bradford pears were cut down they came back up, below the graft as this hideous thorny pear. The seeds from the fruit are also that of the Callery pear.

This tree is now coming up everywhere. It is taking over forests and killing off indigenous plants that other plants and animals count on for shelter and food. Its ability to deal with shade or sun makes it especially dangerous. If you see these trees coming up on your land, I would recommend cutting it down and killing the stump because the problem gets exponentially worse year after year.

Image result for callery pear home depot

English Ivy, Hedera helix, is considered an ecological threat is some states and cost these states hundreds of millions of dollars to battle. Here in Georgia, Kudzu is our English Ivy. This Plant cannot always be controlled by Round-Up or Brush killers. The waxy layer on the plant prevents it from absorbing these chemicals. This vine will also grow to the top of every tree in your yard and anything else in its path. Once you have it, go ahead and plan yourself some weekends for pulling up Ivy. This plant gets root hairs that will cling to anything, helping it climb. It will grow to the top of a 100 foot tall tree, shading its branches, over several years, putting a tree in decline and killing it. This plant is banned in some states it is so bad.Click the orange link to learn How To Kill English Ivy.


Wisteria sinensis is one of the showiest plants on the list of bad plants. When planted in the right place and given enough attention this plant can put on quite a show. If you are not ready to adopt another child then you are not ready for this plant, as this plant can become a “problem child” quickly. This includes growing to the top of every huge tree in your yard and even overtaking your lawn. The flowers bloom late winter and the woody vines put on a great show but because it is a clingy vine, if you do not heed my warning, plant it in wide open spaces and get ready to babysit.

 OnlinePlantCenter 3 gal. Trellised Amethyst Falls Wisteria Vine

Golden Bamboo, Phyllostachys aurea was brought to Alabama in 1882 and has taken over as far North as Maryland all the way to Florida. It is a colonizing plant that sends out underground rhizomes and grows extremely fast. This plant is extremely hard to kill with conventional herbicides and often, soil sterilants have to come into play. It is said that it will get out of control if not contained and it is also said that if you try to contain it, you are destine to fail. That does not sound good, so just do not plant it. It too is on everyone’s invasive species list.


Japanese Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica is also a very invasive, fragrant vine that is often found in some nurseries and garden centers. It has adapted to be able to survive in full sun and heavy shade. If not controlled, it will grow under and through all of your other bushes, making removal impossible. It is very adaptable to different soil types, showing that this plant is not really safe to plant much of anywhere. It too has landed itself of most everyone’s invasive species list.


Nandina domestica, Heavenly Bamboo is considered to be so problematic for the same reasons as the Privet. Underground rhizomes help this plant spread vegetatively and birds spread the berries, putting this plant everywhere that you don’t want it. This plant has been put on the invasive species list in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida for that reason. Covering the ground with weed block will prevent it for a little while, until the weed block starts to break down.


Yarrow, Achellia is a fernlike perennial that will take over a perennial bed and it will relentlessly spread its seeds and underground rhizomes across your flower beds and into your yard. The real deal breaker with this plant is that its seeds can live in the ground for 9 years, so there is no getting rid of it once you have it. The best way to control this is by not planting it ever and making sure that your neighbors follow suit. This plant can handle any soil type as well. This plant will crush your spirits and haunt your dreams.


Hybrid Bermuda grass and Common Bermuda Grass are last on the list. Whereas landscapes can survive just fine without all these plants, all yards need grass. It is good to know what you are dealing with when it comes to dealing with Bermuda, as it is so popular in the south. Hybrid Bermuda grass spreads incredibly fast with underground rhizomes and above ground runners that will try to crawl their way into any area with sun on it. Hybrid grows lower and thicker and produces a sterile seed head. Common Bermuda grows thinner, taller and produces a fertile seed head; therefore it can reseed or spread via rhizomes. A self-repairing lawn is a great thing to have, just be prepared to do some work around the islands.

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Posted 2015-07-26T19:09:37+0000  by Ingar_HD_ATL Ingar_HD_ATL