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Alternatives to Common Invasive Plants
First published on garden.org on April 24 , 2008, by Suzanne
In my last column I raised the issue of invasive plants, and now I'd like
to suggest some noninvasive options for our gardens. Below are some native
ground covers, shrubs, trees, perennials, and vines that are attractive and
well behaved in the landscape. The lists are by no means comprehensive, but
they'll serve to show that there are many alternatives to common invasives
-- what some people call "plant thugs."
The term "invasive" is hard to define, and just because a plant is native doesn't
mean it can't pose problems. The native perennial bee balm (Monarda didyma),
a mint relative, spreads quickly and will overtake most plants in its path. Native
tall phlox (Phlox paniculata), evening primrose (Oenothera spp.),
and queen of the prairie (Filipendula rubra) can vigorously colonize a
garden. All could be termed "native invasives." Most perennials multiply to some
extent; however, nonnative plants often have an advantage because the forces
(pests, temperature extremes, etc.) that keep them in check in their native habitat
are missing here.
Remember that not all plants adapt to all growing environments -- sun or shade,
dry or wet soil, etc. -- so be sure to match plants to your garden situation.
And remember that these plants may take a little longer to get established than
their vigorous (and invasive) alternatives.
Sources of Native, Noninvasive Plants
You may have to look a little harder to find native plants. Each state has a
native plant society, and these are good starting points in the search to find
appropriate plants for your landscape. Below I've included a list of our region's
native plant societies. Another possible source is your state's department of
natural resources. Some states have spring plant sales of native plants, often
for special purposes such as stream bank restoration. Finally, an Internet search
using your state and "native plants" as search terms, should provide some sources,
as well as a wealth of information.
Here are some native plant alternatives to get you started.
Native, Noninvasive Ground Covers/Low-Growing Plants
Pussytoes (Antennaria dioica or A. planaginfolia), wild ginger
(Asarum canadense), green-and-gold (aka goldenstar, Chrysogonum virginianum),
running strawberry bush (Euonymus obovatus), wild strawberry (Fragaria
virginiana), wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), creeping juniper
(Juniperus horizontalis), partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), Allegheny
spurge (Pachysandra procumbens), creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera),
Solomon's seal (Polygonatum biflorum), creeping sedum (Sedum ternatum),
and foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia).
Native, Noninvasive Shrubs
Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus), cinnamonbark (Clethra acuminata),
Eastern wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus), strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus),
fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii and F. major), hydrangea (Hydrangea
quercifolia and H. arborescens), drooping leucothoe (Leucothoe
fontanesiana), spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Virginia sweetspire (Itea
virginica), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), mock orange (Philadelphus
inodorus), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), flame azalea (Rhododendron
calendulaceum), American Snowbell (Styrax americana), and many viburnums,
including maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), witherod viburnum
(V. cassinoides), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), arrowwood
viburnum (V. dentatum), and American cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum
Native, Noninvasive Trees
Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), paw paw (Asimina triloba),
river birch (Betula nigra), Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis),
fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), yellowwood (Cladrastis kentuckea),
pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus),
persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina),
umbrella tree (Magnolia tripetela), sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreumtupelo),
tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), and black haw (Viburnum prunifolium).
Native, Noninvasive Perennials
Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata),
false indigo (Baptisia australis), lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata),
purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), joe-pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum),
wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), ox-eye sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides),
gayfeather (aka blazing star, Liatris spp.), cardinal flower (Lobelia
cardinalis), and black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta).
Native, Noninvasive Vines
Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens),
virgin's bower (Clematis virginiana), Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens),
trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus
quinquefolia), purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), and American
wisteria (Wisteria frutescens).
State Native Plant Societies
Alabama Wildflower Society: http://alabamawildflower.org/
Arkansas Native Plant Socity: http://www.anps.org/
Georgia Native Plant Socity: http://www.gnps.org/
Kentucky Native Plant Society: http://www.knps.org/
North Carolina Native Plant Society: http://www.ncwildflower.org/
Oklahoma Native Plant Society: http://www.usao.edu/%onps/
South Carolina Native Plant Society: http://www.scnps.org/
Tennessee Native Plant Society: http://www.tnps.org/
Native Plant Society of Texas: http://www.npsot.org/
Virginia Native Plant Society: http://www.vnps.org/
Choose alternatives or less invasive cultivars of these plants:
Ground covers. Avoid bugleweed (Ajuga reptans), crown vetch (Coronilla
varia), English ivy (Helix hedera), mints (Mentha spp.), Japanese
spurge (Pachysandra terminalis), and periwinkle (Vinca minor).
Shrubs. Avoid Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii, butterfly
bush (Buddleia spp.), Russian olive (Eleagnus angustifolium), Autumn
olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), burning bush (Euonymus alata), privet Ligustrum spp.),
and bush honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.), including Belle, Amur, Morrow's,
and Tatarian honeysuckle. Also multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) and roses
grafted onto multiflora rootstock.
Trees. Avoid Norway maple (Acer platanoides), Tree of heaven (Ailanthus
altissima), mimosa (Albizia julibrissin), Empress or Princess Tree
(Paulownia tomentosa), and Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana).
Perennials. Avoid nonnative bamboos, goutweed (aka snow-on-the-mountain, Aegopodium
podagraria), pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana and C. jubata),
cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria),
and Chinese silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensis).
Vines. Avoid porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), Oriental
bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei),
English ivy (Hedera helix), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica),
kudzu (Pueraria lobata), and Chinese and Japanese wisteria (Wisteria
sinensis and W. floribunda).