ShadyGardens Blog

January 26, 2009

Alternatives to Invasive Plants in the Garden

My gardening goals have changed much over the years. In the beginning I was enticed with plant descriptions such as ‘fast growing’, ‘prolific spreader’, or ‘reseeds freely’, envisioning a lush garden covered with beautiful plants after minimal monetary investment and less work.

Perhaps it was when I enrolled in the Master Gardener Class that I learned of the dangers of planting invasive plants, but it should have been obvious to me sooner. I need only to step outdoors to view the rampant spread of the very aggressive Japanese Honeysuckle. Every time I drive my children to school, I see hillsides overtaken with Kudzu.

Now I view planting invasive exotic plants as down right wrong. Aggressive plants like Kudzu can completely take over a whole field in little time, even killing large trees by blocking sunlight and stealing the very little water we get during drought common to this part of the country.

So as you plan additions to your garden this year, take a moment to investigate a plant’s reputation before adding it to your garden.

To offer a little assistance, here’s a short list of invasive plants that are still bought, sold, and planted, along with a more environmentally-friendly alternative:

  • Japanese Honeysuckle – Plant our native honeysuckle instead, Lonicera sempervirens, commonly referred to as Red Trumpet Honeysuckle or Coral Honeysuckle.
  • Japanese Pachysandranda – Instead, try our native Pachysandra Procumbens, which is variegated, offering much more beauty than the plain green invasive one.
  • Privet – Well, there are many alternatives to Privet. Anything at all would be better. For a non-invasive hedge, consider holly, viburnum, shrub roses, or camellias.
  • Wisteria – Yes, we even have a native wisteria that’s much better than the very invasive Chinese or Japanese Wisteria. Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’ is available in many nurseries and home improvement stores. Before buying wisteria, check the label. If it merely reads ‘Wisteria,’ stay away from it. If it’s Wisteria frutescens, it’ll be labeled as such.

November 6, 2007

Dry Soil Groundcovers: Pachysandra, Rudbeckia, and Many More!

I love groundcovers. There’s just something about them that makes me want to have every one I see. Groundcovers can be an important addition to our Southern gardens. They act as a living mulch, helping to conserve moisture around trees and shrubs. Many groundcovers are evergreen, so they add beauty to the garden in every season. There are groundcovers that bloom, and even groundcovers that make berries! Groundcovers can be found that thrive in sun, shade, and even the most difficult dry shade. Whether your taste for plants leans toward the exotic, like Hellebores and Rohdea, or if you prefer native plants, such as native ferns, consider adding them beneath the shrubs in your garden. There are many native groundcovers that are evergreen, and some even produce berries, like Mitchella (Partridgeberry). Groundcovers like creeping phlox can help control erosion. Good groundcovers for sun include the sedums, ice plant, and rudbeckia (Black eyed Susan.) Certain rose varieties also make excellent groundcovers. Beware of groundcovers that can take over the garden, seeming to eat other plants alive, crowding out everything else. Instead of invasive English Ivy or the popular Japanese pachysandra, try our native pachysandra, Allegheny Spurge. Or if it’s a vine you’re after, plant Crossvine, Carolina Jasmine, or Lonicera sempervirens—all native vines that will not overtake your garden.

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