|Will that showy ornamental flower or shrub you purchased prove to be well behaved? According to experts with the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), it is important to be an informed shopper so you don’t end up with a costly nuisance. Some ornamentals can be garden thugs that crowd out surrounding plants and travel well beyond where they were planted.
“The very things we value in ornamental plants can also translate into bully-like tendencies,” says Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., urban horticulture extension specialist and associate professor at Washington State University. “Some ornamentals spread quickly, grow densely and tolerate even the poorest of growing conditions.”
Experts say that many ornamental plants with troublesome tendencies are imports from other countries. Once out of their native habitat, they often become more unruly. Examples include:
Unfortunately, these and many other ornamentals with invasive properties are still available online and through local garden centers and home improvement stores. As a result, experts say, it is important for buyers to beware.
“Shoppers should research their options before going to the garden store,” says WSSA member Mark Renz, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin and president of the Midwest Invasive Plant Network (MIPN). “If the plant you were considering has invasive tendencies, substitute a related plant or cultivar that is better behaved. Often there will be many noninvasive plants that have the traits you are after.”
Renz recommends searching the USDA’s National Invasive Species Information Center website (www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov) to see if the plant you are considering is on their watch list. You might also consult your local botanical garden, a regional Exotic Plant Pest Council (www.naeppc.org) or local horticulturists and conservationists.
In addition, MIPN offers a free mobile app that can help those who live in the Midwest identify landscape alternatives to the region’s invasive ornamental plants. Simply search for “landscape alternatives” in the app section of your smartphone or tablet. Printed brochures of the same information can be ordered at www.mipn.org/publications.html.