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5 Plants You Should Never, Ever Grow

Many of the plants touted by the nursery industry as easy to grow actually grow a little too easily and become invasive. Next time you’re perusing the garden center shelves, eschew plants like the ones listed below: They’re known for bad behavior and botanical misdeeds. Instead, pick a native (or just a non-invasive) alternative. Natives are often just as hardy, and they’re much better at attracting a diversity of birds and pollinators to the garden.

1. Japanese Barberry

The big daddy of the bad boys, Japanese barberry is just about the worst horticultural invasive gracing the face of planet Earth—and that’s not an exaggeration. Not only does Japanese barberry grow outside the garden just as well as it does inside, but it proliferates extraordinarily quickly, and is a major tick magnet. For those of you living in the east, break out the long pants and repellent when walking through barberry, or dig it out—every last bit of it

2. Japanese Spirea

Denizen of gas station gardens, Japanese spirea is beloved for its tough-as-nails character, and pretty pink, frothy flowers. The problem is, Japanese spirea spreads like wildfire, and like all invasives, once it escapes the garden, it poses real problems for native plants.

3. Russian Olive

Gorgeous silvery foliage and sweet-smelling flowers make Russian olive one of the most used shrubs on the market. However, it’s orange-pink berries are actually more like junk food for birds  and help the plant spread like a weed. Native viburnums come in a diverse array of sizes and are a much better choice for the garden. The birds will thank you, too

4. Chinese Silver Grass

Beloved for its plumes of silvery inflorescences (aka flowers), Chinese silver grass now covers huge tracts of land across North America—particularly in the mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states. Once this grass takes hold, it’s a difficult task to get rid of it: Plentiful deep roots resprout quickly and readily. Virginia switchgrass is an excellent native alternative with similarly fetching, diaphanous seed heads.

5. Bamboo

Some species of bamboo are so aggressive that they've been outright banned in certain states. The quick-growing grass is an excellent way to start a dense privacy screen, but in the long run, it’s not worth the maintenance hassle. In no time, bamboo will have the run of all of the garden beds, and the lawn, and the woods beyond, too. Pick a native evergreen like inkberry or American holly for a more elegant alternative.

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