Invasive And Aggressive Plants: Don’t Sell Them, Even If They’re Pretty, Armitage Says

People are very upset at plants like kudzu. Kudzu is a running joke, thought of as a “crazy aunt,” but that crazy aunt, like deer, is cute until it takes over.

As an industry, we can shrug our shoulders and blame the USDA for something so monumentally disastrous to native ecosystems. However, if you haven’t been following or involved with the invasive plant committee in your state, you may be surprised what they are considering to be invasive — we have reached the tipping point with invasive plants in many states.

The truth of the matter is that while kudzu may be the poster child of the invasive plant movement, many of the plants messing up our ecosystems are the result of ornamentals gone bad. Plants that once seemed benign garden plants are strangling entire areas. And we are still selling them!

Ignorance Is No Excuse

I was at a box store early this spring that was happily selling bedding impatiens that will likely die from downy mildew. I thought we had at least let retailers know that the more we sell today that dies, the less we sell tomorrow. Obviously not. What is the point?

This is not only a box store problem. We are still selling English ivy by the truckload — people are still using it as a mainstay for groundcovers. It is on the invasive plant list in many states and should be on in many more. The problem is not that English ivy goes to seed in a few years and ends up in the woods; it is much more insidious. When properties are sold, or the ivy is allowed to climb, it will reseed. It may take 20 years but it will happen. Think it is not your responsibility because you won’t be around — poppycock! Don’t sell the stuff!

Why are we still selling Chinese wisteria when we have an equally beautiful native species? The excuse of ignorance is no longer acceptable. Don’t sell it! Have you seen the thousands of pear seedlings on the side of the woods resulting from ‘Bradford’ pears? This is no longer a secret — we know that pear seedlings will outcompete native species. Why sell it? Is it because we are too lazy to learn about substitutes? I can go on about nandina, eleagnus and privet, all still being sold, all like crack cocaine to the environment.

To some readers, I likely sound like a native-crazy person on a soapbox — keening about the sins of “exotics.” That is not even close to the point; non-native plants have kept us fresh and viable. I am simply saying do your homework, find non-invasive groundcovers, vines and shrubs — native, non-native — it doesn’t matters. This is not a tiny problem anymore. It is a huge issue being debated at every level of government.

Take Out The Plant Thugs

A subset of the “invasive” problem is the issue of plant thugs, often politely referred to as aggressive plants. Examples may be evening primrose, bishop weed, bee balm, artemisia and of course — purple loosestrife. All pretty, some native, some non-native, but once planted they will quickly be a headache for all gardeners/landscapers.

Do we really need a golden-leaf cultivar of evening primrose? Regardless of its apparent beauty, it still becomes a nightmare after two years. Why do I still see ‘Limelight’ artemisa and the most nauseating plant of all time — chameleon flower — still being sold? They will turn gardeners off faster than kudzu. Don’t do it!

Do not tell me you don’t know — there are lists after lists in books, online and almost anywhere you care to do research. While I understand there are no set definitions of thuggery, I bet everyone knows of at least a half dozen, if not more, thugs that you would not give to your mother. Please don’t sell them to my daughters. Ignorance, laziness and apathy don’t cut it when such behavior hurts us all.


Leave a Reply

One comment on “Invasive And Aggressive Plants: Don’t Sell Them, Even If They’re Pretty, Armitage Says

  1. Many thanks for making this a public discussion. . . and a charge of accountability, Dr. Armitage. This IS a major issue. I can point to the fabulous stand of Lonicera japonica / Japanese Honeysuckle in a property that neighbors our home and which pervades our entire county. “It smells so nice!,” according to people who don’t know better. . . or who refuse to manage it properly, much like the Eleagnus that you referred to. The fact is that WE are the professionals in the plant trade. It is OUR job to be just that: professionals. None of us is perfect. At any time, we may make a mistake, but we are responsible to be as knowledgeable as possible and to act accordingly. The National Mulch and Soil Council took this position over a decade ago with regard to quality and integrity standards in professional and retail soilless media, and it has paid. I am certain beyond doubt that self-regulation and accountability will be far less costly and onerous than will government mandate–and those will come if we abdicate professionalism.

More From Armitage On Plants...
Colorado State University 2015 Container Field Trials

November 29, 2015

2015 Colorado State University (Fort Collins, Colo.) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.

Read More
Coleus 'Colorblaze Velveteen' (2015 University of Tennessee Field Trials)

November 28, 2015

2015 University of Tennessee Gardens (Knoxville and Jackson, Tenn.) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for University of Tennessee Gardens in Knoxville and Jackson, Tenn.

Read More
Feature Image Cob 700 (NewLux)

November 28, 2015

16 LED Lighting Solutions For Your Greenhouse

Narrowing in on the right LED lighting product often comes down to considering your specific crop needs and growing requirements to see what works best for your application. Here are 15 LED products to take into account when choosing the right fit for your greenhouse.

Read More
Latest Stories
Eucomis 'Aloha Kona'

October 20, 2015

Eucomis Aloha Series: A New Bulb Crop For Containers

The Eucomis Aloha series of Pineapple lilies may be the next money making bulbs for the deck with their compact habits and shorter stems that are perfect for containers.

Read More
More and more people are employing a landscape service, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still garden

September 2, 2015

Under Siege? Not Really, Just Go For A Walk

I have no trouble with people buying chocolates or wine instead of flowers to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays or peoples’ lives. We should all have choices. However, the other night I felt like I was entering the Republican caucus. I was minding my own business by the television set and became more than a little upset. A website called came on the screen. It provided serene music and wholesome images of busy women doing busy things. It turns out that such busy women enjoy a small token of appreciation, but apparently their enjoyment, according to the voice-over, does not include flowers. This website delivers meals to the house, anything from beef brisket to beef bourguignon. It is a fine website with a good idea. But why pick on us? Why not use “” or “,” “,” or a dozen other things. When did flowers get to be the whipping boy? […]

Read More
llan Armitage Syngenta Starcluster

July 30, 2015

Allan Armitage: Let’s Talk About Starflowers. Why Is Pe…

It is good to talk about production techniques, performance results and then to see how our friends garden. Diversity of plant material has always been a strength in American garden centers, and we should never run out of plants to get people excited. However, perhaps people are tired of Petunias or Callas or Geraniums, but we will never run out of options to put in front of them. One plant that is often overlooked is Pentas, a fabulous summer crop for late spring sales. These are heat-tolerant plants, and growing them below 65°F in the greenhouse results in significant delay. Fertility should be at least 150ppm nitrogen, but avoid ammonia in the fertilizer. Plants are best grown at a somewhat higher pH than usual, between 6.4 to 6.8. For best presentation, pinch out the center bud. Side flowers will bloom together, and plants will walk off the shelf. Garden centers […]

Read More
window flower boxes

June 28, 2015

The Horticulturist And The Decorator

Allan Armitage tells shares a story about a horticulturist and a decorator to illustrate why gardening and decorating are not jobs; they are simply meant to bring pleasure.

Read More
Allan Armitage At Tradeshow

May 15, 2015

Allan Armitage On Plants: We Are Alive And Well, Thank …

Allan Armitage tells why the horticulture industry is about the people, not the plants, not the marketing and not the social media, and why horticulture is here to stay.

Read More

April 22, 2015

Allan Armitage Finds A Lot To Love On His Last Day At T…

On the last day of the 2015 California Spring Trials, Allan Armitage and the Greenhouse Grower team visited three stops that accounted for 12 breeding companies. From annuals and perennials to herbs and strawberries, Armitage found plenty to get excited about.

Read More
Hakonochloa macra Aureola v

April 17, 2015

Ornamental Grasses — A Few Thoughts

Grasses have been embraced by growers, landscape architects and retailers, and are an important component in wholesale and resale sales. Allan Armitage shares some popular grasses, one to avoid and a few to use with caution.

Read More

April 17, 2015

Allan Armitage’s Favorite Plants From Proven Winn…

Between visiting California Spring Trial giants like Proven Winners, Syngenta and Danziger, Allan Armitage saw a lot of great plants in one day. Despite the size of the challenge, Dr. Armitage finds a few favorites he thinks you should try.

Read More
Westhoff_Crazytunia_Swiss Dancer

April 16, 2015

Allan Armitage Finds Some Surprising Intros At Floricul…

Allan Armitage visited three breeders at Spring Trials’ newest location, Floricultura. He found several plants that made Floricultura’s debut a must-stop site in 2015. Westhoff At Westhoff, plant breeding is alive and well, with many things to embrace. The petunia program is vibrant and creative, and I am particularly confident that the Crazytunia program will continue to grow. Crazytunias should fly off the shelves because of their unique colors. Westhoff also brings more standard fare to the table. The Epic series of bacopas have large flowers and should be of particular interest. ‘Epic White’ is particularly nice. And the lobelia in the Hot series has been excellent. ‘Snow White’ adds a good white to the mix. The Hot series does tolerate heat better than most lobelias and now it has a reasonable number of colors. The plant that caught my interest the most this year was ‘Lilac Cascade.’ According to Westhoff, this […]

Read More

April 16, 2015

Golden State Bulbs And Sakata: Allan Armitage Highlight…

Dr. Allan Armitage was excited to see both new and improved breeding, as well as have the chance to meet breeders and talk shop at Sakata Seed and Golden State Bulb. Sakata Seed At Sakata, we wandered through traditional crops like zinnias, New Guinea impatiens, calibrachoa and petunias. However, I have always been impressed with the SuperCal program, and this year’s introduction of vibrant colors of Light Yellow and Pink really caught my eye. The flowers of Light Yellow are significantly larger than other colors in the series. I believe the SuperCals are poised for major additional sales. Everybody was talking about ‘Dragon’s Breath’ celosia, and I wanted to see what the hype was all about. It is surely hype-worthy. The plants I observed were large with obvious vigor, and the foliage was coppery with huge, bright, rose-red flowers. Apparently this is a plant that benefits from minimal inputs, such as […]

Read More

April 14, 2015

Allan Armitage Finds Old Fashioned Plants Are New Again…

Day two of California Spring Trials was packed with breeders and all their new introductions and marketing. Allan Armitage found several varieties he felt were worth a second look.

Read More

April 14, 2015

Dümmen And HGTV: Allan Armitage On What Looks Promising

On his third day of California Spring Trials, Dr. Allan Armitage visited two Dümmen sites and HGTV HOME Plants. (Full disclosure: Dr. Armitage consults for HGTV HOME Plants.) Take a look at the new introductions that caught his eye during these stops.

Read More

April 13, 2015

Allan Armitage Shares His Favorite Spring Trials Finds …

Dr. Allan Armitage talks about his favorite finds among the many new introductions he saw at Green Fuse Botanicals, Suntory and Ball Horticulture. He saw a couple of not-so-new plants that he loves, too.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

April 10, 2015

Let’s Revisit New Crops

New crops are the lifeblood of our industry, but what is new to us isn't always new to consumers.

Read More

March 23, 2015

Update To Armitage’s Greatest Perennials & Annuals …

A new update to the Greatest Perennials & Annuals app narrows the gap between consumers and grower-retailers, while providing more of Armitage’s top picks and growing advice for success with plants.

Read More
Salvia 'Ember's Wish'

March 11, 2015

Annual Salvias – Not Just Red Bedding Plants Anym…

Salvias are popular — and they need not all be the same. Here are a few you know well, and perhaps a few you do not. All are easy to grow and may be found through a broker or grower.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

March 11, 2015

Memoirs Of A Plantsman: Q & A With Allan Armitage

In light of the upcoming release of Dr. Allan Armitage's memoir, "It’s Not Just About the Hat — The Unlikely Journey of a Plantsman," Greenhouse Grower caught up with him for an in-depth Q & A about his newest work and what he’s planning next.

Read More

January 28, 2015

Ornamental Grasses Bring Low Maintenance To The Landsca…

Read about Allan Armitage's picks for low-maintenance grasses for the landscape.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]