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.

Topics:

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...
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The Gaillardia

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Annual Meeting Date

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
Evolvulus Blue My Mind

February 24, 2015

Blue Ribbon Bloomers For Greenhouse Production

Grow what consumers want! Surveys show that blue is one of the top preferred colors of today’s consumers. Here are twelve top recommended blue-flowering Proven Winners annuals and perennials to suit your spring production cycle.

Read More
Latest Stories

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
Dr Allan Armitage

January 9, 2015

Carex: Up And Coming Perennial For Spring Sales

Carex has quietly become as important to the landscape trade as popular grasses like panicum and miscanthus.

Read More

November 24, 2014

Impatiens Downy Mildew: Is It Time Yet?

Has enough time passed to add bedding impatiens back into the starting lineup without the fear of downy mildew?

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

November 3, 2014

Plants That Passed Their Trial: Armitage’s Favori…

Allan Armitage outlines his favorite top performing plants of 2014 he'd like to see offered by growers, brokers and retailers in 2015.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

September 26, 2014

Let’s Get Real — We Are Not Going Anywhere

The greenhouse industry has turned a corner. We are incorporating change into everything we do.

Read More

August 22, 2014

The Plant Season Is Over — What I Have Seen

Annuals, perennials, shrubs, even trees, assailed us all season. We started out viewing new plants in April at the California Spring Trials and watched these newbies and their older siblings in trials, gardens and field days. Here are some thoughts on the four crops that keep filling my radar screen almost everywhere I go.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

July 28, 2014

You Don’t Need To Hit A Homerun Every Time, Armitage Sa…

The more I meet positive people and learn about successful endeavors, the more I understand that consistency, not power is the key.

Read More

July 18, 2014

Plants I Know My Daughters, Neighbors And Friends Would…

Check out Allan Armitage's recommendations for five plants we all need to see more of in the future.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

May 9, 2014

There Is Always Something To Celebrate

Allan Armitage celebrates 30 years of writing Tips Of The Trade for Greenhouse Grower and reflects on some memorable moments.

Read More

April 16, 2014

Invasive And Aggressive Plants: Don’t Sell Them, …

There is no excuse for growers and retailers continuing to sell invasive and aggressive plants. Plants that once seemed benign garden plants are strangling entire areas. And we are still selling them! Even if they look beautiful, they will turn gardeners off and ultimately hurt us all.

Read More

April 16, 2014

Armitage On New Introductions From Ball Horticultural C…

Allan Armitage recaps Day 6 of the 2014 California Spring Trials, discussing Bounce impatiens, Kabloom calibrachoas, Cannova callas, Vernique veronica, Madrid Gold lavender and more new varieties.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

March 27, 2014

Growing Veggies Without The Garden

Edibles like strawberries thrive in containers and are wonderfully ornamental.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

December 30, 2013

An Optimistic Outlook Improves Every Task, Allan Armita…

Change your way of thinking to make everything easier and every day brighter.

Read More

December 2, 2013

Today’s Breeders On Tomorrow’s Plants

One of the future challenges is the continuing need for new and improved crops for the consumer. Make no mistake about it, new crops — and new breeders — are the lifeblood of this industry.

Read More

November 14, 2013

Taking Time To Educate Consumers Pays Off

How many springs have we been hearing customers lament over failed echinaceas? “Fancy” echinaceas (peach, salmon, mango, yellow, doubles, shaggy, hideous) are not our native purple coneflowers — not even close. They have been infused with blood from at least four other species, none of which are as vigorous or tough as the purple coneflower. The result is that gardeners plant these unusual beauties with great enthusiasm, only to find they do not return the next year. I’m not sure how many people actually read this column, but I bet many of you are nodding your heads in agreement. From Akron to Atlanta, the complaint is the same: the new echinaceas are not long-lasting. How many times must we shoot ourselves in the foot? Soon we will need prosthetics. Little research has been done, and I am aware of no scientific papers published on this phenomenon. So what do we […]

Read More