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Caution: Some plants to avoid buying for your home garden

It’s time to stop by your favorite garden retailers to pick up some plants for your summer garden. Before doing so, here are some plants you should avoid or at least use with caution. 

English Ivy and Wintercreeper are very common ground covers that are evergreen and drought-tolerant. They grow well almost anywhere. It is because of these attributes that they are often promoted as a good plant to use beneath trees and other difficult-to-grow areas, such as slopes. Although they are marketed as such, other plants that have deeper roots are a better option for a ground covering.  


These plants spread aggressively, growing up trees or buildings, which can ultimately be harmful to both. When they climb up surfaces, they can also fruit and there is no telling where this fruit will end up. If they spread into a natural area, these plants can establish themselves, unchecked, and compete with surrounding native vegetation, sometimes preventing tree regeneration in forests. I have witnessed this in areas of Oakhurst with dense English Ivy. 

On Minnetrista’s campus English Ivy was recently removed from all trees by cutting its vines and pulling the plant off of the trunks. The vines that weren’t able to be reached were cut and will be left to die, falling off over time. If you like the look of English Ivy, a good solution would be to plant it in containers or within a contained garden bed, to prevent spreading. 


Ribbon Grass is another plant to avoid, due to its dispersive nature. It is a variegated grass that grows well in many places and spreads by aggressive rhizomes. It is a cultivated variety of Reed Canary Grass which is an invasive species in rivers and other bodies of water. Reed Canary competes with other, more desirable and beneficial native species, and Ribbon Grass is known to revert or change back to this highly invasive form, spreading from garden to garden.

Burning Bush and Norway Maple are two other commonly sold plants at retailers that should be avoided. Both will seed and spread into natural areas. Native shrub and tree species should be used as alternatives. Sweetspire rivals the fall color of Burning Bush, and Sugar Maple can replace Norway Maples on many sites.


These are just a few of the plants sold that should be used with caution or not at all in your home garden. My advice is to go beyond the label and advertised benefits of a plant to make sure they are really worth buying and maintaining.  

Dustin Stillinger, an ISA Certified Arborist, is the Horticulture manager at Minnetrista overseeing twenty-one acres of ornamental and natural areas. He can be reached at (765) 287-3563 or