10 Invasive Plants That Will Take Over Your Garden

Plants Forest

Avoid planting these in your garden, they could wreak havoc.

10. Bradford Pear

Bradford Pear
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Even though this plant is a popular choice for commercial properties and suburban front yards, you should be wary of planting one in your own yard. The Bradford Pear grows fast and tall — in 20 years it can grow up to 50 feet high and 40 feet wide! Plus, this plant has weak wood — not a good thing in high winds and strong storms. And, its blooms have a very unpleasant smell.

TIP: Choose the Chanticleer Pear or Trinity Pear instead. They’re much better choices when it comes to gardens.

9. Japanese Honeysuckle

Japanese Honeysuckle
Source: Wikimedia Commons By John Tann from Sydney, Australia [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Broken tree limbs and dead shrubs and trees is what you’ll end up with if you plant this fast-growing vine in your garden. To avoid this, you’ll need to aggressively cut it back on a regular basis — preferably just after it has finished blooming.

-The Japanese honeysuckle grows to 30 feet.
-People usually plant them as a ground cover.
-This plant originated in Eastern Asia. It made its way to the U.S. in 1806 when it was brought to Long Island, NY, for decorative displays and erosion control.

8. Kudzu

Source: Wikimedia Commons By Bubba73 (Jud McCranie) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

This member of the pea family is more affectionately known as “the vine that ate the South.” That’s because it pretty much gobbles up just about everything — trees, houses, telephone poles, etc. — it touches. Kudzu grows well in both the sun and the shade and is pretty much unstoppable, growing at a rate of up to 1 foot per day. If its growth gets too out of hand, goats can be brought in to eat up the excess.

-Kudzu was initially planted to shade porches on southern plantations.
-The Chinese use this plant to treat alcoholism.
-Kudzu is sometimes used as livestock feed.

7. Chinese Wisteria

Chinese Wisteria
Source: Wikimedia Commons By 3268zauber [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Beware: Wisteria has a powerful root system. So powerful in fact that it can send shoots popping up a long distance away from the plant itself. As a result, it pretty much smothers everything in its path. The good news is that it can be kept under control with regular pruning and thinning.

-Wisteria can live for a very long time — hundreds of years, to be exact.
-There’s an American variety, too, but the Chinese wisteria is considered far more invasive, particularly in USDA hardiness zone 4. Zone 4 consists of Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Eastern states such as Northern New York, New Hampshire, and Maine.

6. English Ivy

English Ivy
Source: Wikimedia Commons

English ivy spreads vigorously and climbs up any object it can find, including abandoned school buses! It’s also known for killing trees slowly by restricting light. As a result, it’s one of the worst invasive plants there is. On the plus side, English ivy is able to handle widespread conditions and cover the ground quickly, crowding out weeds in the process.

-European colonists imported English ivy in the early 1700s as an easy-to-grow evergreen ground cover.
-English ivy is used medicinally for controlling skin problems.

5. Oriental Bittersweet

Oriental Bittersweet
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Dinesh Valke from Thane, India [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Like the other plants on this list, the Oriental bittersweet plant spreads quickly. As The Grumpy Gardener puts it, “this rampant vine does what all vines long to do—climbing, twining around, blanketing everything. Easily growing 15 feet in a year, it can ascend to the top of a 40-foot tree and engulf all but the topmost branches… Entire woods and gardens are smothered.”
Not only is this plant invasive, it’s also toxic. With that said, it’s best to avoid this in your garden altogether.

FUN FACT: There are two other varieties of bittersweets: American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) and bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara). The Oriental bittersweet vine is the most invasive of the three.

4. Yucca Plant

Yucca Plant
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Antony-22 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

The pervasive root system of the yucca plant is hard to kill. Not only that, but if you want to get rid of this plant, you’ll likely have to dig up everything else around it, too! And, like most other invasive plants, the yucca plant requires lots of maintenance. Another downside is that it attracts a lot of bugs.

And, if that weren’t enough, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported last year that the yucca plant was to blame for a spike in gardening-related ear injuries, including permanent hearing loss. Yucca leaves are long, thing, sharp and pointy, and when handling them and touching your ears at the same time, these arrow-like leaves can travel down the ear canal and either perforate your ear drum or, worse, pierce your inner ear. And, that’s the part that can lead to permanent damage.

TIP: Put your yucca plant in a pot indoors or on the porch instead so you won’t have to dig up everything else in your garden.

3. Japanese Barberry

Japanese Barberry
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Sheila Sund from Salem, United States [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

The Japanese barberry is an invasive plant. But, unlike the others, regular maintenance may not be the best solution. That’s because Japanese barberry is very difficult to maintain. It’s covered with a thicket of sharp barbs, which can make maintaining this plant a very unpleasant task. As a result, much of the Midwest has placed Japanese barberry on a list of dangerously invasive plants and strongly suggests that it never be planted at all.

Not only that, but Japanese barberry harbors black-legged ticks, which can carry Lyme disease.

TIP: Choose native alternatives instead. These include shrubby St. John’s wort (Hypericum prolificum) and winterberry (Ilex verticillata).

2. Sweet Autumn Clematis

Sweet Autumn Clematis
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Shoefly [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

The only thing “sweet” about the sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) is its fragrance. In fact, The New Southern Living Garden Book describes it as a “tall and vigorous” plant that “self-sows readily and can become a pest.” On the plus side, the book does say that it makes for a “good privacy screen and arbor cover.”

TIP: Choose a less invasive clematis instead, like the Armand clematis (Clematis armandii) or the Clematis paniculata, which is sometimes sold as sweet autumn clematis.

1. Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Ivar Leidus [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

This beautiful plant invades and takes over wetlands by forming dense root mats that choke out native plants, thereby degrading wildlife habitat. As a result, the U.S. and Canadian governments have used European beetles to feed on the plant.

-One purple loosestrife can produce as many as 2 million wind-dispersed seeds per year.
-Its underground stems grow at a rate of 1 foot per year.
-Purple loosestrife is found in every state in the U.S., except Alaska and Hawaii.


Now that you know what plants to avoid having in your garden, follow these ten gardening tips for a beautiful yard.