I am a plant lover. All right, truth be told, I am a plant addict. I fed my addiction for almost 20 years while working at a garden center. New plants found their way into my car almost every day. Plants have come and gone in my landscape, sometimes by my choice and sometimes by theirs.
Out of all those plants over all those years, there are only 5 plants I wish I had never planted in my gardens. Here they are in order of my contempt for them.
Commonly called false spirea, Sorbaria sorbifolia seemed like an ideal choice for a natural screen. It grew up to 8 feet tall and boasted attractive compound leaves all season and showy panicles of tiny white flowers in summer. It even offered pleasing yellow foliage in fall. Full sun and average moisture were listed as its cultural requirements.
The light shade it was planted in has become even shadier over the years, and I never did any supplemental watering in this area, and still…
…it has spread like crazy by root suckers. Experts advised pulling them to avoid unwanted spread. Seriously? There are so many of them.
Redeeming qualities: Sorbaria sorbifolia would be a suitable plant for erosion control in areas where its spreading nature would be an asset. It is also rarely, if ever, bothered by insects or diseases.
Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’ is a bit less aggressive than its parent but still wanders about the garden. It is smaller in stature, and the foliage is highlighted with strawberry-pink when it emerges in spring.
Agepodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’
I would guess bishop’s weed or snow-on-the-mountain is on many I Wish I Hadn’t Planted That lists. I was well aware of its aggressive nature and planted it anyway. I adored its creamy-edged, light green variegated foliage and thought I could outsmart it. I planted some in plastic pots and buried the pots, sure the sides of the pots would hold the adventurous rhizomes within.
I was wrong. Not only did the underground stems climb over the edges of the pots to escape into the garden, I had forgotten about its propensity to self-sow.
Even in the dry shade created by the roots of thirsty silver maples, Agepodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’ thrived. I tried, just once, to dig it up. Instead of eradicating it, I broke apart the root system and invigorated it.
Redeeming qualities: The foliage is very pretty. It is very adaptable and could be useful in an area with poor conditions for growing other perennials.
Cryptotaenia japonica f. atropurpurea
I purchased Japanese parsley, as Cryptotaenia japonica f. atropurpurea is commonly called, for its deep purple foliage in spring and its ability to grow in pretty deep shade. What a great companion to the hostas, ferns and sedges in my shade garden, right?
It grew about 18 inches tall and even bloomed with small purple flowers in summer. I didn’t matter to me that the color of leaves faded to coppery-purple as the summer progressed.
Cryptotaenia japonica f. atropurpurea has self-seeded itself into large areas, invading the space of other perennials. To reduce self-seeding, spent flower stems should have been removed but there are thousands of them! While I wasn’t watching, it ate three plants of Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, leaving a single golden-striped blade in its wake.
Redeeming qualities: The leaves and stems of Japanese parsley are said to taste a little like parsley or celery and are often used in soups and salads. I hate it too much to eat it.
Lysimachia clethroides, or gooseneck loosestrife, is another thug that I planted in my garden, on purpose. I saw it growing in a garden while on a summer garden walk and was smitten by the unique, gracefully-curving, white flower spikes. I was warned about its aggressive nature but assured myself it wouldn’t be a problem in my partly shaded border with dry soil. After all, it preferred full sun and moist, rich soil.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. It grew into a large drift devouring other perennials in its way. Over the years, I have tried everything from spraying it with RoundUp® to smothering it with many layers of newspapers and nearly a foot of wood chips.
Here is what it looks like today in a border.
Redeeming qualities: It could be a lovely, weed-choking groundcover for large areas with moist soil. Plants are never bothered by insects or diseases, and the flowers are beautiful in cut flower arrangements.
I am not completely certain which species of Pinellia I planted. Pinellia cordata is described as having wide silver stripes along the veins and mine is completely green. Pinellia ternata is listed as having trifoliate foliage (compound leaves with three leaflets) and mine have compound leaves with five to eight leaflets. Photos of Pinellia pedatisecta seem to be the closest match and is listed, by some sources, as hardy to zone 4 but others believe it has difficulty overwintering north of zone 6. Hmmm.
Whichever species it is, I was enamored with its fondness for full shade and its similarity to Jack-in-the-pulpit. How cool is its spathe and spadix? Always looking for new perennials for the shady spots in my landscape, this was quickly snatched up and planted.
It has spread across the garden as the bulb-like tubers have multiplied by offsets and by self-seeding. Reference books advised removing the spadix before it released its seeds or hand pulling plants to reduce its spread.
Hand pulling was difficult. If the foliage pulled away from the bulb-like structure a few inches deep in the soil, the plant simply regrew. While it was not as aggressive as the previous entries on my list, it has popped up all over, often in the middle of other plants, making digging to remove it nearly impossible. That spathe and spadix have lost their charm.
Redeeming qualities: This would be a lovely choice as a groundcover in the shade. It is never bothered by insects or diseases.
One gardener’s weeds are another gardener’s treasured plants, I guess, although I doubt anyone would treasure these. Have you grown any of these plants and love them? Or are there other plants you curse the day you planted them in the garden? Share your stories and garden with me!