Garden Musings · Garden Planning · Perennials · Shrubs

5 Plants I Wish I Never Planted

Lysimachia clethroides

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.

Sorbaria sorbifolia

Sorbaria sorbifolia

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…

Sorbaria sorbifolia root suckers

…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’

Agepodium '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.

Agepodium 'Variegatum'

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

Cryptotaenia 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 atropurpurea

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

Lysimachia clethroides - Flower Close Up

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.

Lysimachia clethroides

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.

Pinellia

Pinellia

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.

Pinellia

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!

16 thoughts on “5 Plants I Wish I Never Planted

  1. Oh my goodness, I love this post! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one battling “thugs” that I knowing placed in my garden. Makes me want to do a post of my own! Thank you for identifying these so I don’t put them in as well! (Although it’s too late for snow on the mountain…sigh). Best to you! – Natalie

    1. Thank you so much, Natalie. Some mistakes in the garden are easier to correct than others. These planting mistakes, I fear, will be with me forever (but I keep trying). And, don’t even get me started on the silver maples we planted – LOL!

  2. I was smart enough to never plant bishop weed! The other four…not so smart. The Sorbaria (actually kirilowii) got moved to the edge of a field, where it is controlled by the mower on one side and brush, trees and shade elsewhere, and I still get to enjoy the flowers! Three years of maniacally removing every single Cryptotaenia plant before bloom was sufficient to eradicate it altogether. Gooseneck loosestrife has a charm and I cannot bring myself to remove it altogether, but it is in a dry location and under control. Sort of. As for the Pinellia, I have been pulling or digging every plant I see for 17 years, and never allowed any to go to seed, yet it still keeps popping up! Needless to say, I will never call the “friend” who gave it to me a friend again!

    1. We are two peas in a pod, two gardeners made from the same cloth, kindred spirits, or something else like that, Viktoria. As for ‘friends’ who share plants, I just hate it when I see these for sale at neighborhood plant sales!

  3. I have grown several of these plants. The False Spirea was in the ground only one year and it took off. I didn’t let it stay any longer because I figured if it sent out suckers the first year it would be a bear to contain. So I got rid of it fairly easily. The Bishops Weed I had in a semi contained area. When it got too thugish I worked a couple of years to get it out. It hasn’t returned. Too bad it is so invasive. It is so pretty and will grow anyplace. The Goose neck Loosestrife is still in my garden. It is in a dry area. It is easy for me to control it. It does indeed need to be controlled though.
    I will be sure not to try the other plants you have mentioned. I haven’t seen them before. They might not like my zone 6.
    My worst is Chameleon Plant Houttuynia cordata Still trying to get rid of it.

    1. Hi Lisa. I actually planted the chameleon plant, too, when we first created a bog garden next to our pond. I had always loved its beautifully-colored foliage and it was a completely contained area. As the trees around the area grew and the area got much shadier, it struggled. Now, there are a few stems here and there, but it has basically removed itself from my garden.

  4. HA! I have a few of my own including sprinkling some type of spreading yarrow in an area where the grass wasn’t growing well and it’s runners are going everywhere! False spirea is also the bane of my existence, but that one I unfortunately inherited when we moved here – ugh!!

    1. The only yarrow I’ve ever planted have been ‘clumpers’ so I guess I’m lucky about those. And yup, sometimes we inherit monsters and sometimes we unleash them all by ourselves!

  5. You are a gardener after my own heart.. I take every plant and try to find it a home. But the five above have also been issues in my gardens. I think I might get banned from our local Master Gardeners Plant Sale for bringing oh maybe somewhat aggressive plants. Great Post.I can totally relate

    1. Thanks, Becky! It is so difficult for us to say no to a plant, isn’t it? Especially if it has pretty flowers, colorful foliage, or it’s unique is some way. Will we ever learn our lesson? Probably not – LOL!

  6. Great post! It made me nod in recognition, but I burst out laughing at your reluctance to eat Japanese parsley because you hate it so much! I have grown Lysimachia, and I inherited Aegopodium in my new Astoria garden. But my worst nemesis now is Acanthus spinosa, or Bear’s Breeches. I planted it and I can’t get rid of it. Like Aegopodium, it is invigorated by being disturbed, and the tubers are brittle so it never comes out cleanly. I fear I will be cursed with it for the life of my garden.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Jane. It’s so funny how one gardener’s nemesis is on another gardener’s wish list. I think bear’s breeches is such a cool looking plant, but I can’t grow it my garden. Good luck controlling it in yours!

  7. I agree with bishop’s weed but I still love my goosenecked loosestrife. I buried in a pot and it was well contained for 5 years. Then it jumped out of the pot, and I gave it it’s own bed. It’s in partial shade and it needs to be reigned in yearly. The bees and butterflies love it, and those rotten deer sleep in it.

    1. There’s no doubt about it – gooseneck loosestrife is pretty. I just wish it wouldn’t ‘eat’ every other plants in its path! LOL

  8. Gooseneck loosestrife is a beauty but I had to grow it in a pot to keep it contained. As for false spirea, I had ‘Sem’ in my last garden and really loved it but it does spread. But it’s so pretty I’m adding it to my new garden but am planting it in an area between the garage and the brick walkway so it can only go so far! Bishopsweed is almost impossible to get rid of it. It’s a beautiful thug!

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