20 Invasive Shrubs to Avoid

Heavenly bamboo shrub with small red berries clustered on end of thin stem and green, yellow and red leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Whether you're working on building up a new garden or maintaining what you already have, it's important to know which plants and shrubs could be harmful to your green sanctuary. The below shrubs are known to be invasive, and while they might look beautiful, should be avoided and removed at all costs.

Here are 20 invasive shrubs to keep an eye out for.

  • 01 of 20

    Amur Honeysuckle

    Flowers of an Amur honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii
    weisschr / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Lonicera maackii
    • Family: Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle)
    • Other Common Names: Bush honeysuckle
    • Native to: Eastern Asia
    • USDA Zones: 3-8
    • Height: 10-15' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade, may work in full shade

    Do not be fooled by the pretty fragrant flowers and attractive red fruit. The Amur honeysuckle will take over your yard and crowd out other plants, negating any ornamental value. If there are just a few, you can try digging them up or cutting them back to the ground repeatedly. Chemical control may be necessary if you have a large population of these shrubs.

    Other invasive shrubs in this list include:

    • Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)
    • Beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia)
    • Burning bush (Euonymus alatus)
    • Bush honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica)
    • Cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis)
    • Common gorse (Ulex europaeus)
    • English holly (Ilex aquifolium)
    • European cranberrybush (Viburnum opulus)
    • European privet (Ligustrum vulgare)
    • Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica)
    • Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus)
    • Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
    • Japanese spiraea (Spiraea japonica)
    • Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata)
    • Lantana (Lantana spp.)
    • Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)
    • Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius)
    • Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)
    • Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius)
  • 02 of 20

    Autumn Olive

    Soft selective focus delicate small flowers of Elaeagnus umbellata. Spring miracle of this blooming plant
    Marina Denisenko / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Elaeagnus umbellata
    • Family: Elaeagnaceae (oleaster)
    • Other Common Names: Spreading oleaster, Japanese silverberry, autumn eleagnus, autumn-olive, umbellate oleaster, silverberry
    • Native to: Eastern Asia
    • USDA Zones: 4-8
    • Height: 10-20' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Like its sibling Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), the autumn olive is hardy and survives where many other plants fail. This determination, however, means that it quickly spreads and becomes a nuisance that is very hard to remove. Watch out for the sharp thorns.

  • 03 of 20

    Beach Vitex

    Vitex rotundifolia
    igaguri_1 / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Vitex rotundifolia
    • Family: Lamiaceae (mint)
    • Other Common Names: Pōhinahina, roundleaf chaste tree, monk's berry, chaste berry, round-leaf vitex
    • Native to: Areas around the Pacific Ocean
    • USDA Zones: 6b-10 (maybe 11)
    • Height: 1-4' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun

    In some areas, this shrub has been nicknamed "kudzu of the coast" or "beach kudzu" for its habit of spreading rapidly and being pretty much indestructible. In other locations, though, it can be used successfully in the garden. I think the blue blossoms are especially lovely, though I can understand if people despise it in invasive areas.

  • 04 of 20

    Burning Bush

    Burning Bush
    gurineb / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Euonymus alatus
    • Family: Celastraceae (bittersweet or staff vine)
    • Other Common Names: Winged euonymus, winged spindle
    • Native to: Eastern Asia
    • USDA Zones: 4-8
    • Height: 15-20' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    If you need a sturdy shrub with a brilliant fall display, burning bush earns its name. It can flourish in a wide variety of pH levels and soil/environmental conditions. Sadly, though, it will grow and spread, negating this aesthetic value. This can also fall prey to attacks from euonymus scale.

    Continue to 5 of 20 below.
  • 05 of 20

    Bush Honeysuckle

    Bush honeysuckle shrub with small pink flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    • Latin Name: Lonicera tatarica
    • Family: Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle)
    • Other Common Names: Tartarian honeysuckle
    • Native to: Asia
    • USDA Zones: 3-8
    • Height: 5-12' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    The flowers on this honeysuckle can be either white or pink and serve as a distinguishing characteristic. It will bring my favored hummingbirds, as they love to sip on the nectar. The bush honeysuckle is a fast grower and can overtake other plants.

  • 06 of 20

    Cape Honeysuckle

    Orange cape honeysuckle or tecoma capensis plant shrub
    skymoon13 / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Tecomaria capensis, Bignonia capensis or Tecoma capensis
    • Family: Bignoniaceae (trumpet creeper)
    • Native to: South Africa near the Cape of Good Hope
    • USDA Zones: 9-11
    • Height: 25-30' in vine form, 3-10' in shrub form
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade
    • Growing profile for the Cape honeysuckle

    Lisa, our Guide to Pool and Patio, was telling me about her Cape honeysuckle last night. She says it had gone wild, turned more into a vine and covered a whole hillside.

    While it can get out of hand, I think the Cape honeysuckle can still be worth it. The bright orange colors add a happy note to the garden and hummingbirds love to zip around the flowers. This shrub can be pruned into a hedge and kept under control.

  • 07 of 20

    Common Gorse

    Gorse - Ireland
    Jamie Stamey / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Ulex europaeus
    • Family: Fabaceae (pea)
    • Other Common Names: Whin, furze, gorse, hoth, honey bottles, espinillo, corena
    • Native to: Europe
    • USDA Zones: 6-10
    • Height: 2-10' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun

    Common gorse is covered in cheery yellow blossoms each year, but that is not enough to negate the fact that it is a noxious weed.

    One key feature is the high oil levels in this plant, making is especially susceptible to fire. Over time the plant has adapted and now has better germination rates after being hit by fire.

    It looks a lot like Scotch broom, another invasive shrub in this collection. Watch out for the thorns all over the plant. Bees, birds and butterflies favor common gorse.

  • 08 of 20

    English Holly

    Ilex aquifolium (holly, English holly, European holly, Christmas holly)
    ilbusca / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Ilex aquifolium
    • Family: Aquifoliaceae (holly)
    • Other Common Names: Common holly, Christmas holly, holly, European holly
    • Native to: Europe, Asia and Africa
    • USDA Zones: 6-9
    • Height: 10-50' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    English holly is a dioecious shrub or medium-sized tree. The red fruit is a highlight on this plant, though it can easily mean more English hollies popping up If you want to plant English holly but do not mind the lack of fruit, male cultivars will prevent reseeding. The leaves are sharp and spiny.

    Continue to 9 of 20 below.
  • 09 of 20

    European Cranberrybush

    Viburnum opulus, water elder, cramp bark, snowball tree and European cranberrybush
    Michele Ursi / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Viburnum opulus
    • Family: Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle)
    • Other Common Names: Guelder rose, snowball bush, red elder, European highbush cranberry, snowball tree, rose elder, cramp bark, water elder, European cranberrybush viburnum
    • Native to: Europe and Asia
    • USDA Zones: 3-8
    • Height: 8-15' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Other species of viburnum shrubs

    The name cranberrybush is in reference to the fruits, which do indeed resemble the cranberry. Birds spread the seeds after they eat the fruit, contributing greatly to the spread of this shrub. It also attracts the viburnum leaf beetle. Another common name (snowball bush) describes the appearance of the flower clusters.

  • 10 of 20

    European Privet

    Ligustrum vulgare
    seven75 / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Ligustrum vulgare
    • Family: Oleaceae (olive)
    • Other Common Names: Wild privet, common privet
    • Native to: Africa, Asia and Europe
    • USDA Zones: 4-8
    • Height: 4-15' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    The European privet will be semi-evergreen in the warmer zones and deciduous otherwise. Birds help propagate this shrub through the seeds in their droppings. These plants are one of the most common species used to create hedges.

  • 11 of 20

    Heavenly Bamboo

    Heavenly bamboo shrub with light green leaves and small red berry clusters on thin red stems

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    • Latin Name: Nandina domestica
    • Family: Berberidaceae (barberry)
    • Other Common Names: Sacred bamboo, nandina
    • Native to: Eastern Asia
    • USDA Zones: 6-9
    • Height: 3-8' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to full shade

    I saw this shrub used frequently in California landscapes. The stems and leaves do look like true bamboo and the fruit will add color in fall and winter. The leaves will also put on a show, turning red in autumn. This shrub spreads itself easily through rhizomes and seeds. In cooler zones, heavenly bamboo tends to be deciduous.

  • 12 of 20

    Himalayan Blackberry

    Himalayan Blackberry Vine with Fruit
    Buddy Mays / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Rubus armeniacus, R. procerus or R. discolor
    • Family: Rosaceae (rose)
    • Other Common Names: Armenian blackberry
    • Native to: Armenia in southwestern Europe
    • USDA Zones: 4-9
    • Height: Canes can be anywhere from 3-40' long
    • Exposure: Full sun to full shade

    When I was interning in Oregon, we made up a song about the Himalayan blackberries (and other blackberry species) that seem to spring up everywhere. It was to the tune of "This Is the Song That Never Ends", but we replaced song with weed. Blackberries are EVERYWHERE in the Pacific Northwest! I did enjoy picking some with my family while I was there, though.

    This bramble is considered to be either a shrub or subshrub and bears its fruit on canes that are covered with sharp thorns.

    Continue to 13 of 20 below.
  • 13 of 20

    Japanese Barberry

    Bush Of Berberis Thunbergii, The Japanese Barberry, Thunberg's Barberry, Or Red Barberry. Flowering Plant In The Barberry Family, Berberidaceae
    bruev / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Berberis thunbergii
    • Family: Berberidaceae (barberry)
    • Other Common Names: Red barberry, Thunberg's barberry
    • Native to: Eastern Asia
    • USDA Zones: 4-8
    • Height: 2-8' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    The Japanese barberry is found in many landscapes despite its potential to be invasive. There are varieties available with purple leaves, which can help add color. Many varieties have thorns, though some have been produced that are thornless. One beneficial aspect of this shrub is that deer prefer to avoid it, a status not held by many plants.

  • 14 of 20

    Japanese Spiraea

    Spiraea japonica
    seven75 / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Spiraea japonica, Spiraea japonica var. alpina or Spiraea bumalda
    • Family: Rosaceae (rose)
    • Other Common Names: Maybush, Japanese meadowsweet
    • Native to: China, Korea and Japan
    • USDA Zones: 4-8
    • Height: 4-6' tall
    • Exposure: Can take some shade, but full sun provides the best flowering.

    This imported spiraea tends to take over and can endanger native spiraeas. One reason that it is so hard to control is because the seeds can lie dormant for many years, making it very difficult to eradicate completely.

  • 15 of 20

    Japanese Tree Lilac

    View of Japanese tree lilac or Syringa reticulata full of flowers in the springtime, Popular Zaimov park, district Oborishte
    vili45 / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Syringa reticulata
    • Family: Oleaceae (olive)
    • Native to: Japan
    • USDA Zones: 3-7
    • Height: 15-30' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun for best results

    Do not expect the Japanese tree lilac flowers to have the same glorious fragrance as the familiar lilacs like common lilac (Syringa vulgaris). This species is less prone to becoming invasive than most species on this list.

  • 16 of 20


    Pink and yellow lantana flowers at sunset
    dikti / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Various species of Lantana can be invasive. Pictured above and described here is Lantana camara.
    • Family: Verbenaceae (vervain or verbena)
    • Other Common Names: West Indian lantana, Spanish flag, shrub verbena, common lantana
    • Native to: Central and South America
    • USDA Zones: 9b-11
    • Height: 3-6' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun

    One reason to reconsider placing a lantana in your yard is because it can be very toxic for your pets or children if they munch on the fruit. Lantana will resist drought, salt and fire. It also can handle cutting well, which is good or bad depending on whether you are pruning it or trying to remove it.

    Continue to 17 of 20 below.
  • 17 of 20

    Multiflora Rose

    Rosa Multiflora
    Zhigang Zhao / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Rosa multiflora
    • Family: Rosaceae (rose)
    • Other Common Names: Seven-sisters rose, baby rose, many-flowered rose, Japanese rose, wreath rose, Buschel rose
    • Native to: Eastern Asia
    • USDA Zones: 5-8
    • Height: 3-15' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    The stems will root and widen the multiflora rose if they touch the soil. This can cause the shrub to spread rapidly and take over your garden. It will sometimes form into a vine and extend its reach.

  • 18 of 20

    Scotch Broom

    Scotch Broom; English Broom; Common Broom (Cytisus scoparius, Sarothamnus scoparius) blooming
    Andrei Stanescu / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Cytisus scoparius
    • Family: Fabaceae (pea)
    • Other Common Names: Common broom, English broom, broom
    • Native to: Europe
    • USDA Zones: 5-8
    • Height: 3-10' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun

    Scotch broom is monoecious , bearing both male and female flowers on the same plant. It is able to reseed easily and spreads throughout your landscape.

  • 19 of 20

    Staghorn Sumac

    Autumn leaves of staghorn sumac
    Martin Ruegner / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Rhus typhina
    • Family: Anacardiaceae (cashew or sumac)
    • Other Common Names:Velvet sumac, vinegar tree
    • Native to: Eastern North America
    • USDA Zones: 4-8
    • Height: 15-25'+ tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Other species of sumac trees and shrubs

    One of my friends had some staghorn sumac shrubs that were overtaking his garden. I would go to visit his place and pull them all out. The next time I went there, they had sprung back with a vengeance. Sumacs have an extensive rhizome system, so they had survived and produced new shoots.

  • 20 of 20


    japanese wineberry rubus phoenicolasius
    wimseyed / Getty Images
    • Latin Name: Rubus phoenicolasius
    • Family: Rosaceae (rose)
    • Other Common Names: wine raspberry, Japanese wineberry
    • Native to: China, Korea and Japan
    • USDA Zones: 6-8
    • Height: 3-6' tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Birds and animals can spread the seed through droppings. Like other raspberry species, it can form new plants wherever the cane touches the ground. The fruits are edible and taste like tart raspberries. Wineberry plants are sometimes bred with other raspberry species to create new hybrids.This plant features stems that are very hairy.