Invasive to Avoid

Amur Honeysuckle

Amur Honeysuckle
treegrow/Flickr
  • 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 cranberry-bush (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)

Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive
F.D. Richards/Flickr
  • 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.

Beach Vitex

Beach Vitex
D.Eickhoff/Flickr
  • 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.

Burning Bush

Burning Bush
NatureServe/Flickr
  • 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.

Bush Honeysuckle

Picture of Bush Honeysuckle
Image by Matt Lavin via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
  • 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.

Cape Honeysuckle

Picture of cape honeysuckle
Image by David~O via Flickr
  • 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.

Common Gorse

Picture of Common Gorse
Image by Sapphireblue via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
  • 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.

English Holly

Picture of English Holly
Image by SamuelJohn.de via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
  • 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.

European Cranberry-Bush

Picture of European Cranberry-Bush
Image by pizzodisevo via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
  • 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 cranberry-bush 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 Another common name (snowball bush) describes the appearance of the flower clusters.

European Privet

Picture of European Privet
Image by blumenbiene via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
  • 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.

Heavenly Bamboo

Picture of Heavenly Bamboo
Image by greeneyedesignllc via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
  • 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.

Himalayan Blackberry

Photo of Himalayan Blackberries
Image by FolioRoad via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
  • 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.

Japanese Barberry

Berberis Thunbergii 'Concorde' has deep purple leaves
Image by nestmaker
  • 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.

Japanese Spiraea

Picture of Japanese Spiraea
Image by color line via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
  • 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.

Japanese Tree Lilac

Picture of Japanese Tree Lilac
Image by wlcutler via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
  • 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.

Lantana

Picture of Lantana
Image by Shepard4711 via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
  • 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.

Multiflora Rose

Picture of Multiflora Rose
Image by Justin Tso via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license
  • 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.

Scotch Broom

Picture of Scotch Broom
Image by Akos Kokai via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
  • 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.

Staghorn Sumac

Picture of Staghorn Sumac
Image by wallygrom via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
  • 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.

Wineberry

Picture of Wineberry
Image by Virens (Latin for greening) via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license
  • 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.