10 Worst Plants to Grow in Your Yard

A List of Plants That Can Drive You Nuts

What gives me the right to single out ten plants as the worst plants to grow in your yard? Isn't that a subjective judgment? Well, just as with our picks for the best ones, that is, of course, partly true. But our selections are not purely arbitrary - we've applied the NUTS rule in making our picks.

What is the NUTS rule? The acronym breaks down as follows: Noxious, Unstable, Troublesome,  Spreading. 

By "noxious" we mean that the plant in question can have an adverse impact on...MORE one's health. Some plants cause rashes, others are toxic if ingested, while still others are the bane of allergy sufferers.

The plants that we're calling out for being "unstable" are those that at first seem robust enough to the newbie but then prove themselves to be surprisingly susceptible to storm damage. This category is primarily reserved for trees and shrubs.

Plants subject to the charge of being "troublesome" cause us an undue amount of work. For example, they may be messy or they may demand constant landscape maintenance.

Finally, there are the plants guilty of "spreading." Not that spreading is always a bad thing: sometimes, we really do want to have a plant spread. But the plants in this final category are those that spread against our wishes. 

  • 01 of 10
    Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) spreading into a lawn area.
    Francois De Heel/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    Ajuga reptans spreads so vigorously as to disqualify it completely from landscape use. Commonly known as "bugleweed," this flowering ground cover may have a legitimate use somewhere, under some circumstances, but generally speaking, it spreads far too aggressively and is often incredibly difficult to eradicate. 

  • 02 of 10
    Sweet Autumn Clematis
    Joshua McCullough/ Photolibrary/ Getty Images

    The first year one grows sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) in the yard, it can seem like a pretty sweet choice. Puffy floral clouds emerge from the mass of vines in fall, lighting up the fence, arbor, or stone wall. It will turn heads in the neighborhood, and you'll be sad when the blooms wave good-bye.

    Then reality settles in during the next year. And the next after that. And...well, let's just say for an indeterminate period of time.

    Sweet autumn clematis self-seeds, dropping a...MORE number of seeds in nearby soil, allowing it to spread all over the place. It will self-seed where you least expect it to, the seedlings lurking under the dense foliage of some shrub until you finally discover it one day while inspecting your garden. This game of hide-and-seek will take years to play itself out.

  • 03 of 10
    Campsis radicans
    www.victoriawlaka.com / Getty Images

    You won't necessarily find trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) on lists of invasive plants. It is a North American native, and it's typically exotic plants that make their way onto such lists. But a plant needn't be classified as "invasive" in order to be aggressive. Trumpet vine is, in fact, a very aggressive spreader.

    Nor is it alone in this regard. Another vine not classified as invasive in North America (where it's a native) but that is overly aggressive for small yards is...MORE Virginia creeper. There's another disincentive to growing the latter: it can give some people a rash (thus it doubles as a noxious plant).

  • 04 of 10
    White ash tree (Fraxinus americana) in autumn
    Mark Turner/ Photolibrary/ Getty Images

    There are some plants you may wish to avoid growing in your landscape if you have problems with allergies. 

    White ash trees (Fraxinus americana) are dioecious. The male trees are among the worst plants you can grow in your yard if you're an allergy sufferer.

    White ash trees can be beautiful in the fall. Remember, NUTS spelled backward is "stun," and some of these plants can exhibit a stunning beauty. If you're not an allergy sufferer, white ash may be a wonderful choice for your...MORE yard. But if you (or a family member) tends to suffer from seasonal allergies, this beautiful tree should be avoided. 

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10
    Extreme Close-Up Of Ant On Tansy Flowers Outdoors
    Elena Nazarova / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Tansy is a poisonous plant if ingested, being toxic both to people and to livestock. Furthermore, like Virginia creeper, tansy is doubly undesirable, because it is also invasive. 

  • 06 of 10
    Ginkgo biloba's autumn leaves are yellow
    David Beaulieu

    Ginkgo biloba is a particularly troublesome tree, but only the female plant. Unlike the male white ash tree, pollen is not the issue. Instead, the problem with Ginkgo biloba trees is the fruit.

    Not only is the dropped fruit particularly messy to clean it, the rotting fruit emits an acrid odor that is similar to vomit. (Yes, really.) Consequently, this is not the type of tree you would want to plant near a patio or driveway, where you would have to worry about cleaning up the dropped fruit, or too...MORE close to the house, in the event you want to open your window to enjoy a fresh breeze. Ginkgo biloba is a great tree for your yard—if you stick with the male.

  • 07 of 10
    One-family house with garden
    Westend61 / Getty Images

    Yes, a "lawn" is not a plant, per se. Large lawns qualify as troublesome because of the constant upkeep that they require. Of course, if you don't mind this upkeep, that puts the issue in a different light (no harm, no foul).

    But sometimes, for some of us, there is a better alternative. Many a suburban homeowner would be better off eliminating at least some of the lawn and using the freed-up space to enlarge flower borders, for example. Other gardeners may cite environmental or...MORE conservation reasons for ridding themselves of a traditional lawn: depending on your climate, a rolling lawn requires a large amount of water to keep it lush. 

  • 08 of 10

    Bradford Pear Trees

    Bradford pear trees snap in storms.
    David Beaulieu

    It's easy to see why people are tempted to grow Bradford pear trees in their yards. Not only do they offer a veritable blizzard of blossoms in spring, but they also furnish your landscaping with colorful autumn leaves.

    But they have a fatal flaw: weak branches. You may end up losing your specimen to winter damage just after it comes into its prime—a disappointing turn of events, for sure. If you require extra disincentive to grow Bradford pears, note that they bear bad-smelling flowers.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10
    My picture of leyland cypress shows a young tree. This tree is popular in the American Southeast.
    David Beaulieu

    What's Leyland cypress' fatal flaw? Shallow roots. When these trees put on some height, they can be blown over relatively easily by high winds.

    Add to this the fact that the trees are susceptible to canker and it's hard not to conclude that it may be best to stay away from Leyland cypress if you have a good alternative (arborvitae will be a good substitute for some folks).

  • 10 of 10
    Populus nigra 'Italica'
    Kim Sayer/ Photolibrary/ Getty Images

    People commonly encounter old Lombardy poplar trees (Populus nigra 'italica') that have "gone to pot." These can be real eyesores in a landscape. Like Leyland cypress, they are known for often coming down with a case of canker. The trees are short-lived, to boot.

    Sure, when they start looking bad, you can always get rid of them. Or can you? The root systems, which are infamous for pushing up suckers, can be very difficult to eradicate. Those roots can also damage drainage systems....MORE For all these reasons, the consensus is that Lombardy poplars are one of the worst plants to grow in your yard.

Everyone's circumstances are different, so what works for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa. Perhaps you've grown one of the plants listed above in your yard and have nothing but good things to say about it. Do your research, keep an eye on potential troublemakers and enjoy the process of finding what works best for your own yard.