Any longtime gardener can walk through their yard and name at least one “headache” plant. A plant they had planted awhile ago that has spread like crazy and can not be eradicated. I’ve been tasked by clients to remove the likes of sweet woodruff, bluebells, golden deadnettle, and even oregano. Bamboo can also be classified as a headache plant, but I’ll post about that unique creature in the near future. My own personal “headache” plant is petasites. What I thought were cool, large, plate-sized plants are now my nemesis, having taken over a part of the perennial garden I prefer they don’t. And their fleshy roots store lots of energy, allowing them to run like thick ropes. I’ve been losing the battle in ripping them out for years.
Usually I talk to clients in terms of plants that “every garden needs.” But the following plants are plants no garden needs — ever, at all, ever, ever, ever, ever, in the history of their yard — ever.
Wild Purple Violets
(Viola species.) Aren’t these dusky plants pretty? Gardeners still buy these because of their purple foliage and delicate lavender flowers. Don’t be enchanted by the magical foliage because once you have them, you’ll probably never get rid of them. I’ve been asked by clients to remove them and beforehand I always make it clear I cannot guarantee they won’t return, because they always do. They have white, fleshy roots that store tons of energy so if you leave a tiny sliver of root behind after weeding, an entire new plant will sprout.
(Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea.’) This plant is used a lot in containers because it cascades down a pot’s sides in an elegant, pretty fashion. Especially the vivid, yellow-leaved cultivar pictured here. But beware of putting it in the soil of your yard. It will run charmingly at first, but soon be stretching into areas of other shrubs, across paths, and over rocks. I can’t ever in good conscience use this plant as a groundcover in a client’s yard.
(Vinca minor.) This sounds like a cute plant because it’s got the word “wink” in it. And it does have a cute, purple (can also be white and blue) flower, but periwinkle is no harmless plant. It forms a net with roots spiking down every several leaves and voraciously grows in all directions, even over its own vines. Ick, I shudder just to think of it. In my woodland, I have a thick mat of it that does little for birds or wildlife, and of course, doesn’t bloom because the shade is so deep. The only upshot to it is it’s easy to pull out. But it’s best left sitting in little pots in the nursery.
(Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum.’) Don’t be fooled by the graceful green and whitish-yellow variegation on this groundcover. Its image in contrast with dark-leaved plants is really enchanting. Definitely brightens a shady area. It’s got two colors and papery, divided leaves that stay at a low height. It’s neat and clean. Weeds do not usually get through it. But it’s not your friend. It’s a bully, creeping along the border, popping up between perennials, poking through cracks. When you pull it and accidentally leave a millimeter of root behind, it grows back. Two years ago, I dug out every tiny plant of Bishop’s Weed I could find. Now, it’s taken over a two by six-foot spot. Run away! Run away! Run away!
What plants did you plant that you wish you hadn’t? Share with me your stories of horror and frustration. We’re all in this together.