There are two kinds of plants that you must watch out for. One is a plant that has been officially labeled as invasive. The other I call “rude” plants because, although they are not invasive, they will not behave politely in the garden and will take over before you know it.
Both of these types of plants can cause you headaches in the garden.
Invasive plants are those that threaten our native plant life and can cause harm to the environment. Some of these plants push out native species that have provided shelter and food for animals or beneficial insects.
Others can quickly take over a river or pond and choke out beneficial species, causing danger to our native aquatic life and ecosystems. It is difficult to get a comprehensive list of these plants because Texas varies so much in types of environments.
What is invasive in East Texas may not be a problem at all in Central Texas. The best thing you can do is to search the name of the plant you wish to have in your landscape to make sure it is not on a list for your area. It makes a difference if you are near to water or other environs that could be threatened by a plant that would do just fine away from these temptations.
Sometimes an invasive plant enters the scene as a great plant that can survive our tough Texas conditions. Many of you may know that kudzu was actually planted in some areas because of its toughness and drought-resistance. However, highway departments were soon horrified to see that this invasive vine could grow to cover and then smother anything in its path, even large, tall trees. Just do an internet search for pictures taken of this plant covering trees and everything else to see the problem.
Some invasive plants for Central Texas include English ivy, nandina, native honeysuckle, Chinese ligustrums, chinaberry, Chinese tallow and golden bamboo. I know some of you are going to say, “But I love this plant!” but nevertheless, caution should be used when bringing these aggressive plants into your landscape.
Some plants are not quite as big a threat to the landscape as the above list, but can create their own problems in your landscape. A good example of a “rude” plant would be the tall ruellia.
This plant is a great flowering plant for those really hot, dry days of our Texas summers, but once it gets a start, it will quickly emerge all over your landscape. When you try to dig it up, you will find that the root system requires something on the order of dynamite to eradicate it.
I made the mistake of planting this flower about 10 years ago, and I will never see the end of it in my natural lifetime.
There is a ruellia that is wonderful for the landscape which I do recommend you plant. This variety is Ruellia brittoniana, which you will find labeled with the name “Katie.” It does not have the aggressive tendencies of its taller relative and, since it is very short, makes a great blooming border plant for the flower garden.
There are several other plants I would like to advise caution in introducing to your landscape. Any form of mint can be invasive. You can still grow mint, but try to keep it either in pots or in a place where it cannot easily escape into areas surrounding it.
I have had problems with it popping up in my groundcover. Once it takes hold of an area, it will have to be dug out. It is still worth inclusion in your herb garden. Just keep an eye on it.
The same thing can be said of oregano. Oregano can spread via underground runners. It is not terribly hard to dig up, but needs to be watched carefully to make sure it doesn’t smother surrounding plants.
The same problems also occur with the herb yarrow. It can be extremely difficult to contain in an area. It is, however, an attractive plant with fernlike leaves and pretty flowers, so you may find it worth the effort.
When you are shopping for landscape plants, there are several things you can look for that will help you come home with a plant that you will enjoy having in your yard, with only a reasonable amount of maintenance.
Look for plants that have been tested and certified as great plants for our area, such as Texas Superstars and EarthKind plants. These designations show that a plant has been put through vigorous testing to earn the title. You can count on them to be worthy of your landscape.
Another thing to look for are plants that are drought tolerant, plants that don’t need extensive pruning or trimming to perform well, and plants that are self-cleaning. That means that they don’t drop messy fruit or spent flowers that must be swept up and taken away.
Choose smaller trees, which will be easy to trim and maintain. Most will provide you with all the shade you really need. Choose plants that can take our heat and dry conditions and still thrive. Look for species that are not over troubled by insect or disease problems.
By doing a little research and choosing wisely, you can populate your landscape with beautiful, high-performance plants that will give you pleasure for years to come. You will be able to feel good about the impact you are having on the environment.
In the long run, you will save time and money, and be more satisfied with your selections.