Ribbon Grass and Prickly Pear Cactus

All is not quite perfect here at May Dreams Gardens. There are some areas of the garden that have some issues and need some attention.

The first issue is this ribbon grass that I need to get rid of this spring.

This is the 'before' picture from a few weeks ago. It looks a lot worse now since I spent an hour or so raking out a lot of the loose stuff this past weekend.

When I was raking it out, look what I found.
It's an Easter egg.

I think it is from last year's egg hunt but it could be from two years ago. I was all excited when I opened it, hoping it might be a money egg.

But it only had three empty candy wrappers in it, which makes me think it might have been hiding there for two years.

Now I need to dig this ribbon grass out, but it is too wet now, so I'll hold off until later in the spring.

I still can't believe I got suckered into planting this ribbon grass to begin with or that I let it get this far. My only excuse is someone gave me this grass as a passalong plant a few weeks after I had moved in. I had not gardened for awhile and I was vulnerable. I was desparate to plant something, anything, in my new garden, so desparate that I planted ribbon grass.

I do not recommend, nor will I pass along ribbon grass to anyone else unless I know where they are planting it and why.

Another passalong plant that has caused me some real physical pain is this prickly pear cactus (Opuntia). Yes, it's hardy in Indiana.

No, I do not hide Easter eggs in this cactus. That would be mean! This cactus is dangerously loaded with all sizes of pricklies just waiting to stick you if you get too close.

I keep it around because the flowers are pretty and it always surprises people to see cactus in an Indiana garden.

However, this particular patch of cactus has spread further than I would like and I need to cut it back.

A few years ago, I put on my heaviest leather gloves to cut some of this back and the 'pricklies' went right through the gloves and into my hands. Ouch! And the gloves were ruined, too.

My new plan is to cut this back with a sharp hoe and then carefully scoop it up into a bushel basket so I can carry it back to the compost bin. I just have to remind myself to be careful not to grab it or touch it or I'll be sorry. And I need to take it straight back to the compost bin without suffering from a GADS attack along the way.

I will only provide starts of prickly pear cactus after giving a suitable warning to the recipient about planting it well away from where children play and dogs wander. And never hide Easter eggs near it.

When I give away either ribbon grass or prickly pear cactus, I almost think I need to have the recipients sign a waiver releasing me from any blame if the grass gets out of control or the cactus "bites". Sigh, we live in such a litigious society.

Does anyone else have some plants like these in their gardens?


  1. I am wondering how I have been gardening all of these years and I had never heard of Ribbon Grass until last summer. Hmmmm It does look like it would take over.

    I had a piece of prickly pear where I used to live. It does look pretty when it blooms. Those yellow flowers look edible they are so pretty. I used tongs to deal with my cactus. They were most helpful.

  2. I have some Strawberry and Cream ribbon grass in pots. It wasn't until I bought them that I found out how invasive they are. After seeing your pictures, I'm glad I kept mine in pots. It doesn't die down in the winter here, so it would probably be all over the state by now.

    Jan Always Growing

  3. Thanks for the link to GADS...I so have it and needed the laugh this morning.
    Before I realized that vinca was a THUG....I planted some, yikes. It is a horrible exotic/invasive.


  4. Ummm...I believe I have some of that ribbon grass....ummmm, I believe you might be the person who gave it to me?

    But that's OK. For me it has worked out well, growing in an area where nothing else would grow because of all the gravel and stumps in that spot. It's green, it's verigated, so hey, works for m. However, it is invading into the other areas of the bed that are conducive to "more appealing" plants, so some of it may have to go this year.

    I also have some vinca vine that has invaded far too far, yet for the same reason, I don't pull it. The area is too shady for much to grow there, so I leave the vinca vine.

  5. Right now the most invasive plants I have are Shasta daisies, cranesbill Biokova, and sword ferns...they do like to spread. But they are all pretty easy to dig out and, I have to admit, pass along. But they are sedately invasive so really not hard to control.

  6. Haha, GADS, I love it!

    I also love prickly pear, crazy native Texan that I am. I've never given any away, though...

    I have given agaves away. Not as prickly as the pear, but agave spines can still inflict a nasty bite.

  7. We have the prickly pears here in TN also. It's amazing how well they do in our climate. It would make an interesting centerpiece of a succulent garden with some sedums.

  8. If I had a container full of prickly cactus, I don't think I'd have a GADS attack...

    How cool to find an Easter Egg under the grass! At first I thought it was a golf ball. I have them buried all over my yard :o)

  9. Carol, you're a stitch! GADS! Now I finally have a name for the ailment I've been afflicted with my entire life! What you described is the only way I garden. I don't know how I manage to get the necessaries done sometimes, but somehow I (almost) always do.

    In the last 9 years, I've moved 5 times. That is my solution to planting invasive species. ;)

  10. Whew, that's a real snarl of prickly pear you have there, Carol. Getting it cut back will be like MSS cutting back her Spanish dagger yucca. Remember her post about that?

    Of course I have several prickly pear plants, being in Austin. Heeding the advice of a horticulturalist at the Wildflower Center, I regularly trim them to keep them in bounds. They'll grow like crazy with a little supplemental water, so I have to watch them.

    And I have some rather deadly agaves too, one of which stabbed my arm not long ago when I was trimming around it. Also some nolina grasses, whose soft-seeming leaves inflict sharp "paper" cuts if you brush against them the wrong way.

    And then there are those darn, thorny roses. Geez, what we gardeners are willing to put up with for architectural beauty or roses.

  11. The ribbon grass died from heat and drought at our last house, and my cactus grow very slowly, Carol. You must treat your plants a lot better!

    Physostegia can be invasive here - and so can ruellia. I planted them in a pretty terrible location where other stuff wouldn't grow and hope that will slow them down.

    Another GADS post! Pretty soon they'll need their own label ;-]

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  12. It's funny that Lisa commented that the cactus' flowers look edible - the plant is in fact edible. (Although I think it's the paddles that are cooked & eaten.) I'm always wary of passalong plants (why would someone be giving this away if it didn't spread like mad?) & I always give warnings with my Japanese Anemone divisions.
    My horror story plant is also Vinca minor. When I bought Squirrelhaven, it was already here, between the hedge & sidewalk out front. I foolishly moved a bit of it to the back garden. 'Nuff said.

  13. Ribbon grass looks great in pots.

    And the prickly pear? My best method of handling small to medium pads of cacti is with kitchen tongs. I keep a pair that are dedicated to this task. And yes, the tongs came with me from Michigan to Arizona. I had the same optunia there that you have. I ADORE their flowers!

  14. Too bad there was no money in the easter egg, darn. Is there a worry about the prickles in the compost from the cactus? I don't put the rose canes in there for that reason, does the cactus break down enough that they aren't a problem? We have a dwarf type of ribbon grass that is one of my favorite plants. It only spread when I divide some and replant it. It is about four inches tall with the same green, white and pink coloring as the thuggy one. Highly recommended.

    Frances at Faire Garden

  15. If you make compost like I make compost (that is, it doesn't always rot completely before you use it) I'd be very leery of putting the cactus trimmings in the compost, or you'll have prickles everywhere you spread compost!

  16. Will the spines from the cactus decompose? Or will you be picking them out of your hands when you use your lovely compost? Invasive plants..rudbeckia! I had missed the GADS post. How fun and true!

  17. I wouldn't mind attempting to grow prickly pear. I think my winters are a bit to severe to really get away with it.

    The plant I cringe at is Goutweed, Aegopodium podograria. It spreads like mad and the rhizomes nearly impossible to dig out.

  18. Oenothera speciosa. Pretty pink flowers, although the plant is kind of ugly, but spreads EVERYWHERE from teeny tiny roots. I finally got rid of it, but it took a long time.

  19. Ribbon grass ? How did they get us to plant that , Carol. Who knew ? I will make a real effort to get rid of it this year for usre 1

  20. I never got stuck with ribbon grass, and I love my cactus, but when I do pull it, it goes into the trash. I have had way to many stickers to chance it in the compost pile. If you need something to replace the ribbon grass, I've got a bunch of Houttuynia that I would share with you. ;)

  21. Prickly pear fruits are in season right now in Sydney! And yes, you can eat the pads too.
    Carol, I also advise you not to put anything prickly into your compost. Thorns are extremely hard and don't degrade much at all, even when the surrounding material is proper compost, and you WILL find the thorns in your hand a year or two later! (In my case it was a rose thorn.)

  22. Oh, you make me laugh. Hope you get out of your sticky situation.~~Dee

  23. I have inherited a huge patch of that nasty prickly pear that my husband loves....believe me, I am afraid of it!!! It's pretty when it blooms, but has taken over where it is planted. He has promised me he will take care of it for me. :)

  24. I was given 'Obedient Plants" as a gift. Boy, was that a mistake!! You talk about invasive!! They send out runners under the soil every which direction! You dig and dig to try to get them all and they go deep. I started last Fall trying to remove them and this Spring I find new starts coming up everywhere in my garden! I removed roots last Fall but the runners I couldn't get them all. It's a nightmare as well as a headache. I'm not giving up though. I'll be out there the next nice day digging them out! So a word to the wise DON'T PLANT obedient plants!! I just planred a Prickly Pear Catcus last Fall but I've gotten it in an area all by itself where it can't do any harm. The same way with my Ribbon Grass. It's off in a corner all by itself where it can spread if it wants to and not do any harm. I enjoy all the knowledge that I have found here at your site, thanks. Illinois


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