The Society Considers Invasive Plants

The Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition (SPPOTGWLS or “the Society”) has been asked to consider a matter of great importance to all gardeners.

The following memo from the President of “the Society”, me, is to the attention of all members and other interested and interesting parties.

To All Members and Other Interested and Interesting Parties,

Greetings. As President and Secretary of “the Society”, I have been authorized to bring an important matter before all members, including those who recently joined by leaving a comment on the inaugural post of “the Society”.

What is decided regarding this matter could affect the sale and trade of certain plants for many generations, so it must be considered carefully. We take our responsibility quite seriously regarding leaving a legacy equal to or greater than that of those who gardened before us.

The matter is that some trades people have been selling Invasive Plants to unsuspecting, inexperienced gardeners and worse, some experienced gardeners have been giving inexperienced gardeners starts of these same plants without adequate admonishment and warnings.

These Invasive Plants include attractive plants with variegated leaves such as Bishop’s Goutweed, Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegatum', and Ribbon Grass, Phalaris arundinacea.

They also include wild self-seeding and spreading plants like ox-eye daisies, perennial sweet peas, false sunflower, obedient plant (not!) and evening primrose, to name a few. And let us not forget mint, one of the most seductive and spreading of all plants. (When it is called ‘Chocolate Mint’, even Madame President lets it grow in her garden though she ought to take a hoe to it. Which reminds me that I still need to provide an explanation about why one would have a hoe in the house, such that certain superstitions around it need to be followed.)

Having witnessed for myself that such plants or seeds for same have been offered for sale or passed along, I willingly bring forward this matter for consideration by “the Society”.

Now before certain members, including at least one sister of the President, accuse the President, me, of passing along to them plants from the list above, let it be known that such plants were accurately described and suitable warnings given before any plant was dug up and passed along. Plus the code words of “take all you want” were spoken ahead of time, indicating that these plants would spread, invade, take over, and otherwise claim as much garden space as allowed or not allowed, as the case may be.

The questions before the membership at this time are:

Should we take action to discourage the sale of these plants, which is unnecessary, as many of these are readily available from many gardeners, or if they are to be sold that they be clearly labeled as “thugs” and placed in a separate area of the garden center?

Can we as members of “the Society” take an oath not to give starts of these invasive plants to other gardeners, unless they are adequately warned and still beg for them?

Current and potential members may weigh in on this important matter brought before the society by leaving a comment. If any current or potential members have other business for the Society to consider, please indicate such via a comment or email.

Thank you for giving this your utmost and immediate attention,
Carol, May Dreams Gardens
The Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition (SPPOTGWLS or “the Society”)

Void where prohibited.


  1. Dear Madame President, I wish to express my thoughts about the thugs, errr invasive plants you have therefore mentioned.

    The Bishops Weed was a good plant for many years where it grew under my pine trees where nothing else would dare set down a root. It behaved perfectly...until the pine trees fell this past winter. Now I am becoming familiar with the reasons why some people are leary of it. I tear it out by the hands full daring not to put it upon the compost pile. Consider all forewarned.

    As to that Ribbon Grass that you have had such difficulty with, I had a nice hunk of it in the garden last summer. It chose not to reappear this spring. I felt myself lucky since you have had such a difficult time eradicating said thug from the garden.

    I propose that garden centers still sell said thugs for they do a good job where other plants cannot manage to survive.

    I would also like to add to this short list the wild strawberry which as a novice ground cover grower I didn't realize what they meant when they said good cover for banks. I wouldn't plant anything in my garden that is said to be good for covering banks. May this be entered into the minutes as a hard fast rule so other will not waste so many good gardening hours trying to rip it out of their garden.

    Thank you for this time on the soap box.

  2. Just a thought: I've recently ripped up all my lawn and what's needed to cover the large bare area is a plant that'll spread quickly in order to stop erosion on my hillside. (I'm using sedum acre, a fast-spreading weed in my 'hood.)
    It's either use a fast-spreader or have a huge budget, which I don't.

  3. I'm in favor of a rating system on plant labels similar to the movie system. A big "I" for invasive. Other plant traits could be distinguished in this manner. FS for Full sun. PS part sun. NS or Sh for No sun or Shade.

  4. Oh my goodness...this is too funny. I just finished a post on this very subject! LOL. Maybe it's because the invasiveness of some of these is making itself known about now, what with all this rain and warm temperatures we've been having!

  5. Madame President,

    Count me in as a member of the Society. I promise to always warn others of the invasive plants when I give them to unsuspecting inexperienced gardeners.

    Take as much as you want of the Chinese Lanterns , but remember dear, that they will spread. And then there's the Lamium, loosestrife, phlox, and Spiderwort.

    We have a tough row to hoe, Carol because the garden centers even sell " Johnny Jump ups " as flowers and although I've warned gardeners about it they allow them to grow and take over their lawn and garden.

  6. There's invasive, and then there's Invasive. If the plant invades natural areas, crowding out natives & classified as a noxious weed, it should not be sold. If it is merely a major garden thug, then I agree with Lisa.

  7. Madame Chairman, what's invasive in one place may barely survive in another - mint dies in my yard unless it's in a big pot. Like Lisa, I can't keep ribbon grass alive.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    PS when someone named Physostegia "obedient" plant they were talking about the way you can move the florets around the stalk and they'll obediently stay in place. I saw garden clubbers do that little trick for flower arrangements back in the 1980's.

  8. Madam President: My thoughts echo those of Annie. A thug in one part of the country might be a challenge to grow elsewhere. Gardening is a regional activity and the good discretion of the gardener must be trusted in the passing along of potentially hazardous plants. I believe that the very act of gardening is a sure sign of the good intentions and actions of the gardener. Less government and more personal freedom!

  9. Re the false sunflower: Beckie of Dragonfly Corner has given me starts on two occasions with ample warning. They've died both times. Guess I'm lucky.

  10. Madame President, I throw my lot in with Mr. McGregor's Daughter. I agree with Lisa's original theory, and with MMcG'sD's proposed edit.

    And I admit that, when I got my first garden center job in 2005, I purposely abused the purple loosestrife there AND cut it back regularly to prevent flowering so people wouldn't see it in bloom and pick it up. Terrible, aren't I?!!!

  11. Hi Madame, thanks for bringing up this subject. As per usual, I agree with the majority, but in my own garden would like to see some of the invasives spread a little more. It may be the drought, but we struggle to get things to grow, not to stop that from happening, except for violets and wild strawberries. But those aren't something one would give to another are they?

    Frances at Faire Garden

  12. I took this oath a long time ago, right about the time I realized my aunt had given me perilla!

  13. to me, I have to say, that its one thing to be invasive, which can be more than difficult at best.. another to be invasive and poisonous. information is not always forthcoming & unless a person is truly motivated to "look" they can buy and get taken. there doesn't seem to be any standard of information regulation. do i make sense. .. argh .. well,I do look & still I have "learned" the hard way.


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