by Margie Lachman
Beware of plants described with words like “spreads quickly,” “covers area in one season,” and “self-seeding.” If a plant takes over the garden by crowding out others, it’s no joy. Following are a few garden favorites that can take over if left to their own devices.
Many of us have been warned about mint and how pervasive and invasive a plant it is. This doesn’t mean you can’t grow it. Planting it in a pot will confine it nicely; but make sure to place the pot on the patio because mint roots can wiggle through drainage holes and take root when the pot is placed on top of the ground!
Most mints don’t seed themselves in the garden except for Corsican mint. This is sold as a steppable ground cover to plant between pavers. It works fine for that and has a lovely fragrance when walked on. But when this mint flowers it seeds itself around the garden in shade or sun. If you don’t want Corsican mint everywhere, don’t plant it.
Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummalaria) brings a bright gold color note to pots, but roots appear wherever it touches soil. Crimson flag (Schizostylis coccinea) is an attractive plant that is nice for cutting, but in our garden it has become a thug! I spend lots of time removing it. It spreads aggressively by seed and rhizome.
Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) seeds itself generously if flowers are left after fading. As it’s an attractive edging plant, Lady’s mantle is welcome in my garden. But if you plant it, be aware that it will wander if left to make seed. The chartreuse flowers can be removed to prevent that. It will re-bloom at least once each year.
Houttuynia cordata, also called chameleon plant, has lovely leaves of red, pink, yellow and cream that smell like orange peel when crushed. In the ground this is an aggressive grower that can be a nightmare to control. If you must have it, grow it in a container away from the ground. Japanese anemone is a great autumn bloomer that likes dry shade. It can be a spreader with tough roots in good soil.
Most herbs are well behaved. But I planted golden oregano in our front garden and it has nearly taken over the neighboring plants. Although it must be pulled out, I will leave a small patch or two for the bees, who adore it. If it becomes too difficult to control, I will replace it with a lavender for the bees. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is also an eager spreader.
It would be great to have a magic wand to wave away garden plants that become undesirables. Calling Harry Potter!
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