JoAnne Skelly: Persistent pushy plants

JoAnne Skelly

JoAnne Skelly

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With plants now growing at full speed, I’m reminded that a number of them are not my favorites, mostly because they are pushy in the landscape. I’ve made numerous plant mistakes through the years. I keep thinking I’ve learned my lessons, but each year I find I have done it again.
One plant whose flower color I love is Russian sage. It is hardy, drought-tolerant and persistent. With that in mind, I moved one from where it was spreading prolifically to a dry, harsh spot where I needed (or thought I needed) some color.
Notice the word “spreading,” let alone the word “prolifically.”
I should have paid attention, because now, after removing the plant last year, I am continually grubbing out stems that persist in trying to take over a bed. I have dug up roots, cut down growth, and it keeps coming back. If you need a plant to take over an area, this is a good candidate. It also attracts bees when in bloom. Planter beware!
Another delightful little grower is bishop’s weed. This beautiful ground cover has lovely pale green and white foliage and it too is drought-tolerant and very hardy. Too hardy in my opinion!
Although its short-lived white flowers are appealing, it spreads widely with abandon. It has deep roots easily missed as I keep trying to dig them out. If you don’t mind its assertiveness, it can be an interesting option for visual interest as well as weed control.
Chinese lantern and I have had a decades-long relationship. I keep asking it forcefully to leave (uprooting its aggressive rhizomes year after year), and it keeps returning, no matter what. I don’t even remember planting it. It has deep green rounded leaves and produces bright orange hanging “lanterns” in late summer. It is often described as growing very aggressively. I never read the description. A friend probably gave it to me. It should have come with a warning.
Other super-friendly, take-over-the-neighborhood plants include snow-in-summer, hardy geranium, euphorbia, common yarrow and ivy to name a few.
Most of my less-than-favorite plants spread by roots. A number of others spread by seed such as catmint, Mexican primrose and black-eyed Susans. I don’t find these problematic, because they pull out so easily. My friend Claudene pointed out that the oregano I just planted and recently wrote about is a major seed-spreader and has been rude in her landscape. Oregon grape is growing everywhere in my flower beds from seeds brought in by birds.
So, I not only deal with constant weeding, as any gardener does, I also have to continually contain my so-called desirable friends of the plant world!
JoAnne Skelly is associate professor & extension educator emerita of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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