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Lawn & Garden

What not to plant

4/25/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Dayle Davis

GREATER AKRON — There are a plethora of lovely flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs blooming at present in our area. Just on our street there is yellow forsythia, pink and white magnolia, pink ornamental cherry, yellow and white daffodils, pink and purple hyacinths and so much more — and this is just the start of the warm weather season.

In general, there are simply too many plants to choose from if you are planning to add a few new plants to your garden or planning a new landscape.

So just for fun, I decided to piggyback on the title of a popular TV show to list a few trees, shrubs and bulbs not to plant in your yard. Some of these plants are listed based upon tried and true research with regard to ultimate size, pest problems, structural problems, limited ornamental value or messiness; others are simply my personal preference of what not to have growing in my own backyard.

  • Trees:

√ American sycamore: susceptible to anthracnose; constantly dropping leaves, twigs, bark and fruits.

√ Black locust: becomes ragged and scraggly with age; thorny branches; aggressive propagation by seed and root sprouts; susceptible to locust borer.

√ Boxelder: susceptible to many pests and diseases; litter problems; soft wood may split in ice storms.

√ Bradford pear: extremely weak-wooded; narrow branch crotches make this tree very susceptible to storm breakage; highly overplanted.

√ Catalpa: limited landscape value because of coarseness; brittle wood causes litter problems.

√ Common hackberry: susceptible to several diseases and insect pests, some of which can disfigure the tree.

√ Eastern cottonwood: constant litter from leaves and twigs; highly susceptible to diseases and pests; vigorous roots cause problems with tiles and sewers; cottony seeds are messy.

√ European mountain ash: highly susceptible to fireblight, as well as other diseases and pests; not tolerant of poor conditions; short-lived.

√ Gingko biloba (female): fruit is extremely objectionable — messy and smelly.

√ Morus species, mulberry: litter problems from droppings of birds that eat the fruit; berries and bird droppings stain surfaces.

√ Ohio buckeye: tends to develop leaf scorch; leaves drop prematurely in drought; leaf blotch, a fungal disease, not uncommon.

√ Osage orange, hedge apple: large fruit creates extreme litter problems; thorny branches.

√ Purpleleaf plum, cherry plum: highly susceptible to many pests and diseases; short-lived; overused.

√ Russian olive: highly susceptible to Verticillium wilt and other diseases and pests; thorny branches; invasive.

√ Salix species, willow: litter problems from leaves, broken twigs and branches; weak wood makes it prone to extensive storm damage; vigorous root system causes problems with sidewalks and sewers.

√ Silver maple: vigorous root system will cause problems with sidewalks and sewers; susceptible to chlorosis, scorch, pests, some diseases; overplanted.

√ Tree of heaven: little landscape value; leaves and fruit have foul odor; splits in ice storms.

√ Ulmus species (except U. parvifolia) elm: highly susceptible to diseases (especially Dutch elm disease) and pests.

  • Shrubs:

√ Black chokeberry: forms large colonies.

√ Common elderberry: suckers freely forming thickets.

√ Indigo-bush: leggy habit should be cut to ground every few years; drought and salt tolerant; can become weedy though aggressive underground stems.

√ Pasture rose, Carolina rose: prickly arching stems.

√ Prairie rose: wide-spreading, arching stems.

√ Prairie willow: grows best on stream banks and ponds; must be pruned to improve form.

√ Smooth sumac: unattractive in the yard; suckers freely to form open colonies.

√ Staghorn sumac: unattractive in the yard.

√ Sweet-fern: aggressively colony forming.

  • Perennials:

The most common reason not to plant certain perennials is they are invasive, meaning they spread by root or profuse seeding to quickly overtake surrounding plants. Invasive is a subjective term that can mean vigorous and out of control, or simply indicate the plant needs to be cultivated or divided yearly. Listed below are plants found on the invasive list. If you have some of these plants growing in your garden and they give you little trouble, no worries. Both botanical and common names are listed.

Adenophora liliifolia/ladybells




Allium tuberosum/garlic chives

Anemone x hybrid/hybrid windflowers


Artemisia ludoviciana/western mugwort


Aster (certain species eg. ericoides)/aster


Campanula punctate/bellflower

Campanula rapunculoides/creeping bellflower

Campanula takesimana/Korean bellflower

Carpobrotus/hottentot fig

Centaurea Montana/mountain bluet


Cymbalaria muralis/Kenilworth ivy

Elymus/lyme grass

Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae/euphorbia

Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’/queen-of-the-prairie



Helianthus/perennial sunflower

Houttuynia/chameleon plant

Hypericum calycinum/creeping St. John’s wort

Lamium maculatum/dead nettle

Leucanthemum vulgare/ox-eye daisy

Lychnis coronaria/rose campion


Lythrum/purple loosestrife

Macleaya/plume poppy


Miscanthus/silver grass

Monarda/bee balm

Oenothera/evening primrose

Ornithogalum umbellatum/star-of-Bethlehem

Oxalis/wood sorrel

Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’/persicaria

Phalaris arundinacea var. picta/ribbon grass

Phlox paniculata/garden phlox

Physostegia/obedient plant



Sedum (some spp.)/stonecrop


Stacys byzantine/lamb’s-ears



Tovara (see Persicaria)  


Tropaeolum peregrinum/canary-bird vine

Verbena cultivars (e.g. Homestead Purple)/perennial verbena

Vinca minor/periwinkle

Viola/pansy, Johnny-jump-up, violets

  • Bulbs:

√ Muscari Grape hyacinths: spread freely, grass-like leaves; few flowers after several years.

And, any other bulb that blooms with downward-facing flowers — unless the foliage grows 6 feet tall, in which case most folks will be able to look up to see the flower, rather than lying on the ground to catch a glimpse.

For more information, call The Ohio State University Summit County Extension Hotline Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon at 330-928-4769, ext. 3, and request FactSheet HYG-1082-01, “Deciduous Trees for Ohio.”


Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener, with a B.A. in communications and course work in botany, geology and wildflowers. Davis is a master gardener emeritus under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension.

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