What to Plant Instead of Invasives

Plant this


American Hazelnut: Corylus americana

  • Bears nuts instead of fruits
  • They form clonal patches
  • Keep soils in place
  • Provide cover and food for wildlife
  • Tolerant to most sun, shade and soil conditions
  • Deer do like the young shoots so pay special attention to young plantings
Gray dogwood flowers (white) and leaves

Gray Dogwood: Cornus racemosa 

  • Bears fruit
  • Will spread in colonies if suckers are not removed
  • Performs best in full sun or partial shade
  • Prefers dry-moist, well drained soil, but is tolerant of dry or wet soils
  • Tolerant of heavy shade
  • Generally deer resistant
  • Good choice for shrub boarders, rain gardens, along streams or ponds, native plant gardens
    • Could be used as a screen for steep slopes

Not This

autumn olive

Autumn Olive

  • How to get rid of it: 
    • Generally the most effective method of control for Autumn Olive is to cut the plant down and then apply (paint) herbicide on the stump.
    • It is not recommended to spray pesticides in any given area as this can be detrimental/or even deadly to pollinators like butterflies and bees
  • How did it get here?
    • Autumn Olive is an ornamental plant first brought to the US in the 1830s
  • Why do/did people plant it?
    • It is drought tolerant and thrives in a variety of soil habitats
    • It is also capable of fixing nitrogen in its roots so it is able to grow in bare mineral substrates
    • It grows fast and thick which can disrupt understory plants
  • Why is it hard to get rid of?
    • Fast growing and hearty
    • It has lots of fruit in the summer and fall
    • Defense mechanisms like thorns
    • Spreads far and wide when birds and other animals carry the seeds

Plant this

Branches of Red Chokeberry plant with red fruit

Red Chokeberry: Aronia arbutifolia

  • Prefers full sun to part shade 
    • Best fruit production occurs in full sun 
  • Does best in average, medium, and well-drained soils
    • Does tolerate a wide range of soils including boggy and dry
  • Generally pest and disease free 
  • Deer resistant 
  • Good to plant along hedges, ponds, and streams
  • Has bright red foliage
Mountain Witch Alder flower (white) and leaves

Mountain Witch Alder: Fothergilla major

  • Spreads by suckers and grows about 6-10ft tall 
  • Prefers full sun to partial shade
  • Does best in average, medium, to well-drained soils 
    • Prefers moist, rich acidic soils
  • Winter hardy and pest resistant
  • Flowers attract birds and butterflies
  • Good as a mixed shrub border 
  • Good for erosion control

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Burning Bush

Burning Bush: Euonymus alatus

  • How to get rid of it:
    • Mechanical: 
      • Pull the seedlings out by hand in the spring
        • Although tedious it will halt further spread 
        • Larger plants may need heavy machinery to remove the whole root system from the ground 
    • Chemical 
      • Cut plant down and apply (paint) herbicide on the stump
  • How did it get here? 
    • Brought to the US in the 1860s for use as an ornamental plant 
  • Why do people plant it?
    • It has bright red foliage in the fall 
    • It can grow very fast and tall in partially-shaded to fully sunny areas 
    • Tolerates a wide variety of soil types and conditions 
    • Birds also eat the seeds and fruit 
  • Why is it hard to get rid of?
    • It spreads very fast
    • Birds carry seeds to other habitats 

Plant this

Large white flower with red center surrounded by leaves

Hardy Hibiscus: Hibiscus moscheutos

  • Also called Marshmallow Hibiscus
  • Grows to be 3-6ft high 
  • Does best in full sun 
    • Best flower production and disease resistance in full sun but tolerates light shade 
  • Best in wet to average soils 
    • Can tolerate up to 6 inches of standing water 
    • Likes moist organically rich soils 
    • Fairly drought tolerant
    • Heat and humidity tolerant 
    • Low maintenance plant 
  • Best use in a rain garden or stream/pond edge
carolina rose

Carolina Rose: Rosa carolina

  • Grows to be 2-4ft high with a 3-5ft spread
  • Prefers full sun to partial shade
    • Tolerates partial shade but best flowers are in the sun 
    • Provide good air circulation to prevent foliar disease 
  • Does best in average to wet soils but is highly drought resistant 
  • Deer resistant 
    • Keep an eye out for aphids, bores, beetles, etc. 
  • Good to plant along hedges, ponds, and stream
  • Attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds 
  • Low maintenance
  • Good for erosion control

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multflora rose

Multiflora Rose: Rosa Multiflora

  • How to get rid of it: 
    • Mechanical
      • Seedlings can be pulled up by hand as the thorns are not too sharp 
      • Frequent mowing or cutting (of at least 3-6 times per growing season) over the course of 2-3 years has shown to be effective at reducing the spread of Multiflora Rose
    • Chemical
      • Cut the plant down and apply herbicide to remaining stump
      • Repeated herbicide application may be necessary as this is a very persistent plant
    • Biological 
      • Some success has been achieved with goats eating multiflora rose but more research is necessary
      • More research is needed in the use of European Rose Chalcid (Megastigmus aculeatus), a wasp that deposits her eggs in the seed in late spring and the larvae overwinter. Pupa formation occurs in April to June and the adult wasps appear from the rose hip in early summer, thus completing the cycle and killing the seed
  • How did it get here?
    • Transported from Japan in 1866 at root stock for ornamental roses 
  • Why do people plant it? 
    • It was originally grafted onto ornamental rose cultivars 
    • Spread increased in the 1930s when US Soil Conservation Service used it for erosion control and as a "living fence" to contain livestock 
    •  It was also discovered to provide effective habitat and cover protection for pheasant, northern bobwhite, and cottontail rabbit 
    • It provides food for animals such as songbirds and deer
    • It has nice smelling and pretty flowers when it blooms 
  • Why is it hard to get rid of? 
    • It is highly vigorous and can grow up to 10 feet high 
    • It can sometimes produce over 17,000 seeds 
    • Large and nasty thorns that make mechanical (pulling) methods of removal tedious and sometimes painful 
    • It grows fast and spreads over large distances 

Plant this

New England Aster

New England Aster: Aster novae-angliae

  • Grows to be about 2-4 feet tall 
  • Prefers full sun to partial shade 
  • Does best in average to wet soils 
    • Drought resistant 
    • Salt resistant 
    • Provide good air circulation to avoid foliage disease i.e. powdery mildew 
  • Attracts native wildlife 
    • Birds, butterflies, bees 
  • Low maintenance
Joe Pye Weed

Joe Pye Weed: Eutrochium purpureum (sweet Joe Pye Weed) Eutrochium maculatum (Spotted Joe Pye Weed)

  • 3-7 ft high 
  • Prefers sun to partial shade 
  • Does best in average to wet soils
    • Fertile moist soils are preferred 
    • Tolerates clay and wet soils 
    • Dry sites are not ideal 
  • No serious disease issues (keep an eye out for powdery mildew) 
  • “Deer resistant” (though the deer love the Joe Pye Weed in DNRT’s Greer's Garden so keep an eye out!)
  • Attract native wildlife 
  • Combines well with asters and other native plants for striking visuals

Not This

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed: Polygonum cuspidatum

  • How to get rid of it: 
    • Mechanical: 
      • Due to the plant’s ability to reproduce rhizomally it is recommended that the entire root system be dug up and disposed of in a black plastic bag 
      • Simply cutting will not suffice to stop the control 
    • Chemical: 
      • The cut-and-stump method is recommended with Knotweed as the herbicide will reach the root system and prevent reproduction 
      • Chemical injections directly into the stalk of the plant also work well
  • How did it get here?
    • Knotweed was transported from Japan to the US in the late 1800 
  • Why do people plant it? 
    • It was originally planted as an ornamental 
    • It was later used as a form of erosion control due to its tight root system 
  • Why is it hard to get rid of? 
    • It reproduces rhizomally and through seed making it spread very fast and making it very hard to get rid of
    • The plant has also been known to reproduce from cuttings 

Tips and Tricks: 

  • You can also smother Japanese Knotweed in the spring if you don't have other plant you're worried about killing
    • it is recommended you dig up plants before you smother just to be extra safe
  • It really likes sunny and moist areas, including riverbanks, roadsides, lawns and gardens
  • If you do end up cutting the plant, continue to monitor throughout the season and repeat the process with new shoots and rhizomes.
    • One round of cutting is not sufficient to stop the spread

Plant this

Red tube shaped flowers and green leaves

Trumpet Honeysuckle: Lonicera sempervirens

  • Grows 4-15ft 
  • Likes sun to partial shade 
    • Best growth and flowers in the sun
  • Does best in average to moist soils 
    • Likes well drained soil
    • Salt tolerant 
    • Drought tolerant 
  • Vining and likes to climb fences and columns 
  • Attracts native wildlife 
  • Deer resistant 
American wisteria bud and flowers in the background

American Wisteria: Wisteria frutescens

  • 15-30ft tall 
  • Thrives best in full sun 
    • Tolerates partial shade and full shade but best flower production occurs in full sunlight  
  • Likes moderately fertile, slightly acidic, medium moisture, well drained soils 
    • Tolerant of seasonal flooding  
  • Native to northeastern America 
  • Not as aggressive as Chinese wisteria 
  • Can be trained up wall, columns, and arbors 
  • Attracts native wildlife 
  • NOT low maintenance 

Not This

Chinese wisteria large purple flowers that look like shelves, surrounded by leaves

Chinese/Japanese Wisteria: Wisteria sinensis

  • How to get rid of it:
    • Mechanical:
      • Cut the stems to relieve girdled trees 
      • Plant can send up shoots  
    • Chemical: 
      • Cut and stump method is recommended
  • How did it get here?
    • Brought over as an ornamental plant for use on arbors and building sides 
  • Why do people plant it? 
    • It has large purple flowers that are fragrant and quite pretty 
    • Grows fast 
  • Why is it hard to get rid of? 
    • Girdles trees and damages houses 
    • Spread through seeds

Tips and Tricks

  • Wisteria flowers can be made into a simple syrup and used in drinks and cocktails
  • WARNING: All other parts of the plant are poisonous! So please be careful if you are going to do this
  • Chinese wisteria is very pretty but it will destroy your home and trees
  • American Wisteria: Wisteria frutescens, looks very similar and will not damage homes and trees
  • It is also native to New England and promotes pollination

Plant this

White berries along a branch with smallish green leaves

Bayberry: Morella caroliniensis

  • 2-6ft high and spreads 3-6ft wide
  • Prefers sun but also tolerates partial shade 
  • Does best in wet to average soils 
    • Drought tolerant 
    • Salt tolerant 
    • Does well in clay, loam and sandy soils 
  • Deer and rabbit resistant 
  • Produces summer fruit 
  • Attracts wildlife (birds, bees) 
  • High interest pollinator 
  • Low maintenance 
  • Erosion controller 

Common Winterberry: Ilex verticillata

  • Grows and spreads 4-10ft high  
  • Sun to partial shade 
  • Does well in average to wet, well drained and dry soils 
    • Does best in acidic soils 
    • Will do poorly in neutral or alkaline soils
  • Winter hardy 
  • Salt tolerant 
  • Attracts wildlife 

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Japanese barberry

Japanese Barberry: Berberis thunbergii

  • How to get rid of it: 
    • Mechanical: 
      • Pulling the saplings and larger plants is possible with the right tools 
        • Use of thick gloves and a pick/shovel might be necessary 
        • Make sure that the plants are being disposed of properly 
    • Chemical: 
      • Cut-and-stump with herbicide
  • How did it get here?
    • Contrary to what the name implies, barberry was brought over from Russia as seed stock in 1865 
  • Why do people plant it? 
    • It was initially planted as an ornamental but quickly adapted for many other uses 
      • Hedgerows, dyes, jams, etc
      • Because it has been around for so many years with many different uses a number of cultivars of the plant exist 
  • Why is it hard to get rid of? 
    • It spreads by seed and it produce many seeds 
      • It also has been shown to have up to a 90% germination rate 
    • Changes the soil acidity and nitrogen levels which push out native plants and reduce the biological activity of the soil 
    • Deer avoid browsing on it so there are no species to keep it in check 
    • It has large and sharp thorns that make pulling by hand difficult

Plant this


Prunella (common selfheal): Prunella vulgaris

  • Grows 1-3ft 
    • It grows relatively quickly
    • Seed germination takes 10-14 days and plants are able to spread as a cover crop in your garden or along border fences
    • Plant it in disturbed soil
  • Likes sun to partial shade 
  • Prefers average to moist soils 
    • Likes moist fields and gardens 
    • With a little extra water it does very well in dry conditions  
  • Attracts native pollinators (bees and butterflies)
Red star shaped flowers with yellow stamens and green leaves.

Red Columbine: Aquilegia canadensis

  • Grows 1-3ft high 
  • Prefers partial shade to shade 
    • Tolerates the sun but will perform best in partial shade 
  • Does best in average to dry soils 
    • Highly drought tolerant 
    • Dislikes poorly drained soils
    • Does best in sandy loamy soils 
    • Overly rich garden soils will cause weak stems 
    • Does well in coastal areas 
    • Salt tolerant
  • It is an evergreen perennial so long as temperatures do not exceed 110F or -10F 
  • Deer and rabbit resistant 
  • Attracts native pollinators and wildlife (bees, birds, butterflies) 
  • Best use in rock gardens, along meadows, fences, naturalized areas

Not This

White flowers with triangle shaped leaves

Garlic Mustard: Alliaria petiolata

  • How to get rid of it: 
    • Mechanical: 
      • Pulling garlic mustard early in the spring is the best approach 
      • Avoid pulling after it has gone to seed as this will only spread it further 
      • Remove the entire root system when pulling 
      • If garlic mustard is pulled early enough in the spring there are several ways to use the plant in cooking 
        • Make sure you are using young plants as old ones are quite bitter and do not taste good
  • How did it get here?
    • Originally transported from Europe in the late 1860s 
  • Why do people plant it? 
    • Thought to be for use in food or medicine 
  • Why is it hard to get rid of? 
    • Garlic mustard spreads very quickly 
    • It can produce 1000s of seeds from a single plant
    • It can also self fertilize without the use of insects for reproduction

Tips and Tricks 

  • Whatever you end up planting to replace garlic mustard make sure it is a fast growing plant
  • Garlic mustard has a very quick life cycle which is why it is so successful
  • Reseeding a garlic mustard bed with clover is another a good idea
  • Garlic mustard makes good pesto when the leaves are young



Asiatic Bittersweet: Celastrus orbiculatus

  • How to get rid of it: 
    • Like almost all other plants on this list the best way to control bittersweet is to cut and paint the stump with herbicide 
    • Hand pulling young plants is also an effective from of control 
  • How did it get here?
    • As the name of the plant suggest the plant is native to China, Japan, and Korea
  • Why do people plant it? 
    • Planted and promoted as an ornamental plant 
    • Associated with old home sites from which it escaped into its surroundings
    • It is still planted as an ornamental vine 
  • Why is it hard to get rid of? 
    • It disperses via fruits and seeds 
    • Fast growing and climbing 
    • Spreads via suckers in the roots 
    • It smothers other trees and vegetation 

Since bittersweet is a vining plant that tends to girdle trees and smother vegetation we recommend not replacing it with another vining plant. Instead, find a local wildflower mix to plant on the disturbed soil or use a cover crop like clover or ground thyme.