Plants of Demerit

Recently, the Kemper Center for Home Gardening shared a blog post on the 2019 Plants of Merit, which are easy to grow, noninvasive, ornamentally attractive, less susceptible to common problems like insects or diseases, and reasonably available to purchase.

To really provide a full picture of what works, and doesn’t, in Missouri backyards, the Kemper Center also wanted to provide a list of “Plants of Demerit.” These are plants Kemper staff recommends homeowners avoid. They are invasive, hard to control, or have other undesirable characteristics. 

Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’ 

Commonly known as callery pear, this plant has truly cemented itself in the “worst plant” hall of fame. This ornamental pear is weak-wooded and prone to major structural failure from wind or ice accumulation. On top of that, it’s highly invasive and has begun spreading by seed into wild areas.  You can find more information about the trees, and native alternatives, on this gardening help page. 

Euonymus fortunei 

Wintercreeper is often used in St. Louis gardens as a ground cover in shady areas. But it can get out of hand quickly. It will climb up anything in its path including fences, trees, and shrubs. And once this plant gets going, it is hard to control. It has escaped cultivation and can now be found growing in forests across the state where it shades out native wildflowers and colonizes tree canopies. You can find some ideas  for alternative ground covers native to Missouri here 

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ 

Sometimes called “chameleon plant” or “fish mint,” this plant is highly aggressive and spreads quickly by underground rhizomes. Garden horticulturalists have been waging battle against this plant for many years. Although it has not escaped cultivation in Missouri, it has been found in the wild in portions of New Jersey, Maryland, and North Carolina. If your friend attempts to give you a start of chameleon plant, we recommend kindly declining the offer.  

Campsis radicans 

Not all plants of demerit are non-natives. Trumpet creeper is native to Missouri, where it is commonly found growing along fence rows and road sides. Hummingbirds are attracted to the bright orange-red, trumpet-shaped blooms. However, this vine spreads aggressively from both underground runners and seed. It will also quickly overtake whatever stands in its way, including arbors, trellises, and walls, potentially causing structural damage. If you are looking for a vine to attract hummingbirds, consider planting one of our native honeysuckles such as Lonicera flava. 

Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

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