Plants of Demerit 2020

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Every year since 1998, the Missouri Botanical Garden has partnered with other regional horticultural institutions to select 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.

Last year, to provide a full picture of what works and what doesn’t work in home gardens, the Kemper Center shared for the first time a list of “Plants of Demerit” that home gardeners should avoid.

This year the Kemper Center once again shares a list of “Plants of Demerit” with a reminder that while no plant is intrinsically evil or bad, it’s important to find the right plant for the right place. The following plants aren’t ideal for Midwestern gardens as they can easily get out of hand. 

Greater Periwinkle (Vinca major)

Photo from Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder

This vine is known for its long trailing stems and violet-blue flowers. Those characteristics make it a great addition to a hanging basket or large container, but if it takes root in a garden bed it will quickly overtake any nearby perennials. Any pieces of the roots or vining stems left in the soil will create new plants, making removal very difficult.

If you choose to use this plant in a hanging basket or container, keep an eye on its growth and make sure it does not find its way into lawn or garden areas.

Lysimachia clethroides  (gooseneck loosestrife)

Image from Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

The gracefully curved inflorescence covered in tiny, star-shaped white flowers make this plant appear quite striking, but if left unchecked it can rapidly spread rampantly through your yard. It spreads quickly by underground rhizomes and can be hard to control. It will overtake smaller, less aggressive perennials and deprive them of sun, water, and nutrients.

Euonymus alatus (winged euonymous, burning bush)


Photo by Tom Incrocci

This shrub has long been a favorite of landscapers and gardeners across the United States. Many are attracted to its brilliant red leaves in the fall, which earn it the nickname “burning bush.” It’s also easy to care for, and is tolerant in a variety of sun and soil conditions. Unfortunately, this plant readily spreads by seeds into woodlands, forming thickets and shading out native wildflowers and other plants. Serviceberry, beautyberry are two native alternatives to this species. You can find more here. 

Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod)

Photo from Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder

Not every native plant is a good choice for a home garden. Solidago canadensis is a native perennial that produces masses of yellow flowers, often seen along roadsides when it’s in bloom in late summer and early fall.But just because it looks beautiful in the wild does not mean it will behave well in a garden setting. Not only does this goldenrod spread easily from seed, but it also sends out underground runners. Only use it in large areas where you want this plant to naturalize freely. If you still want the bright yellow color of goldenrods to brighten up your fall landscape, consider less aggressive cultivars such as ‘Fireworks’ or ‘Dansolitlem’ LITTLE LEMON.


Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

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