Never Plant These Invasive Shrubs (and What to Grow Instead!)

Natural environments are threatened by exotic invading bushes. Their attractiveness and cheap upkeep help them survive and spread when they jump the garden fence into the woods and fields. After arriving, they outcompete natural plants that help wildlife survive.  

Butterfly bush has spread quickly through the Pacific Northwest and much of the East. It is known for attracting butterflies. To grow this plant, look for types like Blue Chip that are sterile and don't have seeds. 

Invasive Shrubs: Butterfly Bush

Eastern shrubs like buttonbush, New Jersey tea, summersweet, and elderberry attract butterflies. Ceanothus, spirea, California lilac, blackbrush, and west coast elderberry work. Butterfly bush does not support caterpillars, unlike many bushes. 

Butterfly Bush Alternative

People like this common plant for its deep red fall leaves, but in the East, Midwest, and South, it takes over forests and makes them unusable. 

Invasive Shrubs: Burning Bush

Native shrubs like sweetspire, blueberry, and fothergilla also have beautiful red displays. Pollinators can get nectar from these bright choices, and birds can get berries or both.  

Burning Bush Alternative

Those invasive plants feature red or orange berries. Birds eat them and scatter the seeds outside the garden, where they thrive. Barberry invades the Northeast, Great Lakes, and Northwest, while pyracantha invades California, Texas, and the Deep South. 

Invasive Shrubs: Japanese Barberry and Pyracantha

Dogwoods, winterberry holly, elderberry, chokeberry, native viburnums, blueberry, bayberry, wax myrtle, Oregon grape, and manzanita are superior. Spicebush, like these two invasives, has red berries and is deer-unfriendly. 

Barberry and Pyracantha Alternative

You may have invasive shrubs you didn't grow or buy from nurseries. Replace these long-established invasives to avoid regrowth. Remove and replace multiflora rose, Russian or autumn olive, Himalayan blackberry, buckthorn, privet, and bush honeysuckle. 

Other Invasive Shrubs to Avoid

You could also use hawthorn, Carolina rose, witch hazel, or highbush blueberry. You can try any mix of natural plants that looks good in the area and helps wildlife. 

Native Shrub Alternative

Also see

Gardening Basics: Secrets From the Garden Center

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