Some plants are thugs. They out-compete plants around them, both near and far. And they are tough to keep in an Elderyarding® garden if you want low maintenance.
There are three categories of plants that compete aggressively – annual and perennial flowers, shrubs, and trees. Yup, you can have a thug in any category. Know before you plant, re-plant or fertilize that “cute plant in the corner.”
Plants use multiple ways of reproduction for survival. So, how do you recognize those who want to take over your carefully planned and maintained garden?
Re-seeding. One way plants reproduce themselves is to generate lots of seed. It can be dropped gently near the plant’s feet, blown around by the wind, or be coated with a bur finish that catches on animal fur or your socks.
One example is cosmos. Each cosmos flower makes copious quantities of seed. Depending on your climate, you may enjoy a flowerbed that provides new plants on its own each spring. Or you may get really tired of the deadheading needed to keep them blooming all season.
Stolons. Another reproduction method is for the plant to send out shoots that create copies of itself.
A shoot that is thin and appears above ground is a stolon, also called a runner, as illustrated in this great drawing from Australia. You can see these on strawberry plants. Or if you have ever grown a spider plant, you have seen the stolons that arch out from the plant and add baby spider plants at the end.
Strawberries and spider plants aren’t likely to be competitive in your yard, but two aggressive plants with stolons are weedy grasses and Japanese honeysuckle.
Their stolons can even reach down through weed barrier fabric to continue their spread. Get rid of these quickly if they appear, before they are established in a wide area.
Rhizomes. These are underground shoots. Sometimes these are barely below the surface. Some agave plants here in Texas have pups tied to the main plant with fat white rhizomes. Others are quite deep, like potatoes, whose rhizomes end in new potato tubers.
Be quite cautious about rhizomatic plants. Many are native to North American prairies and learned survival by competing with grasses.
Lovely yellow daisy-like plants such as Maximilian sunflower and black-eyed Susan will awe you with their ability to take over via rhizome in a garden environment without grass competition.
Know plant behavior, in addition to flower color and attractiveness of the leaves, even if you have maintenance help to sweat with the hoe or mower. If you mistakenly choose a thug instead of a well-mannered plant, don’t dawdle. Decide right away how to handle its presence in your Elderyard® to control the maintenance you'll encounter later.