Selecting plants that are right for your landscape takes more than
sticking a pin in a catalog or clicking a picture on the Internet.
It’s important to consider what impact that plant could have on the
rest of your landscape.
In a recent Plant man column, I addressed the frustration many people
feel when they find that their prized plants have been chewed to the
ground by deer. I also referred readers to a Web site that listed
plants that are “deer resistant.” Although deer will eat almost any
plant when they are hungry enough, they find some plants somewhat
unpalatable and some plants downright unpleasant.
A few days later, I received an e-mail from reader Ethan Kaiser,
referring to one of the plants mentioned in the column. Ethan wrote,
“Japanese barberries and their cultivars are actually exotic invasive
species in the U.S. and are known to take over woodland areas and
forest edges, especially in Wisconsin and the Midwest as a whole. They
outcompete many native plants that the deer would munch on instead of
Ethan makes a good point. Japanese barberries are indeed deer-
resistant but, left to their own devices, can become invasive. In
fact, Japanese barberries are prohibited in the state of
Massachusetts. As you may know, this column is published in newspapers
in 30+ states, and can be read world-wide on the Internet. As such,
unless we are answering a specific question regarding a particular
geographic location, some of the information has to be somewhat
As visitors to our Web site www.landsteward.org know, Cheryl and I are
strong advocates of selecting native plants when ever possible, but we
do understand that in quite a few cases, it isn’t practical or
We strongly encourage everyone to do a few minutes homework and check
out the pros and cons of any tree, shrub or groundcover before
introducing it into your landscape. So what can you do?
For a start, what works well in New Mexico might be a dud in New
Hampshire. Is this plant recommended for planting in your USDA zone?
If you’re not sure of your zone, go to HTTP://WWW.USNA.USDA.GOV/HARDZONE /
You can also find a comprehensive state-by-state list of plants that
are found where you live at HTTP://PLANTS.USDA.GOV/ but note that
these lists do include plants that are considered to be invasive.
At that same Web site, you can click on a link to a list of noxious
and invasive plants that you can sort by state, common name or
scientific name. If you want to steer clear of possibly invasive
plants, this is a good reference.
Adamant about using native U.S. plants in your landscape? Take a look
at a collection of articles and links on a Web site hosted by the
Environmental Protection Agency titled “Landscaping with Native
Plants” located at HTTP://WWW.EPA.GOV/GREENACRES
Aptly titled “Native Gardening and Invasive Plants Guide,”
HTTP://WWW.ENATURE.COM/NATIVE_INVASIVE/INVASIVES.ASP provides easy to
follow information on using native plants while avoiding invasive
plants. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a guide written for
the home gardener rather than the horticulturist!
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is a good resource for a lot of
current information on invasive plants.
Go to HTTP://WWW.FWS.GOV/INVASIVES/ where you can click on a lot of
links, including one titled “What You Can Do.” A note at that site
points out: “In addition to the many invasive species from outside the
U.S., there are many species from within the U.S. that are invasive in
other parts of the country.” What is just fine somewhere else might be
considered invasive in your location.
Again, before you plant, I strongly recommend taking the time to find
which plants will thrive where you live and meet your requirements,
both esthetic and environmental. It’s an investment that will pay
dividends for you and the landscape.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org