The Joy of Landscaping

A Gardening Blog

Substitutes & Options for Some Common Invasive Plants - Part 2


The joy of our abundance of plant options

A previous post - Substitutes & Options for Some Common Invasive Plants - Part 1 - covered substitutes for invasive shrubs. This post will address other plant types.

Norway Maple (including 'Crimson King' variety)

Norway Maple, a 40' tree with 30' width, has been extensively planted throughout the mid-atlantic and northeast. It forms a very dense canopy which prevents plant growth underneath, and out competes native trees when established in a woodlands.

  • Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple) - Full Sun - Part Sun, 60' - 75' ht, 35' - 50' wide, red-orange-yellow fall foliage, round dense crown, Zone 3-8
  • Acer rubrum (Red Maple) - Full Sun - Part Sun,, 40' - 60' ht, 25' - 35' wide, red foliage in fall, likes moist soil, Zone 4 - 9A
  • Fraxinus “Autumn Purple” (White Ash) - Full Sun, 40' - 50' ht, 35' - 50' wide, deep maroon fall color, Zone 3B - 9A

Smaller than Norway Maple but substitute for Crimson King:

  • Prunus cerasifera (Flowering Plum) - Full Sun, 15' - 25' ht, 15' - 20' wide, purple foliage spring to fall, susceptible to deer, Zone 5 - 8
  • Malus spp. (Flowering Crabapple) - Full Sun, 10' - 25' tall and wide, flowers in spring, fruit in summer (some types drop a lot), needs good air circulation, Zone 4 - 8A
  • Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple) - Part Shade - Shade, 15' - 25' tall and wide but can be shorter, some varieties with dark red foliage, Zone 5B - 8

Purple or Garden Loosestrife (Lithium salicaria, Lysimachia vulgaris)

These invasive purple or yellow summer blooming perennials, 2' - 4' tall, are seen along roadsides and stream banks. Substitutes include:

  • Liatris spicata (Blazing Star) - Full Sun, 3' ht, purple or white flowers, Zone 3-8
  • Physotegia virginiana (Obedient Plant) - Full Sun, 2'-4' ht, purple, pink or white flowers, Zone 3-9
  • Salvia - Full Sun, 18" - 30" ht, purple, pink or white flowers, Zone 4-9
  • Lupinus perennis (Wild Lupine) or hybrids - Full Sun to Part Sun, 2'-3' ht, large assortment of colors, Zone (3)4-7(8)
  • Asclepius incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) - Full Sun, 4'-5' ht, pink or white flowers, Zone 3-9
  • Lysimachia punctata (Yellow Loosestrife) - Full Sun - Part Sun, 2'-3' ht, yellow flowers, Zone 4-8

Silver Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)

Japanese Silver Grass is a beautiful clumping 3'-6' grass with light blue-green leaves, usually variegated. It has white or purple-red plumes in the fall.

Medium - tall grass substitutes

  • Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem)
  • Calamagrostis x acutiflora "Karl Foerster" (Feather Reed Grass)
  • Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)
  • Sorghastrum nutans (Indian Grass)

Short grass substitutes

  • Eragrostis spectabilis (Purple Lovegrass)
  • Muhlenbergia capillaris (Muhly grass)

“Good Vines”

It seems vines are popular candidates for invasive listings, and should be the most scrutinized category of plants that you choose. Even some of those listed below should be used with caution due to their aggressive habit. Here are some options if you have need for a vine in your landscape:

  • Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry)
  • Celastrus scandens (American Bittersweet) - alternative to Oriental Bittersweet
  • Campsis radicans (Trumpet Creeper) - vigorous grower
  • Bignonia capreolata (Crossvine)
  • Lonicera sempervirens (Coral Honeysuckle) - one of the few “good” Lonicera! - alternative to Japanese Honeysuckle
  • Wisteria frutescens - American wisteria - this native is a good alternative if you like the look of Chinese/Japanese Wisteria
  • Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper) - very aggressive, can grow to 50'
  • Gelsemium sempervirens (Carolina jessamine) - mass of yellow flowers in spring