I am a Gardener

I am a Gardener. Why should I care about invasive species?

K.A. Rawlins,. 2013. Why should I care? Series: I Am A Gardener, Why should I care about invasive species? The University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, Tifton GA, BW-2013-113. 2 p.

This publication based on: Midwest Invasive Plant Network. 2008. Why should I care about invasive plants? How invasive plants impact hunting, fishing, boating, gardening, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and other recreational activities in the Midwest. From MIPN.org.

Invasive plant species threaten natural areas and can invade your garden. Landscape plants that seed freely, like privet, can cause extra work for gardeners. Seedlings must be weeded out before they take over and displace plants that you painstakingly planted in your garden. Plants such as wisteria can spread quickly from your garden onto other people’s property, decreasing both their enjoyment of their property and their enjoyment of you as a neighbor. Even plants that seem manageable in your garden may be spreading seeds into natural areas. The fruits on many plants, such as nandina and coral ardisia, are eaten and spread by birds, causing infestations many miles away.


Japanese beetles have a total host range of more than 400 species. Some of these hosts include roses, crepe myrtles, and Japanese maples. Japanese beetles skeletonize leaf tissue (eat all leaf tissue between the veins and leave the veins behind). Adults attack flower buds and fruits, while grubs are considered the number one pest of turf and lawns. Japanese beetle infestations can greatly reduce the ability of your garden plants to grow and flourish. Gardeners in the United States spend an average of $460 million a year to control Japanese beetles in their gardens.

There are also many invasive species you cannot see that affect your garden. Many invasive pathogens, such as dogwood anthracnose, oak wilt, mimosa wilt, and Dutch elm disease can make plants unsightly and potentially kill them. Americans spend $2 billion each year controlling unwanted plant pathogens in lawns, gardens, and golf courses.


I am a Gardener. What can I do to minimize the introduction and spread of invasive species?

  • Avoid using invasive species in your garden. Until you are able to get rid of invasive plants that may already be planted in your yard, be responsible and remember to remove and destroy seed heads of invasive plants. Also, don’t share invasives with other gardeners.
  • If you are worried that your garden will lose its luster after removing invasives, it is easy to find non-invasive or native alternatives for invasive landscape plants. Before choosing a native plant alternative, first think about the characteristics of the invasive plant you are replacing. For example, if you like the showy fruits of Asian bittersweet, try replacing it with American bittersweet. If you like Japanese honeysuckle for its vining habit, consider replacing it with a summer late-blooming vine-like leatherflower vine. If you like purple loosestrife for its vibrant magenta flowers, try planting purple coneflower or one of the many native species of blazing stars instead.