- Author: Andrea Giacoletti
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Andrea Giacoletti UCCE Master Gardener
I've heard the term 'invasive.' How do I know if I have an invasive plant in my garden? Violet P.
If there's one thing that will throw a pall on your gardening, it's an invasive plant. Generally, these plants are introduced into the landscape by unknowing gardeners. They are known for their ability to grow prolifically, and as such, are often attractive to those searching for something that grows 'easily.' Invasive plants are usually non-native and quickly overrun native plants and quite possibly everything else in their path---including trees. To make matters worse, they are notoriously difficult to eradicate once established.
Outside the small home garden, invasive plants cause severe damage by overtaking and destroying natural habitat and the food sources they provide. Some of the most powerful of these plant species clog waterways, deoxygenate water supplies, increase fire intensity, cause flooding---and even alter the soil composition. California alone spends $80 million annually in efforts to control these out-of-control plants.
To confound the issue, invasive plants are sometimes considered 'regional.' This means that a particular varietal may not grow excessively in certain areas, while in others it may be highly invasive. For this reason, invasive are often sold in nurseries, particularly those in large chain stores that service a wide area. Knowing what is invasive in your area---before planting---can make the difference between a relaxing gardening experience and one that you swear will be the death of you.
Invasive plants are also different from weeds. Weeds are more often introduced to an area accidentally---not intentionally selected. Weeds also have specific requirements to become established, such as disturbed soil or some type of human intervention.
If you want to know more about invasive plants, please join us at the UCCE Master Gardener “Advice to Grow By” workshop on Saturday, February,15, in our demonstration garden at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo, 10:00-12:00. If inclement weather, it will be moved to the auditorium. Garden docents will be available after the workshop until 1:00 p.m.