Unwanted Guests

“Unwanted Guests”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


What do you do when unwanted plants show up in your garden?  And, why is it that pretty, well-behaved plants don’t suddenly appear in the garden like the bad ones do?  I have written before of how I have started to clear out the area that adjoins a neighbor who is no longer able to garden.  Invasive plants, in particular, vines have been showing up to the point it is almost overwhelming.  I am talking about Virginia creeper, wild honeysuckle, and Japanese climbing fern.

It used to be that Virginia creeper was the only problem.  It is amazing to me how fast and long this vine can grow.  It has grown up to the top of 120 foot pine trees.  The vine can also creep along  just barely under the ground and can go for twenty, thirty feet, sometimes branching off several times.  I have been pulling this up now for months, and am still seeing new shoots where the vine has broken.  I have been fighting this particular vine since we moved here over thirty years ago.  I guess I’ll never beat it completely.

A new invasive here at our house is the wild honeysuckle which has become a problem only in the last three years.  What is frustrating about this one is that when you pull on it, the outside sheath pulls away from the stem and your hands slip.  You must use gloves to pull this out.  When it does break, that usually means some digging is required because wherever the stem touches the ground, it roots.  I remember as a child there was one of these vines growing on a fence in the back yard.  We would spend a lot of time picking the flowers and then pulling the stamen out the back of the flower and finally sipping the drop of nectar that was pulled out.  I thought this was the neatest plant.  Boy!  Has my opinion changed now.




The bad thing about Japanese climbing fern is that it smothers whatever it covers, and it tries to cover everything.  It is a shame this is such a pest because this one is a very pretty plant.  I have been trying to rid my garden of this plant for over ten years, and it still keeps coming back.

I don’t like to use chemicals in the garden, so I pretty much resort just to pulling these weeds out.  I didn’t plant any of these, they just showed up.  Even the ones which are native are unwelcome in my garden.  I wish these unwanted “guests” would take the hint and leave.



  1. Debbie said,

    January 27, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    When I lived in California, Virginia Creeper was a wonderful vine in my garden. Then, when I moved to the South, I was so happy to see it growing wild on my fence. After two years I changed my mind. You are so right about this being invasive. I HATE this plant.

    • Jan said,

      January 27, 2009 at 6:59 pm

      It didn’t take me long to come to the same conclusion, Debbie. What I think makes it so bad is how hard it is to get rid of by just pulling it out.

  2. Racquel said,

    January 27, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Virginia Creeper is a problem in my area too along with Trumpet vine. Vacant lots around town are smothered in these two vines. They just take over everything. 😦

  3. January 27, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Had I known about the VA Creeper 12 yrs ago when we moved to this house, I would never have planted it in various woody locations around my house. I will say that I like it on my fence, because it provides a nice screen from a neighbors house that is very close to one side of our house. It’s not so bad in our back yard, at this point–where there’s no grass or garden. However, in my garden area, I keep it cut so it doesn’t take over. I cut it because, as you said, pulling it is not that helpful and it’ll be back anyway. Cutting is just easier;) It has begun to climb some trees. Since I live in Virginia, and they sell it at all the garden centers, I thought I’d enjoy it. Live and learn…but too late to remove the problem entirely:(

  4. nancybond said,

    January 27, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    I’ve had lots of experience with Virginia creeper and it IS stubborn!

  5. Tessa said,

    January 28, 2009 at 12:02 am

    I know just how you feel- it took me forever to get rid of the ivy in my front bed when we first bought our home. It takes over here, not being indigenous. There have been others that have given me fits too. At least they don’t grow as fast as Kudzu- they say you can hear it growing its foot a day in the south!

  6. Jan said,

    January 28, 2009 at 5:42 am

    Racquel, I see from your comment that this vine is not just a problem here. I see Virginia creeper extolled in garden books as a great vine for fall color, but they never mention how it takes over.

    Jan, it is amazing how little garden centers pay attention to invasive plants. Here, I have seen the Japanese climbing fern for sale trained on small trellises. It is so fluffy and pretty, but it can take over in such a short time. As for the Virginia Creeper, I would make sure it doesn’t get into the trees. The vine loses its lower leaves and is not really noticed until it starts to smother the leaf canopy. Those vines can get really thick, too. I’ve cut some that were at least an inch thick.

    Nancy, stubborn just isn’t a strong enough word for this vine.

    Tessa, it’s funny you should mention Kudzu. Last summer it showed up in a yard in a nearby town, and ever since then, I have been on the lookout for it in my yard. It is a fast grower. Steve Bender calls it the vine that ate the South, and after seeing how it takes over in other Southern states, he’s not exaggerating. Since it is easier to take things out when they are young, I just wish I wouldn’t have let these three vines get a hold before taking action.

  7. Tyra said,

    January 28, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Hi Jan, what a pity, it is always like that when a plant takes over. We have wild honeysuckle here and it is lovely and so very fragrant, but it is not invasive.

    xoxo Tyra

  8. Brenda Kula said,

    January 28, 2009 at 8:38 am

    My most dreaded plant, due to the early fall problem I had with it, is the invasive climbing poison ivy. I avoid it like the plague. I found it is now climbing up my street-side brick wall, not just my neighbors. And I stare at it as though it is a monster to be both feared and revered. I am so afraid to clean up over there for fear it will get me yet again!

  9. Randy said,

    January 28, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Jan, the wild honeysuckle coverd a half acre of my parents yard at one time. It smells divine, but boy can it take over.

  10. linnie said,

    January 28, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Jan, the bane of my garden existence is Florida bettony. I think it came from mulch or garden soil that I purchased. It has made its way into almost every bed in my garden at one time or another and it is a nightmare. This year it has really taken over one of my beds and I will spend many an hour pulling it out.

    Linnie in Destrehan 2/28/09

  11. January 28, 2009 at 10:01 am

    This would be funny if it did not represent so much work! I have my own list. Top of that list would be arum italicum which I will never ever be able to eradicate on this property. Hopeless endeavor. I just pull up the tops now, knowing I will have repeat next year. I have trumpet vine sprouting everywhere but I’ve made peace w/ it as I can simply clip it and that will do for awhile, until it resprouts of course. I lived in NC for two years so am well aware of the Kudzu Problem. A tragedy, really. I had VA creeper in NC but I wasn’t aware of its being such a pest. I’m still struggling to think of honeysuckle as problematic but I’m on the alert. Thanks for the heads up. You are not alone in this ongoing struggle, I’m sure. 🙂 Small consolation, right?

  12. Jean said,

    January 28, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Yes, it’s particularly hard in the South where things have a way of growing exuberantly. In the right place, those plants can be wonderful. I used to have Virginia Creeper in my old garden as a ground cover but it got way out of bounds. Eventually I managed to pull most of it out. These days I’m fighting wild wisteria. Wow, is it tenacious!! I wish you luck with all of your invasives!

  13. January 28, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Your unwanted guests certainly seem determined to stay with you at all costs!
    Good luck with getting rid of them – or at least taming them (?)

  14. Jan said,

    January 28, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Tyra, you are so lucky that your wild honeysuckle is staying within bounds. Maybe we have a problem here because we have a mild climate. This plant never really goes dormant.

    Brenda, stay away from that poison ivy! You had too much of a problem with it already. I have read on Dave’s Garden that many people are allergic to Virginia Creeper. They get an itchy rash from that plant, too. Hire somebody to get rid of that stuff for you.

    Randy, you are right about the wonderful fragrance, and it does bring back memories of childhood, but right now, I just want it gone.

    Linnie, I don’t have Florida bettony, and I don’t want it. It is a shame that sometimes mulch or soil contains these bad weed seeds.

    Kathryn, I guess everyone has their own invasive. You have the arum italicum, Linnie the Florida bettony, Brenda the poison ivy, and several gardeners with the Va. creeper and honeysuckle. It is a shame the “good” plants don’t show up like these.

    Jean, I have a little bit of wisteria, but I keep it cut back like a shrub so it won’t climb and of our pine trees and get out of hand. In the woods nearby, you can see the wisteria when it is in bloom, and it is all in the trees, pretty but deadly to the trees.

    K, they are very determined, but they haven’t met this stubborn Irishwoman. I am determined to beat them even though it may take years.

  15. January 28, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    WILD HONEYSUCKLE! I’ve so wanting to grow that here, but I couldn’t get it and it’s invasive? Strange that certain plants that wouldn’t even grow well in your garden is invasive in another place! Interesting.

    • Jan said,

      January 29, 2009 at 8:12 pm

      Chandramouli, wild honeysuckle is invasive here. In warmer climates, it just seems to really take over. I think in colder areas, the cold temperatures knock it back a bit each year, so that it is a little more controlled. Here, it never really goes dormant.

  16. Gail said,

    January 29, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Hi Jan,

    We have all manner of invasives to contend with in southern gardens…they just make themselves at home. I am still trying to rid the garden of Bush honeysuckle, vincas and rose of sharon. Good luck with your invasives! gail

    • Jan said,

      January 29, 2009 at 8:14 pm

      Gail, I didn’t realize that vincas and rose of sharon could be invasive, but I guess with our southern climate, anything could thrive and start spreading. Good luck with your invasives, too.

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