Mint is a wonderful herb to grow. It's a great addition to food and drink, and is beautifully aromatic in a vase with other flowers. But its roots are seriously invasive and can spread throughout your garden in a weed-like manner if not contained. Should you want to grow one or more of the delightful mint varieties, do yourself a favor and plant your mint in a container.
Aloe vera is a succulent plant known for its healing properties, particularly for burned skin. If ingested by pets, however, it’s not so beneficial. The latex (aloe juice, just under the skin of the plant) is toxic and can cause major abdominal upset and cramping. For the sake of your pet's health, it's probably best to leave this botanical medical marvel out of your garden.
Atropa belladonna’s common name, deadly nightshade, should be an immediate tip that this plant is perhaps better left out of the home garden. Don't let the lush green foliage, purplish bell-shaped flowers, and glossy black berries fool you—this plant is extremely toxic and should be kept away from any gardens where children or pets could accidentally ingest it.
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Bamboo's hardness and rapid growth characteristics make it one of the world’s most renewable building resources. But that doesn't necessarily make it a viable option for your garden. Before long, you'll find your yard—and quite possibly your neighbor's yard—overrun with a bamboo privacy screen that could take years to eradicate. If you must grow bamboo, do it in large landscaping planters.
The mimosa family of shrubbery and silk trees, with their feathery, fern-like leaves and showy pink flowers, look both exotic and romantic. You will not cultivate love with your neighbors, however, if you plant one. It is incredibly invasive and will spawn seedlings everywhere in your yard and throughout the neighborhood. Once it has taken hold, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of.
American landscapers seem to have an unquenchable love affair with Japanese barberry. It is drought and shade tolerant, and deer resistant. But studies have shown that it harbors black-legged ticks, which can carry Lyme disease. It is also invasive and covered with a thicket of sharp barbs to boot, making it unpleasant to manage, at best. Err on the side of caution and choose native alternatives over Japanese barberry for your landscaping.
Wisteria, with its brilliant, cascading purple blooms, is tempting for a gardener who loves flowers—but beware! Its root system can send shoots popping up far away from the main plant, engulfing trees, shrubs, and anything else in its way. It can live hundreds of years, and requires serious pruning every year to keep it under control.
Castor bean is a fast-growing and showy annual with large leaves and clustered flowers. All parts of this impressive plant are poisonous, though, especially the seed. It’s not a good candidate for a gardener who shares property with animals, as it’s toxic to not only small pets like dogs, cats, and rabbits, but also larger animals like cattle, sheep, and horses.
A yucca plant in the yard can be a problem child, as it requires a lot of maintenance. Its sharp, pointy leaves need to be discarded after they’re spent, and stalks need to be chopped down. It blooms for only about a week, and yucca attracts lots of bugs. Its root system is pervasive and hard to kill. Should you want to remove it, you might have to dig up everything around it as well. This distinctive plant is best left in a pot indoors or on the porch.
Bradford pears are a very popular choice for suburban front yards and commercial properties alike. They grow fast and flower profusely. Pretty as they are, their weak wood makes them easy targets for serious wind and storm damage. Not to mention, though their blooms are beautiful, they have a very unpleasant smell.
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Planting a blackberry bush is a wonderful way to raise your own homegrown edibles, but be careful which variety you choose. The Himalayan blackberry is incredibly invasive, and once it takes hold, is difficult to root out and destroy. Purchase your plants from reputable nurseries, and select the upright, thornless varieties for home gardens.
Water hyacinth, an aquatic plant native to South America, has gained popularity as a natural filter for backyard koi ponds and water features. Unfortunately, this invasive plant does a lot more than clean impurities from water—it can actually take over a pond or stream, choking out fish and other plants. Resist adding these showy lavender flowers to your backyard water feature and opt for something else instead.
A Eucalyptus tree will give you shade in a hurry—growing up to 10 feet a year. But the plant's weak branches are known to suddenly give way and fall. Its peeling bark is looks visually interesting, but in reality just makes for extra yard work every year.
Otherwise known as Spurges, Euphorbia is a plant genus that comprises many different species. The plants, though beautiful, contain a milky sap that will irritate the skin are are poisonous if ingested. Despite their handsome foliage and unique flowers, give these plants a miss.
Give the special gardener in your life a little love this holiday season! Go now to see Bob Vila's best gifts for green thumbs.