"Invasive" vs. Fast multiplying

Natick, MA

Planning a large perennial backyard project, and have been doing alot of reading, some buying, and alot of planning for fall. I tend to be attracted to "invasive" perennials in a way because I love plants that multiply and spread quickly (the faster the better). Am I nuts? I bought some bee balm for the first time, and read somewhere that primroses are invasive, but I had some yellow primrose years ago when we bought our first house and loved the yellow primroses every year and the fact that they multiplied (they didnt take over).

I dont include Daylilys and Hostas in the 'invasive' category, but love that they grow easily and can be split and over the years, I have cultivated alot of plants.

So what are your favorite fast-growing/fast spreading flowers and/or recommendations for a sunny and/or part shade yard?

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

After decades of gardening, I avoid almost all plants like that, and have never gardened in your climate, so don't have many suggestions except to encourage you to stick with native plants. Native plants, by definition, can't be invasive, just exuberant. If they get away from your yard, no harm done.

You might enjoy Impatiens capensis, if it likes your location.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

As you continue gardening and experience more plant species, you will eventually look back some day, and realize that, that, yes, you were nuts, to use your phrase. ;-)

Your statements, re. having only started to experience bee balm, and others, seems to suggest that you don't have a great deal of experience at gardening... A word of advice - if you read several opinions that refer to a plant being invasive, believe it. Even if such a plant behaves for a year or two, it is just getting comfortable... spreading it's roots out and preparing to take over.

That said, people have varying tolerances for invasiveness and for spreading. For me, "invasiveness" in the garden should be saved for plants that spread by the roots, particularly those that send up shoots that are some distance away from the main plant. Most other rhizomatous plants, I'd be more inclined to refer to as "spreading", so long as the rate of spread is reasonable. Factored into whether something is unacceptable invasive or not, is how hard it is to control. Some invasive plants spread by thin, thready roots that are virtually impossible to dig out effectively; others can be quite easy to control. This can also depend on your soil - is it easy to work, or does it get hard and dry, and therefore harder to pull invasive roots out of?

No, of course, daylilies and hostas are not "invasive". Only Hemerocallis fulva, "ditch lily", and older cultivars that spring from it, are strongly rhizomatous. Hostas are not rhizomatous - they have a fibrous root system.

NB. The plants you are talking about are evening primroses (Oenothera spp.), not primroses (Primula spp.). Yes, you will certainly find some evening primrose species that are invasive, and many of the other 135 species or so that are not at all invasive. Again, it's best to believe what the "reviews" you read tell you about the particular species.

Natick, MA

Thank you both for your input/suggestions so far. I appreciate it. I have years of "gardening experience" but when i say that, I mean NOT with a wide variety of species of plants. I tended to stick with the plants I knew and enjoyed and knew would grow. Now I'm trying new species that I've never heard of and living on the "wild side" of giving other things a go vs. playing it safe. Now that I'm semi-retired, I have more time to garden, water, and really enjoy doing it all!

Clarksville, TN(Zone 6b)

Good for you!

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

Verbena Bonariensis, shasta daisy ( hate the shasta ) blue star amsonia, bee balm, tall rudbeckia, laminium, blue star creeper, ajuga, evening primrose, morning glory, sweet betsy shrub. These are my only spreaders...I do mind the morning glory ...the shasta, the primrose and the sweet betsy. Sweet betsy easy to cut the shoots.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

Valal - It's not a bad idea to find out whether a "new-to-you" perennial is invasive in your area since what's invasive in MA may not be invasive in CA. Invasive plants don't necessarily take over your garden, but the pollen, seeds or berries may spread by air, birds, etc. to natural areas where they slowly choke out native growth.

On the other hand, invasives can also be aggressive and some aggressive plants may not be invasive. An example is Goldenrod. Illinois has lots of varieties of Goldenrod that are native and wonderful plants in fields and open areas. They're beautiful in mass and pollinators love them, but in a backyard garden most varieties can spread like crazy from both seeds and roots. I know...I let one grow after they showed up last summer. Now they're popping up all over the yard. But if I had a huge field, I'd let them grow in a heartbeat.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

And on the other hand, there are many hybrid varieties of goldenrod, many European selections that have made it over here, that are not invasive in the least. They have fibrous root systems, and only spread by seed.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

See what happens when you ask a question about invasive vs. aggressive? It opens a whole discussion and I, for one, completely forgot your last paragraph looking for suggestions.

Okay, a few more suggestions for fast-growing and/or fast-spreading...

Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip' (sun or shade) - very fast spreading ground cover with flowers in mid to late Spring. For some people barely grows, but for others it can take over a bed. When it gets ratty looking you can mow it.


Black-eyed Susan (assorted varieties) - you can crush the seed heads in your hand in autumn and spread them around. Very potent seeds. Pollinators love and Goldfinches like the seeds.

Lamium 'Purple Dragon' (and many other varieties). Very fast spreading ground cover, but easy to pull if gets too aggressive. Pretty lavender flowers in spring and intermittently all summer. When it gets ratty-looking, cut it way back and it will fill in again.


Some varieties of Salvia, Nepeta, Daylily & Monarda (which you already know). Flowering Shrubs like Forsythia, Spiraea, Buddleia and Viburnum.

There are so many, I'll have to think about it, but I'm sure you'll get tons of suggestions from other members.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

Quote from nutsaboutnature :
See what happens when you ask a question about invasive vs. aggressive? It opens a whole discussion...

Very true. Another very important point is that one really needs to specify the particular species when labelling plants as invasive. People are often familiar with a single species of a genus and no others. I've seen it claimed, for example, that Campanula are invasive, when in fact the person was familiar only with one particular invasive species of Campanula, and had no knowledge of the majority of the species of the genus, which are not invasive.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

You're so right! I know in Illinois, there are many plants where only certain species are considered invasive.

When I first bought my Spiraea 'Neon Flash', for example, I read something that made me think I had accidently bought an invasive plant so I checked Chicago Botanic Garden's website and actually found it listed as a plant that's great for Illinois.

Natick, MA

Great suggestions? New house has Angus that is spreading hardy into the lawn. It's pretty when in bloom! A friend gave me labrum w yellow flowers and it has spread gorgeously in a shady back corner and around a tree in rock garden. I have transplanted some at New house....and just bought labrum red Nancy for a variety :-) I have read black eyed Susan's are very easy to grow but haven't gotten there yet
Thanks all for the input and look forward to reading more!

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

As a technical term, invasive applies only to non-native plants.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

Yes, a different context, though, than for a gardening discussion.

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

I have the very tall and they spread freely but not in great numbers. VERY easy to pull if ending up where not wanted. The leaves are a grey blue and doesn't complement other flowers easily, but does look great with its own yellow flower.

Thumbnail by missingrosie Thumbnail by missingrosie Thumbnail by missingrosie Thumbnail by missingrosie Thumbnail by missingrosie
Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

I also seem to like some of the 'invasive' plants. But I do not water my garden very much, so 'invasive' becomes: 'willing to grow and spread under my conditions' rather than 'Help! It is taking over!'

Anna, IL(Zone 6b)

Quote from missingrosie :
I have the very tall and they spread freely but not in great numbers. VERY easy to pull if ending up where not wanted. The leaves are a grey blue and doesn't complement other flowers easily, but does look great with its own yellow flower.

What is your yellow bloomer? I like it.

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

Rudbeckia Maxima - fast multiplying but if not enough sun the flower is sort of small -- the plant is health however. I don't water or fertilize

Anna, IL(Zone 6b)

Thanks - I have several Rudbeckia, but not the Maxima. I will keep my eyes out for that one as I would love to give it a try. I don't have much in the way of any flowers that I would call invasives. I have many that reseed, but have always had an easy control over them. I do have an Alexander Yellow Loosestrife that I am keeping a close eye on and I questioned it before making the purchase of the plant.

Happy Gardening.

Portage, MI(Zone 5b)

When I was a newbie, I was buying Physostegia and another customer cautioned me that it would be invasive. I brushed her off, saying i had need for a lot of plants and it would be great if it multiplied. Twenty years later I am still cursing that darn Physostegia. Lambs ears is easier to dig out, so I don't curse it, but I would tell someone there sure is no need to buy two!

Aquilegia and foxgloves self-sow for me, much to my delight. Oh, and May Night salvia pops up everywhere. Bergenia will expand and need division now and then; I love the foliage but the flowers are not noteworthy. White bleeding-heart pops up everywhere.

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images