Negatives in the PF

Hamburg, PA(Zone 6b)

I've been reading negative comments on plants. Well I'm about to add my 2 cents!


Before writing a negative.... If a plant didn't do what you wanted it to do, didn't grow, bloom, whatever! Does not mean there should be negative on the plant. But consider the source (grower, groing place, medium, etc).

For example..I don't like orange flowers in particular. But I would not write a negative on the plant if it's orange. That's my personal feelings. Also if you have a plant that's invasive. Don't plant it in a 3 feet garden...LOL Then write "Hate this plant" it's invasive"
Of course it is! That is the plants nature.

I'm hoping in the future we will post facts. Then consider the plant we're writing about.

Brookeville, MD(Zone 7a)

I completely agree.

Also, people tend to post negatives when a plant does what it's supposed to do. Tulip trees drop flowers every where in the slightest breeze. Of course it does, should they stay on forever? Furthermore, if it tends to do this, does it really belong planted along streets and those perfectly manicured lawns?

Winchester, KY(Zone 6a)

I feel like a plant defender lots of times. I feel almost offended for the plant! I like those challenges certain plants offer. If something tends to sprawl(like 'Johnson's Blue' geranium), then I find a spot where it can sprawl happily among other plants and accent them with their pretty blue blooms. A woman I work with said"I don't like daffodils, the leaves are ugly after they bloom." and it irked me. I just smiled and said"that's why I plant daylilies or hostas among my daffs; who wants that spot in the garden naked for the rest of the summer?"

Hamburg, PA(Zone 6b)

Neal, Very Very good Point!

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Like most people of my generation, my mother taught me to clamp my lips shut if I didn't have anything good to say. I still try to heed that advice when I'm tempted to talk about someONE. Talking about a plant is a bit different, IMHO.

I'd much prefer to read a negative or neutral comment that plainly states someone's negative opinion of a plant, versus interpreting carefully crafted "faint praise" of a plant because no one can bring themselves to say anything mean about it.

Case in point: Silver maples are weak-limbed, aggressive rooting and year-round messy trees, especially when planted near a house (the voice of experience talking.)

That's much easier to comprehend and digest than someone politely pointing out its few merits (it IS a fast-growing tree) while assiduously avoiding the fact it's not a tree of choice when other species are vastly more suitable to the home landscape. No, it's not the tree's fault it was chosen for our landscape. But I'm surely not going to mince words if someone asks me if I'd recommend they plant one, too.

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

And to follow up on Terry's post, the whole point of that particular part of the database is to let people know that it sprawls or is messy, or whatever. I have gotten some pretty good advice from negative posts, and been able to avoid the whole two or three years of live and learn that I have subjected myself to in the past.

Hagerstown, MD(Zone 6a)

I agree don't post a negative for the plant doing what it should do but don't post a positive either if you don't like the fact that the tulip tree makes a mess every year. There are irises that just don't do well in my garden in spite of the fact that I've done everything I can to make them look good. I won't say they are + or - but I'll post it as a neutral and then unload in my comments about all the things that make them ugly to me.

My 2 cents.


This message was edited Jun 21, 2005 6:56 AM

Hamburg, PA(Zone 6b)

The Negatives are very useful (if they are facts)..and I never said "Don't Write" Negatives...LOL.

But I noticed some would say.."This Never flowered, Hated It!"

My point is...maybe it didn't flower for a reason..Not enough fertilizer..sun..etc.

Am I making sense now? It's still early...LOL

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6b)

Kim makes perfect sense to me.

My favorites are the Invasive Negatives from zones 800 miles south of me.

I'm struggling to get it thru the winter and it's on the Federal Invasive list IN FLORIDA.
Well I though everything that didn't have to have 40 days of chill WAS invasive under those conditions! lol


Brookeville, MD(Zone 7a)

I was trying to say what Kim said.

Hamburg, PA(Zone 6b)

LOL LOL ha ha ha!

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

i agree about the negatives-esp. re: messy trees (dont plant a known messy tree where you park your car!) and (all those seedlings coming up, mow em down and enjoy the tree!!!)

my 2 cents thrown in too-pretty soon we'll have a dollar and we can go to town

Hamburg, PA(Zone 6b)

pretty soon we'll have a dollar and we can go to town
Cracking up!

Oklahoma City, OK(Zone 7a)

Sometimes, however, you aren't the one who planted the tree. You inherit it or it belongs to your neighbor. OR What is invasive to some people means "oh, goodie, maybe it will grow here" to someone else. We all respond differently to things.

I think many of the negatives provide a valuable service to fellow gardeners. Yes, there are a lot of comments that are a matter of perspective. Yes, some gardeners are better than others. :)

How many of you have actually tested your soil before planting things? How does any of us know for sure what causes some plants to behave the way they do? Is your pH too high, locking up many of the nutrients in the soil (that affects a lot of things)? Do you overwater? Did your neighbor spray something that drifted into your yard affecting some of your plants? We don't always really understand why some things happen. That doesn't mean negative comments don't provide some value.

Let me give you an example.

I planted an heirloom tomato "Arkansas Traveler" in an Earth Box, following the directions to the letter. It's not set fruit yet while the hybrid next to it has already brought in ripe tomatoes. Does that mean Arkansas Traveler isn't a good choice? Should I write a negative comment that it doesn't produce well? I could see how someone would be very frustrated by now (given the zone I'm in and the conditions here - ripe tomatoes are everywhere now). The truth is that heirloom tomatoes don't produce as much fruit as hybrids, they are more prone to disease and pest problems and they set fruit later than many cultivars. It does not have bred into it the resistance to fusarium wilt or other diseases. It is what it is. And yet, it isn't producing tomatoes and that alone could generate a negative comment.

Do you expect people to research every plant the way I did this one to see what it's inherent characteristics are?

This site is for gardeners - by gardeners. Ordinary gardeners have ordinary reactions to things.

Knoxville, TN(Zone 7a)

I agree that folks shouldn't have to exhaustively research a plant's properties before posting a negative comment. But I have been seeing some comments lately that definitely look out of place. One recently that caught my eye was someone in a very northern zone that placed a negative on a tropical plant that was only hardy to zone 9, because it didn't overwinter for them outside unprotected.

I felt like if the poster had taken the time to read the information that was already available in the PF, they should have realized that a negative post was inappropriate.

Spokane Valley, WA(Zone 5b)

Kinda makes you wonder about the credibility of ANY of their comments... lol

Oklahoma City, OK(Zone 7a)

In a case like that one, nathalyn, I would click the "Report an Error" button and let the admins take a look at it. They have the ability to delete a comment altogether, move it to another plant (if it's misplaced) and so on. I agree with you that a comment like that is simply irresponsible.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6b)

OK I'll bite.
Why shouldn't gardeners research a plant's properties before reporting on it?

Because that should have been done before they bought it.

Many plant failure reports are for exactly the reason smiln32 mentions.
Lack of information.
This though, to me at least, is due to laziness.
Give me a plant name and I can find dozens of sites of information.
Then I can make a decision on whether to grow it and exactly how.

PF is a great resource but not the only resource.
Exercise your brain a bit and seriously look at what you're growing before you try it.

Sorry for the soapbox but this is one subject that irks me.

Hamburg, PA(Zone 6b)

Well the one that raise my eyeborow was...

Mirabilis Jalapa "4 O'clock - Four O'clock"

There's a negative because this flower opens in the evening!
ha ha ha ha

I thought that's how it got it's name?

Oklahoma City, OK(Zone 7a)

Did you report it to the admins?

Hamburg, PA(Zone 6b)

No, I thought it was our freedom of speach here...LOL

Denver, CO(Zone 6a)

What I don't like is a negative when the person hasn't grown it or doesn't know someone who has grown it. I mean why go through the bother of writing a review. Plus it doesn't help others at all.

Oklahoma City, OK(Zone 7a)

Can you give an example?

Denver, CO(Zone 6a)

I wish I could but I don't remember the specific plant - I used the plantfiles all the time and I'll come across something like : "Never grew this plant but toxic if ingested." Many plants are toxic but we still grow them anyway (moonflower, cast iron plant, etc.) so.... why the negative? Unless you have an experience growing it seems odd to give an opinion. Giving the info is good but a negative?

Now if you have personal experience and put: :Had this in my garden and plant gave out eminations that I must eat it.........." LOL then of course you might want to see your psychiatrist.. Just kidding. It's just odd to me.

Hamburg, PA(Zone 6b)

Good point!

Oklahoma City, OK(Zone 7a)

No, it's not a good point.

Toxicity is a negative. People who want to plant toxic plants need to heed the warning, not just for themselves but for anyone who might come in contact with the plant. None of us gardens in a vacuum. At times, we have visitors, stray animals or children, and we can't control all of the actions of others.

You might not have neighbors, but most folks do. If someone's child eats a brug leaf, datura seeds, castor bean leaves, they will suffer severe consequences.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I think it's healthy to have a mix of negatives and positive ratings for plants. When all is said and done, it really boils down to a matter of personal opinion whether or not you like any plant we could name here. Someone may like orange flowers, but think that the particular shade of orange bloom is too garish, even for their taste. Who's to argue with that? (I sought, bought, planted and raised Rosa 'Zepherine Drouhin' because it was thornless, only to discover it's a hideous (IMO) shade of magenta in bloom. Am I wrong to give it a big thumb's down because I loathe the color? I don't think so. Others may love everything about the plant, and they're entitled to their opinion just as I am to mine.)

If I inherited a plant, or purchased it then realized I made a huge error in judgment in purchasing it, should I be required to assume a Pollyanna attitude, or condemn it with faint praise? Or is it a better service to fellow gardeners to clearly advise others of the lessons I learned, in the hopes it will save someone from the same mistake.

As to editing comments, there's a fine line here between censorship and keeping PlantFiles as useful, accurate, and informative as possible.

There's also the practical matter of how much micromanaging we can reasonably take on with our small staff of volunteer editors.

No hard and fast rules, but:

1) If someone has posted comment that is...

- really off-the-wall; or
- a recommendation (or request for help) to misuse a plant for illicit purposes; or
- a back-and-forth question/discussion with other comments: or
- a "how do I [save, kill, acquire, grow] this plant" question

send us an error report and we'll edit/delete their comment.

2) If someone has posted an advisory on a plant's toxicity, we may look at it and edit or leave it intact, just depending on how it's phrased, how many other advisories are already posted, and whether the correct checkbox for toxicity is already in place.

3) However, if you simply disagree with a comment, then post one of your own (not to refute or rebut any other statements, but a summary of your own opinion of the plant's merits, virtues and weaknesses.)

Please don't ask us to remove someone's comment because it you don't think it's "fair" - the editors aren't here to be arbiters of whether a pure opinion - positive or negative - should stay or go.

Hamburg, PA(Zone 6b)

Toxicity is a negative. True indeed. But shouldn't these comments be under "Danger or Other Details" on the PF Files? Not so much a negative? If the plant hasn't been grown by someone?
I LOVE Lantana, but realize it's a hazard to animals.

Oklahoma City, OK(Zone 7a)

Please don't ask us to remove someone's comment because it you don't think it's "fair" - the editors aren't here to be arbiters of whether a pure opinion - positive or negative - should stay or go.

The editors are in place to ensure the PF provides accurate information, yes?

I could easily go through every tomato plant in the PF and type a comment that it tastes disgusting and the texture makes me want to puke. That's my opinion. Of course, I happen to dislike eating tomatoes immensely. Can't stand them. Never could. I try each year and I just don't like them. Should I be allowed to post negative comments to each tomato variety I've ever tried just because I don't like tomatoes?


My daughter, Bethany, is allergic to strawberries. Should I go through the PF and type a comment that all of the strawberry cultivars cause severe allergic reactions?

There is difference between an opinion of substance and one that provides no valid benefit to other gardeners.

Do you think the 4 o'clock comment mentioned above is something that should remain? It's a negative because it blooms in the afternoon? That is an inherent part of the plant. That's what it DOES. Why should a negative be attached to the plant simply because it's doing what it's supposed to do?

Denver, CO(Zone 6a)

I think toxicity is a negative but then most plants that are listed as toxic are ususally mildly so or may only be toxic to cattle etc, or only if massive quantities are eaten . The exceptions of coarse are datura, oleander, etc, which are deadly. You really have to research the plants to know.

I'm not saying to take any comments out but my point is that it is more helpful if someone actually has experience with the plant. Growing, observing, loving, hating, etc.

Here's a great website for toxicity of plants and levels of toxicity.

For example did you know dianthus leaves are toxic? But only a low toxicity. This list is extensive.

Otherwise I love the comments. It really helps me decide to grow a plant or not.

Oklahoma City, OK(Zone 7a)

Folks have lobbied before for an "Informative" checkbox instead of having to choose Positive, Negative or Neutral. I would like to see this as well.

I don't think it's wrong to pass along information about a plant even if you haven't grown it. It's still important for gardeners to know what a plant does. I don't need to eat a datura seed to understand that it has consequences. I can just pass that information along from reading about it. Does that make sense?

Denver, CO(Zone 6a)

That makes a lot of sense.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

The guidelines for posting a comment state:


Here's your opportunity to share your experiences with growing this plant, or some interesting details of its habit or history, and provide a positive, neutral or negative rating. To better inform other gardeners of the plant's merits (or lack thereof) we strongly encourage you to use the positive or negative ratings if at all possible.
How was your experience?

Please provide a complete, yet concise note to support your rating. This note may include your personal growing experience, or information on the plant's origins, history or other interesting details you'd like to share.

If a note appears to stray from these guidelines, we'll take a look at it. But PlantFiles is unique in that it is an open database, written by and for gardeners to share information. Unlike an encyclopedia, there's no staff or committee to decide which plants are deserving of a spot in PlantFiles (we only stipulate that plants must carry legitimate, verifiable names and are not used primarily for illicit purposes); nor do we have editors to predetermine precisely how each plant should be described or depicted (our editors are here to edit mistakes and errors they spot, or that are reported to us.)

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Why should a negative be attached to the plant simply because it's doing what it's supposed to do?

With apologies to Shakespeare, "Aye there's the conundrum."

Should a plant such as my ubiquitous Acer saccharinum (Silver Maples, aka trash trees) not warrant a negative for the many downfalls it possesses? The inherent characteristics of the plant make it unsuitable for most urban/suburban landscapes. But being fast-growing, weak-wooded, limb-dropping, boxelder bug-attracting, chronic-shedding, is simply what it is....certainly not its "fault" (as though we can assign blame to a plant.)

(who thinks this proverbial horse is pretty well dead by now, and we should all put away our clubs and rods, taking comfort in the fact most PF notes will conform to generally-accepted standards; those that don't can be handled one-on-one

Oklahoma City, OK(Zone 7a)

I didn't see a single club or rod here. Sounds like most of us are in agreement, actually.

Hamburg, PA(Zone 6b)


Irving (Dallas area), TX(Zone 8a)

It seems to me that as long as the person describes exactly what it is they don't like about the plant than it doesn't really matter that much. Do you think someone will look at that negative about Four O-Clocks and decide that they don't want it because this person didn't realize that it bloomed in the afternoon before they got it? I would guess that most people would ignore it.

Often when someone leaves a negative because a plant is "invasive", I'll just think "Oh good, I have plenty of space for it anyway" so the fact that the comment was negative doesn't necessarily make a difference.

Or when one person says "I don't like it, because it won't bloom for me", generally people won't pay too much attention, so if someone is trying to grow a lilac in zone 8 (BTW, if someone tells you one will, don't believe it :P), it won't cause much damage; however, if half a dozen people say it won't bloom for them, people will notice, as well they should because it probably is actually difficult to get to bloom and it's good that all those people commented.

Just my 2 cents (or so)


Hamburg, PA(Zone 6b)

Well I suppose we will always see the negative and invasive comments. Some of the most beautiful plants have negatives. The negatives comments, seem opinionated in my eyes. I have always said "Everyone is entitled to their opinions" LOL LOL. It would be nice to see Neutral checked, and then read the Negative comment as to why they don't like the plant.

I guess what I'm trying to say is..Someone new to gardening could miss out on their favorite plant. If they look at the Negatives and say to themselves "I better not get this one". Some of the plants listed invasive usually aren't invasive enough for me! LOL. A new gardener may not consider growing zones, climates, etc. They just see where it says "Invasive or Negative" and then steer away.
I have not grown every orange flower. I just might as well, go down the orange flower list and post "Negative" This flower is orange and it looks terrible! and I would never plant it in my garden"
Get my drift???

Then some have to just down right give them what they want. Moist soil, shady conditions, sun, mulch, whatever the case. But there will be people who don't give the plant what they need. And the say " Negative - Hate It! I'll never plant another"!" ha ha

Peonies are the most Beautiful flowers in bloom. But I personaly do not like them. I have my reasons, they flop immediately after blooming, sometimes the flowers are too heavy and they lay on the ground, and they don't last long enough for me. Most of all my neighbors make them look awful! They are a mess after and while blooming. But my Overall feeling is " A Positively Beautiful Bloom" So I would check "Positive" and then write how much I dislike the chracteristics...LOL. Matter of fact I think I'll go do that one one of the Peony pictures I added to the PF

BTW..Can't stand Daylilies either..ha ha ha

Paris, TX(Zone 8a)

actually there have been times I've decided to plant certain plants in containers, because I read they were invasive. If I hadn't been able to read that in PF, then I'd have planted them in the ground and been sorry later.

That's just my opinion. Actually I see both sides to this. There's an informative way to write a negative. As long as it stays in that spirit, it can be quite helpful.

Brookeville, MD(Zone 7a)

If a plant is toxic, I wouldn't post a rating based on that but would make sure to mention it in passing in my post.

When a plant just doesn't "do it for me", like the flowers are too plain or just egh, I'll usually give it a neutral but make sure to mention the plant's attributes also so people will know.

Some plants are just difficult to flower, like orchids, but that doesn't mean that some one didn't research their butt off trying to find a way to get it to flower. That could be a neutral b/c it's just too difficult but I know that the possibility is there.

When you think about it, what are we actually rating? It differs so greatly.

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