Contain that plant!

Have you ever noticed that some of the most prolific bloomers are also great at taking over a garden? I have several plants in my own garden that I know are anywhere from slightly invasive to highly invasive, but yes I continue to grow them year after year. To keep them from completely taking over my garden beds and choking out everything in their path, I grow them in containers. That way I can enjoy the good qualities they have but keep their bad habit of spreading themselves freely throughout my garden in check. One of my favorites is the poorly named Obedient Plant or Physostegia virginiana. It also is referred to as False Dragon Head. Mine isn’t blooming yet, but it will soon, so I got the picture to the left from They range in color from pale pink to magenta to even a white variety. I’ve heard the white variety isn’t quite as aggressive, but I don’t know if that is true or not. About 8 years ago I ordered Obedient Plant through a mail order catalog (name long forgotten) and received this dormant (looked dead to me) root. I planted it that spring and it didn’t take me long to figure out that this beautiful flower was a thug! It spreads by underground runners and boy does it spread! Because I love plants, I couldn’t just dig it up and throw it away, so I contained it in a metal wash tub where it blooms its heart out every summer. This way I keep the plant but it doesn’t kill out everything else in my garden in the process. Another plant that I have growing in containers in my yard is Periwinkle or Vinca major “Variegata”. It is actually a creeping ground cover that spreads by rooting from the stems whereever it lays. Some of you might of noticed the wall mounted planters I have on the wall of my shed. This is where I have this aggressive evergreen creeper growing. Don’t you think it looks nice flowing over the sides of this container? The foliage is green with creamy white margins and it has lavender-blue flowers in the spring. I cut it back every winter and every spring it sprouts new growth from the roots. My grandmother likes to mix it with other flowering plants in her containers, but I think it looks pretty good all by itself, even without the blooms. Every other year I have to replace the soil and separate the rootbound plant. But don’t put the pieces you don’t want in your compost bin or you will have a jungle on your hands. I throw the excess in the garbage. It’s a foolproof plant for containers, so you don’t have to worry about killing it. Last but not least is the Blackeyed Susan or Rudbeckia fulgida “Goldsturm” which is a productive reseeder in my garden and hopefully not to their dismay the neighbor’s yard as well. The plant to the left reseeded from my raised bed that is about 10 feet from their house. So far they haven’t complained, maybe because it’s blooming so prettily next to the foundation of their house. I don’t mind digging it up and moving it into my own garden if they don’t want it. This plant will reseed easily but it is easy to remove the excess plants you don’t want. I don’t contain it so much as keep an eye on it. I guess if I cut off the spent blooms every fall instead of leaving them for the birds it might be easier to control. But the finches love the tiny black seeds and I love watching them balance on top of the flower heads every fall. I’m sure if I looked around there are more invasive plants growing in my garden but these are my top three. What kind do you have growing in your garden?


20 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Rose on July 21, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Good idea of “containing” those invasive plants. I have yarrow, which can also spread out of control. I planted mine next to some landscape rocks so they can’t spread anywhere but into the yard. Like your black-eyed Susans, though, they’re easy to control if I keep an eye on them.

    I like vinca, too, and used to buy a few plants each year to put in taller containers. My friend Beckie at Dragonfly Corner now provides me with all the vinca I need–she can’t get rid of hers!


  2. Posted by Meadowview Thymes on July 21, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    It is so ironic you would post and include obedient plant. I bought one at a neighborhood plant sale, and it is still in the container. I have wondered what to do with it. So, you advise keeping it in the container?
    Cosmos takes over at my house. But I love it, and it’s easy to pull up if I don’t want it somewhere. My Rudbeckia may take over, but that’s ok since they are my very favorite flower!


  3. Posted by Dee/reddirtramblings on July 21, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Very good advice for those who want to bloom these beauties without sending them to the entire neighborhood.~~Dee


  4. Posted by tina on July 21, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    You do have to be careful of those spreaders. We sometimes want this but then too much of a good thing is-well-too much! I was warned on Obedient plant and gooseneck loosestrife. Haven’t ventured there but have vinca in an out of the way area. Like your other commenters-I love the goldsturm. It can spread away!


  5. Posted by Kathleen on July 21, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Great post! I have the white physostegia and although it's spread a wee bit, it's nothing to be alarmed about. I have it planted in my front garden bed and I think I could easily pull some out if it started getting out of hand. The pink & white are both so pretty but I really wonder who named it?!!!


  6. Posted by Perennial Gardener on July 21, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Yarrow is another great example Rose. I have it in my garden too, but it hasn’t been too hard to control. Vinca is never in short demand in my garden either. 🙂

    If you have a large container you could plant it in that Linda. I wouldn’t plant it in your flower beds because you will end up with just Obedient Plant. Cosmos are great at reseeding too, but I agree they are easy to control.

    Thanks Dee. It would be nice as Carol over at MayDreams Garden says if they had warning labels on these plants when you purchase them.

    You were lucky Tina. Sometimes we don’t have someone to warn us about these thugs. Planting aggressive plants in large pots seems to be a good compromise.


  7. Posted by Perennial Gardener on July 21, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks Kathleen. I’d heard the white was better behaved than the pink variety. Maybe I’ll plant some in my washtub with the pink. That would be pretty! I think whoever named this plant must of had a strange sense of humor. Obedient it is not. lol


  8. Posted by OhioMom on July 21, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Good post, too bad more gardeners do not research what they plant 🙂 My neighbor planted a wisteria at the foundation of his house, he discovered his mistake much too late.


  9. Posted by beckie on July 21, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    I was so tickled that you mentioned vinca spreading-I thought I was the only one with a problem wit it. I bought some one year to put into a container for the ‘spiller’. It grew long enough to root in the bed by the house. The next year I had some come up and thought-how nice, my own supply. Now, I pull and pull and give it away by the tons! I have been thinking of getting the ‘black eyed Susan, but will now be sure to plant it where I can contain it. I saw a white obeient plant at the “Idea Garden’ and thought it was lovely. Wouldn’t mind having it too. So will have to think of a ‘safe’ spot for it too. Thanks for the advice and the great ideas.


  10. Posted by Perennial Gardener on July 21, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Mom, sometimes you don’t find information about a plant being invasive from the research you do but from other gardeners. And then sometimes you find out the hard way.

    Your welcome Beckie. I learn more from other gardeners than anywhere else. I had the same thing happen to me with the vinca, now I contain it to the hangers and I don’t let the trailing ends touch soil. lol In the comments, Kathleen said she didn’t have any problems with the white variety of Obedient Plant.


  11. Posted by Mother Nature on July 21, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    The one I’ve had the most difficulty with has been river oats. It grows in the shade also. Some of the labels that say reseeds really mean reseeds like crazy.


  12. Posted by Perennial Gardener on July 21, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    They don’t really elaborate on those labels MN. If River Oats is anything like the ornamental grasses I bet it is aggressive.


  13. Posted by Cindy on July 21, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Great post! It is amazing how many plants can get out of hand. For me it is borage, hands down. It is EVERYWHERE. Chamomile can also get out of hand too. My cosmos have also gone a little crazy but like someone else mentioned they are easy to pull up at least. Plus I really like them!


  14. Posted by Perennial Gardener on July 22, 2008 at 12:29 am

    Thanks Cindy. I’ve heard borage and chamomile were aggressive. I’m sure if I looked around I could name a few more. Those were my top 3. You’re right Cosmos seed easily but are easy to remove. They are pretty.


  15. Posted by Susie on July 22, 2008 at 1:10 am

    Before moving from GA I had obedient plant growing in a couple of beds. I bet by now those beds are nothing but Obedient plant. It is pretty though and a nice late season bloomer.


  16. Posted by ChrisND on July 22, 2008 at 2:07 am

    Everyone can always use a reminder about plants that need to be contained…the ones I worry about most are those with runners or fast spreading roots. We have things like black-eyed susan that I don’t mind because I like them and can always pull the volunteers…however for some I do find it difficult to decide in the spring if something is a weed/unwanted reseed or a desired seedling.


  17. Posted by Gail on July 22, 2008 at 2:24 am

    I have both the vincas…they came with the house and another thug is liriope, there are the usual bush honeysuckle and japanese honeysuckle.

    I love rudbeckia and don’t mind it reseeding about the place and even obedient plant hasn’t been too bad! Our dry weather has curtailed it’s spread!

    clay and limestone


  18. Posted by Naturegirl on July 22, 2008 at 3:48 am

    I do the same with invasive plants.I have also cut the bottom out of those plastic pots (the ones a big plant of shrub comes in) placed into the ground and then planted my invasive plant inside…the runners that normally go (((sideways))) cannot and
    the plant stays where its planted without spreading! Good to do with mint as I love mint in the garden.
    My blackeyed Susans don’t seem to be invasive..gets bigger in circumference but that’s allowed in my garden space.


  19. Posted by Greg on July 22, 2008 at 4:43 am

    I welcome everything to the garden, but I try to make sure everything has it’s place. I’m always happy to have a plant that works hard for me, though…and I have trouble being annoyed by any of them, save poison ivy (and even that has impressive qualities).

    I thought obedient plant got its name not for its habit, but because you can bend the stems a little and arrange the way it carries itself in the garden “picture.”

    Isn’t it also known as “gas plant” (or am I thinking of something else)? Be careful where you flick your Bic with a garden of those around!


  20. Posted by Perennial Gardener on July 22, 2008 at 5:08 am

    That’s why I couldn’t just get rid of it Susie. It’s nice to have things that bloom later in the summer. Mine is budding up now. It will be nice to have something new blooming.

    The runners are harder to control Chris. I can pull the volunteers but sometimes the volunteers do better than the original plant they reseeded from. lol

    Lirope is another one Gail. I have that in my garden too. I have to keep that in check as well. I find the variagated isn’t as aggressive.

    That’s another great way to contain the thugs Nature Girl. Mint is a great example of a spreader!

    Wow, that is interesting Greg. I never heard that was the reason they called it obedient plant. That makes sense. No it isn’t the same as gas plant. I considered planting that next year, thanks for the heads up about the lighter thing around it.


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