7 Shrubs You Should Never Plant in Your Yard - Backyard Boss
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7 Shrubs You Should Never Plant in Your Yard

Choosing the best shrubs for your outdoor space is no easy feat. Considering a few important things to avoid can be the difference between enjoying your yard versus your next full-time job.

Growing conditions differ based on cultivating zones. An unwanted plant in one zone may be valuable in another. If you aren’t already familiar with it, learning about your growing zone will be one of the first considerations you want to make.

Do you want to spend your days tending to needy, invasive, or toxic plants all summer? If you answered no, it is time to get familiar with the seven shrubs you should never plant in your yard.

7 Shrubs You Should Never Plant In Your Yard

Japanese Barberry (Berberis Thunbergii)

Japanese Barberry Shrub with Berries
Image credits: mwms1916 via Creative Commons

The Japanese Barberry is a dense and compact shrub with creamy yellow spring blooms and red berries forming shortly after. The modern purpose for this shrub is generally ornamental. However, historically, the Japanese Barberry served very practical uses like medicine and living fences.

The hearty nature of the Japanese Barberry causes it to survive drought, wet areas, full sun, and heavy shade. The Japanese Barberry can change the overall soil’s pH level, which pushes out the other plant life around it.

Removal can be difficult as this shrub will re-sprout easily through layering. Dominating against other native plant species around it, you may want to reconsider this shrub if you enjoy having other plants!

Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina Domestica)

Heavenly Bamboo Shrub with Red Berries
Image credits: mwms1916 via Creative Commons

Heavenly Bamboo is an upright growing shrub that will showcase off-white flowers in spring and produces small red berries later in the year. The green leaves are glossy and smooth and will turn a beautiful deep red in the fall.

Heavenly Bamboo is a very hearty species that withstand most environments, from full sun to deep shade, and can grow in most soil types. Regular pruning and upkeep are necessary to help contain this shrub.

The toxicity of this plant for humans is low, but the leaves and berries are toxic to domestic animals if eaten. The cyanide in the berries is especially toxic to birds. With much care needed and potential threats to animals and birds, consider planting other species like the Harbour Dwarf or Gulf Stream instead of the Heavenly Bamboo.

Common Tansy (Tanacetum Vulgare)

Yellow Tansy Flower Stems
Image credits: Ekaterina Grosheva via Unsplash

The Common Tansys are shrubs with round yellow flowers, much like the center of a Daisy. The green leaves are feathery and soft, resembling fern leaves. It was initially brought to North America in the 1600s for its many practical and medicinal purposes.

While historically purposeful, the Common Tansy is highly toxic for humans. The toxic chemical called Thujone found within the leaves can cause dermatitis upon contact. Thujone can also be fatal for humans if ingested in high quantities.

To make matters worse, the Common Tansy is highly invasive and can withstand most conditions. It will form a dense cover, restricting sunlight to other plants. This plant has “hassle” written all over it.

Glossy Buckthorn (Rhamnus Frangula)

Alder, glossy or breaking buckthorn
Image credits: arousa via Canva

Another aggressive invasive shrub to avoid is the Glossy Buckthorn. This shrub has egg-shaped glossy leaves that will stay green late into the year. It produces round berries that ripen from green to red and black. The inner stem of the Glossy Buckthorn will show yellow sapwood.

The Glossy Buckthorn has a high tolerance to different habitats, and its root system can become very broad. It will create a low shady canopy that will block out the sun for other native species and thus eliminate them. The berries/seeds of this shrub can be widespread by birds for most of the year due to its growing season. 

While it can provide a dense hedge or living fence, it is best to stay away from Glossy Buckthorn and use alternatives such as Carolina Buckthorn (Frangula Caroliniana) or Lance-Leaf Buckthorn (Rhamnus Lanceolata).

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina) 

Green Leaves and Red Berries of Staghorn Sumac
Image credits: Bernell MacDonald via Pixabay

The Staghorn Sumac gets its name from the tiny red hairs that cover the branches. These tiny hairs cover it in much the same way as velvet will cover a Stag’s (male Deer) horns. The Staghorn Sumac will produce white flowers in the spring and distinct green deciduous leaves that turn red in the fall.

With a tolerance for most conditions, the Staghorn Sumac can spread aggressively without proper pruning and control. It also is an attractant for pollinators and wildlife due to the berries.

You will need to consider this extra traffic in your home garden plans. If you are interested in planting a Staghorn, be ready to give it the attention it requires.

Azalea Kurume (Rhododendron Ponticum)

Pink Azalea Kurume Shrub
Image credits:Rexness via Creative Commons

Azalea Kurume is a dense shrub that consists of evergreen and deciduous leaves. In the springtime, the Azalea Kurume will flower for a few weeks in colors such as red, white, pink, and lavender. This shrub is a great pollinator for bees, and you can also use it in bonsai.

While beautiful and charming, the Azalea Kurume is a garden diva. It requires much care with regular watering and ideal acidic soil conditions as this shrub is susceptible to root rot if conditions are too wet. On the flip side, the requirements cannot be too dry or over-fertilized as this will cause issues. 

Azalea Kurume is vulnerable to insects and disease and grows slowly, so your hard work will not pay off immediately. With high toxicity, this garden diva is harmful to humans and pets alike.

Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus Bifrons)

Flowers of Invasive Himalayan Blackberry in Canada
Image credits: KathrynHatashitaLee via Canva

Himalayan Blackberry is a dense growing shrub that blooms white to pink flowers in early summer. These flowers create delicious blackberries that people and animals can eat. The branches are full of thorns, and the leaves are smooth, green, and oval-shaped.

The Himalayan Blackberry is considered a highly invasive species. The woody branches create a shady environment that will take over any native species already growing. It can be difficult to eradicate as it can survive in sub-optimal conditions. It is considered one of the worst weeds in Mediterranean climates.

Not only can it take over your space, but you also need to be cautious around the thorns of this bush. If you have small children or pets, this will keep you on your toes instead of relaxing and enjoying your greenspace.

Stay away from the naughty list!

Choosing plants that work for you and your garden will be the key to enjoying your green space all year long. From tending to garden divas like the Azalea Kurume, containing the invasive nature of the Buckthorn, or worrying about the toxicity of the Tansy, staying away from these shrubs will get you one step closer to the garden of your dreams.

Do you have any shrubs to add to the naughty list? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!