Garden Planning – Avoid Invasive Plants

By Jaqi Christopher, DNR Forest Invasive Plant Specialist, Rhinelander, and Mary Bartkowiak, DNR Forest Invasive Plant Coordinator, Rhinelander,

With winter in full swing, many gardeners dream of spring and begin planning what plants to add to their gardens. Now is a great time to brush up on what not to plant to avoid invasive species that might be hiding in plain sight.

Woodlot in fall, most trees have lost their leaves which are covering the ground. Several burning bush shrubs still with their bright red leaves stick out against the brown backdrop.

Burning bush as a forest invasive.
Photo: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

One common garden plant that is a harmful invasive species is burning bush. Burning bush can be a beautifully manicured woody shrub in your garden, but it can also be a significant ecological and economic threat to our forests. Seeds from this invasive plant can travel long distances by birds and other wildlife. These new populations can quickly invade and outcompete native species in natural areas if left unchecked.

A parking lot in a residential area with a landscaped boulevard. Burning bush shrubs with their bright red foliage are neatly pruned alongside mowed grass and taller landscaped trees.

Invasive burning bush used in landscape.
Photo: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

Did you know that Wisconsin prohibits the sale of 145 plants that are considered invasive and can cause ecological or economic harm or harm to human health?

Not every plant vendor is aware of this rule, especially if they operate online or in a different state with different regulations. It is always a good idea to check your plant selections before purchasing as these regulated plant species can continue to be sold at nurseries, garden centers and as seeds in wildflower mixes.

For more information on invasive plants in your garden, including a landscape alternatives brochure, visit our partners at the Midwest Invasive Plant Network (MIPN) here.

We can all do our part to protect Wisconsin’s forests and natural areas by purchasing non-invasive species and removing harmful plants from our gardens.

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