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Worst Plants and Trees to Have in Your Yard in Maryland

We’ve pulled together an overview of the plants and trees to avoid in your yard. Find out how to protect your home from costly mistakes and your family from noxious plants.

Maryland is blessed with a wonderful climate as well as everything from beaches to forests. So when it comes to your yard, it’s best to follow what nature is doing in our state. That means planting trees and shrubs that grow best in our area. It also means avoiding those plants and trees that can damage your yard and your home’s foundation.

worst plants and trees to have in your yard in maryland

Plant Local Trees and Shrubs

We’ve provided a planting guide that recommends crabapple, American dogwood, white fringetree, hawthorn, American holly, and pawpaw as excellent trees for your Maryland yard.

Our recommended bushes include William Penn barberry, buttonbush, sweet pepperbush, Tatarian dogwood, border forsythia, dwarf fothergilla, smooth hydrangea, and Chinese holly.

All of these trees and bushes grow well from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., and are perfect in Maryland. 

Trees to Avoid

These trees should be avoided due to their fast-growing and invasive root systems. Their roots can find your foundation, sidewalks, and driveway, doing a great deal of damage. That damage comes from not only the expanding roots but also because in dry seasons, the roots pull moisture out of the soil, causing it to settle and compress. 

  • Sweet gum trees
  • Southern magnolias
  • Mimosa trees
  • Silver maples
  • Hybrid poplars
  • Bradford pears
  • Eastern cottonwoods
  • American elms
  • Honey locusts
  • Norway maples
  • White mulberries
  • Chinese flame trees

It’s not necessary to drop these trees entirely. It’s just that they should never be planted near your foundation, sidewalks, driveways, or patios. They can be planted elsewhere in your yard to add their shade and beauty to your overall landscaping.

Bushes to Avoid

The primary issue with these bushes is that they take over everything around them. It’s best to avoid them entirely.

  • Buckthorn. It can grow 20 to 25 feet tall, forming an impenetrable layer of vegetation. This shades out all other plants and contributes to erosion.
  • Chinese privet. It can form dense thickets that shade out other plants. It also produces pollen that is highly allergenic.
  • Japanese barberry. This plant is drought and shade-tolerant as well as deer-resistant. But it harbors black-legged ticks that can carry Lyme disease, is invasive, and is covered in sharp barbs. There are better options.
  • Himalayan blackberry. The berries are nice, but the plant itself can take hold and invade the rest of your garden. It’s very difficult to root out.
  • Bush honeysuckle. This bush can grow just about anywhere under sun, shade, wet, or dry. Of course, it can also spread anywhere and out-compete your other plants. 

Invasive Plants

There’s quite a list of invasive plants to avoid in your yard. Some of these find their way into your lawn and garden all on their own. Others you’ll plant yourself and later wonder what happened. 

  • Kudzu. This infamous vine can grow up to 100 feet long, completely smothering whatever tree or plant it has chosen to cover.
  • Ajuga. Also called “bugleweed,” this flowering groundcover does its job all too well. It spreads very, very aggressively and is incredibly difficult to eradicate.
  • Sweet autumn clematis. This vine produces wonderful flowers but drops seeds everywhere, so it spreads where you’d rather not find it. It’s also tough to remove.
  • Reed canary grass. This grass grows from two to six feet tall and can rapidly outcompete native grasses. It’s tough to get rid of too.
  • Japanese Knotweed. This weed can grow up to six feet tall and spread 65 feet wide. Its roots can significantly damage your foundation and walkways. We’ve provided a guide to Remove Japanese Knotweed

Poisonous Plants

We’ve listed a few poisonous plants you should avoid planting in your yard. Should you find them, dig them up and carefully dispose of them.

  • Foxglove. This plant contains digitalin, digitonin, and digitoxin. It only takes 20 minutes after ingesting its leaves to cause a wide range of reactions from vomiting to irregular heartbeat.
  • Tansy. This plant is toxic to both people and livestock. It is also invasive. 
  • Virginia creeper. While not technically an invasive plant, it can be very aggressive and difficult to control. The danger is in the berries that contain oxalic acid that is toxic to humans. Keep kids away. The sap can also cause a skin rash. 
  • Belladonna. It’s also called deadly nightshade for a good reason. If the berries are ingested, it causes convulsions, hallucinations, and can lead to respiratory failure.
  • Water hemlock. This is the most dangerous plant in North America. Just a tiny piece of this plant can kill a 1,200-pound animal. 

This list is by no means comprehensive. It’s a starting point as you consider planting for your garden as well as what plants to remove.


While it’s not a plant, at least a growing plant, mulch can also be a problem. Its main role is to minimize soil erosion, replenish nutrients, insulate plant roots, and provide a nice look for your plantings. However, it can also collect excess moisture providing a breeding ground for termites and other pests. Not only that, but if it is piled up around your foundation, it can lead to dampness in your basement or crawl space. 

It’s best to use a hyper-absorbent mulch that helps your plants and keeps water away from your foundation. Also, avoid laying the mulch up against your basement or crawl space walls. 

Where to Plant

Find the right level of sunlight for your plants. That means determining sunlight and shade requirements for your trees, shrubs, and other plantings. Trees and shrubs should also be spaced correctly so that they are not running into each other.

Of critical importance is to be sure to keep them the right distance from your foundation. This avoids root damage along with excess moisture around the basement or crawl space walls. 

Protect Your Home’s Foundation

Protecting your home’s foundation calls for careful water management. That includes grading the landscape so water flows away from your home. On top of that are gutters that collect the rain from the roof, along with downspouts that move the water onto the ground and route it away from the foundation. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear of leaves and obstructions.

While all that helps with routing excess water away from the foundation, the soil also needs water during dry spells. An irrigation system coupled with a smart sensor that can adjust the amount of water based on rainfall is a great way to ensure your soil doesn’t dry out. This can harm not only your plants but can also cause shifting of the foundation causing cracks. The next time it rains, those cracks allow water to enter your basement or crawl space.

You should also consider basement waterproofing that includes installing a drainage system and sump pump with a backup battery to collect and remove leaks before they become problems.

We also recommend that you consult the professionals at JES Foundation Repair for a free inspection and repair estimate to identify any issues with your basement or crawl space as well as the surrounding landscape that need attention.

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