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Worst Plants and Trees to Have in Your Yard in Virginia

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.

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Virginia is blessed with everything from the ocean and rivers to mountains and forests. When it comes to your yard, follow what nature is already doing by planting trees and shrubs that grow best in our area. 

Although there are quite a few plants and trees that grow all too well in our area. Those plants and trees can damage your yard and your home’s foundation. Not only that, but they can also pose a poisoning hazard to your family and pets.

Local Trees and Shrubs

We’ve provided a concise planting guide that recommends crabapple, American dogwood, white fringe tree, hawthorn, American holly, and pawpaw as excellent trees for your Virginia 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 Appomattox to Richmond and Roanoke to Virginia Beach and all across the state.

Trees to Avoid

Our list of trees to avoid includes those that are fast-growing with invasive root systems. They can cause damage to your home’s foundation, sidewalks, driveway, and patio. 

  • Sweet gum trees
  • Southern magnolias
  • Mimosa trees
  • Tree of heaven
  • Silver maples
  • Hybrid poplars
  • Bradford pears
  • Leyland cypress
  • Eastern cottonwoods
  • American elms
  • Honey locust
  • Norway maple
  • White mulberry
  • Chinese flame trees

You don’t need to drop these trees entirely. 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

These bushes are extremely invasive. They take over everything around them. 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 highly allergenic pollen.
  • Japanese barberry. This plant is drought and shade-tolerant as well as deer-resistant. However, it’s a breeding ground for black-legged ticks that can carry Lyme disease. It is also invasive and covered in sharp barbs.
  • 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 push out your other plants. 

Invasive Plants

Most of the trees and bushes that you should avoid are primarily invasive and tough to control. Then there’s a whole group of invasive plants that are very tough to eradicate once they’ve found your yard. Some of these you may actually plant yourself but find later they are too much trouble to keep under control.

  • 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

Avoid these poisonous plants in your yard. If you find them, carefully dig them up and dispose of them.

  • Poison ivy. Birds eat the berries and then spread the seeds, so you may find this plant in your yard. The oil from the plant causes severe allergic reactions. It can be extremely dangerous if it gets into your eyes or lungs.
  • Pokeweed. This plant spreads the same way as poison ivy. It can grow up to eight feet tall. The berries cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The juice can also be absorbed by your skin. 
  • 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 an irregular heartbeat.
  • Tansy. This plant is toxic to people and livestock. Not only that, but it is also invasive. 
  • Virginia creeper. This plant can be very aggressive and difficult to control. The berries contain oxalic acid that is toxic to humans. Keep kids away. The sap can also cause a skin rash. 
  • Belladonna. It’s called deadly nightshade for a good reason. Ingested berries cause convulsions, hallucinations, and can lead to respiratory failure.
  • Horse nettle. This is also a member of the nightshade family. The berries cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. 
  • 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 a good starting point but is by no means comprehensive. It’s best to keep these out of your yard.

Mulch 

While it’s not a growing plant, mulch can also be a problem. On the plus side, it serves to minimize soil erosion, add nutrients, insulate plant roots, and decorate your plantings. However, it also collects excess moisture, providing a breeding ground for termites and other pests. If the mulch is piled up around a tree or shrub, the bark can rot, making the plant susceptible to insects and disease. 

If mulch is piled up around your foundation, it can lead to dampness in your basement. It’s best to use a hyper-absorbent mulch that helps your plants and keeps water away from your foundation 

Where to Plant — Sunlight and Shade

It’s essential that you 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 they are not running into each other.

Of critical importance is making sure to keep them the right distance from your foundation. This avoids root damage along with excess moisture around basement or crawl space walls. Roots can also remove moisture from the soil during drought conditions, allowing the soil to shrink and compact, putting stress on the foundation.

Protect Your Home’s Foundation

Careful water management is the key to protecting your home’s foundation. Landscape grading is critical to allow the water to flow away from your home. Gutters and downspouts also route water off the roof and away from the foundation.

An irrigation system can be very helpful in maintaining just the right balance of moisture in the soil around your foundation as well as for your plants. A smart sensor can adjust the amount of water based on the rainfall, or the lack of rainfall.

Drying soil can cause foundation shifting and resulting cracks. When the rain comes again, it can seep into the cracks, bringing moisture and even flooding.

If you’re experiencing a damp basement, consider waterproofing that includes installing a drainage system and sump pump with a backup battery to collect and remove leaks before they become problems.

We recommend 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 needs attention.

JES Service Area Map

Service Areas

CENTRAL VIRGINIA

2410 Southland Dr
Chester, VA 23831

HAMPTON ROADS & NE NC

2569 Quality Ct
Virginia Beach, VA 23454

BALTIMORE

1250 Reames Rd
Middle River, MD 21220

NORTHERN VA & DC

8122 Bethlehem Rd
Manassas, VA 20109

SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA/ROANOKE

2033 Cook Dr.
Salem, VA 24153

WESTERN VIRGINIA

456 Old Courthouse Rd
Appomattox, VA 24522