Containing the Overly Vigorous

Monarda - Bee Balm

This monarda is well sited: it is a fast-spreading perennial, but in this location is kept in bounds by the woods on one side (may the best plant win!) and the lawn mower on the other.

When new plants come into the nursery I always enjoy reading the plant-tags. It’s easy to take with a grain of salt such exaggerations as “Blooms all summer” or “Maintenance-free.” But there is one that requires more attention. If the tag reads “vigorous grower,” that’s usually a euphemism for “invasive.”

Often, the pot containing such a zealous grower will have foliage peeking out of the bottom drainage holes. Buyer beware. The tag on such a plant should rightfully read “spreads quickly; will crowd out all other plants” or even “lock your doors and windows…this perennial wants to take over the world.”

Such plants are often very attractive in the nursery, because they fill the pot quickly and look thick and full. These containers brimming with growth appeal to gardeners looking for a mature plant or an instant garden. But the foliage that fills a pot in a season can take over the perennial bed before you can say “inundate.”

Should you avoid such enthusiastic growers? Not necessarily. Some – mint for example – are useful plants. But they do need to be planted thoughtfully. Spaces contained by buildings, cement walks, or asphalt are ideal for such perennials. They will fill the space, but have no where else to go.

When planted in decorative pots, these vigorous growers make attractive patio greenery. The pots can be placed among perennials to fill in seasonal bare-spots. You can even sink plastic pots in the ground and keep eager root-systems from getting out of bounds.

If planted appropriately or well contained, too much of a good thing can be… beautiful.

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