CO-Horts Blog

Monday, July 25, 2016

When Plants Go (somewhat) Rogue

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

I really enjoy weeding my landscape. Call me crazy, but I enjoy plugging my ears with my iPod, making things tidy and dumping five-gallon buckets of weeds in the trash. It's a real sense of accomplishment. I also enjoy seeing what's new in the garden...did my newly planted perennials survive? Do the shrubs need water? And seeing what's gone rogue.

Uh oh. Plants gone rogue. The potential to be invasive. Plants you want to avoid with a ten foot pole (mint, anyone?). But is "going rogue" a bad thing? In some cases, no....I actually enjoy plants that gently go rogue. Those that randomly pop up and say "Hello! Here I am! Aren't I cute?!" And those that are easily to pull out and remove.

An example of a plant that's gone rogue and is NOT easy to mitigate is Russian sage. Yet I have it in my landscape. CO-Hort blogger Eric discussed this topic a couple years ago (and offers great suggestions to alternatives). But as big of a pain as this plant is, it does have a place...and in my yard, it is a border between my landscape and our neighbor's gravel driveway. It adds some nice separation. It's also a honey bee magnet. But sadly, Russian sage doesn't care about property lines, so I'm constantly pulling it from their gravel. Ugh. Russian sage--a bad rogue plant.
Russian sage growing in my neighbor's gravel pad. You can also see where I whacked it back to stay on our side of the property.
But some examples of gentle roguers (a new word?) include:

Petunia! Maybe this is common for you, but I've never had a petunia reseed. This one took up residence in my flagstone path, which is a great spot. What I'm trying to remember is if the petunia hanging basket I had last year was white? This petunia is so cute!
White petunia that found a home in the flagstone path.
Portulaca! Another annual, and one that commonly reseeds. I planted a few plugs a number of years ago and every year since, the portulaca fills in gaps in the flagstone and nearby beds. Fine by me! It's easy to pull and has great flowers that only are open during the day.
Portulaca that reseeds every year in the flagstone. The only problem is it's hard to distinguish from purslane (they are in the same genus).
Lamb's ear! I feel this may be controversial for some, since lamb's ear is a love it-hate it plant. Personally, I love lamb's ear, and while it's in the mint family and can be invasive, I find it easy to control by ripping it back whenever necessary. But what I find absolutely adorable about this lamb's ear is that this one is in my vegetable garden, a good 20+ feet from where the lamb's ear is planted. I can't bear to remove it, so I'll leave it for awhile and admire its perniciousness.
Lamb's ear roguing it in the veggie garden. So cute! And my garlic (on right) is nearly ready for harvest.
Angelina sedum! I have blogged about how much I love this sedum in past posts, so I won't belabor the point, but this sedum is lime green in summer and copper in fall. And it creeps and fills in. I started with a very small 4" perennial and it's grown to fill in a pretty big spot. I've also found it near my shed, rooted in a path and happily growing wherever it sees fit. Don't like where it's moving? Pull it and replant the roguers.

Maple was so excited to be in this photo with the Angelina sedum.
Coneflower! I feel like this one blindsided me. I guess I should have known, seeing as how coneflower is a native, but wow. Talk about prolific. I'm going to label this one a "medium roguer" since it's not as easy to relocate or remove. I originally planted coneflower in a sunny spot near a path and some other perennials. They quickly grew to be five feet tall and reseeded everywhere. In the path, across the yard and a few other spots. But can you really dislike coneflower? It's sturdy, a great bloomer and a friend to bees. So I deal with it.
The original coneflowers.

This coneflower was not planted, but found a home by the lavender. I like it! 
Sunflowers! And other bird seed! The birds in my yard go crazy for black oilers. So do my beagles for that matter. And if you feed the birds, you'll get some of the seed germinating below or nearby the feeder. It's inevitable. I have sunflowers. You might get corn. Or millet. All of these are annuals that may or may not be your cup of tea. I remove a lot of the sunflowers, but also let a few grow because they are nice.
Why not let these grow? The mulch path is for the dogs, and they provide some obstacles to run around.
Another that just came to mind is columbine...but mine all are tired and sickly-looking, so I'll spare you a photo. So tell me...what in your garden is a gentle roguer? Or even an aggressive roguer that you happen to love? I'm all (lamb's) ears!


  1. Gaillardia! But it's pretty and fills in bare spots and there is so much of it that you can pull it out easily if you want to.

  2. Callirhoe, Campanula persicifolia, California poppy and annual Larkspur can be easily managed in their role as rogue plants. Northern Sea Oats, (Dwarf) Rabbitbrush and Genista need to be managed with a heavier hand. And the lovely Allium aflatunense can be a thug!

  3. We have calendula and some type of Monarda that reseed agressively but both are easily pulled (although calendula leaves annoying sticky residue on the hands). They also both have pretty flowers, so we let a few grow each year.

  4. Feverfew--don't have its species name as I brought the seeds with me from a house we lived in in Miles City, Montana, 30 years ago. It grows about 2-3 feet high wherever it feels like filling in and I love the little white daisy-type flowers, but if I need room for something new, I pull it out. Also, the basal leaves stay green all winter. It's a short-lived perennial.

  5. Teucrium Germander Chamaedrys, very neat looking ground cover, but spreads rapidly and has a root system that is hard to dig out, when it goes rogue. Westminster

  6. From Steamboat, where winter deals harshly with some rogues, except: Asian Poppies...Brutes, ug! Yay for lamb's ears and Hollyhocks.


  8. All great rogue plants, fellow commenters! Thanks for all the helpful plant names and tips.

  9. I had petunias reseed this year and they too came back white. I know I didn't have white petunias last year. Also had verbena reseed and they came back white. I transplant coneflowers to other parts of my garden. I have Russian Sage and it is a pain to keep confined but I leave it because of the bees and the finches who eat the seeds in late Fall.

  10. I have an Anemone that looks great but VERY invasive. I don't know if I should remove it. I am sure it will take completely over the area eventually.