Gardening: Beware of invasive garden plants – and think of easier alternatives

I learned the hard way about the invasive nature of bamboo. Years ago my neighbor planted some at the edge of the garden – and I’ve been battling it ever since, having only limited success in containing it.

Some experts suggest that some varieties are as invasive as the infamous Japanese knotweed. It was only recently reported that the bamboo had caused over £100,000 in damage to a house in Hampshire, meaning the ground floor of the property had to be dug up.

It can grow through hollow walls, bricks, drains and floors. Invasive plant specialists Environet UK ( have advised people to think twice before growing bamboo and, if you already have it in your garden, to ensure it is properly contained.

Propagating bamboo via long rhizomes can be more difficult, while clump-forming varieties — though still invasive — don’t tend to spread as much, suggests the ERS. So if you need to screen an area and are desperate for swinging canes, plant them in large pots to contain them.

There are, however, plenty of other plants that will give you the protection you need – without overwhelming your garden…

Ornamental grasses

Floating grasses with colorful feathers that change with the light and the season are a great alternative. However, pampas grass should be avoided – hellish to remove once it has established itself.

Instead, consider Miscanthus sinensis (Japanese silver grass), a perennial that will grow up to four meters if planted in well-drained soil in a sunny location. It will reward you with beautiful feathery feathers in late summer. Stipa gigantea is another popular choice.

climbing hydrangea

Once out of fashion, the hydrangea has made a comeback in recent years, and the beautiful white flower head of the climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) will brighten up any shady wall. It is self-clinging and will drop its leaves in winter, but if you pair it with small-leaved ivy you will have interest in the colder months.


This hardy evergreen shrub will grow quickly, shielding you from prying eyes with a dense screen, and also acting as a burglar deterrent with its prickly thorns.

It produces fragrant creamy-white flowers in summer, followed by dazzling orange or red berries in winter, which will also attract hungry birds.

Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

If you have a sunny location, opt for this popular evergreen vine, bearing fragrant white jasmine-like flowers in summer. It can grow up to nine meters, so if you’re looking for height, it’s a serious contender.

Perfect for doorways and small arches, the leaves will tinge red in winter – so it’s a shrub worth the space and, although vigorous, it’s not a rogue. It needs something to climb on, so you may need to attach some inconspicuous garden wires along your wall to help it on its way.

Verbena bonariensis

If you are looking for an airy, semi-transparent screen, you can plant this perennial beauty, whose purple flowers in summer attract pollinators.

It will die back later in the year, so you can mix it with other pretty plants such as salvia uliginosa and tall semi-evergreen grasses including Stipa gigantea.

Photinia ‘Red Robin’

This beautiful evergreen shrub grows to almost two and a half meters and has flexible branches bearing dark green leaves with bright red shoots sprouting from the ends of the branches.

The shrub creates a dazzling display – it should thrive in any well-drained soil in sun to partial shade, but avoid very cold, wet conditions – they will affect the glossy foliage.