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Tuesday, July 7, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Some plants set on dominating the garden

Alchemilla mollis, or lady’s mantle, looks beautiful after it rains but needs to be deadheaded after blooming to prevent self-sowing. (Susan Mulvihill / The Spokesman-Review)
Alchemilla mollis, or lady’s mantle, looks beautiful after it rains but needs to be deadheaded after blooming to prevent self-sowing. (Susan Mulvihill / The Spokesman-Review)

Every gardener loves it when their plants grow vigorously. But what happens when some of them grow with a little too much enthusiasm?

I’d like to say I’ve never met a plant I didn’t like, but a few have worn out their welcome in my garden. It all started out innocently enough: I saw them in a nursery and they insisted I take them home. I’m certain once they were planted, they quickly plotted their strategy for taking over the flower beds.

Lamium maculatum is one such plant. Perhaps its common name, Dead Nettle, should have given me a clue it would be up to no good. I purchased a single “Pink Pewter” to fill in underneath some rose bushes. It has attractive variegated leaves, is extremely hardy and tolerates dry soils.

At the time, I didn’t realize it’s a member of the mint family; that would’ve been my second clue. Anyone who’s ever grown mint is very familiar with its habit of taking over the planet. It has since taken over the entire bed and has appeared in other planters far, far away.

The second plant that’s on my hit list is Alchemilla mollis, or lady’s mantle. It has beautiful pale green leaves that are gorgeous after a rainstorm – or after the sprinklers run – because of the way the water droplets pool on them. In the summer, they have abundant golden blooms that brighten up the garden beds. But woe be unto any gardener who doesn’t deadhead those flowers before they set seed. I have so many of these plants throughout my garden, it’s impossible to keep up with them.

Lychnis coronaria is another plant that I have a love-hate relationship with. With a prim and proper common name of Rose Campion, you’d think it’d behave itself. I first spied this plant while on a garden tour. It has fuzzy, silvery-green foliage that grows 2 to 3 feet tall, but what really drew my attention were the eye-popping magenta flowers. I asked the homeowner what they were.

She immediately offered to give me some seedlings, then hesitated and said, “Um, they can be a bit exuberant in the garden.” That mild warning didn’t put me off, and soon I was heading home feeling a bit exuberant myself about having new plants.

Little did I realize what she meant. While they grew beautifully and bloomed prolifically, I soon spotted those silvery-green plants everywhere. Since they’re drought-tolerant and deer-resistant – two of my favorite attributes – I let them go for it. Once I realized I was going to have an entire garden consisting of Rose Campion, I started selectively removing those that were growing where I’d never intended.

Yet another troublesome plant is the groundcover Euphorbia cyparissias, or Cypress spurge. Looking like tiny pine trees, I was immediately drawn to the glow-in-the-dark yellow bracts that make a bed pop with springtime color.

I planted three of them and they quickly went forth and multiplied – to the tune of hundreds of plants. If you’re looking for petite (9 inch) plants that are drought-tolerant and deer-resistant, and you want them to grow with great abandon, this plant is for you.

What have I learned from my experiences with these plants? First and foremost, read plant labels carefully for clues that they might be a tad more robust than you hope for. Listen to the experiences gardening friends have had with these plants. And keep a close eye on how the plants are growing before things get out of hand.

Susan Mulvihill is co-author, with Pat Munts, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Contact her at and follow her on Facebook at

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