Five Awful Plants for the Front of Your House

May 15, 2009 | By | Comments (297)

Sometimes in order to get people to do something good, you have to make them understand what’s bad. With that thought in mind, I’ve selected five of the worst things you can plant in front of your house. Some are ugly; some are monstrous; some get bugs and disease; and some manage to do all of these things.

Undoubtedly, some of you have these plants in front of your house and will shortly be greatly offended. That’s OK. Feel free to make disparaging remarks about my worthless, parasitic cat. He won’t know. He can’t read (though he does watch TV). Kinda like Rick Sanchez on CNN.

Awfulest of the Awful — Golden Euonymus



If you plant this in front of your house, you probably gave your girlfriend a pop-top for an engagement ring. I used to call golden euonymus a “gas station plant,” until gas stations cleaned up their act and substituted plastic palms. Plants like this do nothing for the housing market. They are a sign that says, “For Sale by People with Absolutely No Taste.”

So what’s wrong with golden euonymus (Euonymus japonicus‘ Aureomarginatus’)? Let me count the ways:

1. Mildew and scale eat it up.

2. The foliage often reverts to green, so you wind up with a bush that’s half green and half yellow.

3. The garish foliage is about as subtle as a working girl’s wardrobe.

4. Out-to-lunch people pair it with ‘Rosy Glow’ barberry, a look much favored by legendary garden designer Ernest T. Bass.


Awful Plant #2 — Bradford Pear 


Every Grumpian should have seen this one coming. I hate Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’)! It’s everywhere. Bragging about having one in your front yard is like bragging you have a toilet in your house.

This is why I despise it:

1. It gets too big for the average yard — 50 feet high and 40 feet wide. The only excuse for planting a row of them is if you’re trying to block the view of a highway overpass.

2. Surface roots and dense shade makes it impossible to grow grass beneath it. Of course, if you’ve already blacktopped your yard, this won’t be a problem.

3. Weak branching structure makes it very prone to storm damage. Photograph it when it’s pretty. It won’t stay that way long.

4. Its spring flowers smell like fish.

5. Although its flowers are self-sterile, they can cross-pollinate with other selections of callery pear, such as ‘Aristocrat’ and ‘Cleveland Select.’ When they do, they produce thousands of tiny pears, which give rise to thousands of thorny seedlings are are now invading the countryside.

Awful Plant #3 — Redtip Photinia


Now I know what a lot of you are saying. “How can he hate such a purty plant? I love those shiny red leaves and the white flowers. What a churlish Grump!”

Here’s my beef with redtip, AKAFraser photinia (Photinia x fraseri):

1. Like Bradford pear, it’s planted everywhere in the South. Find me a trailer park, parking lot, or chain-link fence without one. It’s about as common as clipping your toenails during the sermon.

2. It grows fast and big — up to 15 feet tall and wide, much too big for the front of your house, unless you’re hiding from the law. So you have to shear it often, which brings us to problem #3.

3. Most people grow it for the bright red new leaves that gradually turn green. The more you prune, the more red leaves you get. Trouble is, the new growth is extremely susceptible to a disfiguring disease, called Entomosporium leaf spot. Unless you spray regularly with a fungicide, the disease eventually kills the plant — which, come to think of it, isn’t so bad.

Awful Plant #4 — Leyland Cypress


Very few people who plant this monster have any idea how big it gets — more than 70 feet tall and up to 15 feet wide. And because it can easily grow 3 feet a year, it doesn’t take long to resemble a Saturn 5 rocket. Still, people love planting this thing on the corner of the house. The only house big enough for this is Biltmore.

In recent years, Leyland cypress (x Cupressus leylandii) has come under widespread attack by a potentially fatal fungus, seridium canker, which often causes trees to gradually die from the top down.Drought stress  favors development of this disease.

Awful Plant # 5 — Privet


I know a guy named Dr. Dirt who calls these shrubs “privy plants.” He doesn’t know how right he is. I’ll admit that some of the broadleaf species, such as waxleaf privet (Ligustrum lucidum) and Japanese privet (L. japonicum) have some use in the landscape as limbed-up trees, but the small-leaf hedging types, such as California privet(L. ovalifolium) and Chinese privet (L. sinense) are absolute garbage that belong in a privy.

Many people refer to privet by its botanical name, Ligustrum. A more accurate name is “Disgustum.” How come?

1. In spring, privet produces white flowers, whose sickeningly sweet odor reminds me of the deadly dikironium cloud creature on “Star Trek.”  To be fair, the cloud killed people by robbing their blood of iron. Privet flowers just cause allergies.

2. The flowers give rise to hundreds of blue-black berries relished by birds, who spread them all over the universe. As a result, privets are incredibly invasive and weedy. Plus, they grow really fast and need trimming about every two minutes or they’ll swallow your house and dog.

Now here’s the weird thing. Of all the variegated plants in the world, I think variegated Chinese privet (show above) is one of the better-looking. In fact, it’s perfect for next to your privy. But if I could snap my fingers and make all the privet in the world disappear, I would. I’d do the same for spammers.


  1. RSC

    Ha! You got an article from someone named the Grumpy Gardener and you’re going to criticize the author for being, well, grumpy?!?

    I found it helpful and agree with everything. Plenty to choose from such that this article shouldn’t make you feel insecure about being called trailer trash for whatever else you plant, at least in terms of landscaping.

    Steve, my sympathies with going through menopause.

    June 24, 2017 at 12:27 pm
  2. GH

    The author of the article is apparently menopausal. Maybe, it is time for it to retire.

    June 21, 2017 at 2:39 pm
  3. BamaBelle

    Question? What can I plant without fear of being labeled “white trash/trailer trash?”

    Though entertaining, your post offers very little in the way of actual advice. Helpful advice, at least.

    June 21, 2017 at 1:19 am
  4. Steve Bender


    I will go to my grave hating privet and golden euonymus.

    June 19, 2017 at 8:49 am
  5. Monica

    By the way, i’m not in the South, in OR. Also, from the date of the post, I bet you are all gangbusters for Privet and Euonymus! Bahahaha

    June 18, 2017 at 2:36 pm
  6. Monica

    Lol. You would love my curb appeal! I have 3 of the 5 you complain about. None I planted. Red tip photinia is in front of the master bedroom (front of the house) and the Golden Euonymus hedge separates my driveway from the neighbor’s, all came with the house. Privit, on the other hand, self seeded, apparently from the birds, only in the last few years in the back of my house, growing into the eves. Funny, that plants have fad phases and what is considered in fashion now is out tomorrow. Not realistically suitable to to do to plants. It would have been nice to here, if you are a true gardener, what you would recommend in replacing them. Most of what you say is true, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My landscape is geared to attracting birds and pollinators, including butterflys. Some people call it a jungle and yeah, much work is needed and I am an old fart that cant do a whole lot at a time without paying for it later. Well, I guess I am bantering now. Thanks for your great support, NOT!

    June 18, 2017 at 2:30 pm
  7. Steve Bender


    Golden euonymus is cold-hardy in Zone 5?

    June 6, 2017 at 11:11 am
  8. April Raymond

    LOL!!My boyfriend and I were just looking at the first hedge, as a screen out by the road, no I wouldn’t put it against the house 😂😅 against the house we have ixoras, ground cover, and one blue Plumbago, then my boyfriend put an unsightly fence a few feet out in the front so that if our dog got out the front yard he wouldn’t make it out to the road. So, I alternated ruby loreotrope and ginger which kinda looks nice as a screen to hide the fence. The loreotrope has the problem though of getting those yellow leaves which fall off and make the branch look willowy so I’m often trimming. you might add fern to the list. to me that’s like hanging an old dilapidated painting with cob webs on it up in the living room and saying gee that looks nice.hmm maybe I shoulda put up nasty old flower pattern wallpaper, LOL!!

    June 5, 2017 at 4:47 pm
  9. me

    What a fucking idot, I am guessing this dip wad voted for Hillary

    June 5, 2017 at 3:33 pm
  10. Sofia

    I agree with not planting problematic plants and plan your landscape, but treating plants like trending clothing seems absurd, golden euonymus is and will be a beautiful plant, I don’t care what the “trend” in plants is, if I love it and works for me.

    May 31, 2017 at 12:41 am
  11. Crystal Day

    My Golden Euonymus looks fantastic in my flower bed. It adds a pop of color in an otherwise darker area of the bed. It also contrasts nicely against the purple foliage next to it. I like its compactness. Easy to prune. Had it for 12 years and not a single bit of green has shown its head. In zone 5, we have fewer options for plants that offer year round color.

    May 30, 2017 at 4:57 pm
  12. Steve Bender

    The principle reason not to plant photinia in the southern U.S. is that it is very prone to a defoliating leaf spot here. As for Ligustrum lucidum, it is unfortunately quite popular in Florida and coastal areas in USDA Zones 8-10.

    May 18, 2017 at 9:11 am
  13. Rem

    Photinia, interestingly enough, is also a very common shrub in the country it is native to in China. There you will see it everywhere, and almost always pruned as a ball. In fact, it is so common that any landscape architect worth their salt tries their hardest not to specify it, but it always has a tendency of popping into the project at the end!

    Ligustrum lucidum is beautiful as a tree, and makes a fairly effective street tree. However you never see those varieties in North America (due to the aforementioned invasiveness).

    May 18, 2017 at 8:40 am
  14. Steve Bender

    You’re a complete loser and a total idiot. Why so angry? Did you lose your job at the convenience store to a possum cause the possum would work at night? Tragic!

    May 17, 2017 at 11:37 am
  15. Dan


    May 17, 2017 at 7:36 am
  16. Steve Bender

    Reevaluating……reevaluating……reevaluating…….nope, golden euonymus is a horribly tacky plant.

    May 13, 2017 at 3:41 pm
  17. Steve Bender

    It’s probably Chinese digustum (Disgustum sinense).

    May 13, 2017 at 3:38 pm
  18. Joe Shmoe

    One of the most useless and nonsensical articles I’ve ever read. If you judge people based on the fact that they happen to have a golden euonymus in their front yard, you probably need to reevaluate your principles.

    May 12, 2017 at 9:11 pm
  19. Toni

    Your remarks were awesome!I have a plant that randomly grew in my yard in Savannah. Except the smell,which is similar to Disgustum,it’s kind of nice. Leaves are similar to Crepe Myrtle in texture and not shiny. Any ideas?
    BTW I had to Google dikronium cloud creature. You are hilarious!

    May 12, 2017 at 11:53 am
  20. Maria Furth

    What shrub to plant in front of the house? One can never go wrong with English or American boxwood. Although we’re having some trouble in the southeast with some sort of fungus. Still, just beautiful.

    May 12, 2017 at 8:23 am
  21. Kelle

    I have been pulling these god-awful bush/shrub/small tree like things out of my yard for 8 years. I think I have them all and the very next day I find new sprouts EVERYWHERE!!! I’ve searched and searched and I believe it is Chinese Privet. If that is what it is, those things need to be burned and never seen on earth again!!! They grow into ugly small tree looking things in huge clumps and the roots make it impossible to grow anything in the vicinity of them. 8 years I have battled those dang plants and I am DONE!!!

    May 2, 2017 at 12:15 am
  22. Crystal

    Love love love!! all I planned to do was view a pic of ligustrum and stumbled across your rant:):):):):):) 👍👍👍👍 professional landscaper mostly passion but is my chosen profession. Always coming across architect/design fails by “landscapers” or homeowners. Thanks for the insight buddy!

    ~flower girl

    April 29, 2017 at 4:24 am
  23. Krista
    You forgot to add Yuka’s, properly named as they are yucky and that “rabbit ears” or something like that. The plants leaves are soft and are green, but covered in like a soft white fur. They are everywhere, look like a weed and take over whole flower garden. I would definitely add theses to your worst list.

    April 3, 2017 at 8:53 am
  24. Jane Taylor

    Thanks. I was just about to buy one of those. But now what to plant in front of your house?

    March 24, 2017 at 9:42 am
  25. Susan Crawley

    John Wilson, I don’t think you know what “smarmy” means. (Not sure you do either, Steve. LOL) Perhaps you meant “snarky.” Anyway, Steve’s right about most of these plants. And when responsible people learn that a non-native plant is invasive–particularly via seeds dispersed by birds–they get rid of it. They don’t praise its other qualities.

    March 19, 2017 at 8:26 pm
  26. Judith

    What do you think of using Photinia as a wind screen along the east & west boundaries of the backyard in Las Vegas (the backyard faces south)? They seem to do well in this climate, growing thick & strong. The frequent high winds often blow over my patio chairs and I’m starting from scratch in the backyard with nothing along the east & west boundaries yet. Do you think the roots would eventually choke the drip system lines? I had considered Italian Cypress but wondered if they will require years of staking to prevent bending in their early growth stages. It gets viciously windy here throughout the year and ideally I’d like something low maintenance.

    March 9, 2017 at 4:43 pm
  27. miss415

    I have a love hate relationship w/ privet- We have it as a privacy hedge around perimeter of corner lothear in San Francisco-probably been there 30 years. After years of neglect & mow & blow type gardeners using their shears on it, it was in very sad shape but would have cost a fortune to pull out so we decided instead to “renovate it”. It had grown to about 4 ft wide with dead twigs in the middle so the landscapers thinned in down to the original trunks and a few branches- it was bare & looked awful- so embarrasing! it’s been about 8 months and with heavy rains & a new drip system, it has grown in nicely and we’re getting back the privacy. We can see where we will need to fill in spaces, but the rest of the garden is so beautiful since we ripped out the dead lawn and the hedge serves as a backdrop from the inside. From the outside, it looks so much healthier and the mow & blow guys are not allowed to touch it! We have the landscapers come to prune it twice a year. The privet is durable & resilient and survived a severe 4 year drought! I love the fragrant smell the flowers give off in the spring at night. There a variety of privet that is chartreuse color & gorgeous!

    March 2, 2017 at 1:35 pm
  28. Steve Bender

    I agree with you.

    March 2, 2017 at 10:40 am
  29. Sukie Kolodny McCormick

    I have golden euonymus in a mixed shrub border in the front of my home. They get plenty of sun and have stayed a lovely variegated color. Their hues and texture are pleasing with my other shrubs and they add interest and light. They are easy to prune. I have herds of deer roaming around where I live and they have not bothered the shrubs yet. And I have no pest problems. To disparage this shrub because it you think it is garish is like saying don’t ever wear purple – it’s garish. Landscaping is not much different than interior design. You measure, you plan, you consider light and climate, and you consider how the pieces will all work together and compliment each other as well as the architecture of your home. If you just go to garden centers and bring home whatever and plunk it down wherever without any thought, then in the end it really doesn’t matter what you purchase or plant.

    February 28, 2017 at 6:44 pm
  30. Tom Hardwell

    You must’ve had a bad experience with Golden Euonymus as a child or something. There’s nothing wrong with that plant and they look very nice when maintained and used as accent pieces.

    February 22, 2017 at 4:42 pm
  31. A Look Back: Rosemary Verey’s Garden

    […] (I know him personally, and he does, indeed live up to his name) will tell you in his article (here) THE FIVE MOST AWFUL PLANTS TO USE IN YOUR FRONT LANDSCAPE) that this plant has too many negative attributes (insect issues, garish color, poor use in the […]

    February 17, 2017 at 1:55 pm
  32. Jeff Adams

    Problems with alternatives to P. x Fraseri for shade gardens:

    Wax myrtle–suckering, weak branching, sapsucker damage, bagworms, shallow roots, short lifespan.
    Magnolia, Michelia, Manglietia–extremely competitive surface roots.
    Hollies–suckering, seeding out with very persistent seedlings, shallow rooting, allelopathic leaves.
    Waxleaf privet–extremely competitive surface roots.
    Pittosporums–shrubby habit, moderately competitive roots.
    Osmanthus–narrow, unshady habit on O. fragrans, shrubby habit on the others.
    Cherry laurel–extremely weedy, seedlings persistent.
    Mahonias–do not provide much shade.
    Oleander–shrubby habit, toxicity to children and pets.
    Viburnums–shrubby habit, competitive surface roots, not evergreen in cold winters.
    Cephalotaxus–slow, slow growth.

    Anyway, Photinias have their problems, but they also have their niche.

    February 17, 2017 at 1:26 am
  33. Jeff Adams

    I think I have figured out what Fraser’s Photinia needs to be successful: vigorous pruning. I used to have 5 in my landscape here in Dallas that were sheared into balls when I first bought the house. I “unsheared” them and shaped them into low trees. It took about 20 years to get them to look just right, and during that time I cut off probably 1/3 of the foliage per year. They always had a few problems with leaf-spot fungus, but nothing life-threatening. Then, when the lowest branches were all at least 8-10 feet high, the leaf-spot problems got much worse. The only difference was that I had reduced the amount of pruning. I believe this caused their growth to be less vigorous and consequently more susceptible to disease. Two of mine have died from leaf spot and I have decided to make sure I remove about 1/4 to 1/3 of the foliage each year on the remaining three. Mind you I don’t shear them, nor head back the branches, but rather try to shape them into graceful small trees. They still stink rather badly for about two weeks when they bloom, but they’re uniquely suited as overstory for woodland perennials and shrubs–dense foliage that offers reliable shade and good frost protection; deep, non-competing roots; and leaves that fall 365 days a year providing an attractive, self-renewing mulch.

    February 17, 2017 at 12:44 am
  34. Edward Guice

    Love Photinia! So great for privacy; huge wall of green between me and my neighbor. And birds love it! Nice flowers in the spring. But yeah, you’re right; don’t plant it right in front of your house; save it for the sides and back.

    February 16, 2017 at 9:59 am
  35. Steve Bender


    If you don’t like smarmy, this is not the page for you.

    February 5, 2017 at 9:04 am
  36. John wilson

    I found this blog entry to be rather smarmy. Nobody who comes here looking for useful information should let this one person’s opinion affect what you plant. There are actual resources elsewhere.

    February 4, 2017 at 4:01 pm
  37. Lynn

    I almost forgot, the Photinia, I have one, I’ve had it for 10 years. It is beautiful, I love it, it towered over me within two years. I don’t chop it up each year though. I trim the over-branching and that is all.

    January 28, 2017 at 1:57 pm
  38. Lynn

    Arborvitae Globe, pretty, not necessarily fast growing… HUGE Mosquito magnet! I wanted Photinia and was talked into purchasing a bunch of Japanese Privets… Worst purchase EVER. I planted them a few years ago, and there they sit, the same size as when I got them. They’re actually scrawnier than when I bought them. Based on that purchase, I really don’t trust what gardeners at a Nursery tell me.

    January 28, 2017 at 1:51 pm
  39. S. Smith

    Happened upon this researching leaf spot on Cleyera. You, Grumpy Gardner, are spot on with the comments on the golden Euonymus. As a landscape designer for over 20 years, I have never used this plant. We usually propose to remove it and replace it with (along with the red barberry) something that is less of a scale or deer magnet. Really enjoyed reading this!

    January 19, 2017 at 10:45 am
  40. deckape2

    alas, the privet one of few plants that actually eat smog and clean the air… yet they are messy and now i have to pull the saplings every 6 months, preferably in the winter time when the ground is wet, they pull easier then, including the roots.. if the botanist only genetically mutate one, to make it seedless…

    January 4, 2017 at 3:08 pm
  41. Vincent Cackowski

    You didn’t give the whole story on the golden euonymous. I love Mine. I started it in a pot situated at the center post of a two car garage. It got hot all day & afternoon sun. I neglected it. I failed to water it for months at a time. It lived. It looked good, with no care. I then moved houses so I took it with me. Planted it in the ground. It grew very large. I moved it because it got too large for the location. It kept deer alive during one nasty winter. I thought I lost it. It is still doing fine, but now more subdued after what the deer did to it. The yellow color comes from sunny locations. Plant it in the shade and it will stay green. Never had any diseases. Not bothered by most problems.

    January 2, 2017 at 11:42 am
  42. Anne Mills

    The plant shouldn’t be faulted for a human’s mistake. I personally like the smell of the waxleaf and it’s beautiful when in full bloom. I planted one in my yard away from the house and watched it grow into a magnificent specimen. I own a new house now and plan to plant 10 of them in a 55 foot line at the top of a steep slope, in order to block my neighbors view of my swimming pool and my view of their house. The hedge won’t get tall enough to block their view of the city scape, but when they look down the hill, they won’t see me.

    December 10, 2016 at 9:24 pm
  43. Greg M

    Thank you for giving me the motivation I needed to get rid of the Golden Euonymus growing in front of my living room windows, they are the worst for Christmas lights too. Our neighborhood was built in 1991 and was the victim of a lot of poor planting choices. I have already had five Bradford pears removed from my property and watched our neighbor’s split and fall like dominoes during a storm last summer.

    December 7, 2016 at 9:40 am
  44. Rebecca Pierce

    You know you can plant whatever you want in your yard and let other people do the same without you stating your opinion. Not everyone can afford to pay someone with your brilliant knowledge to come and tell them what to plant

    November 13, 2016 at 2:47 pm
  45. Beth Dueck

    Worse than privet is Carolina cherry laurel! Talk about an invasive native! We have them all around the edge of our fields, and growing up around a house we bought, whose yard had not been kept up. They have very strong smelling blooms that cause allergies, and Many berries!

    October 27, 2016 at 8:59 am
  46. dee

    I don’t agree on your review of the ligustrums. We have them all over around landscapes in Florida, all well manicured and shapely, kepted as a small tree with an average height of 5-7 feet..very attractive and in my opinion, sophisticated. I love the way they look and bought my first one today to plant in my front lawn for everyone to envy. To each their own!

    October 22, 2016 at 10:02 pm
  47. Kathleen Loucks

    This article made me howl with laughter! All landscapes should be first and foremost pleasing to the owner(s). I do agree however that many people mistakingly plant the wrong plants in the wrong places. I think the Ligustrum is one of the biggest mistakes people make. For instance, when my house was built 15 years ago, the builder or first owner planted 6 Ligustrum a foot away from the house and about a foot apart from each other. When I moved in a year ago, that side of the house was completely impassible. My cat couldn’t even get through it all. When I cut them out, it cost me $250.00 to have the water pipes repaired because the roots had grown completely around and into them. It was a mess. The ‘trees’ also blocked about a third of the house from view. I think landscaping should enhance the home, not hide it. People NEED to read the little information labels that come with each plant. They usually say how tall and wide the plant will grow. kl

    October 18, 2016 at 3:29 pm

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