Five Awful Plants for the Front of Your House

May 15, 2009 | By | Comments (219)

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

GE

 

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 

Bradford  

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

Redtip

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

LC

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

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.

COMMENTS

  1. Charles

    I suggest if you want to really give your property some “class,” plant Melia azedarach – a.k.a. the Chinaberry Tree, or Ailanthus altissima – a.k.a. the Tree of Heaven.

    June 27, 2016 at 3:16 pm
  2. Charles

    Don’t let them high-fallutin’ Innernet Elites and Intellectuals tell you what is and what is not proper for your yard. Plant what you want… or water whatever the previous occupants left behind, if you like it.

    June 27, 2016 at 2:46 pm
  3. Tricia Lenwell

    How rude…………… ……………….. I must have a touch of chain link trailer park in me…..and here I thought I was a princess………………….

    June 27, 2016 at 12:29 pm
  4. Darrin

    Redtip Photinia smells, too. Should be banned!

    June 27, 2016 at 12:11 pm
  5. Stacy H

    I once refused to buy a house that was perfect in every way because the previous owners had planted 16 Bradford Pear trees along the driveway. I am allergic to them, and in Spring my eyes would have swollen shut! We also get the occasional tornado In Tennessee, and the Bradford is always the trees you see flung to the ground, or branches of it as a projectiles through windows and roofs! In the spring I also shake my head when I see customers at Costco lugging carts of 8 or more Leyland Cypress out to their trucks, and wonder what their neighbors will think in 5 years time.

    June 26, 2016 at 5:39 pm
  6. Sharon K. Williams Hicks

    Another that I have planted that I loved at the time is Wisteria. Bit it has grown everywhere even under the driveway to the neighbors fence. I’m pulling out, cutting it down and having to spray with round*up. Sprouts comes up all over the yard.

    June 26, 2016 at 3:52 pm
  7. Elphaba

    Photinia here in the High Desert of CA, is one of the best plants ever. No disease and can be trained beautifully. Also, it will sustain all its beauty when winter hits. One year it was 3 degrees and this was the was one of the only plants that survived all over the Valley.

    June 26, 2016 at 1:48 pm
  8. Jill B

    I’m laughing. About 25 years ago, I paid for a ‘Southern Living’ landscaping plan offered by Pike Nurseries. What did it recommend? All five of these. My yard is a virtual snapshot of the “Awful Plants”. I need a new landscaper.

    June 26, 2016 at 1:29 pm
  9. Grumpy Gardener

    Margaret,

    How does your letter carrier likes having a bee magnet next to the mailbox?

    June 21, 2016 at 1:45 pm
  10. ramgol

    thanks alot
    http://ramgol.com

    June 18, 2016 at 3:28 am
  11. Margaret Nadler

    There is one positive aspect of the Waxleaf Privet, and the Euyonymus (the Green Boxleaf variety) and that is their attractiveness to native bees. This is true in the older sections of our garden that were planted in the 1940’s by the original owners. The two plant types serves as hedges & the eye passes over them. We planted one single Bradford Pear, fortunately, because it does a really good job with shade, and the roses planted under it only provide one splendid bloom, the 1st of the season, until they are blocked by the Brad’s shade. However, this tree is now about 35 years old, and it is a magnet for native bees during its bloom season. It is absolutely huge. It is planted over the mailbox and at the head of our 2 row citrus & non-citrus fruit tree section that is sandwiched between our driveway and the service driveway. Fortunately, it is not planted in the front yard. We do not suffer from high winds, so I have not seen the breakage that others have experienced. Our garden is in the central San Joaquin Valley; we have sandy loam soil and our average rainfall is 11 inches when we are not in the drought cycle that we have just ended this year. We water these plants during the hot summer months, about once a month for a long soak.

    For the most part, I agree with the overall perspective of these 5 plants….they are not my favorites, either. But I did want to mention the nectar or pollen source that they provide for our native pollinators. Bees need all the help they can get; we will not be removing these established plants unless one of them dies a natural death.

    June 17, 2016 at 12:10 pm
  12. Bradford Pear trees should be outlawed

    I absolutely HATE Bradford Pear. When we moved into our house the previous owners had planted five of them. One in the postage stamp front yard and four in the back. You are right, they cannot take storm damage even when the storm isn’t all that bad. And it is IMPOSSIBLE to grow grass under them. One reason is the one you mention above, but also the tend to drop their leaves very late in the winter after the snow has fallen and it is impossible to rake them up at that time which means it creates a virtually air tight blanket of waxy leaves on top of the grass that did grow there and smothers it out.

    The one in our front yard broke in half near our house! Why anyone would think it is a good idea to plant a tree that close to a house, let alone a Bradford Pear is beyond me. The others in the back yard were starting to drop large branches in the slightest of storms so my husband and I just cut them all down. I was always worried one would fall on one of our children while playing outside, especially on windy days.

    Bradford Pear trees are the devil!

    June 15, 2016 at 9:05 pm
  13. Grumpy Gardener

    Sheila,

    I’m not a big fan of Indian hawthorn either. Actually, what kills them isn’t a bug, but a leaf spot. So instead of spraying with Sevin, spray according to label directions with a fungicide called Daconil. Or don’t plant Indian hawthorn in the first place.

    JD,

    I am indeed very grumpy.

    June 15, 2016 at 10:27 am
  14. Sally

    Dear GG,

    Loved this article! I agree with everything you said. I have learned the hard way about a couple of these plants. Most people have no idea about “invasive plants”, which several of these were. I am trying to be conscientious and creative about what I put into the ground, using natives as much as possible.

    Longtall

    June 14, 2016 at 7:51 pm
  15. JD

    nobody really gives a rats patootie what you think! I have the golden euonymous in my front yard and it is beautiful. It has been here for 6 years with my Japanese Maple and its never turned ugly. Ones persons trash is another persons treasure. You are a grumpy person.

    June 12, 2016 at 2:14 pm
  16. sheila cooper

    You HAVE to add Indian Hawthorne to your list! It grows so fast and is so prone to leaf rot that I guarantee you, if you plant one… within a short time, you’ll be keeping it on life support with seven dust once a week. And that’s just to keep what’s left of the leaves from falling off. The only way to “cure” the plant is to clean beneath it thoroughly, being careful to remove all fallen leaves and, of course, all of your mulch! But,it’ll get sick again, so why bother? It’s also horribly contagious, so your other Indian Hawthornes WILL become affected. I live on the South Carolina/Georgia border and it seems that the issue with this plant is widespread. I think builders love to throw these scrub shrubs in with your building package! I recently had every last one of mine pulled up and started from scratch! Ugh!

    June 6, 2016 at 8:56 pm
  17. Grumpy Gardener
    June 6, 2016 at 2:00 pm
  18. doesnt matter

    So what exactly WOULD you plant then?

    June 5, 2016 at 11:28 pm
  19. Grumpy Gardener

    Marlene & Mr. Eddie,

    You are both very welcome!

    June 3, 2016 at 2:47 pm

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