5 Native Plant Alternatives To Invasive Species
For every invasive plant, there is a native alternative that looks similar but is highly beneficial to its surrounding habitat. First, look for the features of the invasive plant that you enjoyed. This may be large, color blooms, beautiful foliage, or the size of the plant.
Once you’ve identified what features you enjoy, you can start searching for a native alternative that will suit your needs. You should also consider what features of native plants you would like to have in your yard as well, such as habitat for butterflies or berries for birds.
1. Creeping Thyme vs. Creeping Jenny
I used to be a big fan of creeping Jenny! I loved the way it filled out my planters, and the way it draped over some of our rock walls in the backyard. Unfortunately, this plant is unfortunately very invasive to our area (and as we already know, it spreads quickly and effectively). It is considered a High-Priority invasive ornamental in northern Michigan and we recommend removing it completely from your planters and landscaping.
Fortunately, there is a great native alternative! Creeping Thyme grows in the same fashion as creeping Jenny – spreading quickly and drooping over the edges of planters and retainer walls. Creeping Thyme also boasts a ton of pink/purple blooms that last for up to 6 weeks and attract all the bees you could hope for!
Creeping Thyme vs Creeping Jenny
2. Blue Phlox vs. Dame’s Rocket
If you love the look of a blanket of tiny blooms, you don’t have to settle for an invasive species! While the flowers of Dame’s Rocket are beautiful to the eye, this species is aggressively invasive to our region. A single plant can spread as many as 20,000 seeds in a single season, pushing out valuable native plants once they germinate.
Blue Phlox, on the other hand, is a wonderfully helpful, native species in Northern Michigan! This plant can grow a blanket of dense, colorful blooms that are truly showstoppers when planted in groups. This is a great choice if you are looking for a colorful ground cover. Blue Phlox are an excellent food source for butterflies as well as many other local pollinators.
Blue Phlox vs Dame’s Rocket
3. Bearberry vs. Mytle/Periwinkle
Myrtle, sometimes referred to as periwinkle, has been a common ground cover option in northern Michigan for many years. While this plant is a hardy ground cover that can spread quickly, it is also a top-priority invasive species here in northern Michigan. We have been trying to remove it from our yard for years, and trust me – it is not an easy task!
A perfect alternative to myrtle is Bearberry! This hardy ground cover is native to Northern Michigan and loves our soil and climate. This evergreen plant features bright green foliage in spring and summer that turns a vibrant red/orange in the fall. And just in case I haven’t sold you yet, Bearberry also boasts beautiful pink blooms in the summer, that turn into bright red berries in the winter.
4. Gray Dogwood vs. Common Buckthorn
Common Buckthorn is an aggressive invasive species, growing in the understory of taller trees. This plant can produce an exceptionally large amount of seeds in a single season. This invasive plant can easily outcompete native species in our area, which is what has earned it a top spot on the Invasive Ornamental Species List!
Gray Dogwood is our top choice for a Buckthorn alternative. It boasts delicate white blossoms in the spring, and deep blue berries in the fall (which are very popular with our local birds)! This native tree averages 3-8 feet in height, but can grow up to 15 feet if left without any pruning. This non-aggressive tree is a great cornerstone to any landscaped area!
Gray Dogwood vs Common Buckthorn
5. Winterberry Holly vs. Japanese Barberry
Often planted for its pretty fall foliage and winter berries, this invasive species is very common to find in northern Michigan backyards. Not only does Japanese barberry outcompete native plants in our region, it is also a common habitat for ticks in northern Michigan. If you’ve ever tried to remove a Japanese barberry, you may recall it has some wicked thorns as well!
Winterberry Holly is a beautiful alternative that is native to Michigan. In addition to the fall colors and winter berries that the Japanese barberry has, Winterberry Holly also provides habitat for Elfin Butterfly larvae, and supports numerous pollinators in the summer months. The winter berries of this shrub will also attract numerous native birds, who will often choose to nest there for the season.
Winterberry Holly vs Japanese Barberry
Check out our social media feed for our weekly Plant This, Not That series. Every week we identify a commonly found invasive species here in Northern Michigan, and recommend a native alternative that can do everything the invasive plant can, and more!