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Put any plant in the mint family in your garden and soon you will be overrun with mint everywhere. Vines by their very nature are aggressive growers.  The lovely sweet potato vine and the beautiful, butterfly-attractor passion flower vine will spread quickly and may cause problems for homeowners down the road as they go far beyond their beds or trellises. Even the native ground cover, beach sunflower, will spread quickly. Plant the wrong kind of bamboo and you surely will regret your decision. Planting mint, sweet potato vine and passion flower in pots will save you lots of time and energy. Be sure to plant clumping bamboo varieties as other varieties cannot be kept in bounds. While these plants are aggressive growers, they are not on the Invasive Plant Species List and they will not cause serious damage to the Florida environment. Florida has huge problems with the non-native, invasive plants that have either been intentionally introduced (like the melaleuca tree in South Florida) or hitchhiked here on a boat, truck or by people who brought their favorites plants with them when they moved here. Take the case of the water hyacinth, (pictured), a beautiful plant with lovely pink flowers, released into the wild by the aquatic trade. This plant blanketed Florida’s lakes and rivers making boating impossible and cost the state millions of dollars in control efforts in the last 100 years. Hydrilla is another noxious plant that has had similar effects on our ponds, lakes and rivers. Both these plants are Category 1 exotics that are prohibited from being sold in Florida. Believe it or not, here in The Villages District Property Management spends big money fighting hydrilla and the Carolina willow, the tree that has invaded many of our wetland areas and taken the view of the ponds away from a number of homeowners. As planting season gets underway, there are a number of plants that may appear in local big box stores and nurseries that are on the Invasive Plant Species List. While an invasive plant may not be an aggressive grower in your yard, its seeds are spread by birds, wind and rain to surrounding areas where they take over and displace the native flora. The loss of habitat is a major reason for the declining number of native flora and fauna especially the decreasing number of song birds and native pollinators. There are many alternatives to these invasive plants, including Florida natives and plants that are Florida-Friendly. Before you buy a plant, do your homework. Look up that prospective plant on the UF/IFAS website “Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas” http://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu.  Here is a list of some invasive plants that are often found for sale here and the alternatives. Those plants with an N are Florida natives:

Invasive Plant: Common Name (Scientific Name) Alternative:  Common Name (Scientific Name)
Australian pine (Casuarina equistifolia) Bald cypress N (Taxodium distichum var.) Podocarpus or Japanese yew (Podocarpus macrophyllus) Red cedar N ((Juniperus virginiana)
Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) Dahoon holly N (Ilex cassine) Oakleaf hydrangea N (Hydrangea quercifolia) Walter’s viburnum N (Viburnum obovatum) Yaupon holly N (Ilex vomitoria)
Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) Florida anise N (Illicium floridanum) Firebush N (Hamelia patens) Walter’s viburnum N (Viburnum obovatum)
Elephant ear or Wild taro (Colocasia esculenta) Note: Not to be confused with non-invasive elephant ear of the Alocasia species.) Golden canna N (Canna flaccida) Caladium (Caladium x hortulanum) Shell Ginger (Alpinia spp.)
Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) Carolina jessamine N (Gelsemium empervirens) Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminodes) Coral honeysuckle N (Lonicera sempervirens)
Lantana (Lantana camara)
Mexican petunia (Ruellia simplex) Note: It pains me to see that this plant regularly appears in homeowner landscapes that are profiled in the press. Beach sunflower N (Helianthus debilis) Blue porterweed N (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) Roses (Rosa spp.) Sterile lantana varieties: ‘Alba, Gold Mound, New Gold and Patriot’
Minosa or Silk tree (Albizia julibrissin) Chickasaw plum N (Prunus umbellata) Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.) Eastern redbud N (Cercis canadensis) Sweet acacia N (Acacia farnesiana)
Nandina or Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) Sterile varieties: ‘Firepower, Gulfstream, Harbor Belle, and Harbor Dwarf’ Virginia sweetspire N (Itea virginica)
Strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum) Natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa) Pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana) Snowbush (Breynia disticha)