10 Plants You Should Never Buy (Because I Guarantee Someone Will Just Give Them To You)

It never ceases to amaze me what nurseries and big box store (especially the big box stores) get away with selling. Sometimes I can walk down an aisle in a plant shop and all I think is “Gawds, who would buy that? I’ll give them bucket loads of that and, if they were willing to dig it up themselves, I might even pay them.” I have even told a few of my fellow shoppers this (which, for your reference, plant stores frown on this sort of behavior while shopping in their establishments)

So, I thought that I would put forward my list of ten plants you should never buy because a few inquiries at work and in the neighborhood will get you the plant for free.

  1. English Ivy – Planting english ivy is kind of like giving your garden a tattoo. It looks mighty fine when you first plant it but after a few years, it starts spreading in an unseemly way and by then you just can not get rid of it. This is why anyone who has enghlish ivy is more than happy to give other people trash bags full of it. If you really think you need to plant english ivy (say, because you *gasp* don’t like to garden), don’t buy it. Just ask around. You will probably have people you never know coming up to you offering to give you some once the word gets out that there is someone is willing to take some.
  2. Vinca Minor or Juniper – This one is not as all consuming as english ivy is but most likely you know someone who has this planted in their yard and would not mind passing some along to you. The nice thing about vinca minor is that it fills in spaces rather quickly, so if you just plant a sprig or two every foot or so, by the end of the year, it should have filled your desired space in nicely. By the next year, you will most likely have enough to pass on to the next person who asks.
  3. Pachysandra – Gee, are you noticing a pattern here? Most groundcovers aren’t actually groundcovers. That’s just what landscapers and nurseries call them so that people will buy them. Many groundcovers are really low growing invasive plants. Which means there is always enough to go around. Pachysandra is one of those love ’em or leave ’em plants. Some people just have to have them but are happy to share and other will invite you over to take what you like, provided you get their before they torch the patch that they have.
  4. Mint – Okay, for the life of me, I am not sure how plant places keep selling this stuff and I think by law they should have to label the stuff as being hazardous to your garden if not handled correctly. Chances are you know someone who either failed to put their mint in some sort of containment device or live in a house where one of the previous owners made that mistake. Okay, okay, so if you are looking for a specialty mint, this rule may not work. But if you are just looking for a minty flavored plant, ask around.
  5. Willow – Willows are so fast growing and so easy to root, that if you find one you like growing somewhere, just ask if you can cut a switch of it. Most willow owners are familiar with the insta-root properties of willow branches and are more than happy to pass the willow goodness around.
  6. Ditch Lily – Also known as a tiger lily. It is commonly called a ditch lily because… drumroll…. it grows really well in ditches. This is another freeloading friend for life plant. Once you plant it, even an act of God probably wouldn’t oust it from your yard. On top of that, ditch lily will love you so much that it will feel the need to crowd out all of your other plant friends for fear that you like them more. Thus, many ditch lily owners are more than happy to share the love with others.
  7. Bishop’s Weed – I actually know people who won’t buy a house if it has Bishop’s Weed planted in the yard. So plant this one at your own property value risk. If you really, really want some of this stuff, just dig up a bit from someone’s yard. You should ask before doing so, but if you don’t, they probably won’t notice anyway. The missing plants will have regrown by the next morning.
  8. Showy Stonecrop – This is another non invasive but silly easy to root plant. Ask a friend to break off a branch and then just stick the branch where ever you want it to grow. Repeat as necessary until you have all the plants you need.
  9. Bee Balm – Related to mint. I think that says it all.
  10. Lemon Balm – See above. Plus as a friendship plant bonus, it spreads by windblown seeds as well.

As you might have guessed, many of the above listed plants are rather invasive. Invasive naturally make great pass along plants. The point is that there is no need to pass by your neighbor’s trashcan filled with the same darn plant that you just spent a small fortune on. Ask around and save your money for other plants.

4 thoughts on “10 Plants You Should Never Buy (Because I Guarantee Someone Will Just Give Them To You)
  1. Arrianne on

    Good point, a good network of gardeners will never want for plant starts.

    I would only say that there are some cultivated varieties available (but I know this is not always the case with nurseries looking to make an easy dollar) that are very well behaved and not nearly as invasive as their wildflower parents that are much easier to propagate, as you’ve pointed out. The difference being unique variations for gardeners that want unique specimens.

    For example: Ditch Lily (usually Hemerocallis not Tiger Lily which is several wild species of Lilium that a similiar shade of orange but has a spotted throat, but this is the problem with using common names)is cultivated into many very stunning forms with picot edges, variegated foliage, tolerant of shade, very long blooming, double petals and an amazing array of colors.


  2. So you hate your ditch lillies? Send them to me, I will gladly pay postage, I want the kind I saw on my grandma’s midwestern farm, they grew in the ditches, the garden and all around her house, I adore them and having trouble finding the old fashioned (orange with dark speckles) ones here in salt lake city Utah. Please help!
    Thanks, Pat, contact me at- flitter2454@msn.com


  3. Fayley on

    Where do you live? Here in Perth Australia you pay $20+ for a small tigerlily plant and they are so hard to keep alive. Pretty much nothing grows here if you just poke it into the ground! Even mint takes work.


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