Envision a lazy summer afternoon under the shade of drooping birch blooms. Imagine sinking your teeth into the sweetness of a Honeycrisp apple pulled right from the branch. Now visualize a cracked and buckling sidewalk, clogged sewer drains, and crushed utility lines. You can thank the silver maple for supplying that last homeowner’s nightmare.
When you landscape your yard, you generally select trees to plant based on ornamental beauty or delicious bounty. But choosing to plant the wrong tree in the wrong place could prove cataclysmic. To avoid costly home damages or pesky bug infestations, think twice before planting any of the following trees and shrubs.
1. Silver Maple—Acer saccharinum
You might feel tempted to plant silver maples because they grow so quickly. But as a result of such rapid growth, their bark becomes brittle and weak. Ice or wind storms can easily damage them. Additionally, silver maples attract hordes of boxelder bugs and aphids who feed on their leaves and seed pods.
Most undesirable of all, though, is the silver maple’s aggressive shallow and fibrous root system. Silver maple roots have been known to invade septic lines and pipes. They can also lift and crack full slabs of concrete—so you might have to say goodbye to your driveway.
2. Russian Olive—Elaeagnus angustifolia
Nurseries imported Russian Olives decades ago due to their adaptability and resilience. They can thrive in almost any environment and populate very quickly. But for those very same reasons, many regions have now declared Russian Olives a noxious weed.
Russian Olives can quickly colonize an area, smothering all native vegetation. They can also grow dense and think, snuffing out all other wildlife.
They can quickly overrun farming areas and grazing pastures, often choking irrigation ditches. The shrub also produces long thorns that wreak havoc on agricultural equipment tires and livestock.
Since Russian Olives aren’t native to North America, they have few natural enemies. So left unchecked, they can overpopulate and displace widespread areas of native plants and wildlife. They’re also very difficult to remove—they easily re-sprout when cut. Getting rid of them for good may require multiple efforts of mowing, cutting, burning, and spraying. Save yourself the headache by planting a rosebush instead.
3. Quaking Aspen—P. tremuloides
Aspen groves are a sight to be seen come autumn. Their white bark and vibrant gold leaves turn into perfect photographs and paints. Most individual aspens look tall and slender, appearing elegant and unassuming. But below the surface, they weave a complex system of interconnected roots.
Aspens grow in clonal colonies with their extensive roots joining together to create a single organism. These colonies can span hundreds of acres. Consequently, they have not adapted to exist as single-stemmed trees. Their roving shallow roots may travel and break through other areas of your yard, sidewalk, and home’s foundation as they search for other plants.
Aspens also host over 500 species of pests, parasites, and fungal diseases. In order to keep your aspen healthy and happy, you’d be resigned to hours of pruning, spraying, and scraping. Since aspens only survive about 20 years in ornamental settings, you might not find them worth the effort.
Appropriate Plants and Conditions
Save yourself the headache of planting precarious trees and shrubs. Instead, choose plants that will benefit your property and regional habitat.
Plants native to your area will usually flourish and thrive, but you should still analyze your planting site. Does your backyard provide enough room for a vast root system? Does enough direct sunlight reach the south side of your yard? Assess your property’s environmental circumstances. Do they accommodate your chosen plant's needs?
Choose native plants and shrubs appropriate your property's conditions. If you do, you'll cultivate a healthy and vibrant landscape.
Have additional questions? Contact your local landscaping expert for plant suggestions and design advice.