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The Greener View: Honeysuckle and Bugleweed

Jeff Rugg on

Q: I don't know if I have a good problem or a bad one. There are a bunch of new shrubs growing in my yard. They are growing in the flower bed in the back, and there is a line of them growing under the power lines behind our yard. They have pretty yellow and white flowers that are nicely fragrant. I think they are honeysuckles.

I would like to move a few to a spot that will block the view to a neighbor's shed. At the same time, I am a bit afraid that they might spread into more places in my yard, since they already seem to be spread easily by birds. What do you think?

A: You might need a flame thrower to get rid of what sounds to me like Amur honeysuckle. There are around 180 species, and many more varieties, of honeysuckles. Some of the species are vines, and some are shrubs. Some of the species have a nice fragrance, but most species are ugly in the winter, have no fall color and are bland in the summer. There is no reason to plant them in the landscape.

The two most common and invasive honeysuckle shrubs across the country are the Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maakckii) and the Tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica). The very hardy Amur honeysuckle is from the Amur river area between Russia and China. It has white flowers that turn yellow as they fade. The Tatarian honeysuckle is also from Central Asia, and it can have white, pink or red flowers and red or orange berries, depending on its variety.

Birds eat the red or orange berries in the summer and fall. Migrating birds can pick up the berries in a manicured landscape and then deposit the seeds in a natural area many miles from the plant. No matter where you live, there are better plants than honeysuckles for use as a hedge.

If you want to get rid of honeysuckles, you can hand-pull the small 1- or 2-year-old plants, unless you are in a high-quality natural area where pulling the plant up by the roots can expose the soil to more invasive plant seeds and damage the good plants. Older honeysuckles can be cut off at ground level, and a glyphosate herbicide of at least a 20% solution should be applied to the cut-off stump.

The Diervilla genus of Southern bush-honeysuckle has yellow flowers in the summer and is not as invasive as honeysuckles in the Lonicera genus.

Q: My neighbor has a blue flowering ground-cover plant that he calls bugleweed. I think it is "creeping Charlie." I don't want it to invade my yard. Can you tell from the picture what it is and what I should do to keep it out of my yard?


A: You are in luck. Your neighbor is right. His plant is Ajuga reptans, which has many common names such as bugleweed and carpetweed. Just like creeping Charlie, it is in the mint family. It is native to Europe, and it can be invasive in some places.

It is a good ground-cover plant that grows in the sun if it is in a wet soil, but it will tolerate drier soil in the shade. It does best if given several hours of sun and a moist, loose soil. Just like creeping Charlie, it spreads by above-ground stolons; the specific epithet "reptans" means "creeping." It does not spread rapidly, so it will take a long time to invade your yard.

The flowers are very nice while they are in bloom and come in several shades of blue and white. They can be mowed off after they bloom if the mower is set at a high setting to not damage the leaves. Speaking of the leaves, there are several varieties of leaf colors, including some with white and purple variegations.

It makes a good ground cover, but it does not tolerate much foot traffic or wear and tear from dogs. It is rarely bothered by rabbits or deer. If you have an area that doesn't get much use, and nothing else will grow there, give Ajuga a try.


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