Tackle Invasive Plants Now for Great Results

If you look at your property and quickly became discouraged because it looks like a jungle, take heart. Fall and winter are a great time to control invasive plants and get a jump on managing them for next year.

Before we get too far into invasive species management, let’s define our terms. According to the USDA:

An “invasive species” is defined as a species that is…

  1. Non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and;
  2. Whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.

(BTW, The proper horticultural terms for aggressive native plants are “thugs” or “bullies”)

Advantages to Fall & Winter Control

Easy Identification

Some plants are very easy to identify and locate during cold weather months. For instance, honeysuckle shrubs (Lonicera maackii, L. morrowii, and L. tatarica) stand out because they are some of the last shrubs to drop leaves in fall. Their shaggy bark and red, shiny berries are other distinguishing features.

Identify Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) by its green stems in winter. Target it for control in seasons when it is easy to spot and leaves have dropped.

Control Invasive Plants When There is Easier Access

Impenetrable thickets become manageable after leaves drop, making it easier to control invasive plants. Some areas are only passable in fall and winter, so take advantage of the season. Plus, brambles are much safer to work around when you are wearing long sleeves and pants!

Wet areas become passable when ground is frozen too. Whether working on foot or with machines, minimize muddy messes and soil compaction by waiting for the ground to harden.

Honeysuckle vine (Lonicera japonica) is easier to remove when other plants are dormant

Take Advantage of Invasive Plant Attributes

Some invasive plants, such as English Ivy (Hedera helix) remain evergreen while many native groundcover plants are dormant. Take this opportunity for mechanical removal or an herbicide application to gain control of large infestations.

Better Pricing

If you are contracting invasive removal, easier access in overgrown areas results in lower labor costs.

You may also be able to request special pricing for large winter projects if your landscape company is especially slow at this time of year.

Additional Tips to Control Invasive Plants

Know Your Invasive Plants

One of the easiest ways to control invasive plants is not not introduce them in the first place. Just because you buy a plant at a garden center, doesn’t mean it isn’t invasive.  Believe it or not, plants such as Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) are on the PA invasive plant list but still available for purchase. Japanese barberry has recently been identified by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture as a noxious weed, but may still be found on nursery shelves until the fall of 2023.

Other Invasive Landscape Plants

Control Invasive Plants One Species at a Time

Another trick to gaining control is to target one invasive species at a time. It is easier to remove all of the Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) on three acres for example, than trying to get rid of every invasive plant. The additional benefit of this approach is that control of that species becomes easier since it is no longer spreading from within the property lines.

Continued Maintenance

It may take several years to get control of an unwanted species if there is a seed bank present. Disturbed soil is always an opportunity for invasive plants to quickly become established, so once you remove a species, keep it under control with continued monitoring.

Monitor your property for new invasive species also. It is much easier to eliminate small populations early than find out you have a major problem after unwanted plants have become established. Look at neighboring properties for likely invaders.

Timing is Important

Disrupt the life cycle of a species to reduce the amount of work required to gain control. For instance, bush honeysuckle’s berries ripen in the fall.  Remove the plant before this happens and keep these berries from becoming next year’s unwanted shrubs.

Do not cut deciduous vines like porcelain berry and oriental bittersweet during the growing months when they have leaves, or you end up with an unsightly mess of dead foliage. Instead, target them in them in the dormant season for a much neater project.

Fill Empty Spaces

The most ecologically beneficial way to keep invasive species out is to fill your property with desirable ones. Replace bush honeysuckle, burning bush, and multiflora rose with native viburnums, rhododendrons, and bottlebrush buckeye. Replace Norway maples with Sugar maples or other native trees. This approach takes opportunities away from invasive species, and improves the ecological function of your property.

Although there is almost always something to do in the garden, fall and winter can be a bit slower. So take advantage of the season and use the cooler weather to manage invasive plants on your property. And of course, contact us if you would like help!