I just read a list of plants called “thugs” because they have a habit of taking over a yard. One has to be careful whose list you are reading. Thugs in some areas are weaklings in others.

          Some of the Artemisias can be that way.  They are hardy, needing little water after getting started, and spread by underground rhizomes. They are all used for their silver foliage making bright colors seem brighter. 

          Sweet Annie is one to have but you need to have in an area where she can’t escape.  Her foliage smells yummy, her stems may get 6 feet tall, and are used for making wreath backgrounds as they bend nicely and are strong. Opposite her is the much smaller Powis Castle.  Some winter he makes it through, some not, so I generally take several cuttings in the fall. He’s a silver about 20 inches plus or minus in width and 12 inches tall. The winters he is covered with snow he does better.  Tarragon is a herb to some, an Artemesia to others. Silver Queen will   grow to 30 inches and overcome a weaker plant near.  Silver Mound is a soft, fuzzy, spot about 12 inches high who tends to become bare in the middle of the plant late in the season but to me is the softest of all. Check on an Artemesia before you buy it, or be prepared to plant it in a container with the edges above the ground, or sharpen your hoe!

          The Chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata) is listed in several “thug” lists.  It seems to be able to grow anywhere even in water.  It’s a gorgeous thing of leaves of red, green, and yellow.  I have been trying to get it out of my Spherical Iris for years. It seeds, its roots have rhizomes, and its stems will root usually never more than 12 inches tall. Love and hate for this one. Find a spot to bury a large container and leave the top inches out of the ground.

          There are Campanulas of every size and shape and most of which are well behaved.  My encyclopedia says 300 species of singles, doubles, with annuals, biennials, and perennials.  I have several because I love blue flowers.  In my search for blue several yeas ago, I picked up an Adenophora about 18-24 inches tall.  In bloom it looks like a bell flower.  Also called Lady Bells, it has become the most aggressive plant I have. I can find it in about any part of the yard.  It is pretty, it’s blue, and it’s fairly easy to pull up, but be warned!

          I admired a ground creeping yellow flowered plant some years ago so I was given some and it did very well.  She called it Buttercup (Ranunculus repens). It sends out long runners that root wherever they touch. As small as it is, it can crowd out most anything else. I wanted it to edge a path which didn’t take very long and then it took the path.

          Gooseneck Loosestrife (Lysmachia clethroides) is listed in many places as invasive but it is one of my favorite late summer bloomers. About three foot tall and needing to be thinned every year the foot long curved goose heads are fun and last in a bouquet. Seeding doesn’t seem to be a problem, only underground rhizomes, so a good hoe can keep it in its boundaries.  They like a damp soil and can stand some shade.  A big clump of blooms is a neat sight!

          Dames Rocket, also known as Sweet Rocket, is a lavender or white biennial and listed in some states as invasive (not Nebraska). 2 1/2 feet to 3 feet tall and blooming early in spring, it does well in shade or sun.  Some years ago the State Department of Roads planted a good deal along the highways, but then cut them down later before the seeds were ripe so that in a very few years they were gone. As soon as seeds are ripe, I pull mine up, take them to where I want them the next year and shake! They come up almost immediately, develop good roots and bloom in April and May.  If I like them where they are I can cut the blooms off before the seeds form and the plant will live another year where it is. 

          The genus Tradescantia is a vigorous group with some hardy here, and some not. Purple Heart can fill a good sized pot during a summer and the old fashioned Wandering Jew was popular as a trailing plant for my grandmother.  They are hardy here in Lincoln and may be considered a “slug” as it can take over a good sized area and come up the next spring. Also known as Spiderwort, it comes in blues, reds, and white flowers that will close at night so is not good for a bouquet. Moses-in-the-Cradle or aka (also known as) “Three Men in a Boat”, has leaves that are green above and purple below so is a fun houseplant to have around other duller ones.

          Perilla species (especially frutescens) is a 3 to 4 feet, dark purple leaf plant that makes green look greener. The leaves are also frilly but the blossoms very small but able to make hundreds of seeds. When I carry the plants to the compost pile in the fall, I create a trail of babies for next spring as the seeds drop off all along the way.  There is a newer, but not hardy (Perilla padilla) that rivals Coleus for color variation but I have never had it bloom so in the fall I take at least one cutting that will provide many more during the  winter inside. Perilla is considered a herb (Shiso) and put in some Japanese tobacco for flavoring.                 (Copyright 2011)