Ask Flora

Ask Flora

Q: Dear Flora – My neighbor offered me some divisions of Japanese anemone, the white variegated Bishop’s weed, and an evergreen groundcover called Mrs. Robb’s bonnet. She said they’ve been doing great for her and she thought I might like some, since she has plenty to share. They look like they might even look nice together in my garden. Can you tell me more about these plants? — Nervous Nellie

A: Whoa, Nellie! This may seem like heresy to some, but nevertheless, here goes: beware of friends & neighbors bearing gift plants. I know this sounds a bit harsh and out-and-out unappreciative, but hear me out.

I’m sure your friend is just trying to be generous, sharing her bounty and seeming good fortune. Heck, she probably thinks they’re awesome plants, plugging along with nary a blip of effort on her part. But really, if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.

Watch out for these superficially benign but downright naughty plants:

  • Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida) – This is the one I get the most guff for. Yeah, I do agree the late summer blooms are beautiful and they do indeed illuminate the shady understory. But they’re too pushy for my taste. I began the process of trying to remove them from my garden four years ago and I still find volunteer plantlets emerging from the root remainders of this tenacious perennial.Anemone x hybrida ‘Honerine Jobert’
  • Robb’s Euphorbia, aka Mrs. Robb’s bonnet (Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae) – Another one I will likely take some heat on. This is a rather handsome plant, sporting deep-green, evergreen foliage and showy, chartreuse blooms in winter. Even though I’ve seen it used to beautiful effect, I wouldn’t use it in my small garden, where I prefer to safeguard my prospects for growing a diverse mix of plants. Again, a good plant for a small number of circumstances, but it’s just too aggressive for my taste. 
  • Variegated Bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’) – This one I think we can all agree upon. I mean really, any common name that includes “weed” should be a tip-off to hostile behavior. Unsuspecting gardeners are drawn to the allure of a fast-spreading, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, weed-smothering, sparkly-variegated groundcover suitable for the shadiest, most inhospitable conditions. Sounds good, right? Well, it’s all fun and games until someone puts out an eye.

Yes, yes, yes. Some of these aggressive plants can be quite lovely (in someone else’s garden) and can even serve a valuable purpose. But I call them plants of last resort. If absolutely nothing else will grow, then by all means think about turning to a plant like one of these to help with a difficult situation. But these marauders can spell trouble for those who wish to grow a variety of plants in their borders and/or reserve the gardener’s prerogative to plant something else later.  Once they take hold, they can be difficult or impossible to remove.

If, after careful consideration, you decide that these plants are right for you, Godspeed. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

For more great gardening tips, visit Jasmine’s San Francisco Flower & Garden Show blog.

  • Debbie TT
    Posted at 20:21h, 18 January Reply

    I couldn’t agree more!

    If the anemone and the euphorbias are wanted perhaps a bed where they can duke it out would be appropriate, even then they would break out and fight with others. They certainly grow well as potted plants that can live outdoors year round. When they begin to crowd themselves out just lift and divide carefully disposing the bodies er excess divivisions where they won’t resurrect themselves in a new area of the garden.

  • Jacqueline
    Posted at 11:05h, 21 January Reply

    Just discovered your blog and it’s really well done.
    Wanted to let you know that I’ve listed the Northwest Flower & Garden Show and the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show on Flower Blog, in the Calendar section.
    Hope you’ll check out Flower Blog.

  • Jamie
    Posted at 14:14h, 21 January Reply


    You make a great point … if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true. I can’t tell you how many times customers, at my husband’s garden centers, come in wanting to know how to get rid of a plant a neighbor, co-worker or someone else has given them. I suggest that Nellie take a look at her neighbors garden, to see if their styles are compatible. Plants that are good for one type of garden are not necessarily good for all gardens. Before taking the plants, Nellie should ask the neighbor what she does to care for it and how much it spreads. Once she learns more about the plants, she’ll know if it will work for her.

    Great Blog!
    Jamie from Bloomin’ Blog

  • robin
    Posted at 12:43h, 29 January Reply


    Strong opinions are good, and I’m glad you’re sharing them. That said, I have seen great applications of Robb’s Euphorbia and Anemone. That said, I’ve seen both get out of hand. So, one gardener’s compost is another gardener’s treasure? Too true!

    I work with new gardeners all the time and encourage them to work with “easy-care” plants to begin. So often new gardeners experiment with “inexpensive” or “free” plants that spread, invade, go nutz and end up costing more in the long run.

    So, though I do like Robb’s and Anemone in the right application, I agree that they may not be the right thing for everyone.

    Keep sharing!

    Robin from

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