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worst plants and trees to have in your yard in Missouri

Worst Plants and Trees to Have in Your Yard in Missouri

We’ve pulled together an overview of the plants and trees to avoid in your yard. Find out how to protect your home from costly mistakes and your family from noxious plants.

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Missouri’s soil and moisture are fabulous for growing trees, shrubs, and plants. Unfortunately, there are also many plants that grow too well, invading your entire yard and putting your foundation, sidewalks, and driveway at risk. 

Not only that but there are also several poisonous plants that pose a significant hazard to your family.

Recommended trees include eastern red cedar, oak, amur maple, ginkgo, Kentucky coffee tree, flowering dogwood, eastern wahoo, possum haw, bladdernut, Ohio buckeye, and hackberry.

The Missouri Botanical Garden has a list of 51 short to medium shrubs that work well in our state. 

All of these trees and bushes grow well from Kansas City to Moberly and Springfield to St. Louis and all across our state.

Trees to Avoid

The list of trees to avoid includes those that are fast-growing with invasive root systems. They can cause damage to your home’s foundation, sidewalks, driveway, and patio, as well as take over your yard.

  • Hybrid poplar
  • Bradford pear
  • Willow
  • Chinese flame tree
  • American elm
  • Eastern cottonwood
  • Silver maple
  • Mimosa tree
  • Southern magnolia
  • Sweet gum tree
  • Green ash
  • Tree of heaven
  • Russian olive

Bushes to Avoid

These bushes are extremely invasive. They take over everything around them. Avoid them entirely.

  • Burning bush. These shrubs create dense thickets, crowding out smaller plants.
  • Shrub honeysuckle. This bush can grow just about anywhere under sun, shade, wet, or dry. Of course, it can also spread anywhere and push out your other plants.
  • Common buckthorn. It can grow 20 to 25 feet tall, forming an impenetrable layer of vegetation. This shades out all other plants and contributes to erosion.
  • Japanese barberry. This plant is drought and shade-tolerant as well as deer-resistant. However, it’s a breeding ground for black-legged ticks that can carry Lyme disease. It is also invasive and covered in sharp barbs.

Invasive Plants

Most of the trees and bushes you should avoid are primarily invasive and tough to control. Then there’s a whole group of invasive plants that are very tough to eradicate once they’ve found your yard. 

  • Oriental bittersweet. These vines can grow to 60 feet or more with stems up to four feet thick. They cover up trees and other plants, eventually killing them.
  • Wintercreeper. These vines grow from 40 to 60 feet in length. They grow very rapidly covering other plants and eliminating ground space for other plants.
  • Kudzu. This infamous vine can grow up to 100 feet long, completely smothering whatever tree or plant it has chosen to cover.
  • Reed canary grass. This grass grows from two to six feet tall and can rapidly outcompete native grasses. It’s tough to get rid of too.
  • Japanese knotweed. This weed can grow up to six feet tall and spread 65 feet wide. Its roots can significantly damage your foundation and walkways. We’ve provided a guide on how to remove Japanese knotweed
  • Crown vetch. The stems grow to six feet and can cover up native plants, crowding them out. It is also poisonous.

Poisonous Plants

Avoid these poisonous plants in your yard. If you find them, carefully dig them up and dispose of them.

  • Poison ivy. Birds eat the berries and then spread the seeds, so you may find this plant in your yard. The oil from the plant causes severe allergic reactions. It can be extremely dangerous if it gets into your eyes or lungs.
  • Pokeweed. This plant spreads the same way as poison ivy. It can grow up to eight feet tall. The berries cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The juice can also be absorbed by your skin. 
  • Horse nettle. This is also a member of the nightshade family. The berries cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. 
  • Indian hemp or dogbane. Used by Native Americans for producing rope, its sap is toxic.
  • Water hemlock. This is the most dangerous plant in North America. Just a tiny piece of this plant can kill a 1,200-pound animal. 

This list is only a starting point for a large number of plants in our area that are poisonous.


Mulch serves to minimize soil erosion, add nutrients, insulate plant roots, and decorate your plantings. However, it also collects excess moisture, providing a breeding ground for termites and other pests.

If mulch is piled up around your foundation, it can lead to dampness in your basement or crawl space. It’s best to use a hyper-absorbent mulch that helps your plants and keeps water away from your foundation 

Where to Plant — Sunlight and Shade

Finding just the right amount of sunshine is critical for your trees, shrubs, and plants. They also need to be planted with enough space to prevent them from running into each other. 

It’s also very important to make sure that plants are far enough away from your foundation that their roots are not causing damage. Roots can remove moisture from around the foundation during dry spells and can also place stress on the basement or crawl space walls. 

Protect Your Home’s Foundation

Careful water management is really the key to protecting your home’s foundation. Landscape grading must allow the water to flow away from your home. Gutters and downspouts should also route water off the roof and away from the foundation.

An irrigation system can be helpful in maintaining just the right balance of moisture in the soil around your foundation as well as for your plants. A smart sensor can adjust the amount of water based on the rainfall or lack of rainfall. 

If you’re experiencing a damp basement, consider waterproofing that includes installing a drainage system and sump pump with a backup battery to collect and remove water before it becomes a problem.

We recommend you consult the professionals at Foundation Recovery Systems for a free inspection and repair estimate to identify any issues with your basement or crawl space as well as the surrounding landscape that needs attention.

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