Growbag Blog

10 plants we love to hate


Have you got some plants growing in your garden that you actually kinda hate?  We are not talking full-on weeds here, but flowers, shrubs or even trees that you actually bought and still tend, even though your love-affair with them has long since ended.  

We Growbags certainly have, and here are ten with which we have what’s known as a ‘complicated relationship’, though as usual, one sister’s bête noire is another’s sparkly unicorn🦄………


Irises. I know what you’re thinking!  How can anyone hate irises!  And of course, I don’t really – they are an absolute joy in May, though I don’t much like how the squishy dead flowers drape themselves over the new buds. No, the problem comes later on.  They insist on having their manky dried-turd rhizomes getting a baking at the top of the soil, so you can’t plant later-flowering beauties to disguise them. The leaves go brown at the tips, you have dig up the plants every 3 years or so and divide them.… honestly, it’s lucky that they have a great party-frock moment in spring.

Iris ‘Langport Wren’
Iris ‘Langport Wren’ – lovely in May but a mess in July

Ivy.  This is an easier idea to sell.  It’s brilliant for an ecologically-aware garden, offering wildlife evergreen shelter, nectar, berries and probably a massage thrown in.  But most ivies are SO vigorous, and generally hyper-enthusiastic about pulling down walls or swamping other plants the moment your back is turned. Prune it sternly in mid-spring unless you enjoy the sound of falling masonry. 

Ivy – great for wildlife, not so great for walls

Euphorbias.  Okay, so I might be in ‘sweeping statement’ territory here because there are over 7000 species of Euphorbia in 218 different genera – annuals, perennials, shrubs and even trees. Whoa!  I can’t hate them all!  And of course I don’t.  I grow several of them including E.characias and E.mellifera with its deliciously honey-scented spring flowers. My problem with them is two-fold: they are extremely free with their self-seeding, at least in my garden, and they have a very irritant, very nasty sticky white sap which drips all over the place when you are pruning. Wear gloves or regret it.

Do not forget your gloves when you are cutting back euphorbias!

Genus winter gardening trousers

Crikey – irises, euphorbias and ivies all teetering on the brink of her room 101 …. Elaine’s not taking any prisoners today is she?
But there are other groups of plants that I also have a love/hate relationship with:

Persicarias. These drive me nuts … in wet summers they want to take over the world but a sniff of a drought and they collapse in a faint on the ground. If it wasn’t for the fact that on the rare occasion that the weather suits them they literally hum with bees they would all be compost by now.

My prima donna Persicaria would have been shredded by now if it wasn’t so popular with the bees.

Tree poppies. Here we have another battleground – it literally took 10 years to get a clump established, and then they went VIRAL in the border in one season. They’re being given one last chance on the naughty step with another delinquent, Saponaria, separated from the rest of the well-behaved class by several feet of hoggin and concrete.

Romneya and saponaria
If either one crosses no-man’s land I’m calling time.

Box hedging. Okay, so how much longer are we all going to look at these desiccated skeletons, ravaged by either blight or caterpillars? Yet still we spray the latest miracle cure or pray for the introduction of the box moth equivalent of myxomatosis ….

Box blight
How much longer are we going to pretend it’s just a passing phase?

Finally – snowdrops – there I’ve said it. These pesky interlopers have already been banned from all flower borders, where their dull foliage bed blocks other spring plants for months. It’s no co-incidence that most galanthophiles are peers of the realm with acres of parkland, where their collections of quirky little mutations can happily live out their life cycle in dedicated woodland glades. Back in the real world snowdrops are now banished to the outer reaches of my garden, where they just about earn their keep by being dug up in clumps after Christmas and brought indoors for forcing.

Snowdrops in pots
At least they’re at the right height to earn their keep in pots like this


Good Lord, when you’re tired of euphorbias surely you’re tired of life? And how can Laura not love dear little snowdrops? She’ll be coming for your granny next. But before I demonstrate how reasonable I am in comparison, can I quickly add a few of my particular no-nos: busy lizzies (too irritating), pansies (too simpering), bergenias (too fleshy) and fuschias (where to start 😝?).

I also have a problem with Hemerocallis. A clump of strappy foliage taking up room in my beds for ages and sporadically producing something that looks a bit like a courgette flower… for all of one day. Elaine loves them, why?

yellow day lily
Just too ephemeral to be satisfying – Hemerocallis

Whilst I’m feeling audacious, I might add Photinia (‘Red Robin’ to be specific, below and our feature pic this week) and Pieris (‘Forest Flame’, since you ask) look at our feature pic this week). I do have the latter but, apart from the rather muted thrill of their rosy-coloured new leaves, the charm of both shrubs in my view, depends solely on their ability to get bigger every year which I can do myself and it’s not a GOOD THING! 

The red leaves are good, but Photinia is too much of a one trick pony for me

Heathers. These have only two assets in my book. They’re tough and don’t do much unless you count getting unattractively woody and coming in a limited palette. They slightly improve aesthetics when disguising a very ugly area but, oh dear, they’re all too often specifically chosen to accompany dwarf conifers or Cupressus hedges and really, I’d better stop there.

(OK, the heather-clad hills from mid-August here in the Highlands are absolutely glorious – I can’t disagree.)

Heathers – maybe I’ll grow into liking them

You’re waiting for the bit where I appear quite reasonable aren’t you? Elaine and Laura say this is more of an aspiration than a prospect, but truly one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, so come on, we really want to know…

What are the plants you love to hate?

NB Elaine spent time at a school helping children plant 800 tree-saplings in collaboration with a local charity. She was impressed with how much the pupils had already learnt about the importance of trees! We have rabbited on about lots of different trees over the years, and she has put together a list of many that we sisters, or our columnist Louise, have discussed, together with the links to the relevant articles. Do have a browse here: Our favourite garden trees

More NB As you know, Laura is the scientific boffin of the sisterhood, and she is a stickler for people writing plant names correctly. She has put an explanation together of what all different bits of a plant’s name mean and you can watch it here: How to name plants correctly

Yes it’s a laurel, but what a laurel! It’s got an Award of Garden Merit and it’s Louise’s Great Plant this Month. Find out why…

More NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

36 replies on “10 plants we love to hate”

After a particularly blowy night last week, I had the inevitable fallen fence-panel. Before managing to get it back in place, I used the opportunity of space round two ‘hated’ shrubs and dug out their roots -ha, ha!! Got ‘em at last! A tatty Fatsia and a sprawling and completely un-pretty jasmine. Tastes certainly can change!

Youre right Allyson. Caroline here and I find I can actually live with something for quite a long time before I realise I really don’t like I anymore and then it’s still longer before I give myself permission to dig it out. It’s strangely exhilarating when it’s gone isn’t it! Your experience is the living embodiment of the maxim ‘It’s an ill-wind that blows nobody any good!”

Oh dear Barbara – we do know what you mean. The omnipresent cherry laurel has rather tainted the whole lot in one’s mind, but you never know, this exotically spotty Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’, may yet find a corner in your heart?

My very first back garden was in full shade. I read the Readers Digest Encyclopedia of Garden Plants and flowers from cover to cover (and very good it was). Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’ was a recommended shrub, and indeed it was excellent for the situation. It was truly, truly horrible though.

Haha Elaine – you’ve proved the point that ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’. Laurels definitely aren’t everyone’s favourite but for those who want a robust, relatively fast growing shrub or hedge – they’re the business, and Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’ can definitely cheer up a dark corner 😃

Sorry for the late reply to your comment, Glenys – we had such a huge response to this blog, it has been hard getting through all the messages! I agree, variegation in a garden plant is a tricky thing, isn’t it – some variegated shrubs and perennial plants can light up a shady spot like nothing else can, and others, as you say, just look ill. A particular hate of mine is yellow/green variegated leaves with pink flowers, like some weigelas, phlox etc. Ugh! The world would be the poorer if we were all in agreement over these things, though, wouldn’t it 🤣! All the best, Elaine

Welsh poppies! Hate them. Their seed is so tiny it gets into any other plant and grows away and through whatever is nearby. And it has a tap root that is impossible to get out.

OK Sharon so you’re the THIRD person I know that’s got them in the ‘RN’* category
*Ruddy Nuisance!

Gosh Angela this is a good addition. Good because so many people find them happy little accidents which pop up in their gardens but I know of at least one other person who considers them a complete ruddy nuisance! You’ve hit on a really good ‘marmite’ candidate here!

This will make me very unpopular – roses! Full of thorns, really picky and fussy with watering/feeding/location, full of greenfly and then all the leaves fall off with blackspot. Plus the bees don’t like most of them as they can’t get in to the middle of the flower to get to the pollen and nectar. The only nice thing about them is the scent (but they don’t all have this). Give me a nice jasmine, honeysuckle or lavender instead any day of the week!

Oh Lisa, your contribution made my sisters mercilessly gleeful! It’s Elaine here, and they are ALWAYS teasing me about my adoration of roses – from the towering ramblers to the delicate species roses. Of course you’re right, they ARE fussy and prone to pest and disease problems, but no genus makes my heart sing more. I am as besotted by the single-flowered varieties as much as the fat scented cabbage roses, and those ones are at least very attractive to our precious pollinators. No question that that is the problem with helpless love – it makes you blind to all the faults! Thank you so much for joining in the debate – we’ve had a lot of fun with this one!

Alchemilla mollis. Had it in my last garden, not getting anywhere near this one. Seeds absolutely everywhere. Likewise orange alstromeria (despite having pretty flowers), crocosmia (try getting rid of it!) and Japanese anemones (had to resort to weedkiller in the end, which I never use).

Barbara you should definitely have joined us as a guest this week. Could not argue with any one of these. It’s Caroline here and I actually suggested to my sisters that I might choose crocosmia drawing cries of anguish from Elaine despite me pointing out that I’d had to take a firewood axe to it to inhibit its enthusiasm last year!

Thanks for a refreshing read!
Made me chuckle 😃 and of course we all have some of these.
Personally, in my rather small but madly overstocked garden I allow NO yellow.
I know, I know, but a pink white white white blue palette is so much more reviving and gentle in a smaller space…
Weirdly something yellow always arrives and that makes me chuckle too.
Keep on doing what you do

Katrina your garden sounds lovely. There’s nothing more pleasing to the eye than a managed colour palette, and it’s true that yellow flowers do have potential for a rather garish range – possibly more than other hues. I guess those pesky Welsh poppies mentioned in earlier comments might often be the uninvited guests you refer to! Thank you so much for your kind comment ❤️

I write in defence of snowdrops and no I don’t own a stately home only 1/3 acre of dry sandy soil on the top of a hill mainly covered by a giant sycamore protected by a TPO.
Snowdrops are the crowning glory of my winter garden. Under the tree they are followed by wild garlic, yellow archangel, cow parsley, and pink campion.
On my shady flower bed ferns soon cover their leaves aided by self seeded Welsh Poppies, Forget-Me-
Nots, Honesty and Aquilegia. On my lawn they are followed by delicate narcissus such as W.P Milner and Hawera and a no mow May/ June.
My pet hates:- overblown blooms like dahlias that can’t even stay in the ground over winter(let alone self seed) and standard roses displayed over bare earth .

Rosalynde, I think we’re all agreed that Laura was taking things too far when she stuck the boot into snowdrops. Your garden assets sound ideally suited to them, and that plant list paints a wonderfully natural picture. I think we would all agree with you on standard roses – it feels as if all the natural charm of a rose bush has been cruelly vandalised, doesn’t it, but dahlias – whoa – think you might find we’re a divided ship there. This is such an interesting topic, thank you very much for contributing your thoughts

I’m with you on Persicaria! Part of me loves it but it does have a tendency to take over when it’s happy. Best left for huge stately borders!
Sorry but I really don’t like Asters or whatever their ridiculous name (Symphyotrichum) is at the moment! And I know the bees and other insects absolutely LOVE Sedum (another ridiculous name Hylotelephium spectabile), but there is something rather matronly about it (pardon the pun)!

Hi Kate, Yes you have a far more measured assessment of persicaria than Laura – there might not be anything wrong with them per se but they need to be in the right location. It’s Caroline here and I kind of agree with you regarding asters and sedums. I know there is great excitement that after the glory of high summer, we still have these to look forward to, but are they generally a bit of a disappointment? (I can feel Elaine having something to say to us here! 😬)
PS Your view on the new names for asters and sedums made me hoot with laughter. This old dog probably wont get these new tricks to roll off my tongue – something for the young ones I think!

Lovely to hear that others have plants they intensely dislike – thought it was just me!
I don’t hate Irises (and had some lovely ones) but got so fed up of trying to remove the couch grass that continually took over the bed, that I eventually surrended and dug them up. The plants were distributed amongst grateful friends and I do miss them, but not the continual weeding. They just don’t flower long enough to warrant the backache.
My second “hatred” is Muscari (Grape Hyacinth). Yes, pretty enough but my goodness they spread everwhere. A bit like crocosmia once you’ve got them in the garden you will never be free of them. They even push their way through membrane (old) and gravel in my garden. I bought my house from someone who loved them and I’ve spent the last 15 years trying to eradicate them!
Thanks for entertaining me on Saturday mornings.

Oh well done, very good suggestions. One gets very negative grunts from Laura at the mention of grape hyacinths, for all the reasons you mention here. And I must say one of my friends described iris flowers as looking like a ‘burst balloon’ which sticks in the mind, but then you see Sarah Price’s garden at Chelsea last year – and you have to wonder whether the backache might be worth it after all, even for such a fleeting pleasure? I wonder if your grateful friends might need to repatriate your irises at some point the future? I think they might still have a tiny place in your heart Susan….

Another very good suggestion – there is simply no stopping them, although that china blue colour…. it can be pretty forgivable? No?

I’m willing to put up with the “faults” of irises, euphorbia, ivy, persicaria etc for the joy they bring. I was told that crocosmia Lucifer will stand up without staking if planted deeper, so I’ll give that a go when I’m thinning them out.

You’ve hit the nail on the head, Linda! Tolerating the various faults of certain plants is exactly what we all do, because their beauty rewards our forgiveness. It’s just like having a rascally puppy, really! Good luck with your crocosmia. All the best from all of us.

Ha-ha! This has generated a lot of commments. I will go on the record that I love loads of dahlia (not the pinchusions!), ivy, have approx. 30 roses and I adore irises (I have a whole bed of them, mixed with hemerocallis & herbs). My persicaria is divine. But I must applaud Elaine for outing snowdrops, the darling of the moment. I have them all over my beds, which sounds nice, until you have stringy greens dying back everwhere and tons of bulbs wherever you try to plant. In the right spot, gorgeous; in the wrong – a terrible nuisance. I want applaud Laura for adding soapwort – what was I thinking 25years ago?? Still cannot root the stuff out.

Thanks for joining the debate, Lisa! Elaine here. Your garden sounds beautiful and I’m very pleased to hear you praising persicaria – I love mine too, though I will admit it does like a lot of room! It was actually Laura who outed the snowdrops and I have to say I rather agree with her (the3Growbags agreeing with one another??? Ssshhh, don’t tell anyone) – the place for snowdrops is amongst light woodland or naturalised in grass, not taking up precious room in the flowerbeds. Soapwort is one spreader that I’ve never had dealings with, but given such a bad press, it won’t be on my shopping list any time soon. All the best for the gardening year ahead.

We seem to be growing all the plants people dislike !….. I can only think of one that really annoys me and that was a favourite of the great Christopher Lloyd Ranunculus ficaria Brazen Hussy…. give it an inch and it will take a mile….. Allium leaves used to be a problem…but now I just trim them down….It has been very interesting reading…

Thank you so much for joining the debate Angela! Lovely to hear from you and great that you’ve introduced Christopher Lloyd into the fray.
It’s so interesting you’ve raised this little plant because it was one of our Louise Sims’ Great Plants this Month (link at the end) but like you, some of us Growbags (Laura) have found it a bit of a devil to control 🫣. Very good suggestion!
PS I hate to land Elaine in it AGAIN, but Christopher Lloyd actually disliked another of her favourites – Phlomis russeliano which he described as ‘grubby’ – eek! kindest regards from me, Caroline, and the other two!

It seems like we’re all ‘singing from the same song-sheet’ here. I generally agree with all of you …BUT, PLEASE save the snowdrops sorry Caroline (swoony for me!) and heathers, esp. when they’re flowering here on Dartmoor; in acre-loads and the Highlands!
Thanks for that dear sisters, that was fun?!”

Dear Scott, it’s Caroline here and as ever it’s lovely to read your contribution. Now, I’ve seen some wonderful images of Dartmoor when the heather is out so I’m happy to retrieve it from Room 101 if growing in the right location!
You’ll have to appeal to Laura to get snowdrops off the list though. I think again it might be location that’s the issue. Drifts under trees – good; sporadically in your garden borders, bad/annoying 🤣.
Yes hasn’t this topic been fun. If only education was always so amusing. Best wishes to you from all of us.

Of course Caroline .. location-location-location!
And yes, ‘education should always be fun’ which is one of the reasons I love your blog…relaxed learning and reminders {I for one NEED reminders!) plus lots of breadth in subject matter. Take care you and all: winter seems to be getting harder for me, more so for you up there in the north!!!! My son recently bought me a ‘heated gilet’ – ooooh cosy! TTFN

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