Should I Remove That Plant?

by Ben Bowen

When should a plant be removed from your landscape?

Look at a section of your yard that needs help. Do you see addition? Or subtraction?

Constant addition to a garden usually results in chaos and death (plant related, so not that serious.) At times the best solution is to remove a plant. When should you seriously consider pulling a plant?

  • You don't like the plant. There is no moral obligation to continue to support plants that just don't do it for you. Your garden has a finite amount of space. That plant is taking some of it, along with water and nutrients. Show no mercy.
  • The plant is too large. A shrub that has outgrown its space was a bad choice to begin with. Is it choking out other plants? Do you have to hack it back just to be able to get by? Does it block your view? Say goodbye to this space hog.
  • The plant is a water hog. This may be a matter of water use for the plant itself. Or, perhaps the plant is just out of sync with the rest of the plants in the area. Are you over watering 20 plants just to keep that one hydrangea happy? Better get rid of it.
  • You need the space for something else important. Like a raised garden bed, outdoor living space, chicken coop- or just a new plant you really want. 
  • It's invasive or diseased. Invasive exotics often perform well in a landscape, but wreak havoc in nearby natural habitats. A diseased plant may be ugly, dying, and/or putting other plants at risk. Put it out of it's misery.
  • The plant is a victim of bad pruning. Here in Portland it is easy to find 20 year old rhodies that have been sheared year after year after year. Their structure may be almost unrecoverable. Should you cut them back hard and them nurse them back to health? It could take 4-5 years for that to pay off. Don't feel like you have to be that patient.

These are just a few of the totally legitimate reasons to remove a plant from your yard. But if you remove a plant- do you have to kill it?

Installing new plants is fun!

Installing new plants is fun!

Nope. Here in Portland you often have the option of transplanting. The plant can be carefully dug and then put in a pot. Or you can wrap the root ball. Either way, take a little extra time and the plant can be saved. 

Do you have another spot in your yard where this plant makes sense? Or could a friend or neighbor use it (not the invasives, of course)? In my neighborhood you could put the plant out on the sidewalk with a "Free" sign on it. It would be gone in an hour. 

Can't share it? Too big to dig? Do what you have to do. Recycle that plant and don't look back.