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Three Terrific Native Subs for Ivy

Removing invasive plants is an easy place to start if you are interested in gardening for the Chesapeake.  English ivy (Hedera helix) is so common across the watershed and it is easy to see why.  No maintenance needed; it crowds out weeds; and it’s evergreen.  

invasive ivy

Even neatly trimmed ivy is invasive. How? Birds eat the very hard to see berries and disperse them.

Three natives are more than up to the ivy replacement task and semi-evergreen to evergreen depending on your location and garden conditions.  They, like ivy, also tolerate a range of conditions from full shade to partial sun.

Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens) the green plant above, is the same size and likes the smae locations as the common Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) . It also blooms with a short white spiky flower in spring. Best of all, it does not spread as aggressively as the non-native pachysandra can.


Green and gold, also known as golden star, (Chrysogonum virginianum) is a pretty and pretty tough plant. It spreads easily, needs no care and blooms in spring with small yellow flowers brightening shady spots.


Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) is also a good, albeit taller, substitute for ivy.  While the plants won’t spread in the way native pachysandra and green and gold do, the plants do get more robust each growing season filling in space. Plus, watching the new fronds of Christmas fern unfurl in spring makes ivy look positively boring!  To look for places to buy these plants, check here.

More information:

For a range map and growing notes about native pachysandra from North Creek Nurseries, please look here.

For more complete information about green and gold from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, please go here.

For an informative overview about using ferns in Chesapeake landscapes, check out this from Piedmont Master Gardeners.


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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