Skip to Main Content

Worst Plants and Trees to Have in Your Yard in North Carolina

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 poisonous plants.

Get a Free Estimate

North Carolina has everything from the ocean to the mountains. When it comes to your yard it’s best to plant trees and shrubs that do well in our area. 

Unfortunately, there are quite a few plants and trees that grow all too well in our area. Those plants and trees can damage your yard and your home’s foundation. Not only that but they can also pose a poisoning hazard to your family and pets.

Local Trees and Shrubs

Trees that are native to our state are superb starting points for your yard. They are easy to maintain. Plus, they provide cover and food for local wildlife. Native trees to consider include willow oak, pin oak, black gum, redbud, dogwood, American hornbeam, river birch, sweet bay magnolia, red maple, live oak, green hawthorn, pawpaw, sassafras, serviceberry, Carolina silverbell, and eastern red cedar.

Recommended bushes and shrubs include loropetalum, southern living nandina, Ligustrum sunshine, goshiki false holly, thread-branch cypress, camellia, dwarf Japanese maple, loblolly bay, leatherleaf, juniper, mountain laurel, wax myrtle, southern bayberry, Canada yew, and dwarf palmetto.

All of these trees and bushes grow well from Raleigh to Winston-Salem and all across the state.

Trees to Avoid

Our 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. 

  • Black walnut. This tree is subject to a fungus called thousand canker disease. They also secrete a growth-inhibiting toxin called juglone that can ruin your flowers and vegetable garden.
  • Bradford pear. It is prone to splitting and cracking in windy or stormy weather. The blossoms emit an unpleasant smell. Plus, the seeds spread easily making this an invasive plant.
  • Silver maple. This tree is fast-growing but has shallow roots that can cause cracking and heaving of concrete walks and foundations. It can also easily blow over in strong winds.
  • Sweet gum. The leaves are pretty and the round, prickly gumball fruit is interesting—that is, unless you have to clean them up from your yard. They can be messy.
  • Weeping willow. The roots of this tree need a great deal of water and will easily dry up your lawn, robbing other trees and plants of moisture while unsettling the soil your foundation sits on. 
  • Tree of heaven. This is also known as the stinking sumac because it smells. It also grows nearly anywhere including in cracks next to foundations. 
  • White ash. This beautiful and quick-growing tree is under attack by the lethal emerald ash borer insect. It also has lateral roots that can damage your home’s foundation. 
  • Honey locust. This tree is short-lived due to the development of several insect and disease problems. The trunk also grows thorns.
  • Mimosa. It is classified as invasive in North Carolina. The seeds can be spread far and wide and the roots also sprout into new trees.

Bushes to Avoid

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

  • 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.
  • Himalayan blackberry. The berries are nice but the plant itself can take hold and invade the rest of your garden. It’s very difficult to root out.
  • 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.
  • Chinese privet. It can form dense thickets that shade out other plants. It also produces highly allergenic pollen.
  • Bush 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. 
  • Burning bush. These shrubs create dense thickets, crowding out smaller plants.

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. 
  • Foxglove. This plant contains digitalin, digitonin, and digitoxin. It only takes 20 minutes after ingesting its leaves to cause a wide range of reactions from vomiting to an irregular heartbeat.
  • Tansy. This plant is toxic to both people and livestock. It is also invasive. 
  • Virginia creeper. This plant can be very aggressive and difficult to control. The berries contain oxalic acid that is toxic to humans. Keep kids away. The sap can also cause a skin rash. 
  • Belladonna. It’s called deadly nightshade for a good reason. Ingested berries cause convulsions, hallucinations, and can lead to respiratory failure.
  • Horse nettle. This is also a member of the nightshade family. The berries cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. 
  • 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. 

Where to Plant — Sunlight and Shade

It’s essential that you find the right level of sunlight for each of your plants. That means determining sunlight and shade requirements for trees, shrubs, and other plantings. They must also be spaced correctly so they do not grow into one another or cover up a plant that needs direct sun.

It’s also imperative that you keep plants sufficiently distant from your home’s foundation. Otherwise, roots can cause damage from physical pressure on the foundation and from drying out the surrounding soil causing settling and heaving.

Protect Your Home’s Foundation

Sound water management can protect your home’s foundation. Gutters and downspouts route water off the roof and away from the foundation. Then landscape grading takes over allowing water to flow away from your home. 

An irrigation system can also be very 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 rainfall or lack of rainfall. 

Drying soil can cause foundation shifting and resulting cracks. When the rain comes again, it can then seep into the cracks, bringing moisture and even flooding.

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 Tar Heel Basement 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 need attention.

Our Service Areas

GREENSBORO / WINSTON-SALEM / HIGH POINT AREA

2910 Griffith Rd
Winston-Salem, NC 27103
336-283-2984

RALEIGH / DURHAM / CHAPEL HILL AREA

3333 Air Park Road
Fuquay-Varina, NC 27526

984-255-7529