5 Types of Trees to Avoid

5 Types of Trees to Avoid

Think twice before planting these five trees.

Planting trees can spruce up your home landscape, but choosing the wrong tree can cause some major headaches.

Here are five species you might want to avoid when planting a tree:

1. Black walnut tree

Black walnuts are often grown for their shade and edible nuts, but their buds, roots and nut hulls release significant levels of juglone, a chemical that robs sensitive plants of needed energy.

Garden vegetables planted in close proximity to black walnut trees are highly prone to wilting and eventual death. Vulnerable vegetables include tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, cabbage, eggplant, potatoes, and rhubarb.

Trees affected by black walnuts include apple, pear, crabapple, and pine. Lilies, petunias and some chrysanthemums are also vulnerable, as are blackberry and raspberry bushes.

The Bradford pear tree is sensitive to leaf scorch and fire blight, but branch splitting remains the biggest problem. Bradford pears are top heavy and have a v-shaped crotch, which makes them prone to splitting. It’s not uncommon for the Bradford pear tree to split in half, especially during severe weather.

3. Ash tree

S-shaped patterns left by emerald ash borer larvae on an ash tree.

Emerald ash borer larvae leave S-shaped patterns as they feed under the bark of ash trees. (Photo courtesy of Ohio State University)

The ash tree is a target of the emerald ash borer (EAB), a beetle once native to East Asia. Initially found in Michigan in 2002, EABs likely arrived via packing materials made of ash wood.

EABs threaten the more than 8 billion ash trees in the United States, where they’ve often been planted in residential settings due to their resistance to severe weather, diseases, and pests. While nibbling by mature EABs can hurt foliage, the worst damage comes from their larvae, which feed on inner bark, thus disrupting water and nutrient transport.

Split bark, heavy woodpecker activity, leaf loss and water sprouts at the trunk are all signs of EAB infestation.

4. Ginkgo tree

The yellow leaves of a ginko tree.

The female version of the colorful ginkgo tree produces a troublesome fruit in late fall. (Photo by Susanne Nilsson)

Found on five continents, slow-growing gingko (biloba) trees can reach 115 feet and are popular residential trees because of their durability.

The problem comes in late fall, when female trees produce a putrid-smelling “fruit,” which sticks to shoes and can get tracked indoors. Because there’s no way to distinguish male and female varieties at the seedling stage, the ginkgo tree is plagued by the rotten byproduct.

If you really want a stink-free ginkgo tree, seek out Autumn Gold and Lakeview varieties, which are male-only.

5. Sweetgum tree

Leaves from a sweetgum tree

The sweetgum tree provides long-lasting color, but its spiny balls are a major drawback. (Photo by Sean Hickin)

While it can be beautiful, especially in the fall, the sweetgum’s spiny brown balls, which come down by the thousand, are a major drawback.

There are many ways the “gumballs” might cause injury. You can slip and land on them as they roll. Shot out of a lawnmower, they become a hazardous projectile. They also don’t rake easily, so you have to pick them up by hand, an unenviable task.

5 Outdoor Plants You Can’t Kill

5 Outdoor Plants You Can’t Kill

Tired of watching your garden not grow? These low-maintenance outdoor plants won’t let you down.

Through ignorance, neglect or just plain bad luck, I’ve had my share of gardening failures. But I’ve also been fortunate to discover a few low-maintenance outdoor plants that even I’ve been able to keep alive. Whether you’ve never planted a thing before in your life, or just want to select some hard-to-kill plants for a troublesome spot in the yard, here are five outdoor plants that can survive almost anything.

pink wild geranium flower

The blossoms of the wild geranium differ greatly from the more common red geranium plant. Hardy geranium flowers come in colors including blue, pink and magenta. (Photo courtesy of Benny Mazur)

Wild Geranium

I do nothing for this hardy, low-growing perennial, yet it rewards me with small five-petaled pink blossoms and zig-zag-edged greenery every spring. Far different from the popular red geranium plant, the wild geranium thrives in partial shade but adapts to a wide variety of sites.
Not fond of pink? Check out the many hardy geranium varieties, in colors including blue and magenta.

fresh oregano plant

Consider carefully where you will plant oregano; this bright green-leaved perennial will return each year. (Photo by Carolyn Doyle)


Whether you pick up a packet of seeds or a Greek oregano plant from a nursery, think about where you will plant oregano, because the bright green-leaved perennial will come back every summer.
A favorite of butterflies, this low-growing herb has a familiar flavor that’s a natural with Greek and Italian food. Use fresh, or cut and dry stalks for your own dried oregano to sprinkle on pizzas all year long.

The purple blooms that top a chives plant in the spring are both attractive and edible. These hard-to-kill plants have a mild onion flavor. (Photo courtesy of Kilgarron)


Tired of buying green onions at the grocery and having half of them turn slimy in the fridge? Growing chives, another hard-to-kill plant, is a great alternative. Just snip off the hollow green stems about an inch from the ground as needed and add to a dish at the end of cooking for a mild onion flavor. The purple flowers on a chives plant in the spring are a nice (and edible) bonus. Their cousin, garlic chives, has flat, grass-like leaves, white flowers and a mild garlic flavor.
These low-maintenance perennials can get pushy; planting chives in a contained spot will keep them from taking over.

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crimson oriental poppy

Oriental poppies are a beautiful addition to the garden. When you plant them, consider leaving room for other plants in front that can screen the dormant foliage once the poppy flowers have faded. (Photo courtesy of Uli Harder)


Providing big impact with little care, red poppies are one of my favorite hard-to-kill plants. I find the most difficult thing about this perennial is to remember that it’s not a weed! Until the poppy flower blooms, this scraggly-leaved plant looks like something you’d want to pull out of the garden.
When planting, dig deep to loosen the soil; a poppy plant develops a long root like a carrot. And while you’re digging, think about what you might like to plant in front of your Oriental poppies. Once their brief May-June blooming period has ended, the foliage goes dormant and leaves you with nothing but memories of poppy flowers until next spring.

a yellow daffodil

Daffodils, also called narcissus, require little care and produce long-lasting blooms. These spring-flowering bulbs like to face the sun. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Wilkinson)


The squirrels eat my tulip bulbs, my hyacinths topple over and the crocuses stick around as long as cotton candy on a rainy day … but daffodils last and last. Also called narcissus, these spring-flowering bulbs require little care, but do like to face the sun. When you plant them in the fall, avoid soggy or shady spots. After they bloom in the spring, allow the leaves to remain until completely withered.

In addition to the familiar yellow flowers, there are white and bi-color varieties with orange or pink accents, not to mention miniature and even fragrant types. Note that daffodil bulbs require cold winter temperatures as part of their development and don’t do well in frost-free areas.