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Growing Pains: Dealing with Overgrown Plants

7/29/2013 1:08:00 PM

Tags: gardening, Jennifer Flaten

Outside our front doors are two enormous overgrown shrubs. Thirty or so years ago I am sure they were tiny, lovely and added a splash of green to the front of the house. Unfortunately, now they are severely overgrown and threatening to engulf our front steps. Our plan is to remove them this summer or fall as time and budget permits.

Last year, one of the first things we did when we moved in was remove a similar shrub that was mugging our mailbox. Let me tell you, that plant did not want to go gently into the night. It certainly didn’t help that the only tool we had was a handsaw. I bet whoever planted that shrub never imagined it would someday grow big enough to block the mailbox five feet away. 

We are all guilty of buying a plant and putting it in the wrong spot. Sometimes, we know it is the wrong spot, but perhaps we need just a spot of color for that particular growing season and we don’t mind if the plant doesn’t make it. The problem arises when we plant a shrub or plant in the wrong spot and it flourishes, reaching its full growing potential. Sometimes, a plant ends up in the wrong location because we chose not to believe the growth information. How could that cute little two-foot shrub that would look lovely right by the driveway ever grow to be a six-foot monster with a 36-inch spread that blocks our view of oncoming traffic? Worse is when the plant is mislabeled or not labeled at all. Who among us hasn’t bought or received a “mystery” plant and popped it in the ground only to find out later it is destined to be as big as the Titanic?

At our first house I bought three small lovely arctic willows for the front of our house. Nowhere on the label did it say they were fast growing, but I did ignore the growth information. Year one, the shrubs were lovely. Year two found me out in the yard after I’d put my children to bed, hacking out the now five-foot-tall, two-foot-wide shrubs before they completely obscured the basement windows and sent their roots tunneling into the foundation.

Just remember that while the growth information is for ideal conditions, it is entirely possible that your two-foot-tall arbor vitae will attain its fully-grown height of seven feet. Yes, it will be 30 years later, but that’s what gardening is about—the long term.


Jennifer FlatenJennifer happily gardens away in Wisconsin where she lives with her family. When not gardening Jennifer is a freelance writer and jewelry designer. Browse her jewelry at Etsy or visit her website Dragon and Butterfly Design. 



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