Britons warned against buying 'invasive' shrub that crowds out other plants

Pink rhododendron ponticum
Rhododendron ponticum cannot be planted in the wild or allowed to spread from your property -Credit:(Image: Getty)

Rhododendrons, a popular garden ornamental during the Victorian era, have become an invasive species due to their rapid spread through prolific seeding and layering of branches. This results in a closed canopy over woodlands, blocking out sunlight.

The Woodland Trust has issued a warning about the plant's fast-spreading nature, which can crowd out native plants in woods. This poses a threat to the UK's rare temperate rainforests and is costing millions to manage.

As such, Britons are being urged to "avoid" purchasing this plant. Rhododendron ponticum is the only rhododendron species considered an invasive weed, and it is strongly recommended to avoid planting it. There are hundreds of other species and varieties that make better garden plants without the risk of spreading into the wild.

While this variety may not be readily available in garden centres, it is advised to double-check the variety before planting, reports the Express. Rhododendron ponticum is listed under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, making it illegal to plant in the wild or allow it to spread from your property. Any pruning or waste material from this plant must be disposed of responsibly and appropriately.

This is crucial as the plant is not only toxic to humans but also contains toxins harmful to livestock. If you suspect this species is in your garden, it can be identified by its woody stems that eventually form tree-like trunks. The plant has large lance-shaped leaves and produces large clusters of flowers in early summer, typically in shades of purple.

Another invasive plant causing issues is Japanese knotweed, identifiable by its heart-shaped leaves. Getting rid of knotweed is a long-term endeavour and while Brits can try to handle it themselves, professional help is advised.

If you choose to tackle it yourself, Harry Bodell at suggests using a herbicide treatment. This should be applied in spring or autumn when the plant is actively growing, ensuring the leaves are fully covered.