Homeowners' Guide to Invasive Plants

Stop the Problem Before It Starts

Prevention is the most desirable means of control when dealing with invasive plants. There are a number of simple and easy ways to help prevent the proliferation of invasives.

Healthy native plant communities are a great defense against invasives. Invasives thrive in areas whose native plant communities have been disturbed by storms, construction, or fire. For this reason it is a good idea to plant any bare earth areas with native plants before invasives can take hold.
Even healthy plant communities are susceptible to attack by invasives. Knowing some of the more harmful plants so you can look out for them and performing periodic checks on your property can keep a small and manageable problem from becoming a large, unwieldy, and costly one.
Remove invasives as soon as they are found to minimize the chance they will drop their seeds. Smaller infestations may be pulled out or dug up, while larger ones may require the use of herbicides.
Traveling through areas where invasives are present may greatly facilitate their spread. Seeds may be transported by vehicles, hair, clothing, baggage, and dirt.
Before putting pulled weeds out for the trash collector let them sit outside in the sun for a couple of weeks in a garbage bag to kill off seeds and plants. Dispose of yard waste properly by composting it, or leaving it out for pick up on the appointed garden waste pick up days.
Do NOT dispose of aquarium water down drains, but instead on dry land.
Be conscientious when choosing plants for your landscape or pond. (More information on this below)

Reigning in Out of Control Weeds

Mechanical Treatments

Manually pulling weeds is a time consuming and labor intensive process, but is often the only practical means available to the homeowner. When removing invasives it is important to remove as much of the root mass as possible, and to minimize ground disturbance. Even small pieces left in the ground can cause new infestations. Foliar applied herbicides may aid in pulling weeds.
Mechanical removal of invasives by heavy equipment requires careful planning as the soil disturbance caused by such equipment can encourage fresh infestations of invasives. Therefore native plant replacement plans for the disturbed areas are necessary.
Invasives may be cut to limit growth and seed load. However, cutting some invasives will merely encourage their growth, along with damaging native plants. This technique can be useful with annuals before they have set seed and re-sprouted.
Proper disposal of pulled invasives is essential. They should be left out in the sun in a garbage bag for a couple of weeks before they are thrown away. (check on this)

Chemical Treatments

Pesticides can be effective in controlling invasives, but care should be taken when using them. It is recommended that anyone applying pesticides take a course first, which may be done through County Cooperative Extension Offices. Pesticide use training manuals are available at the IFAS Extension Book Store at 1-800-226-1764 or online
Herbicide manufacturers will list the plants recommended for treatment on the herbicide label. However, it is possible additional species may be treated by herbicides even if they are not listed on the label.
Herbicide application technique varies according to type of infestation, degree of infestation, and type of herbicide. There are three most commonly used methods of applying herbicides:

  • Foliar application involves application of herbicide to the leaves and stems of the plant.
  • Herbicide may be applied by "painting", handheld pump sprayer, or backpack sprayer. Motorized vaporizers may be used for larger infestations of invasives. Collateral damage to adjacent vegetation is a risk when using this method of application, especially when there is wind.
  • Basal bark application is done by applying the herbicide with pump or hand sprayer to the trunk or stem of the invasive, about 12 to 20 inches from the ground.

Stumps will resprout if not treated with herbicides after they have been cut. Cut stump application is done by painting, pumping, or hand-spraying herbicide onto the freshly cut stump of the plant. Herbicide may be applied to just the whole stump with smaller plants, or just the inner ring of the stump with larger plants. Stumps should be cut level to prevent herbicide run off, and as close to the ground as possible.

Useful information about invasive removal:

There are many programs which provide aid and reimbursement to landowners who tackle invasives on their properties. These programs are often organized at a count-wide level.

For Assistance in Dealing With Invasives Contact These Sites:

Conscientious Landscaping

Going Native

Making the choice to use native plants in your landscape has numerous benefits both to you as the landowner, and to the environment.
Native plants support Florida's diverse and rich ecology. Using native plants will turn your landscape into an environment which will foster butterflies, birds, along with other plants; turning it into a vital natural community, rather than a sterile monoculture, which is the kind of environment invasive species create.
Land development has caused extensive habitat destruction in Florida which is the leading offender in biodiversity loss and prime cause of extinction. Using native plants is an important step in healing the damage that has been done by land development by restoring natural communities to Florida's landscape.

Save Time, Energy, and Money

Native plants require less maintenance. A carefully chosen community of native plants that occur together in nature will create a self regulating environment that requires less maintenance than if invasives were used. Due to their potential for volatile growth invasives may need to be mechanically controlled with much higher frequency than native plants.
Native plants have adapted to the particular diseases and insects in Florida which harm plants, and therefore require little or no pesticide use to thrive after they are established. While some invasives grow unrestrained many invasive plants are not adapted to the ecology of Florida, and therefore may require pesticides to protect them against threats from which they have no natural defense.
Native plants are well suited to the climate and soil conditions of Florida. In comparison with invasives the amount of water and fertilizer natives require is minimal. Using more water and fertilizers is expensive and harmful to the environment.
Knowing which plants are safe to buy and which are potentially harmful invasives is essential when planning out and implementing your landscape. The Florida Native Plants Society gives a region by region list of native plants which are safe to use when landscaping your property here.
Every two years FISC releases a list of invasive plants which should not be used in landscaping, and which one should keep an eye out for on their property. Neither Category 1 or Category 2 plants should be used. The list can be found on this website at this page.