You know those thriller movies where the villain seems to have super-human strength?

They bounce off of cars, fall from bridges, take bullets, catch on fire. Still, they muster the energy to pursue the good guy.

Well, I know some plants like that. Here is my short list of plants I absolutely, without a doubt, cannot kill. Good thing they don’t have legs and arms or I would be in trouble.



#1 Plant I Cannot Kill – Rose Campion I agree that this lovely pink-flowered plant on the delicate silvery stems looks innocent enough peaking through the garden gate. The problem is that the Rose Campion spreads and re-seeds virulently. For two summers I have ruthlessly yanked up all the plants I can find. Still, they manage to return again and again.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they always looked like this. They don’t. There are so many flowers that it takes a good deal of assiduous deadheading to keep them looking their finest. Basically, I find this a high-maintenance plant.

This year I have a soft heart and let a couple sneak through my weeding frenzy. I will pay for that.



#2 Plant I Cannot Kill – Johnny-Jump-Ups Last year I planted Johnny-Jump-Up seeds outside the dwarf boxwoods in this raised bed in the Colonial theme garden. At first, I was charmed by their vigorous appearance. But when they threatened to destroy the boxwoods by mutating to some 18″ in height, I yanked them up by their little throats. Did they give up? No. They remain in the center of the bed and have re-seeded throughout the garden, including in the paths and even in my lettuce bed.



As you can see, I don’t exactly take a zero-tolerance policy. I have let the ones that sneaked past me continue to grow.

(BTW, I think the whole idea of zero tolerance is a bit scary. But then, this isn’t a political blog, is it?)


#3 Plant I Cannot Kill — Mint I know, I know. Everyone tells you that mint spreads like crazy and you must do something to contain it. I swear on my Papillons that I did not plant this mint in the ground. It was in a pot and JUMPED out. It is everwhere, including wandering through the lawn.

My son has the habit of grabbing a sprig and chewing on it when he wanders by. At least it servers some entertainment purpose.

So Here’s What You Do…

If you know someone who claims a black thumb but also swears they are interested in gardening, get them a little box and fill it with Rose Campion, Johnny-Jump-Ups and mint and see who wins.

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  • linda says:

    I’m sorry! I do love Johnny Jump-Ups. And now I think I will yank out that little sprig of mint from my Aerogarden planted in a pot on the edge of my garden. Oops! I thought it would be ok in a pot. I can see I thought wrong!

  • breannep says:

    Well, I killed a mint plant – I had it in a container, and over the winter it must have got frosted pretty hard…

    but can I add forget-me-nots, rhubarb, to your list…

  • Jane Marie says:

    I truly love all three of those plants. I pull the unruly ones and leave the rest. It’s no different than weeding to me.

  • Gail says:

    Tell me the secret to Johnny Jump-ups…I can’t get them started in my garden…One Rose Campion…Now I see dozens…I love the rose against the silver but now I have all white ones!?

  • Marie says:

    I just found your blog through Doug Green’s blog comments.

    It is truly DElightful! Thanks.

    BTW – I have killed rose campion. The final death knell happened when I put a new compost bin on top of the one remaiing seedling.

  • vertie says:

    Well, I just killed my fourth planting of mint. Maybe you can come back to Austin and plant some for me?

  • I could never be so heartless to unleash mint on some poor unsuspecting soul, even if he or she did have a brown thumb. But if I did, I’d throw some Lamium into the box too.

  • bs says:

    i’m actively trying to push more bloggers to politicize plants. consider yourself pushed! the army metaphors are already there and everything. there is a very fierce front between some walking stick kale and everything else in my yard.

    on the mint front, i’ve got a native mint at least. i’ve got it next to another mint so they can fight to the death. let me know if you want a sprig of the winner!

  • It took me three years and several tries to get mint established in the herb bed at this house.

    But it is making up for lost time and attempting to take over the entire herb bed.

  • commonweeder says:

    I have finally gotten so that I do rip out at least half of the johnny jump ups that jump up all over my garden without feeling guilty. My rose campion is not that vigorous in my garden and I’m glad for the few that pop up in odd places each year. As for mint! I once read that mint and tansy were good companions for roses so I planted some near the hardy roses planted next to the pasture fence. The mint and the tansy are now fighting it out in the field, and also underneath most of the roses. The only benefit is that the flowering mint attracts clouds of monarch butterflies in August. An amazing site. I don’t think it is widely known that monarchs love mint.

  • Kim says:

    I am laughing at the “duking it out” idea… I’m currently letting lily-of-the-valley and sweet woodruff duke it out on the north side of my house. It may not be until next year, but I’ll post updates on who is leading the fight as it goes… 🙂

    Those rose campions are very pretty. I don’t blame you for being soft-hearted.

  • Lisa in CA says:

    We had Johnny Jump Ups in a container sitting on an old chair last year and now we have them everywhere. But, I don’t mind. I just love their pretty little faces.

  • Christine says:

    Don’t plant any obedient plant. Who named that plant, anyway? And I have a dark maroon leafed plant that reproduced some 10,000 seedlings this year from exactly one plant!

  • susan harris says:

    Rose campion is one of my all-time favorite weeds. I hack it back when it stops looking good and it comes back looking better.

  • Val Webb says:

    Ha! I love the mental image of your mint jumping out of its pot. Knowing mint, that is entirely possible!

    Robin, I wanted to let you know The Illustrated Garden has moved. Its new home:

    Hi Val,

    Glad to know where your new home is. I have missed seeing your fabulous illustrations!

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • rosemarie says:

    Funny post! I don’t have any of these, I guess I’m lucky. I’ve seen a johnny jump up or two but they haven’t spread. Now mint I did hear is a crazy one. And I agree with MMD, that lamium is my “I can’t kill this!” plant.

  • Rick says:

    My son-in-law is growing mint from seed this year. He wanted a herb garden. I told him to keep the mint in a container and never let it loose in the wild. Maybe he needs to put the container under glass, too! Ha.

  • […] Plants You Cannot Kill For two summers I have ruthlessly yanked up all the plants I can find. Still, they manage to return again and again. […]

  • Karen says:

    What about Jerusalem Artichokes? I love them- pretty and tasty- but they just take over. Even after I pull up so many of their brethren to eat in the fall, they still spread and spread. How is that possible?

  • Add some Obedient Plant to the mix. Oh, and Mountain mint. Plus, Autumn clematis. They will run screaming with their newly greened thumbs after the first season.~~Dee

  • […] here. Although I complain about the rose campion, I do think it looks rather at home with the other pink flowers in this border. Serendipity […]

  • Matt says:

    It’s the Himalayan blackberries that kill me. They’re not that bad to keep under control, but they come up all over the garden…. there doesn’t seem to be any way to get them to stop for good. Same with thistles… you get rid of one, and ten more seem to take it’s place.

    Our mint tries to get out of control… I think someone takes a weed eater to it when I’m not watching. 😀

  • If only you could give a bit more information that would be great.