Why You Shouldn’t Plant Pink Evening Primrose In Your Yard

Don't make the same mistake Grumpy did.

As the saying does, "Heavens to Betsy," I couldn't believe what my local big box store was offering this week to innocent homeowners. Pots of pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa).

Chances are you're familiar with this pretty native wildflower, but until now, you didn't know its name. Vast sweeps of this flower bloom each spring on roadsides, banks, and fields. Legions of fragrant, pink, two-inch flowers stand atop 12-inch stems with a weird, four-parted style in the center of each blossom, which always reminds me of a satellite dish. Perhaps it sends a warning, "Plant me in your garden, and I will devour it. A to-go box will not be necessary."

Evening Primrose
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My battle with this monster began a decade ago when a wayward seedling popped up in my perennial bed. It subsequently flowered so gloriously that, like a common dolt, I left it there. What I didn't realize is that every bloom drops lots of seeds. Even worse, after the plant's foliage withers in summer, spreading roots grow by the furlong in every direction. A pink primrose tsunami swept over my garden the following spring, choking the phlox and drowning the daylilies.

What to do? Where I could dowse this botanical blight with herbicide without harming my good plants, I did so without a second thought. I pulled up all remaining stems I could find—it was surprisingly easy to do. However, any bit of root remaining in the ground grows into another patch that surfaces the following year.

Pink evening primrose, unlike the yellow evening primrose, flowers open in the morning and close at dusk. If you see these flowers for sale at your garden center, my advice is RUN. Do not buy. Do not plant. Do not say, "It's a native plant, so it must be good." Do not overlook any wildflower that can conquer acres of farmland or gulp down your garden in a single sitting.

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