Guidance for gardeners on invasive or harmful plants

What's for the garden stays in the garden

Garden waste is a fact of life and if not disposed of properly by composting, burning or bringing it to a civil amenity site for composting, it can propagate and infest the countryside and areas around towns compromising our native plant and animal species.

 Advice on invasive plants   Latest news   How you can help   Policy and legislation Code of practice on non-native species

Guidance for gardeners

Our gardens have been greatly enriched by the introduction of plants from abroad, but a small number have proved highly invasive in the wider environment, threatening natural habitats and native species. By their nature, they are usually a problem in the garden as well. The control of these species is difficult and costly, yet many are still widely available with little indication of the damage they can do if they are allowed to escape into the wild or disposed of carelessly. The threat to our biodiversity - native species and habitats - from these plants is serious.

Know what you are buying and growing

  • Avoid plants known to be invasive - there are usually many alternative plants better suited to gardens.
  • Plant labelling is getting better but the height and spread given may not be that at maturity. Do some research on plants that are unfamiliar to you. Be wary of labels and descriptions that use terms such as "vigorous", "spreading", "fast growing", "self-seeds", "good ground cover", etc.
  • Consider a non-native plants' invasive qualities when you exchange plants with friends. Much of the spread of Himalayan Balsam is down to gardeners donating seeds to friends.
  • Beware of introducing an invasive species inadvertently as a "hitch-hiker" - many invasive pondweeds, in particular, are introduced to gardens in this way. It is always a good idea to quarantine newly purchased pond plants to see what else might come with it.
  • Many invasive plants are introduced to gardens in topsoil. Always try to see the topsoil before you buy it.

How you can help:

Policy and Legislation for Invasive Non-Native Species:

Latest News

New Legislation on Non-Native Species Comes Into Force 

Non-native species legislation is contained in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011.  The new legislation came into force on 2nd July 2012 and it makes it an offence to:

  • release an animal, or allow it to escape, outwith its native range
  • plant a plant in the wild outwith its native range
  • intentionally or otherwise plant a plant in the wild or cause an animal to be outwith its native range  

The Scottish Government has produced a Code of Practice on Non-Native Species  to help people understand their responsibilities when dealing with non-native species and to understand which public body has responsibility for which habitats.   

Failure to comply with the Code is not itself an offence. 

However, whether or not a person has complied with the Code could be used in court as evidence, by either the prosecution or the defence, in the event of criminal proceedings.

You can also download our information flyer here