Lespedeza – Growing

Q: I bought fifty lespedeza plants and some tree seedlings as part of a “Wildlife Package” from the Georgia Forestry Service (1-800-GATREES). When I looked up lespedeza on the Internet I found that it can overrun your property and choke out native plants. Should I use it?

A: The lespedeza family has many members, some invasive but others less so. Chinese lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata), also known as serecia lespedeza, is a warm-season perennial that has the potential to be invasive in many situations. Farmers sometimes plant serecia in their pastures to provide forage for cattle. Like all lespedezas, it is a legume. It manufactures its own nitrogen fertilizer and so can thrive in very poor soil, overwhelming its plant neighbors.

Shrub lespedezas, like L. bicolor and L. thunbergii, grow much taller than the species mentioned above. They are attractive when blooming and seem not to be so invasive. Lespedeza thunbergii Gibraltar is sold as an ornamental trailing shrub.

The Forestry Service sells bicolor lespedeza as a ground cover and wildlife seed source. In my opinion it would not become a problem plant for you. If you choose not to use this lespedeza, beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) could be a fine substitute.

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