The Worst Plants To Have Next To Your Foundation

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022 by Cassie Saines

English Ivy hanging near an HVAC unit in a Cincinnati basement
This Glendale Ohio resident grew concerned about her foundation
after finding this English Ivy Vine in her basement. She's been trying
to eradicate the plant since she moved in 2 years ago.


You love your lawn, during the summer months you spend a lot of time in the garden. Before winter comes you have everything trimmed back and ready for the next season. Did you know that the garden you dedicate so much time to could betray you and the structural integrity of your home? Over the years we've seen plants do some pretty crazy things to foundations, so we compiled a list of the worst plants to have near the structure of your home. 

English Ivy

Let’s start with one of the biggest culprits, English Ivy. It may look beautiful as it grows up the trellis and onto your deck and balcony, but; this plant is horrible for your house and property. In fact, Ohio Invasive Plants Council is reviewing this plant to see if sales of this vine should be restricted or prohibited in the state of Ohio. 

What’s so bad about English Ivy? Just ask your foundation! The roots of this plant will slowly dig into the mortar of your house. Eventually, it can crack, break through, and even start growing into your home. The vine also grows fast. That’s bad news for the other plants in your garden. It can quickly get out of hand and out-compete the rest of your flowers and shrubs. It will also grow up your beloved trees, steal their nutrients and kill them over time.  

Japanese Knotweed

Compared to Japanese knotweed English Ivy is a saint. Japanese Knotweed grows 10 centimeters per day. If you try to eradicate it from your yard and leave a piece of root the size of a fingernail the vine will come right back. It's also connected with accelerated riverbank erosion.

This plant is well known for wrapping thickly around trees and choking the life out of them. The roots and branches of this plant are so strong that they can break through and crack your foundation. Damage to your foundation isn’t the only thing to be concerned about. These plants can also invade your plumbing. The roots can break through the pipes and cause sewage backups in your basement. To avoid foundation repairs, concrete repairs, and plumbing issues steer clear of this invasive vine. It will only do more harm than good.

Oak Trees

Unlike the two plants mentioned before, oak trees are not inherently bad for your yard. In fact, if you’re looking for a tree to support Ohio’s native ecosystem oak trees are some of the best! They are the host plant for over 280 insects and support the habitat of so many other wildlife species. 

The problem with these beautiful giants is their root system. The roots can grow up to 90 feet away from the trunk of the tree. That’s bad news for any structure you have within reach. It will break through your foundation, crack your driveway and grow through your sewage pipes. Before you need expensive foundation repairs, consider whether or not your yard is the right environment for an oak tree. Overall adding an oak tree to your landscape is a great idea; just make sure you have enough space to support it and keep your home safe.

A close up of ninebark's purplish leaves and clustered white flowers
Ninebark is a native shrub that attracts pollinators and is safe
for your foundation.

Safe Alternatives

If these were the options you were hoping to add to your yard don’t feel defeated. There are plenty of alternatives that won’t be a detriment to your property. If you’re looking for a beautiful vining plant to put close to your house consider Fragaria Virginiana a wild strawberry. It will add beautiful fall colors to your lawn.

If you have a nice spot in your yard that's just begging for a tree to be planted but it’s too close to your house, consider Thuja occidentalis (Eastern White Cedar). These beautiful and aromatic evergreens have a maximum height of 60 ft and a width of about 20 ft. So while it may not get as tall as an oak tree the roots don’t grow out much further than its crown. That means as long as it’s 20 feet away from your foundation and powerlines aren’t a threat, it’s the perfect tree for your property!

Another alternative to large trees close to your property is shrubs. Physocarpus opulifolius (Ninebark) is perfect for Ohio’s clay soil. This shrub is in the rose family and grows clusters of small white flowers. It’s smaller than oak or an Eastern White Cedar but still reaches 10 ft in height. So if you're looking for a fragrant bit of shade, ninebark is a wonderful option. 

The best part about these suggestions is that you don't have to wait to take action. Right now is the best time to plant bare-root saplings. If you sow your wild strawberry seeds in the winter, they could be ready for you by early summer! Right now is also the best time to give The Basement Doctor of Cincinnati a call if English Ivy has snuck into your living space. We are ready to assess and fix the cracks in your foundation.

About the author

Cassie Saines, Marketing Coordinator Find me on LinkedIn

My goal is to create content that you find practical and thought-provoking. I want to teach you things about your home you didn't know you ought to know.