Herbaceous Alternatives for Eastern WA

Below, you will find non-invasive alternatives to common invasive or noxious weeds. Looking to replace a specific plant? Click here to jump to that section!


Bighead Knapweed

Knotweeds: Giant, Bohemian, Himalayan, and Japanese

Milk & Scotch Thistle

Myrtle Spurge

Oxeye Daisy

Clary Sage, Meadow Clary, & Mediterranean Sage

Full List of Recommended Herbaceous Alternatives



Looking for a different type of plant?


Alternatives to Babysbreath

Babysbreath Infestation 1

INVASIVE: Babysbreath 

Gypsophila paniculata

Class C Washington State Noxious Weed

The delicate sprays of white flowers make this European native a popular plant for fresh or dried flower bouquets and for garden borders. Unfortunately, this plant with a delicate name and flower can escape gardens and aggressively colonize elsewhere. It is now widespread throughout Canada and much of the northern half of the United States. The seeds can ripen in cut bouquets, left at cemeteries and other locations, allowing the plant to spread into adjacent areas. Babysbreath readily invades pastures and grasslands where it outcompetes desirable plants and reduces forage quality for livestock and wildlife.

More choices: Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) and snow buckwheat (Eriogonum niveum), both of which are WA natives.

Learn more here:


Scabiosa 1

Recommended Alternative: Miss Willmott Pincushion Flower & Other White Cultivars

Scabiosa caucasia ‘Miss Willmott’

This plant is an attractive, clump-forming perennial.

  • Its white flowers are 3 inches across and are very good for cutting.
  • The blooms are the same color as babysbreath but not the same texture.
  • Flowers are present from mid-summer to late-summer.
  • The attractive foliage is dark green and gray-green and provides a lacy effect.
  • It prefers a sunny site with good drainage.

USDA Zones 3-10.


Image Courtesy of Chris Bligh, Shoots and Roots Nursery

Pearl Yarrow2 Old

Recommended Alternative: Pearl Yarrow

Achillea ptarmica ‘The Pearl’

Pearl yarrow is a graceful and airy plant.

• This plant has lovely white flowers that are about one-half inch wide.
• Like babysbreath, the double-bloom flowers are long-lasting and good for bouquets.
• Its attractive foliage is delicate and fern like.
• It is best grown in full sun with summer watering.
• This perennial spreads by rhizome and needs good drainage.

USDA Zones 3-10.


Image Courtesy of Richard Old,www.xidservices.com 

Gaura Pink Cloud Cmyk

Recommended Alternative: Pink Cloud Wandflower & Other Cultivars

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Pink Cloud’

‘Pink Cloud’ is a stunning upright perennial covered with soft, pink blooms.

• Pink-blushed flowers are held on slender stems above foliage which provides an airy look.
• It blooms from summer into autumn.
• Flowers are good in borders and for cutting.
• Foliage ranges from mid-green to gray-green to burgundy, depending on the cultivar.
• This plant can reach three feet in height.

USDA Zones 6-9.


Image Courtesy of Tiffany Adamowski

Alternatives to Bighead Knapweed

Bighead Knapweed Flower

INVASIVE: Bighead Knapweed

Centaurea macrocephala

Class A Washington State Noxious Weed

With its large and striking yellow flowers, bighead knapweed, also known as ‘Yellow Fluff’ and ‘Globe Centaury’, has sometimes been used in dried floral arrangements. However, this plant is a member of the knapweed family which includes some of the most problematic weeds in the West. Bighead knapweed was discovered escaping gardens in northeastern Washington where it moved along roadsides and spread into high elevation rangeland, reforestation sites, and powerline right-of-ways. It has the potential to invade Washington’s precious  subalpine meadows.

More choices: Large flowered tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora).

Learn more here:

Bighead Knapweed

Selected Knapweeds of Washington

Giant Yellow Scabious

Recommended Alternative: Giant Yellow Star Scabious

Cephalaria gigantea

This alternative is an impressive, eye-catching perennial for the garden.

• Giant pale yellow flower heads resemble pincushions and are 2.5 inches across.
• It blooms during the summer months.
• Mature seed heads are also ornamental.
• With a stately height of up to 7 feet tall, scabious is great as a border or showcase plant.
• It prefers rich, well-drained soil and full sun to part shade.

USDA Zones 3-10.


Image Courtesy of Lenne Valkenburg

Blanketflower Legler

Recommended Alternative: Blanket Flower

Gaillardia aristata

Blanket flower is a good native plant for the garden since it adapts well to cultivation. 

• Bright golden-yellow petals surround vivid red centers.
• Showy flowers appear in early summer, are daisy like in form, and are 4 inches wide.
• As with knapweeds, the flowers are held above the bluish-green foliage.
• It is excellent for cutting and in borders.
• It grows up to 2.5 feet tall.
• This perennial tolerates heat and needs good drainage.

USDA Zones 3-9.


Image Courtesy of Ben Legler 

Rudbeckia Fulgida Goldsturm 03

Recommended Alternative: Goldsturm Coneflower, Black-Eyed Susan

Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’

This plant is a long-lived, long- blooming perennial for a sunny site.

• It has bright, showy flowers with orange-yellow petals surrounding purplish brown centers.
• While the flower form is different, the color impact is similar.
• Flowers bloom between July and September and are excellent for cutting.
• This perennial reaches 24-30 inches in height and 24 inches in width.
• It is great for beds, borders, and meadow areas.

USDA Zones 3-9.


Image Courtesy of Dave Jones, Great Plant Picks

Alternatives to Knotweeds: Giant, Bohemian, Himalayan, and Japanese

New Knotweed

INVASIVE: Knotweeds: Giant, Bohemian, Himalayan, and Japanese

Polygonum species

Class B Washington State Noxious Weed

Feathery white flower heads, large foliage, and tall bamboo-like stems once made this group of knotweeds popular as garden ornamentals. Native to Asia, knotweeds have become a serious problem worldwide and are increasingly prevalent in Washington. They rapidly invade riparian zones where they block sunlight, disturb nutrient cycling, displace native vegetation, and increase stream bank erosion. These knotweeds are a serious problem along Washington State waterways where they degrade habitat for wildlife and fish species, including salmon.

More choices:  Plume poppy (Macleaya microcarpa), and rosy twisted stalk (Streptopus roseus).

Learn more about knotweeds:

Giant Knotweed

Bohemian Knotweed

Himalayan Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

Knotweed Brochure

Image Courtesy of Whatcom County NWCB

False Solomons Seal3 Breen

Recommended Alternative: False Solomon’s Seal

Smilacina racemosa

This plant is a shade-loving, early-blooming native perennial with gracefully arching stems.

• Clusters of delicate, creamy white flowers appear in mid-spring, before knotweed blooms. 
• The flowers are lightly fragrant.
• Lance-shaped leaves reach lengths of 8 inches. 
• It can exceed 3 feet in height and spread to create a large patch in the right place.
• It prefers partial shade and adapts well to a variety of soils.

USDA Zones 4-9.


Image Courtesy of Pat Breen, Oregon State University

Goats Beard Antieau

Recommended Alternative: Goat’s Beard

Aruncus dioicus

This robust perennial native gives height to your garden.
• Like knotweed, goat’s beard thrives in moist soil.
• It produces a panicle of cream-colored flowers similar to knotweeds; although, the foliage and flower texture is finer.
• It blooms in June and July, which is a little earlier than knotweed.
• This plant grows up to 6 feet tall.

USDA Zones 3-7.


Image Courtesy of Clayton Antieau

Plume Poppy Mike Davy

Recommended Alternative: Plume Poppy

Macleaya cordata

Plume poppy provides a dramatic presence in the garden.

• Large plumes of small, buff-white flowers  are more attractive than knotweed.
• Its brown seed pods are also ornamental.
• Striking leaves are deeply lobed and measure up to 4 inches across.
• Plants reach a height of 8 feet.  
• It spreads by way of stolons to form patches.
• This plant needs water in summer and good drainage.

USDA Zones 3-8.


Image Courtesy of Mike Davy

Alternatives to Milk & Scotch Thistle

Scoth Thistle Itation 3 Sw

INVASIVE: Milk & Scotch Thistle

Silybum marianum & Onopordum acanthium

Class A & B Washington State Noxious Weed

Milk thistle has often been used as a showcase plant in the garden due to its striking white-laced foliage and spine-tipped flower heads. Scotch thistle has been used as a barrier since this spiny plant can reach a height of eight feet by its second year. As attractive as the managed prickly plants may be in the garden, they are unwelcome in meadows and pastures where they reduce forage quality. Additionally, milk thistle can be toxic to livestock.

More choices: Prince calico aster (Aster lateriflorus ‘Prince’), alma potschke New England aster (A. Novae-angliae ‘Alma Potschke’), Monch frikarti aster (A. x frikartii ‘Monch’), sea holly (Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’ and other cultivars).

Learn more here:

Milk Thistle

Scotch Thistle

Image Courtesy of Stevens County NWCB

Globe Thistle Enhanced

Recommended Alternative: Globe Thistle

Echinops ritro or Echinops ‘Taplow Blue’

These plants are thistle-like in appearance and are easy to grow. 

• Blooms appear in June and can last until fall.
• The metallic-blue, globe-shaped flower heads are plentiful atop the plant.
• Flowers are excellent when cut.
• Plants are similar in scale to thistles; E. ritro is 4 feet in height and E. ‘Taplo Blue’ is 5 feet in height.
• Globe thistle is tolerant of a variety of light conditions and is not fussy about soil type.

USDA Zones 3-8.


Image Courtesy of Alice B. Russell, North Carolina State University

Jerusalem Sage Amazone 01 Enhanced

Recommended Alternative: Jerusalem Sage

Phlomis tuberosa

This sage is ideal for hot, dry areas.

• Its hooded flowers are showy pinkish-purple and appear in whorls in the leaf axils.
• This plant blooms during the summer.
• Arrow-shaped foliage measures up to 10 inches in length and is silver in color due to fine hairs.
• The erect habit is similar to invasive thistles.
• This plant reaches a height of 5 feet.

USDA Zones 4-10.


Image Courtesy of Chris Bligh, Shoots and Roots nursery

New England Aster4 Enhanced

Recommended Alternative: Purple Dome New England Aster

Aster novi-belgii ‘Purple Dome’

This aster is an excellent plant for adding a purple bloom to the garden late in the season.

• Vibrant purple, daisy-like blooms cover the top of the plant between August and October.
• Flowers are excellent for cutting.
• Its foliage is dense, stalkless, and lance-shaped.
• Sturdy stems make a good shrub like presence when the plant is not in bloom.
• It is smaller in stature than milk thistle.
• This plant is rarely affected by powdery mildew.

USDA Zones 4-8.


Image Courtesy of Alice B. Russell, North Carolina State University

Alternatives to Myrtle Spurge

Myrtle Spurge Chelan March 05E

INVASIVE: Myrtle Spurge

Euphorbia myrsinites

Class B Washington State Noxious Weed

Its geometric, blue-green foliage, long life, and ability to thrive in gravelly soil have made myrtle spurge a popular plant for xeriscaping and in rock gardens. Capable of throwing its seeds up to fifteen feet, this succulent can spread into arid ecosystems where it displaces native vegetation. 

Like its cousin leafy spurge - considered one of the worst plants in the West - myrtle spurge is invasive and can be difficult to control. Additionally, it exudes a toxic sap.

More choices:  Sulfur flower (Erogonum umbellatum), kinnikinnick (Artostaphylos uva-ursi), and lance-leaved stonecrop (Sedum lanceolatum), all of which are WA natives.

Learn more here:

Myrtle Spurge

Helianthemum4 Enhanced

Recommended Alternative: Sun Rose

Helianthemum spp. and cultivars

Sun Rose is a clumping, evergreen shrub with a spreading habit and brightly colored flowers. 

• The flowers are unlike Euphorbia flowers and resemble wild rose.
• Cultivars provide an array of vibrant colors such as magenta, pink, orange, and yellow.
• It blooms between June and September. 
• As a low spreading shrub, it measures less than 1 foot tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.
• Although its texture differs from myrtle spurge, sun rose is a mannerly and uniquely beautiful plant with green to silver foliage.

USDA Zones 5-8.


Image Courtesy of Ann Chapman

Stone Crop Spathulifolium Legler2

Recommended Alternative: Cape Blanco or Purple Stonecrop

Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’, ‘Purpureum’

This plant is an excellent, mat-forming evergreen plant.

• Its bluish toned foliage is beautiful year-round.
• Bright golden-yellow, star-shaped flowers provide striking contrast in June. 
• A white, powdery coating on its leaves gives ‘Cape Blanco’ a silvery blue appearance.
• ‘Purpureum’ has purple-tinged, bluish foliage.
• Plants reach a height of 4 inches and spread about 2-4 feet forming a tight mat.
• This plant tolerates some shade and requires good drainage.

USDA Zones 6-10.


Image Courtesy of Ben Legler

Evergreen Spurge1 Smg

Recommended Alternative: Evergreen Spurge

Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii and cultivars

Blue-green foliage and large leaves give this plant a bold texture in the landscape.

• Showy flowers feature lime-green to chartreuse flower bracts and burgundy-black eyes.
• It has a long bloom time, extending from March to May.
• Flowers are very good for cutting.
• This plant and its cultivars may be damaged by severe winters and are best considered short-lived perennials in such climates.
• Plants reach a height and width  of 3-4 feet.

USDA Zones 7-10.


Image Courtesy of San Marcos Growers

Alternatives to Oxeye Daisy

Oxeye Flower

INVASIVE: Oxeye Daisy

Leucanthemum vulgare

Class B Washington State Noxious Weed

A common sight throughout the United States, oxeye daisy was first introduced, probably as a seed contaminant, into the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800s. It is a familiar sight along roadways  where it can spread into native grasslands, fields, and pastures. It reduces plant diversity and lowers forage quality for grazing wildlife and livestock by replacing plants that are higher in protein. Oxeye daisy competes with crops, especially cereal crops, which are so important in eastern Washington.

More choices:  Angelita daisy (Hymenoxys acaulis

Learn more here:

Oxeye Daisy

Leucanthemum Becky 01Adjusted

Recommended Alternative: Becky Shasta Daisy

Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’

This plant is a charming and well-behaved daisy.
• Its daisy-like flowers are much larger than oxeye.
• The flowers attract butterflies and are good for cutting.
• The dark green foliage is attractive and sturdy.
• A tidy, upright habit makes Becky Shasta daisy a terrific garden plant.
• Its long bloom period extends from June to September.
• Becky Shasta daisy is not fussy about soils but needs good drainage.

USDA Zones 5-9.


Image Courtesy of Great Plant Picks

White Wood Aster1 U Mass

Recommended Alternative: White Wood Aster

Aster divaricatus

Profuse blooming makes this plant delicately showy. 

• White, daisy-like flowers are smaller than oxeye daisy and measure 1 inch across.
• The bloom time is later than oxeye daisy, from July through September.
• Wiry, blackish stems contrast beautifully with white flowers and green foliage.
• The leaves are heart shaped and coarsely toothed.
• It tolerates some shade and may need summer water.

USDA Zones 3-8.


Image Courtesy of Randall G. Prostak, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 

Coreopsis 1

Recommended Alternative: Moonbeam Thread-leaved Tickseed

Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’

This plant is similar to oxeye daisy but with glowing, pale yellow blooms.

• Its flowers attract bees and butterflies.
• Tickseed blooms from summer into fall.
• The foliage is green and filament-like creating a fine texture in the landscape.
• A low maintenance, drought-tolerant plant, tickseed is excellent in the garden or as a container plant.
• Tickseed grows quickly and should be divided every two years or replanted.

USDA Zones 3-10.


Image Courtesy of Chris Bligh, Shoots and Roots nursery

Alternatives to Clary Sage, Meadow Clary, & Mediterranean Sage

Clary Sageadjusted

INVASIVE: Clary Sage, Meadow Clary, & Mediterranean Sage

Salvia sclarea, S. pratensis, and S aethiopis

Class A & B Washington State Noxious Weeds

The bi-colored pink and cream, solid blue-violet and white flowers of these sages make them attractive additions to the garden. While there are many equally, if not more attractive and well-behaved sages for the flower, herb, and medicinal garden, these three species are particularly problematic in Washington. They invade pastures, rangeland, and natural meadows where they reduce forage quality and displace native plants. Mediterranean sage can also compete with some crops.

More choices:  Gray ball sage (Salvia dorrii), and sticky Jerusalem sage (Phlomis russeliana).

Learn more here:

Clary Sage

Meadow Clary

Mediterranean Sage

Silver Sage1 Valkenburg

Recommended Alternative: Silver Sage

Salvia argentea

Striking, silvery and fuzzy foliage adds texture and contrast to the garden.

• Flowers are white to pale pink and are borne on candelabra like branching stems.
• This plant reaches 3 feet in height and has a clumping habit that is similar to invasive sages.
• It behaves as a biennial or short-lived perennial.
• Silver sage prefers full sun and good drainage with some summer water.

USDA Zones 3-8.


Image Courtesy of Lenne Valkenburg

Perov Atr Alice B Russell

Recommended Alternative: Russian Sage

Perovskia atriplicifolia

Russian sage is a long-blooming perennial for a sunny, dry site.

• Twelve-inch spires of tubular, purple flowers add a splash of color in late summer.
• Like the invasive sages, Russian sage is a drought-tolerant plant that does well in poor soils.
• This plant adds a strong vertical element to the garden with its silvery stem and foliage.

USDA Zones 5-10.


Image Courtesy of Alice B. Russell, North Carolina State University

Woodland Sage  Ann Chapman2

Recommended Alternative: Meadow & Woodland Sages

Salvia nemorosa cultivars and S. x sylvestris

Both of these sages are similar in appearance to invasive sages.

• Flowers are showy, held in spikes above the foliage, and are good for cutting.
• Deadheading will prolong blooming into autumn.
• The foliage of meadow sage is rugose, dull green, broad-leaved and held in a clump.
• The foliage of woodland sage is similar in shape but is green to gray-green.
• Height for both sages range from 1-3 feet.

USDA Zones 4-8.


Image Courtesy of Ann Chapman

Full List of Recommended Herbaceous Alternatives

Molly The Witch1

The following is a list of recommended herbaceous plants for Eastern Washington. You can find more suggestions of non-invasive plants from your local nursery, WSU Master Gardeners, and at www.GreatPlantPicks.org.

  • Miss Willmott Pincushion Flower & Other White Cultivars, Scabiosa caucasia ‘Miss Willmott’
  • Pearl Yarrow, Achillea ptarmica ‘The Pearl’
  • Pink Cloud Wandflower & Other Cultivars, Gaura lindheimeri ‘Pink Cloud’
  • Snow Buckwheat, Eriogonum niveum
  • Giant Yellow Star Scabious, Cephalaria gigantea
  • Blanket Flower, Gaillardia aristata
  • Goldsturm Coneflower, Black-Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’
  • Large Flowered Tickseed, Coreopsis grandiflora
  • False Solomon’s Seal, Smilacina racemosa
  • Goat’s Beard, Aruncus dioicus
  • Plume Poppy, Macleaya cordata
  • Plume Poppy, Macleaya microcarpa
  • Rosy Twisted Stalk, Streptopus roseus
  • Globe Thistle, Echinops ritro or Echinops ‘Taplow Blue’
  • Jerusalem Sage, Phlomis tuberosa
  • Purple Dome New England Aster, Aster novi-belgii ‘Purple Dome’
  • Prince Calico Aster, Aster lateriflorus ‘Prince’
  • Alma Potschke New England aster, Aster Novae-angliae ‘Alma Potschke’
  • Monch Frikarti Aster, Aster x frikartii ‘Monch'
  • Sea Holly, Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’ and other cultivars
  • Sun Rose, Helianthemum spp. and cultivars
  • Cape Blanco or Purple Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’, ‘Purpureum’
  • Evergreen Spurge, Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii and cultivars
  • Sulfur Flower, Eriogonum umbellatum
  • Kinnikinnick, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
  • Lance-leaved Stonecrop, Sedum lanceolatum
  • Becky Shasta Daisy, Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’
  • White Wood Aster, Aster divaricatus
  • Moonbeam Thread-leaved Tickseed, Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’
  • Angelita Daisy, Hymenoxys acaulis
  • Silver Sage, Salvia argentea
  • Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia
  • Meadow & Woodland Sages, Salvia nemorosa cultivars and S. x sylvestris
  • Autumn Blush Tickseed, Coreopsis 'Autumn Blush'
  • Dwarf Daylily Cultivars, e.g. Hemerocallis 'Stella D' Oro'
  • Gateway Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium maculatum 'Gateway'
  • Hardy Cyclamen, Cyclamen hederifolium
  • Jack Frost Bugloss, Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'
  • Japanese Silver Grass, Miscanthus sinensis cultivars
  • Kent Beauty Oregano, Oregano rotundifolium 'Kent Beauty'
  • "Molly the Witch" Peony, Paeonia mlokosewitchii
  • Prairie Coneflower, Echinacea hybrids
  • Purple Wood Spurge, Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Purpurea'
  • Rozanne + Pink Penny Hardy Geraniums, Geranium 'Rozanne' and 'Pink Penny'
  • Autumn Joy Sedum, Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy'
  • Purple Emperor, Sedum 'Purple Emperor'