Tree and Shrub 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!

Butterfly Bush


Scotch Broom


Full List of Recommended Tree and Shrub Alternatives



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Alternatives to Butterfly Bush

Butterflyflowers Twm Cmyk

INVASIVE: Butterfly Bush

Buddleja davidii

Class B Washington State Noxious Weed

With its showy purple flowers and ability to thrive under a variety of conditions, butterfly bush has become a popular garden ornamental in North America. However, it has escaped cultivation and invaded roadsides, logged clearings, and other disturbed areas where it can form dense thickets. In the Pacific Northwest, it is problematic along rivers and streams, where it traps sediment. It does not seem to be a host plant for many butterfly larvae, but it can displace native willow species upon which many of our native butterfly larvae feed.  

More choices:  Red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera), variegated red-twig dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’), and black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa).

Learn more here:

Butterfly Bush

Indigo Bush Van Den Bon

Recommended Alternative: Heteranthrea Indigo Bush

Indigofera heterantha

This shrub replicates the screening function of butterfly bush. 

• It has purple pink, pea-like flowers held in numerous erect racemes about 6 inches long.
• It is not noted to attract butterflies, but flowers are reminiscent of butterfly bush.
• The bloom time is from early summer into autumn.
• Its foliage has the same green-gray tones as butterfly bush but leaves are pinnate.
• This spreading shrub has arching branches that can reach 10 feet in height.

USDA Zones 6-9.


Image Courtesy of Antonie Van Den Bos,

Bush Clover

Recommended Alternative: Bush Clover

Lespedeza thunbergii

This shrub makes a great screening plant.

• Its profuse blooms and bloom time makes it a good substitute for butterfly bush.
• The flowers are bright violet, although they are not fragrant. 
• The foliage has a similar green-gray hue, but the leaves are compound.
• Arching branches reach a height of 6 feet and a width of 10 feet, making it a good low-screening plant.

USDA Zones 5-8.


Image Courtesy of Janet Rowley

Twinberry Antieau

Recommended Alternative: Black Twinberry

Lonicera involucrata

Black twinberry is an attractive, easy-to-grow, deciduous screen. 

• The flowers are tubular, light yellow, and held in pairs in leaf axils.
• It blooms from April to June, much earlier than butterfly bush.
• Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees are attracted to it.
• The leaves are bright green and lance-shaped.
• Similar to the habit of butterfly bush, twinberry attains a vase shape over time.
• It tolerates a range of cultural conditions, but prefers moist soil.

USDA Zones 6-8.


Image Courtesy of Janet Rowley

Alternatives to Saltcedar

Saltcedar Flowers

INVASIVE: Saltcedar

Tamarix ramosissima

Class B Washington State Noxious Weed

Saltcedar was once highly prized as an ornamental shrub due to its high drought tolerance and its pink or white, feathery, flower clusters. Unfortunately, its rapid colonization of riparian habitat throughout the Southwest and its detrimental ecological impacts have made it one of the worst invasive woody species in the west. It displaces native riparian trees and plants that provide superior habitat and food resources. Additionally, saltcedar makes the soil salty which inhibits germination of native plants. Its deep tap roots and heavy water consumption cause moist areas to dry up. It is especially problematic along the eastern Washington waterways.  

More choices:  Lewis’ mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii), which is native to WA, and its cultivars.

Learn more here:


Smoke Tree Nylund Enhanced 2

Recommended Alternative: Smoke Bush

Cotinus coggygria & its cultivar ‘Royal Purple’

Smoke bush has the same misty purplish pom-poms that make salt cedar attractive.

  • Smoke bush has dramatic clouds of small, wispy flowers.
  • ‘Royal Purple’ cultivar has rich, brownish-purple foliage.
  • It is easy to grow and fast growing. 
  • It can reach 12-15 feet high and can easily be trimmed into a shrub or small tree.
  • Smoke bush is considered a fire-safe plant.
  • It prefers sun to part shade and well drained soil.

USDA Zones 5-8.


Image Courtesy of Alma Nylund

Redbud1 300

Recommended Alternative: Eastern Redbud

Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud provides a beautiful springtime presentation.

• Creamy pink, pea-like flowers cover the tree before foliage emerges in early spring.
• It offers pink blooms like saltcedar but they have a different shape and time of bloom.
• The leaves are heart-shaped and turn bright yellow in autumn.
• It can reach 20-25 feet tall at maturity.
• It prefers similar conditions to saltcedar.

USDA Zones 4-9.


Image courtesy of Pat Breen, Oregon State University

European Elderberry Legler

Recommended Alternative: European Elderberry

Sambucus nigra & cultivars

The foliage of this shrub is lacier and more ornamental than saltcedar.

• Its flowers are white, compound, and held profusely in flattened heads.
• The foliage is different from saltcedar, as the leaves are pinnate and either mid-green, yellow, or purple-tinged, depending on the cultivar.
• It has an upright form in youth and a spreading habit, maturing much like saltcedar.
• This shrub can attain a height and width of 20 feet.

USDA Zones 4-7.


Image Courtesy of Janet Rowley

Alternatives to Scotch Broom

Scotch Broom Infestation

INVASIVE: Scotch Broom

Cytisus scoparia

Class B Washington State Noxious Weed

To some people, the long stretches of yellow-flowering Scotch broom along highways and roads in Washington are a sign of summer. For even more people, Scotch broom is an eyesore and a reminder of what happens when plants, once valuable for ornament or erosion-control, become invasive and are allowed to spread. Scotch broom adds nitrogen to the soil, allowing other non-native species to colonize areas where once only native plants, adapted to nutrient-poor soils, could thrive. It also provides fuel for wildfires.

More choices:  Golden pea (Thermopsis montana),  and western serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), both of which are WA natives.

Learn more here:

Scotch Broom

Golden Currant

Recommended Alternative: Golden Currant

Ribes aureum

This native shrub provides a splash of yellow in the spring and supports pollinators.

• Its fragrant, yellow flowers bloom in small clusters and attract early season bees and hummingbirds.
• Golden currant blooms around the same time, and grows almost as tall, as Scotch broom.
• The deciduous, 3-lobed leaves are around 2 inches long.
• Its orange, red, or burgundy-colored berries are edible, but may be more tasty to birds than gardeners.
• This plant grows in a variety of light and moisture conditions.

USDA Zones 3-9.


Image Courtesy of Ben Legler

Victorgardener Kerria

Recommended Alternative: Golden Guinea Kerria

Kerria japonica ‘Golden Guinea’

Bright green stems and yellow flowers are reminiscent of the brooms.
• The yellow flowers are not as showy as the brooms and bloom earlier in the season.
• Its scale is similar to that of Scotch broom.
• ‘Golden Guinea’ will reach 6 feet in height and is good as a backdrop screening.
• It can reach a width of 8 feet and may also spread by suckering.

USDA Zones 4-9.


Image Courtesy of Victor S. Carrano 

Forsythia2 Breen

Recommended Alternative: Karl Sax or Lynnwood Forsythia

Forsythia x intermedia ‘Karl Sax’ or ‘Lynnwood’

This plant blooms in such profusion it seems ablaze in yellow.

• The glory of this shrub is in the bloom which rivals any broom.
• It blooms earlier than Scotch broom.
• The foliage is medium-green, lanceolate, and up to 3 inches long.
• Larger in scale than Scotch broom, it reaches 12-15 feet in height without regular pruning.

USDA Zones 5-8.


Image Courtesy of Pat Breen, Oregon State University

Alternatives to Tree-of-Heaven

Tree Of Heaven1 Richard Old

INVASIVE: Tree-of-Heaven

Ailanthus altissima

Class C Washington State Noxious Weed

Native to China, this tree was sold through nurseries in the 1840s and was also introduced into California during the Gold Rush. Its fast growth rate and ability to thrive in disturbed areas made it a popular ornamental for parks and home landscaping. These same characteristics, and its prolific seed production, has caused tree-of-heaven to become an invasive in much of the U.S. including the Pacific Northwest. Its fast-growing seedlings appear in fields and in yards as well as along roadsides and forest edges. Additionally, it displaces native vegetation and may be a weed in cropland. 

Learn more here:


American Ash Breen

Recommended Alternative: Autumn Applause Ash

Fraxinus americana ‘Autumn Applause’

This tree offers similar foliage texture to that of tree-of-heaven and outstanding fall color. 

• Its foliage is compound, like that of tree-of-heaven, and has a somewhat fine texture.
• Dark green leaves turn purple to mahogany in fall.
• ‘Autumn Applause’ is smaller and can reach a height of 40-45 feet in 30 years.
• This tree may require summer watering until well established.

USDA Zones 4-7.


Image Courtesy of Pat Breen, Oregon State University

Sumac Osu

Recommended Alternative: Smooth or Staghorn Sumac

Rhus glabra & R. typhina ‘Lacinata’

Similar in appearance but smaller in stature, sumac is better suited for residential plantings. 

• Greenish-yellow flower panicles in June-July become spires of crimson berries in winter.
• Bright green summer foliage turns dramatic colors in fall.
• Like tree-of-heaven, it spreads through root suckers and will form colonies.
• ‘Lacinata’ cultivar has more delicate, lacey leaves and does not spread as fast.
• Smooth sumac is native and better near riparian areas where it could spread quickly.

USDA Zones 4-9.


Image Courtesy of Pat Breen, Oregon State University

Raywood Ash2

Recommended Alternative: Raywood Ash

Fraxinus angustifolia ‘Raywood’

The leaves are similar in form to tree-of-heaven but more delicate in texture. 

• Its compound, dark green leaves color beautifully in fall, varying from claret to smoky purple.
• It has an upright habit in youth but spreads to achieve an oval crown at maturity.
• This tree can reach 40-50 feet tall with a spread of 30-40 feet.
• Raywood ash prefers sun, well-drained soil and may need summer water until established.

USDA Zones 5-8.


Image Courtesy of Pat Breen, Oregon State University

Full List of Recommended Aquatic and Wetland Alternatives

Weeping Katsura

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

  • Heteranthrea Indigo Bush, Indigofera heterantha
  • Bush Clover, Lespedeza thunbergii
  • Black Twinberry, Lonicera involucrata
  • Red-osier Dogwood, Cornus stolonifera
  • Variegated Red-twig Dogwood, Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima'
  • Black Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa
  • Smoke Bush, Cotinus coggygria & its cultivar ‘Royal Purple’
  • Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis
  • European Elderberry, Sambucus nigra & cultivars
  • Lewis’ Mock Orange, Philadelphus lewisii
  • Dyer’s Greenweed, Genista tinctoria & its cultivar ‘Royal Gold’
  • Golden Guinea Kerria, Kerria japonica ‘Golden Guinea’
  • Karl Sax or Lynnwood Forsythia, Forsythia x intermedia ‘Karl Sax’ or ‘Lynnwood’
  • Golden pea, Thermopsis montana
  • Western Serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia
  • Apple Serviceberry, Amelanchier x grandiflora and cultivars
  • Autumn Applause Ash, Fraxinus americana ‘Autumn Applause’
  • Smooth or Staghorn Sumac, Rhus glabra & R. typhina ‘Lacinata’
  • Raywood Ash, Fraxinus angustifolia ‘Raywood’
  • Blue Weeping Atlas Cedar, Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula'
  • Double File Viburnum, Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum 'Mariesii'
  • Annabelle Hydrangea, Hydrangea abrorescens 'Annabelle'
  • Endless Summer Hydrangea, Hydrangea 'Endless Summer'
  • Oak Leaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia
  • PJM Hybrid Rhododendron, Rhododendron 'PJM'
  • Purple St. Johnswort, Hypericum androsamum 'Albury Purple'
  • Rose-of-Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus
  • Spirea, Spirea cultivars
  • Summer Ice Daphne, Daphne x transatlantica 'Summer Ice'
  • Sutherland Gold Red Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland Gold'
  • Weeping Katsura, Ceridiphyllum japonicum 'Morioka Weeping'