Frequently Asked Questions

Commonly asked questions about PlantRight, about invasive plants, and about our programs are found below. Use the table of contents to jump directly to a topic. If you still have questions, please contact us.

Jump to a topic:

General FAQ

  1. What is PlantRight?

    PlantRight is a voluntary campaign to help California’s horticultural industry address the costly problem of invasive garden plants in the trade — in ways that are good for business and the environment. PlantRight provides free, science-based training and resources about invasive garden plant issues and opportunities. PlantRight is guided by a steering committee called California Horticultural Invasives Prevention (Cal-HIP).

  2. What is the history of PlantRight?

    PlantRight was established in 2005 by the non-profit organization Sustainable Conservation in conjunction with an alliance of leaders from the horticulture industry, environmental groups, scientists, academics and government agencies. This group, known as California Horticultural Invasives Prevention (Cal-HIP), acts as a steering committee for the project and convenes on a quarterly basis to address the costly and serious issue of invasive plants being sold by nurseries and garden centers in our state. Since its inception, PlantRight has collaborated with leaders in the California horticultural industry to reduce the negative environmental and economic impacts of invasive plants via voluntary, cost-effective methods.

  3. How is PlantRight funded?

    PlantRight is funded by foundation grants and out of California-based non-profit, Sustainable Conservation’s annual operating budget.

  4. What makes PlantRight an expert on invasive plant issues in California?

    PlantRight was designed by a broad alliance of leaders from the horticulture industry, environmental groups, scientists, academics and government agencies. This group, known as California Horticultural Invasives Prevention (Cal-HIP), acts as a steering committee for the project and convenes on a quarterly basis to advance its mission. Comprised of credentialed scientists and experienced horticulturalists, PlantRight’s multi-stakeholder steering committee provides high-level expertise on a wide range of invasive plant issues.

    PlantRight’s model is also widely regarded as a solution that could be effectively applied beyond California’s borders. More specifically, PlantRight has been recognized:

    • In a report by the National Invasive Species Council to the U.S. Department of the Interior, as a promising framework to prevent the sale and spread of invasives.
    • By a governor-appointed taskforce in Arizona as a beneficial approach for the state.
    • By environmental groups and horticulture businesses in Utah, Texas, Michigan, Washington, and Florida interested in forging similar partnerships.
  5. What is PlantRight doing to stop the spread of invasive plants aside from its Continuing Education program and partner program with retail stores?

    In addition to providing educational content about invasive plants in California and partnering with retail nurseries, we are tackling the issue of invasives head on by:

    • Developing a Plant Risk Evaluator (PRE) with plant scientists at the University of California, Davis. This tool will help propagators and growers identify the invasive risk of new plants and cultivars before they are brought to market;
    • Developing educational content to increase awareness about invasive plants among nursery professionals, landscaping associations and gardening communities; and
    • Giving presentations and attending both tradeshows and conferences to spread awareness about invasive horticultural plants and promote opportunities for action.
  6. What is Cal-HIP?

    Cal-HIP stands for California Horticultural Invasives Prevention, the multi-stakeholder group that guides the PlantRight campaign. Learn more about the Cal-HIP steering committee here.

  7. Who manages Cal-HIP?

    Cal-HIP relies on the time, energy, and expertise of all the steering committee members. Staff from the San Francisco-based non-profit group Sustainable Conservation, facilitates and manages the group.

  8. Is this a voluntary program?

    Absolutely. Cal-HIP is a collaborative, voluntary group that involves the horticultural industry in every decision. Recommendations are based on scientific information, and Cal-HIP has a transparent and inclusive process for addressing this important issue. We invite everyone to join us in the dialogue about providing invasive garden plant solutions.

  9. What is an invasive plant?

    The term “invasive plant” describes an introduced species that out-competes native plants and animals for space and resources – and is often difficult to remove or control. Learn more about what invasive plants are and their effects.

  10. Are all non-native plants bad?

    No! There are countless beautiful non-native plants that are not invasive. In fact, most of the species we use in our gardens and landscaping are originally from other places, and you will find many of them in our lists of recommended alternatives to invasive plants. If you are interested in learning more about native plant options, please contact our partner organization, the California Native Plant Society.

  11. Why are invasive plants a problem?

    A few vigorous horticultural plants can escape from cultivation into open landscapes and cause a variety of ecological problems. They crowd out native plants, insects and animals, and can lead to flooding, fire and crop losses. Invasive species are a leading threat to biodiversity, second only to habitat destruction. Invasive plants are expensive, too – in California, more than $82 million goes to fighting invasive plants every year. Read more about the effect of invasive plants.

  12. How do invasive plants get into natural areas?

    California’s wildlands are new territory for these plants, and they don’t have the predators that normally limit their growth in their home environment. This allows them to proliferate, spread, and overtake natural habitat. Each invasive plant has its own strategy for growth and dispersal. Some have seeds that are spread by the wind, like pampas grass, whose seeds can be blown up to two miles away. Others have seeds that are carried by water or eaten by birds and animals that deposit them far from the parent plant. There are also species that reproduce vegetatively, like Vinca major that sprouts new shoots rhizomatically (including recently uprooted plants — take care when disposing of these so they don’t take root in a new location!).

  13. Are there alternatives to invasive species?

    Yes! There are many excellent plant species that can replace an invasive species in a garden or landscape. Learning about invasives is an invitation to be creative and promote new plants to customers. This website lists recommended alternatives to the invaders in your region that are beautiful, vigorous, and appropriate for the local climate.

  14. Are PlantRight’s “Recommended Alternatives” the only ones worth considering?

    Not at all. There are so many non-invasive, ornamental plants available today that a definitive list of viable alternatives would be exhaustive. PlantRight makes its recommendations by carefully selecting comparable, non-invasive plants that closely match the desirable traits of a targeted invasive, but you may prefer to use other non-invasive varieties instead. If you have a suggestion for our recommended alternatives list, let us know!

  15. How was PlantRight's list of invasive plants created?

    PlantRight’s regionally specific list is the result of a collaborative and science-based effort that reflects the expertise of leading horticultural professionals, plant scientists, and government representatives in California. Several of these representatives sit on PlantRight’s Plant List Committee, whose members are listed here.
    We first created our list in 2006 by paring down the California Invasive Plant Council’s (Cal-IPC) list to include only those invasive plants still used in California’s nursery trade. We then applied various criteria to decide whether to add the resulting plants to PlantRight’s list, including the plant’s geographic range, potential environmental impact, and financial significance to the nursery trade. The resulting list of plants represents the garden invasives whose removal from nursery inventories could be offset by readily available alternatives and whose negative impacts could be scientifically substantiated.

  16. Does PlantRight's list ever change?

    Yes. Starting in 2014, PlantRight began updating its list on an annual basis, taking an increasingly science-based and preventative approach. By employing our Plant Risk Evaluation tool, for instance, we can determine the invasive risk of a plant – whether or not it is a well-established problem in California, on its way to becoming so, or not a concern.

    PlantRight’s list changes when new invasive plants are identified through research or field experience, and when existing invasive plants are phased out of the horticultural trade.

  17. Is PlantRight adding new or emerging invasive plants to its list?

    Yes. By utilizing the Plant Risk Evaluation (PRE) tool, developed with plant scientists at University of Washington and University of California at Davis,we can identify plants that are at high-risk of becoming invasive and are considered new or “emerging” invasives. Emerging invasives are those beginning to invade a small, yet growing number of geographic regions of the state. By identifying emerging invasives we are able to prevent further spread of these problem plants, saving time, money and resources (and reputations!) that would otherwise be spent on eradication efforts that are less efficient, more costly and often more toxic.

  18. How is PlantRight’s list different from the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) list?

    The Cal-IPC list includes all types of invasive plants that are found in our state, while PlantRight’s list only represents those that are still planted as ornamentals for use in gardens and landscaping.

  19. What if PlantRight’s list doesn’t include ornamental plants that are invasive in my region?

    PlantRight’s list was created as a starting point for effectively engaging California’s nursery industry on the issue of invasive plants. As a result, it does not encompass all horticultural invasive plants, in all parts of the state. If you know of a plant that is invasive in your region and it is not listed by PlantRight, we encourage your store to sell a non-invasive alternative instead that is more appropriate for your local climate.

  20. What if I have an invasive plant already growing in my yard?

    We encourage you to remove the invasive plant, especially if you are near natural areas. It is easy to find beautiful, non-invasive alternative plants at your local garden center or get some ideas here. To learn more about how to remove problem plants, the California Invasive Plant Council has information on removal techniques and conducts wildland weed workshops. We’d love to hear about your invasive plant removal and replacement project — please send photos or comments so we can encourage others to do the same!

  21. There's an invasive plant I expected to see as part of the PlantRight program. Where can I find out more about it?

    The horticultural plants identified by PlantRight were carefully analyzed using objective, scientific criteria, including information on existing invasions and their effects on wildland areas. Some invasive species have unanswered questions – and before making recommendations about these plants, we are working with researchers and scientists to get solid information that can help guide our actions.

  22. Where can I learn more about the invasive plants on PlantRight’s list and recommended alternatives?

    A good place to begin is by reviewing PlantRight’s list of invasives online, which includes information about each targeted plant, as well as links to additional information and resources. If you have a specific question about the list, feel free to contact us.

  23. Who should get involved in PlantRight?

    Retailers, growers, propagators, landscape professionals and all home gardeners. Gardeners can have gorgeous, happy gardens AND protect the environment by Planting Right. Landscaping professionals, retail nurseries, and growers can boost business with eco-friendly practices and by “partnering” with PlantRight. Resource managers and weed  their lands by sharing the PlantRight program with their community. Everyone plays a role in protecting California’s local economies and open spaces from invasive garden plants!

Spring Nursery Survey FAQ

  1. What is PlantRight?

    PlantRight is a voluntary campaign to help California’s horticultural industry address the costly problem of invasive garden plants in the trade — in ways that are good for business and the environment. PlantRight provides free, science-based training and resources about invasive garden plant issues and opportunities. PlantRight is guided by a steering committee called California Horticultural Invasives Prevention (Cal-HIP).

  2. What is the history of PlantRight?

    PlantRight was established in 2005 by the non-profit organization Sustainable Conservation in conjunction with an alliance of leaders from the horticulture industry, environmental groups, scientists, academics and government agencies. This group, known as California Horticultural Invasives Prevention (Cal-HIP), acts as a steering committee for the project and convenes on a quarterly basis to address the costly and serious issue of invasive plants being sold by nurseries and garden centers in our state. Since its inception, PlantRight has collaborated with leaders in the California horticultural industry to reduce the negative environmental and economic impacts of invasive plants via voluntary, cost-effective methods.

  3. How is PlantRight funded?

    PlantRight is funded by foundation grants and out of California-based non-profit, Sustainable Conservation’s annual operating budget.

  4. What makes PlantRight an expert on invasive plant issues in California?

    PlantRight was designed by a broad alliance of leaders from the horticulture industry, environmental groups, scientists, academics and government agencies. This group, known as California Horticultural Invasives Prevention (Cal-HIP), acts as a steering committee for the project and convenes on a quarterly basis to advance its mission. Comprised of credentialed scientists and experienced horticulturalists, PlantRight’s multi-stakeholder steering committee provides high-level expertise on a wide range of invasive plant issues.

    PlantRight’s model is also widely regarded as a solution that could be effectively applied beyond California’s borders. More specifically, PlantRight has been recognized:

    • In a report by the National Invasive Species Council to the U.S. Department of the Interior, as a promising framework to prevent the sale and spread of invasives.
    • By a governor-appointed taskforce in Arizona as a beneficial approach for the state.
    • By environmental groups and horticulture businesses in Utah, Texas, Michigan, Washington, and Florida interested in forging similar partnerships.
  5. What is PlantRight doing to stop the spread of invasive plants aside from its Continuing Education program and partner program with retail stores?

    In addition to providing educational content about invasive plants in California and partnering with retail nurseries, we are tackling the issue of invasives head on by:

    • Developing a Plant Risk Evaluator (PRE) with plant scientists at the University of California, Davis. This tool will help propagators and growers identify the invasive risk of new plants and cultivars before they are brought to market;
    • Developing educational content to increase awareness about invasive plants among nursery professionals, landscaping associations and gardening communities; and
    • Giving presentations and attending both tradeshows and conferences to spread awareness about invasive horticultural plants and promote opportunities for action.
  6. What is Cal-HIP?

    Cal-HIP stands for California Horticultural Invasives Prevention, the multi-stakeholder group that guides the PlantRight campaign. Learn more about the Cal-HIP steering committee here.

  7. Who manages Cal-HIP?

    Cal-HIP relies on the time, energy, and expertise of all the steering committee members. Staff from the San Francisco-based non-profit group Sustainable Conservation, facilitates and manages the group.

  8. Is this a voluntary program?

    Absolutely. Cal-HIP is a collaborative, voluntary group that involves the horticultural industry in every decision. Recommendations are based on scientific information, and Cal-HIP has a transparent and inclusive process for addressing this important issue. We invite everyone to join us in the dialogue about providing invasive garden plant solutions.

  9. What is an invasive plant?

    The term “invasive plant” describes an introduced species that out-competes native plants and animals for space and resources – and is often difficult to remove or control. Learn more about what invasive plants are and their effects.

  10. Are all non-native plants bad?

    No! There are countless beautiful non-native plants that are not invasive. In fact, most of the species we use in our gardens and landscaping are originally from other places, and you will find many of them in our lists of recommended alternatives to invasive plants. If you are interested in learning more about native plant options, please contact our partner organization, the California Native Plant Society.

  11. Why are invasive plants a problem?

    A few vigorous horticultural plants can escape from cultivation into open landscapes and cause a variety of ecological problems. They crowd out native plants, insects and animals, and can lead to flooding, fire and crop losses. Invasive species are a leading threat to biodiversity, second only to habitat destruction. Invasive plants are expensive, too – in California, more than $82 million goes to fighting invasive plants every year. Read more about the effect of invasive plants.

  12. How do invasive plants get into natural areas?

    California’s wildlands are new territory for these plants, and they don’t have the predators that normally limit their growth in their home environment. This allows them to proliferate, spread, and overtake natural habitat. Each invasive plant has its own strategy for growth and dispersal. Some have seeds that are spread by the wind, like pampas grass, whose seeds can be blown up to two miles away. Others have seeds that are carried by water or eaten by birds and animals that deposit them far from the parent plant. There are also species that reproduce vegetatively, like Vinca major that sprouts new shoots rhizomatically (including recently uprooted plants — take care when disposing of these so they don’t take root in a new location!).

  13. Are there alternatives to invasive species?

    Yes! There are many excellent plant species that can replace an invasive species in a garden or landscape. Learning about invasives is an invitation to be creative and promote new plants to customers. This website lists recommended alternatives to the invaders in your region that are beautiful, vigorous, and appropriate for the local climate.

  14. Are PlantRight’s “Recommended Alternatives” the only ones worth considering?

    Not at all. There are so many non-invasive, ornamental plants available today that a definitive list of viable alternatives would be exhaustive. PlantRight makes its recommendations by carefully selecting comparable, non-invasive plants that closely match the desirable traits of a targeted invasive, but you may prefer to use other non-invasive varieties instead. If you have a suggestion for our recommended alternatives list, let us know!

  15. How was PlantRight's list of invasive plants created?

    PlantRight’s regionally specific list is the result of a collaborative and science-based effort that reflects the expertise of leading horticultural professionals, plant scientists, and government representatives in California. Several of these representatives sit on PlantRight’s Plant List Committee, whose members are listed here.
    We first created our list in 2006 by paring down the California Invasive Plant Council’s (Cal-IPC) list to include only those invasive plants still used in California’s nursery trade. We then applied various criteria to decide whether to add the resulting plants to PlantRight’s list, including the plant’s geographic range, potential environmental impact, and financial significance to the nursery trade. The resulting list of plants represents the garden invasives whose removal from nursery inventories could be offset by readily available alternatives and whose negative impacts could be scientifically substantiated.

  16. Does PlantRight's list ever change?

    Yes. Starting in 2014, PlantRight began updating its list on an annual basis, taking an increasingly science-based and preventative approach. By employing our Plant Risk Evaluation tool, for instance, we can determine the invasive risk of a plant – whether or not it is a well-established problem in California, on its way to becoming so, or not a concern.

    PlantRight’s list changes when new invasive plants are identified through research or field experience, and when existing invasive plants are phased out of the horticultural trade.

  17. Is PlantRight adding new or emerging invasive plants to its list?

    Yes. By utilizing the Plant Risk Evaluation (PRE) tool, developed with plant scientists at University of Washington and University of California at Davis,we can identify plants that are at high-risk of becoming invasive and are considered new or “emerging” invasives. Emerging invasives are those beginning to invade a small, yet growing number of geographic regions of the state. By identifying emerging invasives we are able to prevent further spread of these problem plants, saving time, money and resources (and reputations!) that would otherwise be spent on eradication efforts that are less efficient, more costly and often more toxic.

  18. How is PlantRight’s list different from the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) list?

    The Cal-IPC list includes all types of invasive plants that are found in our state, while PlantRight’s list only represents those that are still planted as ornamentals for use in gardens and landscaping.

  19. What if PlantRight’s list doesn’t include ornamental plants that are invasive in my region?

    PlantRight’s list was created as a starting point for effectively engaging California’s nursery industry on the issue of invasive plants. As a result, it does not encompass all horticultural invasive plants, in all parts of the state. If you know of a plant that is invasive in your region and it is not listed by PlantRight, we encourage your store to sell a non-invasive alternative instead that is more appropriate for your local climate.

  20. What if I have an invasive plant already growing in my yard?

    We encourage you to remove the invasive plant, especially if you are near natural areas. It is easy to find beautiful, non-invasive alternative plants at your local garden center or get some ideas here. To learn more about how to remove problem plants, the California Invasive Plant Council has information on removal techniques and conducts wildland weed workshops. We’d love to hear about your invasive plant removal and replacement project — please send photos or comments so we can encourage others to do the same!

  21. There's an invasive plant I expected to see as part of the PlantRight program. Where can I find out more about it?

    The horticultural plants identified by PlantRight were carefully analyzed using objective, scientific criteria, including information on existing invasions and their effects on wildland areas. Some invasive species have unanswered questions – and before making recommendations about these plants, we are working with researchers and scientists to get solid information that can help guide our actions.

  22. Where can I learn more about the invasive plants on PlantRight’s list and recommended alternatives?

    A good place to begin is by reviewing PlantRight’s list of invasives online, which includes information about each targeted plant, as well as links to additional information and resources. If you have a specific question about the list, feel free to contact us.

  23. Who should get involved in PlantRight?

    Retailers, growers, propagators, landscape professionals and all home gardeners. Gardeners can have gorgeous, happy gardens AND protect the environment by Planting Right. Landscaping professionals, retail nurseries, and growers can boost business with eco-friendly practices and by “partnering” with PlantRight. Resource managers and weed  their lands by sharing the PlantRight program with their community. Everyone plays a role in protecting California’s local economies and open spaces from invasive garden plants!

Retail Nursery Partner FAQ

  1. Why partner with PlantRight?

    You, and your business, recognize that it’s possible to “do right” by the environment without making sacrifices to your bottom line. Specifically, you believe it’s important to help your customers make more informed purchasing decisions when it comes to regionally appropriate and non-invasive plants. PlantRight’s research-based training and educational resources help your staff, customers and vendors stay informed about the serious impacts caused by invasive plants, and better equips us to make a difference, together.

  2. What if your store already does not carry the invasive plants identified by PlantRight?

    Congratulations on being in the forefront of the horticultural industry! Partnering with PlantRight further demonstrates to your staff, customers and community that your business cares about the environment and actively promotes more sustainable landscaping and gardening practices. By being officially recognized as a PlantRight partner, your business can garner even more positive goodwill, publicity, and customer loyalty.

  3. How much time will this partnership program require of stores and of their staff?

    Store owners or managers are asked to register their store and invite all staff who are involved in plant purchasing decisions to participate. This registration takes approximately ten minutes in total.

    The staff who complete the PlantRight 101 training and test should set aside 20-30 minutes.

  4. Who should participate in the PlantRight 101 training?

    This course is designed specifically with plant buyers and customer-facing sales staff in mind, but all store staff are welcome to participate. All plant buyers at a retail nursery are required to pass the test.

  5. What do PlantRight 101 graduates gain from this training?

    PlantRight 101 will help you understand the invasive plant issues and opportunities that affect our state and our industry. And the knowledge you gain will help you better support your customers’ desire to adopt more sustainable gardening practices.

  6. Is this training only offered online?

    At this time, yes, and Internet access is required. If this is an issue, contact us and we can evaluate if there are other options that will work for your business.

  7. How long does it take to complete?

    When budgeting your time, please set aside approximately 30-minutes to complete the PlantRight 101 training and test.

  8. What if someone fails the test?

    No problem. The study materials remain available and the test can be retaken as many times as it takes for a staff person to answer all ten questions correctly.

  9. How can I make a suggestion for improvement?

    We welcome feedback and would love to hear from you. Contact us anytime with suggestions.

  10. How can PlantRight afford to offer partnership benefits for free?

    PlantRight is a fully funded project of the California-based nonprofit, Sustainable Conservation. Benefits provided through this partnership program are funded through foundation grants and out of Sustainable Conservation’s annual operating budget.

  11. What if PlantRight updates its list to include a plant we are currently selling? How will PlantRight work with us in this situation?

    New plant species, changes in gardening trends, and expanding knowledge about invasive plants may lead us to update our list. In cases where a partner store is selling a specific plant when we add it to our list, that store will be given 90 days to phase the identified plant out of its inventory. This time can also be used to alert vendors and customers to the change. In addition, PlantRight will develop and distribute a list of more suitable, non-invasive plants to consider using instead.

    PlantRight plans to update its invasives list at times of the year that will minimize impacts on nurseries.

  12. What is the PlantRight Pledge, and how is it related to the partnership program?

    The PlantRight Pledge is a public commitment to not sell any plants listed as invasive on the PlantRight list and is a printable document. When displayed, the PlantRight Pledge is a small, yet important way to show that your store “walks the talk” when it comes to helping customers make more environmentally conscious and sustainable choices.

  13. What if our store sells sterile versions of an invasive plant?

    In keeping with our science-based approach, PlantRight is still researching the issue of sterility and has not taken an official stance or position on sterile varieties of invasive plants. That said, stores that partner with PlantRight are discouraged from selling sterile varieties of the invasive plants on our list because there is no standard for what constitutes a sterile plant – and some can still produce fertile offspring.

  14. What if our store sells cultivars of an invasive plant?

    Except for sterile cultivars and some cultivars (e.g. Vinca major ‘Variegata’), PlantRight considers all cultivars of invasive plants to be invasive as well. Stores that partner with PlantRight will be expected to avoid selling these plants.

Continuing Education FAQ

  1. Who should participate?

    This course is designed specifically with nursery and landscaping professionals, members of professional associations, gardening communities, and concerned citizen scientists in mind; however, any interested member of the public is welcome to participate.

  2. What do PlantRight 101 graduates gain from this training?

    PlantRight 101 will help you understand the invasive plant issues and opportunities that affect our state and our industry. The knowledge you gain will help you communicate with colleagues, clients, and retailers and garden centers in your community about this topic. After completing the Continuing Education Program, graduates are given the opportunity to become official PlantRight Ambassadors to help spread the word about our programs and encourage members of the industry to adopt more sustainable gardening practices.

  3. How long does it take to complete the training?

    When budgeting your time, please set aside approximately 30-minutes to complete the PlantRight 101 training and quiz.

  4. Is this training only offered online?

    At this time, yes, Internet access is required. If this is an issue, contact us and we can evaluate if there are other options that will work for your business.

  5. What if someone fails the quiz/test?

    No problem. The study materials remain available and the test can be retaken as many times as needed to answer all the questions correctly.

  6. How can PlantRight afford to offer its Continuing Education for free?

    PlantRight is a fully funded project of the California-based nonprofit, Sustainable Conservation. Benefits provided through this program are funded through foundation grants and out of Sustainable Conservation’s annual operating budget.

  7. How can I make a suggestion for improvement?

    We welcome feedback and would love to hear from you. Contact us anytime with suggestions.