Unlucky Plants – Plant Lore and Garden Myths

quince blossom, Cydonia oblongata, fruit tree, grow your own


Unlucky plants may be considered unlucky for a variety of reasons.

Folklore and superstition sometimes have a practical or horticultural basis.

But some of the superstitions seem rather more obscure, without any obvious reason for existing. We take a look at a few unlucky plants below.


Unlucky Plants – Herbaceous Perennials and Small Perennials

Ajuga reptans

Ajuga reptans or bugle, also known as and baby’s rattle, carpenters herb. A ground cover plant it will thrive in either sun or shade. Ajuga has pretty blue flowers in spring or summer.

One of the folk tales surrounding bugle is that taking these flowers into the house may cause a fire. This seems to be a south German superstition.

ajuga reptans, bugle, herbaceous perennial, ground cover, blue flower

This is a weird one. I can understand a cigarette stubbed out into a plant pot with soil causing a fire. There could be plenty of flammable materials in potting soil, for example, peat and vermiculite.



It is considered unlucky to bring dandelions into the house, as you will wet your bed if you do! Not surprising if you ate too many of the dandelion leaves; it’s a diuretic.

dandelion flower in lawn

Despite that, the dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is an extremely useful medicinal and culinary herb, an edible weed.


Unlucky Plants – Trees and Shrubs


Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, I have looked at in a previous blog about Friday 13th. It is sometimes said that bringing May blossom, ie Hawthorn blossom, was linked to the pagan White Goddess, so it was forbidden by the Christian church, and therefore the superstition arose. I’m not totally convinced with this, as ‘bringing in the May’ celebrations have occurred for centuries and involve Hawthorn.

hawthorn blossom close up

It’s always struck me as being a plant more useful than many, so I’ve never quite understood why it should be thought of as unlucky.


Buxus, Box

Buxus is a broad leaved evergreen. Common Box, Buxus sempervirens, is a native British hardwood species. Not a common tree, probably the best know wild population can be found at Box Hill in Surrey. Boxwood is very hard, dense and heavy, much prized for musical instruments.box, carex, gravel garden, patchwork gardens, york quilt museum, buxus sempervirens, ornamental grasses

Although sometime thrown in to graves at funerals, this isn’t why I’ve included it. I have a warning. If you should ever be thrown overboard along; avoid holding onto box to keep you afloat. It is so dense that it is one of the few woods which will sink not float.


Unlucky Plants – Flowers

Fruit tree blossom

It was considered unlucky to take fruit blossom, ie the blossom from any fruit tree, in to the house. Now this is one of those practical based superstitions. Why?

Unless a tree has borne blossoms in the spring you will vainly look for fruit in the autumn.
Charles Hare

apple orchard in blossom Brogdale

So by bringing into the house boughs of fruit tree blossom, you were reducing the harvest later in the year. That may not sound like much now, but it could literally be the difference between enough food to survive the winter – or not.


White flowers

White flowers in general are frequently considered unlucky plants. The common thread seems to be that they bring death.

white Lily 'eyeliner', purple penstemon, planting flower border

Of course, this may be that they are frequently used as funereal tributes. In other words, the superstition may derive from their use rather than the other way round.


Unlucky Plants – beyond Friday 13th

Plant lore and plant symbolism are fascinating in themselves. But I also find them interesting to use in garden designs. Sometimes they only get as far as the initial ideas, but that’s all part of the creative process. I am always aware when clients have young children, pets, allergies that the plants won’t be harmful. And discussing their feelings on some unlucky plants is important too; they need to feel comfortable with their garden.

Choosing plants that have meaning for the clients or that relate to them is a fun element of a planting design. And I enjoy the expressions when they realise certain plants have been included or planted in a particular way. It makes a garden individual – just like people.


Related Gardening Blogs you may enjoy

Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Symbolism of Plants
Why is Friday 13th unlucky? Plant Lore and Garden Myths
Box Hedging – Planting Design Ideas
The Gardening Year – Quotes and Thoughts from the Garden
Edible Weeds

Ruta graveolens, Rue, herb of grace, illustration, Flora von Deutschland, Wikimedia commons

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