Plant species that receive significant human introduction effort and assistance generally are the most problematic invaders. Despite this, invasive ornamental species in urban settings have received relatively little attention if not invading natural areas. Here we consider Centranthus ruber in an urban setting in South Africa as a case study and explore when emerging invaders are able to cross the urban–wildland interface and what hinders early eradication in urban environments. Centranthus ruber was introduced into Cape Town, South Africa, more than a century ago as a garden ornamental, but until recently was not considered invasive. We determine the current and potential future distribution in South Africa, evaluate current management activities, and provide recommendations for control and legislation. By August 2013, we had found 64 populations, of which 31 were casual, 27 naturalized, and 6 invasive. This increased to more than 530 identified populations by the end of 2015, due to both spread and increased awareness. Centranthus ruber can invade near-pristine areas, with one population found in natural vegetation in the Table Mountain National Park. However, with only one slowly spreading population, the threat might be limited. We found no difference in plant mortality between chemical and mechanical clearing, but with mechanical clearing stimulating the soil seedbank, we recommend chemical methods. Using a species distribution model, we found large parts of South Africa, including the southwestern Cape where we conducted our surveys, to be climatically suitable for this species. Consequently, the category 1b regional listing in NEM:BA in the Western Cape is justified, but a listing in other parts of the country also might be appropriate. Based on our findings, we suggest that the extirpation of C. ruber in South Africa is possible, but without buy-in from residents in urban environments, reinvasion will render this impossible. This study stresses the importance of managing and legislating emerging invaders at the urban–wildland interface and the monitoring of common ornamental species with invasive traits.