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Monday, May 21, 2012

Beware of this "Chameleon" plant

Houttuynia cordata, also known as Chameleon plant, Bishop's Weed and Lizard Tail is said to have medicinal uses and widely used in cooking in it's native Asia. But here in my garden on Long Island, it's invasive and from what research I've done, its not going to be easy to get rid of.


At first, I was excited to have such a lovely groundcover. In one area of my garden, the previous owners had even planted a variegated leaf variety of the plant, which is really quite attractive. But then I noticed how it continued to spread and grow upright (nearly 15 inches tall against the stone wall). It's choking out my hostas now, competing for space and light.


It spreads by rhizomes and unless every bit of that rhizome is removed, the plant will continue to sprout. The leaves and stems have a strong odor when crushed, a bit like really strong cilantro (in my opinion). So even when I tried to remove some of it, the smell remained on my hands and gloves for hours afterwards!

Doing some research online, most people who have tried to remove it have had little success. And those that were successful, admitted it took over 2 years to get rid of it completely and a lot of RoundUp. Some suggest smothering it with a tarp. Others say to mow it down and then apply the RoundUp. Ugh.

So it was to my utter surprise when I saw it for sale in the Garden Center a few weeks ago. A woman was looking at it and about to put it into her cart when I felt compelled to warn her on it's invasiveness. She was grateful for the information and quickly put it back on the rack. This plant likes low light and high moisture conditions - great for a bog, wet slope or naturalistic pond area. Another option would be to keep it in a container. Sadly, I have inherited this plant when we bought the house. I may not get to it this year, but removing it will certainly be on the agenda for next year. Have you ever seen this plant? Do you have it and have you tried to get rid of it? I'd love to hear from you.

6 comments:

  1. I hate this plant. Ugh. It came with the house we've been in for 9 years. It's was just in a small area of the front yard where it was separated from anything else by a walkway and driveway. But of course it has skipped over the cement and it popping up everywhere. And now it's even in the backyard. I've sprayed it twice with Round Up twice with no results. At least I know what it's called now, but very distraught that I may never get rid of it, esp. without harming good plants at the same time. Boooooo.

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    1. Yeah, it's a real nasty one. I just saw some new sprouts yesterday. boo. Good luck to you!

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  2. Thank you for the post. Let's continue our methods and see what works!!! We just moved into a house in the Chicago suburbs and inherited this ground cover also. I hate the smell when I do try and dig it up. Sounds like a pitchfork and digging will keep it at bay, but not remove. The previous owners had covered with landscaping fabric and then plastic. Did not help, since it is still going strong. I removed the fabric and plastic - a lot easier to dig up and remove. The smell almost makes me sick, so not sure how I will get motivated to dig it up. WE can do it! Correcting past mistakes is always a challenge! But, it can be done!

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  3. Any other thoughts on this subject? I've already destroyed half my perennial garden by spraying this monster plant with Roundup. This will be my 2nd year trying to kill it; made the mistake of trying to dig it up one year. Get it in the very early spring as soon as it sprouts.

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    1. It's horrible. I still have it popping up. Like you said, I try to get it early when the sprouts are up and roots are small. It's much less, but I still see it around. Good luck!

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  4. This stuff is relentless! I too inherited it with my house 17 years ago. For 17 years I have been trying to get rid of it without any luck. I have had it covered under black tarps, mulch etc for years and it still grows! The roots are long and you can never dig down far enough to get it all. It is in the front of my house along the foundation and it just goes nuts and chokes out all the other plants in there. I am going to try vinegar this year. Done the roundup thing, pulling, cutting, gasoline, etc. I hate the smell it gives off when you rip it up. If anyone finds a permanent solution to get rid of this horrible plant, let me know, growing season 18 is already in full swing...

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