Q: I bought a plant labeled ‘Chameleon’ houttuynia, labeled as a colorful perennial. I have another plant simply identified as ‘Chameleon’ which is pretty in the spring and summer but becomes raggedy in the winter. The plant I have had for some time leaves a very unpleasant odor on your hands. Is the plant I just bought the same plant as the first?
A: I feel sure they are the same, Houttuynia cordata, but I’m not sure you should keep them. Chameleon plant is very invasive in most garden spots, particularly those that are shady and moist. It will smother anything planted nearby.
I had some in a daylily bed a few years ago. I finally had to dig up every daylily, wash the soil from the roots and replant them in another spot. I sprayed the chameleon plants with glyphosate (Roundup, etc) but had to likewise deal with new sprouts every three weeks for three months.
I often see chameleon plant for sale in garden centers. I shudder when I pass the pots, warn customers of their aggressive ways and consider surreptitiously spraying them with herbicide before another gardener meets the fate I did.