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The Plant Guide

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Chameleon plant

Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon'

hoo-TY-nee-ah kor-DAY-tah Audio

Chameleon plant lives up to its name, with red and yellow variegated heart-shaped green leaves. Its scrambling growth habit may overwhelm its neighboring plants, so grow chameleon plant in a window box or a hanging basket, where its growth can more easily be controlled. -Debra Lee Baldwin, Regional Picks: Southern California, Fine Gardening issue #127

CarePlant in moist, rich, well-drained soil.

PropagationBy division.

  • Zones : 10, 11, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
  • Plant Width : 30 feet or more
  • Plant Height : 6 to 12 inches
  • Uses : Containers
  • Bloom Time : Early Summer, Late Spring, Spring, Summer
  • Growth Rate : Fast
  • Light : Full Sun to Partial Shade
  • Moisture : Medium to Wet
  • Maintenance : Moderate
  • Plant Type : Perennials
  • Foliage Color : Purple/Burgundy
  • Characteristics : Showy Foliage
  • Plant Seasonal Interest : Spring Interest
  • Flower Color : White
View Comments


  1. user-7007396 02/17/2015

    is Houttuynia Chameleon Plant eatable? i heard it is a chinese herb medicine

    1. shilongz 08/26/2015

      Yes! It can be dried and used in teas. I personally like it in a salad with soy sauce, spicy peppers (fresh or in spicy pepper oil form), vinegar, and sesame oil. It has a very strong herbal taste though, so it can be an acquired taste. The Houttynia cordata we eat are always green, so it might be slightly different from the one pictured?

  2. kate_mclaren 08/31/2016

    This is an absolutely horrible plant. The smell is so bad it makes me retch (and I've worked as a nursing assistant for years so I have a strong stomach) and once it's in it will take over your garden and you cannot get it out unless you repeatedly spray it with roundup. Killing everything around it, of course. DO NOT BUY IT!!!!

    1. JoeHunt13 05/14/2017

      to me it smells like celery when crushed and tastes more citrus like. Fortunately for me I used it as a ground cover in a triangular spot surrounded by concrete and foundation. It has filled in beautifully but I think their must have been some viable seeds as it has turned up in other areas after 15 years.

      1. kate_mclaren 05/15/2017

        No - it spreads underground, not by self-seeding. Your whole garden will be full of the stuff if you're not careful. I think I have finally got rid of it; not by using weedkiller as I am organic, but simply by digging up the entire area and sifting the soil for bits of root. I do wonder if we are talking about the same plant, as this one has a very strong sweet rotting smell - nothing remotely like celery or citrus.

        1. joannalanecloutier 08/11/2017

          Could you be mixing this plant up with goutweed? It takes over very easily. I'm having to suffocate it or dig it out from spreading more. I find the flowers smell horrible and strong if they're allowed to bloom.

  3. user-7008410 03/13/2017

    We bought one last year but couldn't smell anything.

  4. user-7008724 07/06/2017

    Love the fragrance; similar to Rosemary -- but each of us has a different response to scents -- popcorn makes me gag!

  5. user-7008898 09/20/2017

    I agree with Kate, it smells revolting and to get the smell off your hands takes ages. I spent an entire day trying to remove a patch of 4 by 2 feet , it spreads underground and strangles anything in its path at the root. I expect to be spraying the area with sistemic weed killer for a long time. It's evil, it has to be destroyed

    1. user-7008907 09/22/2017

      Anyone willing to send some from their yard? I use it as an herbal but it didn't survive my last move as I keep it potted. amyelisabethanne@ yahoo
      Thanks :)

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