Die, Houttuynia, die!

margi1533(z8WA)March 22, 2011

I've just been reading the thread "Help! Chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon') taking over" and maybe, just maybe, I might have a solution (This year will tell). But first you have to realize how unbelievably invasive this monster is (and yes, I am the one who planted it, years ago).

Previously, I tried everything, including Roundup (It just laughed, the leaves turned crispy and brown, and in no time, new leaves grew back). I think I reached the point of tears when I tried to dig out just one cubic foot of soil infested with the tangled-spaghetti-like roots, and easily filled up half a huge Rubbermaid garbage can just from that small space... and could have gotten more if I dug deeper (not to mention all around the dig-site).

OK, so I thought, what else do I have that's invasive, but not so hard to remove? You'll never believe it: Italian musk strawberries! I once bought a small number of these from Raintree Nurseries, thinking they'd stay in a 3 x 3 ft. raised-bed garden. In no time they climbed over and out and were everywhere, just about growing on a nearby concrete patio extension. But they were easy to pull out, so I could keep yanking them.

So, the year before last, I deliberately planted some of these strawberries among the Houttuynia in the area where this quicksilver-fast-spreader has taken over. (It's a triangular section 17 x 17 x 19 ft bordered on all three sides by a low stone wall and it has two mini-drawf apples trees there). I only put the strawberries in the back, after first trying to clear out an area of surface Houttuynia (there is no going deep enough to get rid of all the roots). Well, last year was the test, and by the end of summer, although the Houttuynia was still there, it was actually rather well-behaved in the back, not growing to its "usual" height (in my sprinkler-system watered area) of two feet tall.

So here's the hopeful news at the beginning of spring. I just raked out the entire triangular area (the Houttuynia isn't up yet, though the tips of the new season's growth are showing) - and now that I've raked up the leaves, I can see that the strawberries have grown to cover the complete triangular area! They may never kill the Houttuynia, but I don't care as long as there's a chance that they will keep it from ever again growing two feet tall. And maybe eventually the strawberries will completely win over the Houttuynia!?

I'd be interested if anyone knows how/why this seems to be working. Planting a few Italian musk strawberries was certainly MUCH easier than trying to bring in a bulldozer to a stone wall-surrounded area where a dozer wouldn't work anyway. I don't know if this is the only kind of competitor-plant that would work; they were simply the handiest invasive-but-not-deep-rooted plant I happened to have at hand.

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marquest(z5 PA)

I mixed it with Bishop weed, (variegated form of Aegopodium) because I was covering a very steep hillside at the back of the property and the bishop weed won.

I am confused why you wanted the Houttuynia gone. If you are panting another aggressive plant. Are you looking for something prettier? Are you changing the look from ground cover to garden plants in the area?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 12:11PM
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Read the thread below to see that it's not just me who hates this plant! Yes, the leaves are pretty, and when first planted it seems like a carefree and very colorful ground cover. But it greedily hogs space and available water, and where it's happy (alas, it certainly is in a part of my back yard where its water requirements are met with a sprinkler system) it can grow to two feet tall, crowding out everything else. It can grow under a sidewalk and then start plentifully reproducing on the other side, and even the tiniest little bit of root will start a whole new root system that can produce dozens of new stems, all bent on taking over the planet. The reason I'm planting another aggressive plant is that the Italian musk strawberries are surface rooters, so if I want to trim or remove them, I can just pull 'em out easily. The Houttuynia, on the other hand, produces roots that proliferate in thick, large tangles down to two feet underground. No chemical or mechanical means of getting rid of them has worked for me, so I'm trying to give 'em a taste of their own medicine.

Here is a link that might be useful: Help! Chameleon plants gone wild!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 1:55AM
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I hate this plant!! Ugh it grows up in everything!! I actually managed to "think" I got all of the roots. I have been working to free myself of this plant for 5 years now.

It grows in my hosta it grows in my other flowers if I let it. As soon as I see a sprout of it I am digging it up along with the underground runners. I have a few spots where it is still coming up but I have managed to keep it at bay, at least on top of the surface.

Good luck on keeping it managed, cause the only thing working here is a lot of digging and plunking and chunking.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 7:50AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i too am mystified at killing one invasive with another invasive..

but hey.. if it works.. and you are happy.. then i am happy for you


    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 10:13AM
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I have been trying to kill this plant for at least fifteen years.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 11:46AM
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A gardening friend of mine tried to give me a piece of this 'beautiful ground cover' she had just planted in her garden. I took one look at it, recognized it as houttuynia and said NO THANK YOU. I also advised my friend to go immediately and yank it out of the planting hole. She chose to ignore my advice. The next year she was singing the blues and has been trying (unsuccessfully) to eradicate it ever since.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 12:11PM
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I guess (even though I titled this thread "Die...") I really have no hope that I will be able to kill it, but rather, I'm trying to keep it from growing so tall, deep, wide, etc. Have you ever seen two-ft tall houttuynia? Or roots from this thing so thickly tangled that they fill half a garbage can from just a few shovels-ful of dirt? For whatever reason, by the end of last summer, in the spots where I planted the strawberries, mostly just the strawberries showed - and the houttuynia that were still there were barely visible and of small to normal size (instead of the plant-from-hell-on steroids). That to me is probably the most success I can expect!

I once met Ed Hume (popular Northwest gardening guru) at a Q & A session at a local nursery and asked him what I could do to get rid of houttuynia. His one-word answer? Move!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 9:33PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

roundup will take care of it ....

and just like poison ivy.. you have to respray it.. EVERY TIME it releafs.. 3 to 5 times per year ... until it is gone ...

you just have to be more aggressive than it is in reapplication ...

trust me.. been there .. done that ...

the PI took me 3 years to kill ...


    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 3:40PM
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This sounds like the fight I have had with the lavendar-blooming oxalis that my mother accidentally gifted me with in a potted begonia. It has totally taken over her beds and grass and is trying to do so in my garden.

Only, RU won't work. It has many little bulblettes (is there such a word?) on each plant and it also seeds everywhere. You cannot spray it with enough RU to kill the little bulbs. When you're digging them up, if you miss one little bulb, you have a whole new plant in what seems like days.

Maybe I should try the strawberries?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 8:38PM
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I'd love to know if this works for anyone else! I don't know if any old strawberries would work, or if you have to use the particular variety that I did (Italian Musk strawberries; see link below). In any case, the triangular area of approximately 135 square feet that was one thickly covered with - by the end of summer - two-feet high houttuynia is now completely covered with these berries. Yes, there is bare ground showing, and yes, there are sprouts of houttuynia pushing their way up, but by the end of last summer, when I had far fewer strawberries, there were no longer any giant houttuynia stalks on steroids, I don't know if this is due to any chemical change in the soil that's due to the strawberries, or whether the strawberries are simply "out-thugging" the houttuynia, but so far, things seem to be going in the direction I had hoped for. And this summer I may even get the benefit of a decent crop of berries too!

Here is a link that might be useful: Italian Musk Strawberries

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 3:24PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Bam! Pow! Thunk! Sounds of two invasives duking it out.....

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 4:01PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

The title of this thread had me crackin' up. My nemesis here is raspberry vines, was variegated bishop weed in OH. Most people have that weed that becomes a personal battle of epic proportions and strong emotions. Cheerin for you - good luck!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 11:50AM
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marquest(z5 PA)

Yes one man's poison is another man's cup of tea.

I love Bishop weed and Chameleon for slops and areas I want to not have to mow. They are both a plant that should be used for a specific purpose and will work for you for that purpose. But I have a couple of acres of land and know some plants can be difficult if you have limited space.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 1:40PM
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I have been lucky with both Bishop's Weed and Houttuynia, unlike many. I had no idea that either of the plants were invasive when I purchased and planted them quite a few years ago...

The Houttuynia died - it came back after the first winter but didn't survive the next season - probably due to lack of water. (Note that I originally purchased it for one of my container water gardens because I thought it was so pretty, then planted it in the ground after the season was over so I could use it as a ground cover. Guess I should have known it needed lots of water, right?) The Bishop's Weed comes back valiantly every year, but has yet to cover even a square foot of the area where it is planted; just by chance, I planted it under my bird feeders and I believe the toxicity of the sunflower seed shells has kept the 'Weed' in check.

So, it was due totally to the luck of the ignorant that neither of these plants took over my yard, as they have done to many other unhappy gardeners. Needless to say, I have no plans to plant either again now that I have learned how invasive they can be.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 8:01PM
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Yes, I fell for that "oh, what a pretty colorful plant" as I was perusing the local nursery. Brought them home, but by then I learned to research before planting, and thankfully so.

I got rid of them right away. I sold them on Craigslist, and told the guy they are known to be invasive, but he wanted them anyway.

I remember reading, if you even break a piece of this plant off and it lands in another area of your yard, it will root itself.

The only way I got rid of the pre-existing bishops weed on my lot was by planting a bed of Pachysandra. Within three years, the bishops weed choked out and never came back. I then replaced the pachysandra with geraniums and other plants. But, I still think bishops weed is nice, in the right setting, in a contained area surrounded by concrete.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 5:04PM
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"I once met Ed Hume (popular Northwest gardening guru) at a Q & A session at a local nursery and asked him what I could do to get rid of houttuynia. His one-word answer? Move!"

LOL! That's what I did. :p

I fell for the pretty, colorful foilage too, when we bought our first house. I'm surprised no one has mentioned the smell. Ours was planted around the hose faucet, and when I had to bend over and get my nose near it, ack! I can't even describe the smell. Stale, sickly...?

My aunt bought the house when we moved, and it's still there, as I'm sure it will forever be. :: Maybe I'll tell her about the strawberries.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 10:03PM
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Ha! Even most hated plant has it's place in our world..... just not in my yard please.

Here is a link that might be useful: Houttuynia is a herb and it inhibits cancer!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 2:44PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Wow. That info's worth sharing, thanks. That link made a bunch of other windows pop-up, though. I recommend the next person just do their own search.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 3:39PM
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chilliwin(EU DK 7)

Is it the edible one? If it is edible one we use the roots to make salad with a lot of hot chilli. Even I tried to buy it from Australia.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 2:09PM
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