Help! Chameleon plants gone wild!

wyldflowerOctober 4, 2006

I hope someone out there can help me...

A few years ago, I planted some chameleon plants in two of my gardens and now I cannot get rid of them. Last summer my husband and I spent numerous days pulling the plants up, but this spring they came back. I finally gave in and bought Round-Up on the advice of our local nursery. I felt really bad, I never use stuff like this and I felt like such a plant murderer! Well, it's now fall and I have sprayed these plants many times over the season, and while the total number of plants has lessened, there's still more growing every time I look.

Could anyone tell me how to get rid of these plants once and for all? Also, in my one garden, the chameleon plants grow in the same spot as my tulips. Any idea if I could have killed my spring bulbs with all the Round-Up? I didn't use it until the tulips were dormant and brown, and took care not to spray any of these plants.

Thanks for the help.

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justmetoo(z5 IL)

oh,no. I've read about struggles with this plant on the different forums here, all say it must be dug out and the soil sifted through as each time a root breaks it takes off again--every scrap of it must be evicted. Some of the posters had tried everything and struggled for ages to rid themselves of it. I really hope someone here who has 'won' the battle can advise you.

I'm really not much help ,I know, but I wanted to add that I saw this plant at the Lowes last year , it was pretty and cheap and going out the door fsat. I wanted to scream "STOP , please don't buy it" . Why does this plant not come with a huge warning that it takes over the world if not contained ! Yes, I know, it's the buyers place to educate themselves prior to purchasing items for the garden--but we all know about impulse purchases and different ideas about what is invasive and what is not. This plant works itself in and around all the roots of all your other plants and some have said it laughs at round-up.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 5:14PM
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Oh, no, from your response I sense I am in more trouble than I thought. I actually bought the plants at a Farmer's Market, never was told they were invasive. Now when I go there, I carry a big book that describes various perennials and it keeps me from buying invasive plants (and also poisonous plants, I do like my four-legged friends).

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 5:48PM
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leslies(z7 No VA)

Yes, you are in trouble, but this is one plant that requires RoundUp. Use it and do not feel guilty.

But in the future, do check what you're putting in the ground before you put it in the ground!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 7:02PM
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hostared(Z5, IL)

I feel your pain. Ten plus years ago I thought I pull all of it out (very stinky smelling plant also). Even this summer I see a stragler or two pop up. You have to get a handle on it.

Before you plant again search the poll on this forum: "Poll Most Invasive Plants" it may stop you from adding anything else that may cause a headache down the road.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2006 at 9:19AM
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bean_counter_z4(Zone 4, Rkfd,IL)

I had this stuff in a bed of hosta a few years ago. It took me 3 years to get rid of it. I know that sounds awful, but it really wasn't too bad. I pulled/dug up all of it I could see. Every few weeks I'd have a few more to dig. A minor pain in the patoot. As I recall, I kept a cheap trowel sticking in that hosta bed to do emergency Houttuynia-ectomy;~) Just keep after the odd ones that appear and eventually you will win. BTW, I didn't use Roundup because they were woven in amoung my hosta.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2006 at 9:45AM
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nancyd(5/Rochester, NY)

If you've got bulbs or other plants in the area, instead of spraying Roundup, use a paint brush to get each individual leaf. As others have said, persistence is the key. You must dig it out every time you see it come back. Don't just pull it out, dig it out. You want to get as many roots as you can. Eventually you will win. I have this same problem with "cherry bells" campanula punctata. If I miss a little piece, it starts to re-establish itself in no time. Don't feel bad. We all slip up. I've been gardening for a long time and never thought twice about this campanula being so invasive. Oops. Live and learn.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 9:30AM
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Oh, those stinkin' Cherry Bells - never had I had a campanula take off, and take over, like that one. It only stayed three months in my garden before I dug it out, but I'm still chasing it down. The tiniest pieces of root will shoot off five feet and suddenly there's a new plant springing up. Hadn't heard of it before I bought it, and didn't think to research before planting, because I have several well-behaved campanulas and couldn't imagine there'd be an issue. Live and learn, indeed!

Every spring I admire chameleon plants in the stores (because, face it, it IS mighty pretty) but I've learned from others' experience that you can't even keep it contained in a pot on the patio - if there are other pots out there, the chameleon will find its way into them. Pretty, but evil; kinda like the head cheerleader in a bad teen movie.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 9:47AM
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glennspey(Zone5 NY)

Despite all the negatives about this plant, I'd like to get some. Would you send me a box full for postage & packing cost? Please let me know. Thanks

    Bookmark   October 7, 2006 at 11:56AM
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One thing that make me really get angry is that gardening books don't usually tell you HOW MUCH invasive this plant (such as others i.e. Bishop's weed) could become.

My reference gardening book, a popular Italian one, has two pages boasting the beauty of Chamaleon plant ('This is an excellent plant for ground cover in a wet corner of the garden etc. etc.' and more 'perfect companion plant for epimedium') and only a few lines about its 'possible' invasive behavior. The same book even states that 'division is the best way to take Houttuynia under control'!!! (or to loose control over the whole garden?).

It is ONLY thanks to a GW thread I didn't purchase this monster. I'm sure my epimediums are very grateful to GardenWeb!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2006 at 8:19AM
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leslie197(z5 MI)

I also made the mistake of planting Chameleon plants some years ago. I had the perfect spot, a low-lying wet spot it the back corner of the yard, where most other things died. I planted a number of other semi-invasive water loving plants thinking they could all fight it out.

For the 1st three years it worked just fine, making a pretty groundcover around water iris and marsh plants. The 4th year the chameleon plants decided to climb UP the hill to a DRIER location and started spreading heavily into the lawn. All the other fairly invasive water-loving plants have pretty much stayed in the wet areas!

Several applications of Roundup, which I had never used before, were necessary to kill off the Chameleons. I sprayed heavily in open areas and in the grass areas (which eventually had to be reseeded), used cardboard for spray blocks around plantings, and handpainted with sponge brushes around important plants.

Within a few weeks the chameleons were back in force (small plants but many of them) - I assumed these were small plants from some of the runners or tiny plants that I missed - anyway a 2nd heavy spray seemed to do the trick. Since then they have been pretty much gone, but occasionally I find a plant or two of them which I spray immediately. This year I found two Chameleon plants in the Daylilies well away from my wet area.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2006 at 7:00PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

I see them in the nurseries too. There are pretty in a pot. Thanks to postings here I knew not to put them in my garden.

Invasiveness for many plants varies on conditions: what's a nightmare for you may be manageable for other conditions. My Mom had a clump of variegated Bishop's Weed that never spread: just filled one 2 x 3 foot area nicely around the downspout. I think it was too dry outside that range for it to spread. I took a piece to fill the barren gangway area at my old house where nothing but weeds would grow. It filled it quickly but then I watched to make sure it couldn't spread into the lawn.

I'm always pulling out seedlings of Buckthorn from my garden. I have no idea where they're coming from but I've learned to recognize them at the 2-leaf stage. They have a woody fast-holding root like you wouldn't believe. We accidentally let one get started (it seeded itself and we didn't know what it was) in our old garden and that monster took a motorized trencher to remove.

Sometimes I do buy something on impulse; heck, we all do; a "find" makes shopping for plants fun. But then I check it here or in a perennial book before putting it in the garden. Several times I've changed the planned position based on what I learned here on it's spreading qualities after purchase.

I have a corner (inside!) of my house where I have trouble getting houseplants to grow (due to neglect, not lighting; I never remember to water them there), could Chameleon plant grow there? I was planning to look for a variegated large-leafed ivy later this week. I have a mini schefflera now that could use company in the pot. It needs something bright or lighter colored, as it's a pretty dark dull green.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 12:46PM
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Hi I see that you have trouble with chameleon plants,,,would you consider sending some of the cuttings for postage,,I would love to have some if you can spare them, but if you cant that is okay too,,,I would like them for house plants,,,,thank you for your kindness,,,take care ,God bless,,,,Cassie

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 12:02PM
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This is no news to you all - chameleon plants are ruining my perennial garden. I've been spraying and painting them with Ortho Poison-Ivy killer for about a month - the little new growth just keeps coming up. Does this ever end? Also, am I completely killing all the soil in my garden forever? How long before I can plant anything else (Assuming I eventually get rid of the Chameleon.)

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 2:05PM
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vinegar poured on the root will kill it also, if you want a more organic approach. I use chemicals very sparingly but I have a bed of Houttuynia that I keep in check with Round Up. I really don't know what we would ever do to get rid of that stuff.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 5:17PM
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bakemom_gw(z6 Central Ohio)

I have successfully eradicated it in some spots and cheerfully grow it in others. Repeated Roundup will do it, but it can take a few years to completely kill it. It's just like gooseneck loosestrife and others - eradicating is a project and touchup is a yearly chore.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 6:38PM
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No one has given this plant its latin name. I am no purist, and I forget plant names faster than I can learn them. However, it wasn't until about the 6th post that I had a clue we talking about houten...ya. I really thought the topic was euphorbia "Chameleon" which in year two sprouted up everywhere, is beautiful, and can irritate your hands (which I thought was the "stinky" reference)And I ditched it fast.

I really don't mean to chide, but this is the practical point of using the Latin moniker- so we are all on the same page.

Three cheers for Linnaeus!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2007 at 11:18PM
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pam_whitbyon(6 Niagara)

I rushed out to buy it after reading about it in the Toronto Sun one year. The gardening section had a huge article showing it as suitable groundcover, along with a nice picture. I fell in love with it and bought three 1-gallon pots the next day.

5 hours after planting them I decided to read up on the lovely things in here, and dug them back up at midnight!

Incidentally the smell was unbearable to me. The only way I can describe it is petroleum and beef stew smell from a bad cafeteria.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 2:08PM
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I just bought a house last fall with a beautifully landscaped yard. I love it. I discovered a little patch of houttuynia in the front early this year and immediately took a dislike to it. INVASIVE is the least you can say about this weed. It has grown up inside very beautiful plants and I've had to pull out the plant to get rid of the roots. Its even overgrowing my pachysandra, of all things, and I have to pull all that up to get rid of this ugly, stinky, nasty weed. Its not even Native to New England.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2008 at 9:58PM
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I planted 18 little chameleons at the top of a rocky, barren, 80 foot wide by 12 foot long hillside, spacing them about 4-1/2 feet apart. Should I get out of bed right this second and go dig them up? Is it possible for me to keep some of them or will my patio at the bottom of the hill be overrun with them one day? Thanks for your input!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 11:17PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

I think you can wait until morning....but I would get them out of there...
Intil you have seen it come up between the cracks in a cement drive laid over a bed of them you have no idea how persistent that plant is.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 11:42PM
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The replies on the GardenWeb forums are hilarious! I was picturing one gardener above digging out her Chameleon plants at midnight. Sorry, but it was funny!

I agree with everyone about the Houttuynia 'Chameleon" plant. This was given me by a friend (?) who only mildly warned that it was a strong grower. It was so very pretty with those gorgeously colored leaves and neat white flowers winking up at me from her flower bed. So I gave in . . . taking a bunch of the little devils off her hands. I planted them in a corner of our house surrounded by a sidewall and said, "It can't get out of here!"

WRONG! It grew along our house foundation and UNDER a 36 inch wide cement sidewalk, into a bed of hostas. Two small sprigs of it came up, but that was enough warning for me!

I bought Roundup (without one bit of a guilty conscience) and have used it on the Chameleon sprigs as soon as they appeared, each spring for three years. I spray it during the entire growing season, right into fall . . . anytime I see it raise it's nasty little leaves. This is year 3 of diligent spraying and only two little sprigs have come up. I bought Gordon's "Pronto" ($4.99) in a convenient premixed 32 fl. oz. container and use it exclusively for the smallish area I'm monitoring. It has the same ingredients that Roundup has.

For those of you who think Roundup is the devil incarnate, talk to a knowledgeable person at a good full-service garden center. Good gardening centers won't sell evil sprays and Roundup somehow got a bad rap. I understand that Roundup dissipates in 24/48 hours and leaves no trace in your soil.

I also listen to a garden show on the radio called "In The Garden with Andre Viette". He's a grower who holds two or three college degrees in various types of horticulture and he suggests Roundup for difficult problems. Primarily Andre is into organic gardening products and prefers them, but shoot, when your garden is at risk, Roundup is a perfectly fine product to use.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 1:51PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

good friends give you good plants..

this is a plant to give to your enemies...


    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 2:52PM
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Update on the Chameleon plant. I literally dug up all the dirt, sifted through it, picked out all the roots and root pieces, pulled out all the plants the weed infected and then watched for months to catch the little sprouts that came back from even the TINIEST of root left over. I then found it at the other end of my garden. I dug all that up too. I will dig this up anytime I see it. THIS IS THE WORST PLANT YOU COULD POSSIBLY ADD TO YOUR GARDEN. DO NOT BUY IT, DO NOT ACCEPT IT FROM ANYONE, THROW ALL ROOTS AND PLANTS IN THE TRASH. Oh man, I really hate this plant. It really stinks, too.

For the infected areas, I am mulching and then laying fabric down, then mulching some more. I had to pull up so many good plants (including an entire bed of pachysandra) to get rid of the Chameleon. So, now my garden looks like a wasteland, but I can start over.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2008 at 10:22PM
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The first time I heard of it was on a gardening radio talk show where he actually recommended Houttenaya to folks for the colorful foliage. This was a so-called gardening expert! ha!

And it wasn't that long ago...

Speaking of nasties, lately I have become much more diligent (obsessed?) about "cleaning up" new plants I buy before I put them into the garden. In the garage on a workbench, I pick away everything on the top of the soil and really give the whole thing a thorough examination to be sure I'm not introducing weeds. Even some weeds that work their way into the bottom holes. Yeah, usually the plant itself will shade the weeds a bit, but ya never know...

    Bookmark   September 10, 2008 at 10:36PM
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I was told to keep this plant from becoming invasive plant it in the ground in 3 gallon pots. I did this about 5 years ago. That just slowed it down but didn't stop it from taking over.

This spring I had to completely dig up a 20 ft bed 3 feet deep trying to get all the roots. I sifted through every piece of dirt making sure I had all the roots. I have spent the entire summer digging up any stragglers. I figure if I keep digging out any new pop ups I will eventually get them all.

I didn't want to do the roundup cause I had bulbs coming and needed to get them planted. If I had it to do over again I would have dug up the bed, sprayed roundup, tilled the dirt and sprayed any new pop ups through out the summer. Then left the bed over winter and start new the following spring. Would have been a lot easier than the back breaking work of sifting through a 20 ft bed.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 8:17AM
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WOW! I can't believe what I am reading!!! I have a clump of Chameleon and I thought that they were pretty. Since it got bigger, last week I divided it and moved it into my cottage garden. Looks like I am going to have to dig it out and put it on my septic mound where I want plants to spread. Too bad that it is raining outside now or I would be moving it! I have a Campanula that is popping up all over and I can't get rid of it and don't need another.

Thanks for a great post and valuable info!


    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 4:57PM
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I'm having a similar problem with this awful grass that has invaded one of my beds. The roots spread like crazy and they kind-of look like long bean sprouts. Wicked stuff! I'm also fighting Morning Glory vines in another bed. Same thing: break off just one tiny little piece of root and in no time at all you have another little monster.

With that said, I actually do have Houttuynia planted in a very little pot in my pond. And guess what? It's not doing well. I'm tempted to just keep it there and hope that it continues to not do so well in honor of everyone who struggles with it invading their gardens and causing innumerable hours of back-breaking work to erradicate it. I'm tempted to just let it sit there and suffer. Hah!

Or will that somehow break the balance of my plant karma?

Hmmm. Something to think about.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 6:20PM
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Houttuynia species - too beautiful to resist, striking right at the heart of unsuspecting poor gardeners. And it is not even North Ameican - it's natural distribution is East Asia.

To be honest, it is beautiful. And that's why I grow it.

It is a real thug in the garden. So, the only way I grow it is in a pot, which in turn is submerged under water held in another pot - i.e., a classic captive aquatic plant. Grown like so, it is striking, and low maintenance.

You can't contain this thing by sinking the pot into the ground - don't even think of it. The rhizomes will find the drainage hole in no time, and escape - guaranteed. And given time, the rhizome mass will rupture even the toughest of nursery containers.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2008 at 3:28AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Can you grow it as a houseplant? My 20 year old son has asked for some houseplants for his new apartment. I hesitate because I know he will forget to water them. But maybe invasive does not mean the same as "will take abuse".

    Bookmark   September 13, 2008 at 10:18PM
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I planted this around my pond, and it sure was pretty. A few years later, it was pretty EVERYWHERE! It was killing my Siberian Irises and taking over everything. It went under my pond and out the other side. It went under my fence and began to invade my neighbor's bed. I dug it out and it kept coming back. My husband and I finally had to remove the entire pond and all the plants and bulbs, sift through all the soil to remove every last white root...they will form new plants from a tiny piece of root. It took a long time to remove, then we had to rebuild the whole area. The following year, in spite of all that, I saw them again and would dig up quickly! The FOLLOWING YEAR, again. Now it has been 3 years, and this year I found about 12 babies and quickly removed. I do not use herbicides, so I may be seeing them again. I can spy them and then verify by that (now, to me) AWFUL citrusy STINK! Do not compost them! I throw them in the trash. It has been my WORST gardening nightmare in 35 years. In fact, I would no longer trust any nursery that still sells this HIGHLY INVASIVE RUNNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 12:01PM
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Hmmm,I must be the worlds worst gardener, I tried to get this plant to grow in my garden,hoping it would cover some bare spots in the red soil.I purchased it at a local hardware store,and placed it in a nice sunny corner and on a slope on the front of my house. It barely survived the first year.The following year I coxed and cajoled and pampered this plant, but by the end of the growing season, it was completely gone. Can any one suggest something more hardy than this plant that may survive my garden.
Thank you.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 10:57PM
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The prior owner planted this stuff in one of the large beds in the front of the house. It was OK for two years. I thought it was pretty, not knowing what it was. This year I noticed that it was really spreading, growing into the lariope and into the lawn and did some research. What a revelation. I have been battling it all spring and summer. Dug it up twice. I think I must have filled three large garbage cans full of roots. Sprayed with Roundup, but that did not faze it all that much. I had to dig up part of the lawn bordering the bed, take out the foul roots and put down new sod. I lost quite a few lariope as well as four small nandinas because the chamleon roots were too intertwined with the plant roots. I was able to save others of my nandinas by digging them up and removing all traces of the white roots. Finally, I put down thick black plastic secured with garden staples. Not very pretty. I am hoping this will work, but I don't want to get my hopes up. I have never seen a plant as resiliant as this one.

For the few that have since popped up in the lawn and in the remaining lariope, I brush the leaves and stems with undiluted vegetation killer, wait until the chameleon plant shrivels up and then dig it out. This seems to work pretty well.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 3:06PM
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I feel your pain. My friend gave me a few little sprigs of this horrible menace. She had gotten it from another friend, as well, and didn't yet know what a nightmare it would become.

I have had it for years now. It has taken over my flower beds to such an extent that I have gone into complete denial about the whole situation. I almost can't even stand to go out and look at my flowers anymore because I feel so completely overwhelmed by the huge mess it has all become. It is very dpressing. I used to enjoy my yard and my flowers and now I just try not to even look.

I think I'm just going to have to get rid of everything and start over. It's a jungle.

Maybe we'll move. Or pave the yard.

I hope someone finds a "cure".

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 9:42PM
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What? I wish my chameleon plant would go crazy. I wouldn't even mind if it choked everything out. Chameleon plant roots are a delicacy from my parent's home city of Guiyang in China. Every time we want to eat it, we have to wait for someone to take a vacation there and bring it back =(. The repugnant smell/taste is an acquired taste, but I love it! Especially the leaves in a salad and the roots added to any meal. I can only hope that my feeble plants take over the lawn. No supermarket sells the plants, and I haven't seen them in plant nurseries either. I wish this plant was more readily accessible in central NJ. It's so hard to find, and I'm afraid of cutting my plant's roots to cook since they look so small and weak =(.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 9:26PM
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Hello, everyone. I love this gorgeous plant. I have a woodland garden where I let it go wherever it likes.
I also made a small bog garden in one corner of my yard where the rain (and we have lots of rain) runs off the sundeck and down into this corner. I dug a hole and put in a baby bath, filled the hole and voila .. a bog garden with Yellow Iris'and Chameleon plants.
Didn't realize it was edible ... interesting (Vanc Island)

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 8:58PM
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Funny, I was just wondering, as I toiled in the yard, if the plant was edible. Or burnable. Or nukable.

I'm convinced - at the end of time, roaches, cell phones, and the chameleon plant will live on.

I wish it were something that I'd enjoy eating, or that I had a bog garden. jennifer, I'm afraid you'll have to do what I just did. I spent two hours digging out eight 2-year old plants. Eight plants. Two hours. I wavered, since they were green and ivory and a dark red. Just lovely. Then I looked up the plant. And read here.

After a summer spent digging out astilbe - did you know they were invasive in a wet garden, which mine is this year? - I gave up the ghost on the chameleon plants. Exhaustive work, since with every shovel full, every spade full, I could hear the 'rip' of a scintilla of root falling away. So dig some more I must, sifting and digging, digging and sifting. Incredible.

My questions - WHO BUYS THIS PLANT AND WHY? Why doesn't it have a skull and crossbones on the plant? Why isn't there a Ralph Nader of the plant world to warn us against this plant? It's worse than a Corvair, much worse. How are nurseries ALLOWED to sell this plant without a dire warning, i.e., BUY AT YOUR OWN RISK?

But my guess is that come next Spring, guess what will be poking up its cursed little green and white head from the ground that is currently chameleon plant free? You guessed it.

They should rename this The Armageddon Plant.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 10:37AM
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I dug them up last summer and covered the whole area with black plastic. Spring is right around the corner and I am dreading the chameleons popping up, and I know there will be some because it is impossible to dig out all of the little pieces of the roots. I was hoping to replant the bed that is under the plastic this year, but I think I should keep the plastic down another year and just kill whatever chameleons pop up with the full strength vegetation killer. Who knows? Five years from now I'll probably still be dealing with this awful chameleon!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 4:47PM
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themadgardener(z7 NY)

I'll probably get my head chewed off for this one, but I need to defend these plants. I know how invasive they can be, which is why I've been able to obtain the ones I have. :)
These are great in well contained beds. The ground cover is fast growing and the leaves are beautiful. I have them in a small flower bed in between my driveway and the house... also in a bed I made surrounding a tree near the curb. I'm waiting for more to come up to plant in between my neighbor's and my driveways (she loves them too). They are awesome if kept contained. If they occasionally turn up where I don't want them, I just dig them up from the roots and transplant them. They are invasive, but not problematic for me. :)

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 10:17PM
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The plants ARE so pretty. I have them surrounding my pond and they thrive there, but I planted them in another tiny garden and it's spreading into the grass. It's very hardy and you have to be careful where you plant it.

I just finished digging them all up today, well we'll see if I got them all. I just dug really really deep, loosened the dirt and followed each root and carefully pulled them up and I got most of the master roots. My advice to try and get rid of them is to dig deep, loosen the dirt as you go and pull carefully.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 8:56PM
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I have this horrible plant too, but it is intertwined with some tree roots and impossible to get rid of. I have been researching the vinegar thing and regular vinegar is only 5% acid, but pickling vinegar is 10% acid and horticultural vinegar is 20%. Has anyone tried any of the strong vinegar's for this. Also, has anyone tried a solution of the vinegar with orange oil or tried Borax (boron) for this or has any thoughts on these ideas before I take the plunge?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 11:36AM
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I have inherited this wretched plant from the previous owners of my house. We bought our house about 5 years ago and discovered a little bit of this strange smelling plant growing on one side of the house. I had never seen it before, but it seemed cute enough, so I was content to let it stay there until I got around to reworking the garden bed for my rose garden. HUGE mistake! That stupid plant took over the whole area in under two years (and keep in mind my husband "accidentally" sprayed some of it with weed killer twice because he hated the smell of it)! Now, not only is it all over that bed, but it is creeping up in the next two beds over and it has escaped into the grass. Ugh!

So this year, I officially declared war on the pesky things beginning with a thorough search of garden photos trying to identify what it was. Once identified, I can't say as though I was surprised to find that it is considered highly invasive (it certainly is!) and very hard to kill (did I mention the hubs sprayed it TWICE with weed killer!?!). So I knew I was in for a long-haul fight with this from the get go.

A thorough review of the literature on this plant finds a variety of methods to kill it that result in mixed success. My main issue is that I am impatient, so I have no inclination to "black plastic bag for a year" the stuff out of existence. I prefer to not use chemicals on my gardens, but with it already being sprayed with mild weed killer and only wilting a little, I think I knew I was going to have to take a highly toxic approach.

So I started working a two phase approach. Phase one: About three weeks ago, I applied a thick spraying of Round-Up Poison Ivy and Tough Brush weed killer to it. After a few days I was disappointed to find that nothing had happened (again, I'm impatient), so I started phase two: digging the plant up in a 3 x 3 x 1.5 plot and clearing every little rhizome out I could find. After working that plot for a few days, I noticed that the sprayed plants were actually wilting, so I applied another thick spray of Round-Up at the seven day mark (you can never be too cautious with this plant). I was really busy for the next two weeks, so I didn't get a chance to do much to it.

Today, I went outside and about 95% of what I hit with the thick spray is brown and dead to the ground. Another 3% is sickly looking and wilted. The last 2% has sprung new leaves. I can also see some of the roots where I was digging and they have gone from white to pink, so I am guessing they are also dying. Most of the chameleon plants that I had to spray very cautiously, such as those around some rose bushes and dwarf arborvitae, are a little damaged, but still going strong. I find this unacceptable, so I am working on figuring out a way to hose them with the Round-Up, too. The good news it that both the rose bushes and dwarf arborvitae seem to be unaffected by all the death and destruction going on around them. Seriously, there is not a single brown or yellow leaf among them and they are growing and budding just fine.

So my final verdict on how to kill this plant is as follows. First, spray it generously with Round-Up Poison Ivy and Tough Brush weed killer. Second, dig up whatever you can get to without a fuss. Third, spray it generously with Round-Up again. Fourth, dig up whatever else you can get to. Fifth, yell at it because it is still not dead, then spray it with some more Round-Up. After step 5, I think you will find that you will be spot-checking and spraying any "run away" rhizomes (and believe me, some rhizomes will literally "run away" from the plants you are spraying and crop up in strange, far away locations). Spray the run away rhizomes indiscriminately. They need to die.

I will keep up with this process I have been using for the next few months and try to remember to post again on what happens. Best of luck with your Chameleon plant grim reaping until then!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 5:32PM
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I have them growing in a large contained area and fortunately they are not an issue. It is a beautiful plant if controlled and given light shade. Ive got issues with three other plants that area so invasive in my yard, one is a variegated Japanese grass, sweet violets and the other is Tovara Painters Palette .

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 11:31PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

One man's weed is another man's flower.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 12:30AM
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Hi..I've read with horror all the comments on how resistant houtidynia is to be exterminated. I have tried Round-Up several times to the affected area and have had some luck. I planted this specimen 20 years ago and over the years have grown to dislike it. It grows about a foot high every year and looks very unattractive. Now, I am on a mission to destroy this evil plant. I'm going to continue Round-Up attacks. Because Round-Up is absorbed through the foliage and eventually kills the roots without contaminating the soil this should work in time. They have infiltrated the daffodils beds in the same area and will probably have to dig up those bulbs till I destroy the chameleon. Will keep you posted. The Round-Up for poison ivy sounds like a good idea. Maybe I'll add vinegar to the concoction...I am on a "seek and destroy chameleon" mission!!!!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 7:08PM
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dominoswrath(5 WI)

I too fell for the "oh, look at this pretty plant" while perusing the nursery, purchased a few, got home, did my research BEFORE planting, thankfully, and put them on craigslist but also was honest in stating that the plant was invasive. My neighbor asked for some, I said NO. Sold them though.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 6:38PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

I had a hillside I wanted a "no mowing needed" covered and I wanted color. I planted this plant, Bishop weed, a few evergreen bushes and a red and yellow barberry bush. I got lots of compliments on that hillside all summer and Fall.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 9:03PM
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I have just now come in from some outdoor work and googled Chameleon Plant to find this forum.

Over 15 years ago I planted Chameleon Plant thinking the leaves would make a pretty non-flower arrangement on my kitchen table. First time I cut some and left them in a vase on the table I discovered the horrific smell. ick

Soon I discovered how invasive this plant is (even climbing up ornamental bushes and the side of the house) and for nearly 10 years sprayed them with farm grade weed killer.

They continued to return every spring. Then, boom, they were gone. That is until today when I found 3 small clumps under a rhododendron bush.

I may be the only person to answer this forum who was happy to see them as I have timber behind my house and our mow boy doesn't mow up close to the timber. Thus, after a few years we had waist-high weeds half way to our back door.

This was unacceptable so I sprayed these weeds and was left with a huge sun-parched dirt patch on either side of a stone grill and no idea how to remedy the eyesore. The Chameleon Plant should over-take this area quickly and where it encroaches the yard will be mowed along with the grass. This is the plan anyway.

Optimistic Wanda

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 3:01PM
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I planted varigated chameleon plants about 15 years ago. I thought they were very pretty and just might cover an ugly area under some old yew bushes. The colorful yellow, pink, and green leaves disappeared after a couple of years only to be replaced by their more common variety, still a pretty deep green with some pink edging. Slowly they spread, then we removed all the old ugly yews and replaced them with new shrubbery, perennials, and annuals. It was very pretty the first year as the deep green chameleon plant filled in the empty spaces, then it litterally overtook the entire garden the next year completely covering everything by midsummer. After that it was a yearly loosing battle to keep it under control. About 5 years ago I'd had it and completely dug up the entire garden including the flagstone path beside it and removed every visable trace of the noxious plant. Besides being invasive, it smells bad. The next year I had to frequently dig out new offending plants or give the leaves a shot of roundup if they weren't too close to desirable plants. Each time I dug out one, I could see by the roots that it had sprung from a tiny piece of old root left behind. Five years later, I am still digging out a few plants here and there and am constantly on the vigil for new plants lurking in the shadows. It takes hard work and persistance to get rid of this one. I had a similar experience with bishop's goutweed but that only took a couple of years to eradicate completely. Don't plant either of these.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 1:44PM
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delete post

This post was edited by GreatPlains1 on Wed, Sep 4, 13 at 5:24

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 8:54PM
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pam_whitbyon(6 Niagara)

LOL, I was the one (above) who panicked and decided to dig them out at midnight 6 years ago. Weird thing is, I DO have a patch of them at my new house, a very tiny patch in a shaded area and it has remained tiny! I first discovered it there by smelling it when I was weeding! Thats how pungent it it. Believe me, I keep my eye on it... but it does look pretty and it can deal with it at this level. EXCEPT FOR THE SMELL!!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 1:22PM
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hokiejane(z7 MD)

Wow. In the vein of misery loves company, I was very happy to find this thread.

I got my first bit of chameleon from my sister, the "gardener" in the family, who enthusiastically was helping me get my newly built house landscaped. The chameleon spread beautifully, and I thought it was a lovely groundcover saving me from a lot of mulching. I liked it so much that I replanted it in four other areas where I need ground cover.

I would post pictures, but you'd all have nightmares. The stuff was coming up through my blacktop driveway, and even shot rhizomes under the blacktop so it it was popping up in the front yard! It also choked everything in its path everywhere I planted it. I wanted to cry.

I initially tried digging it up, but quickly realized how deep the roots go...upwards of a foot at their deepest. And they break off so easily, it's a delicate process to get them all out intact. I eventually consulted a friend of mine who's a noxious weed expect, and she said you have to use Round-Up-like product, and it will take years of vigilance. She recommended Killzall concentrate which is 41% glyphosate which I got on Amazon. It's saved me a ton of money.

It's like playing whack-a-mole but I will get rid of it eventually. The places where it wasn't so prolific are under control, but the biggest areas are still a work in progress.

This was a HUGE learning experience.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 6:29PM
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Finally got rid of the stuff. Houttuynia was sold around here as an aquatic. It ran under a 3 ft wide sidewalk & into my bed of shrubs. Scared I'd kill the shrubs with Roundup, I used 2,4D since the label said it was good for broad leaf weeds. I sprayed each leaf top & bottom. It did the trick & didn't harm my Gold Flame spirea. I only had 2 sprouts this spring & got out the 2,4D to take care of them. It's Sept & haven't had any more this season. You might try it. In the meantime, I won't be bringing anything "Japanese" to my southern garden. Think "kudzu"

    Bookmark   September 10, 2014 at 3:57PM
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By chance I had a Persicaria "Painter's Palette" side by side with a "Chameleon" in very trying conditions ie under a tree with generally very dry conditions and lean soil. Within two seasons the "Chameleon" had disappeared with the PP just holding its own.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2014 at 6:15PM
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