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How to Kill Chameleon Houttuynia

Native to Asia, the chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata) grows rapidly in moist to wet soils that are fertile and warm. An attractive plant with heart-shaped leaves and white flowers, the chameleon plant is often planted as a ground cover or an accent plant in water gardens. Voracious growth via underground rhizomes and stems readily makes the chameleon plant invasive. Ridding a landscape of this herbaceous perennial is difficult, requiring a holistic approach over several months or years to rid the soil of all remnants of roots and rhizomes.

Reduce or halt all irrigation to the area infested with chameleon plant. Soil moisture encourages stronger root growth and more rapid spreading of the rhizomes. Drier soil in concert with hot, direct sunlight slows the growth rate, making it easier to control chameleon plants.

Put on gloves to reduce the risk of getting blisters or soil-stained hands.

Dig into the clump of weedy chameleon plants with a garden shovel. Lift up root-filled clumps of soil and overturn the soil to gently break apart the matrix of roots. Grasp the root clumps and shake them, depositing the soil back into the bed but retaining all stem and root fragments in your hands. Double dig the soil and rake through it with your gloved hands to remove any rhizome segments that may linger. Rhizome bits left in the soil will continue to grow and reinfest the area.

Discard all chameleon plant parts into a trash bucket or thick plastic garbage bag. Do not place dug-up plants or roots into the compost pile or in a separate debris pile in contact with soil elsewhere on your property.

Repeat the digging up of chameleon plants that may sprout up in the weeded area over the next several months. Pull up and discard all plant parts. Young sprouting chameleon plants may also be sprayed with a broadleaf herbicide, such as any containing the active ingredient glyphosate. Follow label directions for dosage rate and proper application procedures.


Although labor-intensive, physically digging up and removing chameleon plants is the best way to rid a landscape of the species. Herbicides may knock it back, but any rhizomes that are not fully killed by herbicide will rejuvenate into new plants with expanding foliage and roots.

Both the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, and the Global Invasive Species Database websites recommend burning dug-up chameleon plants to ensure no roots or stem fragments remain anywhere on a property.


If using herbicides to kill chameleon plant, direct the chemical only onto the foliage of the weed. Spray drift will also kill nearby garden plants.

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