Houttuynia, Bishop’s Weed, Chameleon Plant, etc.
Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’
Houttuynia cordata Thunb. is the correct and accepted scientific name for the Bishop’s Weed. It was named and first described by Carl Peter Thunberg. Tropicos says he first published the plant description in Kongl. Vetenskaps Academiens Nya Handlingar in 1783 while the International Plant Names Index says Flora Japonica in 1784. He also named and described the genus in the same publication.
While Plants of the World Online continue to include Houttuynia cordata as the only species in the genus, there are two chemotypes. POWO says the Japanese type has an orange scent and the Chinese type has a scent resembling coriander.
This is one of several plants given to me by Mary Botler when I was living in Leland, Mississippi in 2010 or 2011. I liked the foliage and the flowers plus the very interesting smell of the leaves. Kind of reminded me of fish with lemon pepper.
The Houttuynia cordata is native to Japan, Korea, southern China. It is perennial in USDA zones 4-10, depending on what website you are on. It is especially fond of moist soils and will even grow partially submerged in water.
The edible roots are used in Zhe’ergen in China.
It grows very well in partly shady areas but will also grow in more sunny sites. It likes moisture but is also somewhat drought tolerant. This is one plant that will definitely not stay where you put it and will pop up several feet away from where you originally had it. In fact, this plant will become invasive and can become hard to manage. But, if you are like me, you wouldn’t mind it growing here and there. I read one report of it coming back after several years of it being removed.
Origin: Japan, Korea, southern China, and southeast Asia
Zones: USDA Zones 4-10 (° F
Size: 8-18” tall x 12-24” wide
Light: Sun to part shade
Soil: Prefers consistently moist soil
Water: Regular watering
Propagation: Just dig up and move
Uses: Ground cover, borders, etc. Medicinal
Concerns: Can become invasive
Many people like this plant I am sure but I have never met any. The fact that they can run rampant would be a good reason, I guess. Personally, I enjoyed it but maybe that was because I only had a couple of years with it.
You can control its visiting tendencies with barriers like walls, foundations, the sidewalk (but it will grow in the cracks), or in containers.
I didn’t bring any of these with me when I moved to Missouri, but I think I should find a source since they are hardy here. Then I will have some to share.
I went to Wildwood Greenhouse, one of the local greenhouses, to check on a specific plant and was very surprised to find several pots of the Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’. I have never seen these plants locally.
I always liked the colorful leaves, a combination of chartreuse and dark green with an occasional red margin. No two leaves are alike. The coloration of the leaves depends a lot on the light it receives which is also effected by the time of the year.
Of course, many leaves will be solid green and sometimes on the same plant.
Now we shall see how well this plant does here in Missouri. If you like a very interesting plant and don’t mind one that spreads, then I suggest you try this plant… If you want a plant that stays put, then don’t get this one.
Now that I have another one, I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by.
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