Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ on 8-1-11, #68-25.

Houttuynia, Bishop’s Weed, Chameleon Plant, etc.

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’

Hoo-TY-nee-ah kor-DAY-tah

Synonyms of Houttuynia cordata (8) (Last updated on 1-14-23 from Plants of the World Online): Houttuynia cordata var. plena Makino (1929), Houttuynia cordata f. polypetaloidea T.Yamaz. (1986), Houttuynia cordata var. variegata Makino (1929), Houttuynia cordata f. viridis J.Ohara (1985), Houttuynia emeiensis Z.Y.Zhu & S.L.Zhang (2001), Houttuynia foetida G.Don (1830), Polypara cochinchinensis Lour. (1790), Polypara cordata (Thunb.) H.Buek (1874)

Houttuynia cordata Thunb. is the accepted scientific name for the Bishop’s Weed. The genus and species were named and described as such by Carl Peter Thunberg in Kongl. Vetenskaps Academiens Nya Handlingar in 1783 while the International Plant Names Index says Flora Japonica in 1784. He 

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. The genus is a member of the plant family Saururaceae with 4 genera and a total of only 6 species… Of course, those numbers could change as updates are made.


Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ on 4-15-12, #86-44. The leaves aren’t always the same color.

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. Well, maybe I had a craving…

The Houttuynia cordata is native to Japan, Korea, southern China. It is perennial in USDA zones 5a-11, 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.

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ on 4-15-12, #86-45.

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.

Family: Saururaceae
Origin: Japan, Korea, southern China, and Southeast Asia.
Zones: USDA Zones 5a-11 (-20 to 40° F/-28.8 to 4.5°C).
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.

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ on 5-1-12, #88-6.

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.


Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ after I brought it home 4-27-19, #563-3.

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.

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ on 4-27-19, #563-4.

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 affected by the time of the year.

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ on 4-27-19, 563-5.

Of course, many leaves will be solid green and sometimes on the same plant.

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ on 5-15-19, #572-6.

Even though this species can become invasive in the “right” places, I think they are AWESOME plants.

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ on 5-15-19, #572-7.

I wasn’t sure if it would flower in a pot or not, so I was glad to see that it did.

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ and Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae on 6-5-19, #583-25.

What an awesome pair. The Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ and Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae.

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ on 6-16-19, #591-22.

The above photo was the last I took of the Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’ on June 16 in 2019. Sadly, it didn’t return in 2020 and I didn’t see any available locally. I probably should have put it in one of the flower beds and maybe it would have returned since they are supposed to be hardy here… Live and learn. Hopefully, I will find another pot someday. Maybe I should see if Mary Botler could mail me a few from her yard in Mississippi.

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