Photo: www-baumschule-horstmann-de

This plant sure looks pretty, doesn't it? Kinda like English ivy with kaleidoscopic leaves of red, pink, yellow, and green. It sports pretty white flowers too. DO NOT PLANT IT! If you do, you will be sorrier than Angelina Jolie after she married Billy Bob Thornton.

It's called "chameleon plant" (Houttuynia cordata 'Tricolor') after its multicolored foliage. If it stayed where you planted it, it would be OK, but like Bruce Springsteen, it was born to run. Usually planted as a ground cover or a color plant for the shade, it spreads by every way imaginable. Thick networks of roots snake through the ground. Pieces that fall on the ground take root. If you bottle it up inside a container, surprise! The flowers form seeds and seedlings sprout all over. There is no containing it. And soon your garden looks like this.


No garden in the South is safe from this thug, because there is no place it will not grow. It grows in sun. It grows in shade. It grows in normal soil. It grows in wet soil. It even grows in water. To make things worse, it often reverts to a solid green (above), which eliminates the sole motivation you had for planting it in the first place.

Save Me, Save Me! Unfortunate victims of chameleon plant have been flooding Grumpy's mailbox with desperate pleas for a miracle cure. They've pulled and pulled and pulled this menace, filling up trash cans with this horticultural plague, only to see it pop up all over the garden again and again. "It's taken over my flower beds and invaded my monkey grass!" they wail. "Isn't there any way to get rid of it for good?"

Sure. Set off a tactical nuclear weapon in your garden. Pave over your garden with a foot of concrete. Get Nancy Grace to move in next door.

Fail to do any of these things and the outlook is dire. Chameleon plant will be with you forever. So do what Grumpy implored in the first place. Never plant this!