Tips for Growing Houttuynia Cordata, Chameleon Plant
The houttuynia cordata chameleon is a beautiful plant that is great for individuals with virtually any type of gardening experience from novice to expert. This species is hardy and easy to grow in the right environment. The houttuynia cordata chameleon is a beautiful plant that serves as great ground cover for large areas of uncovered space and can even be plucked from the garden and used in the kitchen. That’s right—the chameleon plant is edible and is frequently used in Vietnamese cuisine as a leafy garnish, much in the way Westerners use mint or parsley as a garnish. The following information is a must-have for anyone who wants to grow the houttuynia cordata ‘chameleon plant.’
The chameleon plant is a flowering perennial plant that grows at a medium-fast rate. In fact, this species is known for being a bit aggressive and may quickly overgrow a limited space if it is not carefully maintained. The leaves of this plant are it most well-known trait as they are typically bi or tri-colored. The leaves of the chameleon plant typically sport dark green coloring in the center of each leaf which is surrounded with a lighter shade of green. Depending on the plant’s surroundings, its leaves may also take on a beautiful salmon-pink trim on the outer edges. The heart-shaped leaves alternate back and forth on the stem which is why some regions of the world refer to this plant as the “heart leaf.” The average leaf length is an eye-catching three inches.
The chameleon plant is a relatively short with an average height around one foot. The plant spreads rapidly to achieve an estimated width of about two to three feet–a great size for three-foot patches of ground that need to be covered or spruced up with a bright, leafy plant. The houttuynia cordata chameleon also produces dainty white flowers with four “bracts,” or petal-like growths, which surround a large upright stamen. In most areas, the bloom period of the chameleon plant is early to mid-summer.
Where to Grow
Houttuynia cordata can be grown in USDA zones four to ten, although areas that frequently experience frost may not be suitable for this plant. The natural environment for this species includes woodlands, marshes, and other shady areas with plenty of moisture. The chameleon plant can handle full exposure to sunlight but it would be more likely to flourish if it has some form of dappled sunlight. A lightly shaded area under large trees or a spot near a covered patio would suit this plant nicely. The chameleon can even be grown in shallow water or on the banks of a pond.
If more than one of these plants are going to be grown near one another then one should be sure to space out the plants by at least three feet. It is also a good idea to consider whether there will be other plants nearby, such as small shrubs and bulb plants like irises or lilies. The chameleon plant can be quite tenacious as it grows and it likely to choke out the root systems of nearby plants. Frequent trimming can help to reduce the reach of this plant’s stems; however the root system underground may need something a little more restrictive. One solution to this dilemma is to use a root barrier when planting the chameleon plant into the ground. Another option is to grow this plant in a sturdy pot.
Tips for Planting
The planting process is quite easy. The trickiest part is installing the root barrier, if one chooses to do so. The basic planting process will start with preparing the hole in an ideal spot for the plant. The size of the hole should be about two times the size of the root ball. Fill about one-third of the hole with soil. A good trait about this plant is that it isn’t fussy when it comes to soil types, so normal, sandy, or clay soils will work well for the houttuynia cordata chameleon. If the soil is particularly heavy or sandy and is unable to retain moisture well, then it would be a good idea to consider mixing a bit of organic matter or potting soil in with the ground’s natural soil during the planting process. Place the roots of the plant into the hole and make sure that the roots will be completely covered with about half an inch of soil. Fill in the remaining space with soil, taking care to pack the soil tightly around the base of the plant’s stem so that it is well-supported.
The final step in the planting process is to water the soil deeply. The houttuynia cordata performs best when the surrounding soil is consistently wet. After initially putting the chameleon plant into the ground it is important to check the soil regularly—about once or twice each week—to ensure that it is moist. If the soil is dry to the touch then this is a sign that it’s time to water the plant manually.
An interesting fact about this plant is that it can be used in cooking. In Vietnam and a few other Oriental countries, the leaves of this plant are used as garnish and to add a very unique flavor. This plant is nicknamed “fish mint” because it has a particularly fish odor and flavor. It would pair nicely with fish dishes in the place of parsley or tossed in with a salad.