(Saururaceae - Lizard's-Tail Family)
- medium-sized herbaceous perennial groundcover
- to 1' tall and spreading vigorously underground by fleshy rhizomes
- upright to procumbent mat growth habit
- medium growth rate at its perimeter
- full sun to partial shade; best range of bright foliage coloration occurs in full sun to partial sun, but overall vigor is often best in partial shade, where the foliage color fades to greens and maroons
- best overall performance occurs in partial sun in continuously moist, well-drained soils of average fertility, but it is quite tolerant of wet sites (including aquatic gardens) and is adaptable to poor, compacted, and/or dry soils
- propagated by crown division, or lifting and division of the underground rhizomes
- Lizard's-Tail Family, with virtually no disease or pest problems
- low availability, in containers or flats
- due to its invasiveness, the best cultural practices to contain its spread are to place it in a restricted root zone area (of about 1' deep), such as that bounded by a sidewalk and foundation, or by planting it in a large, wide pot with minimal drainage holes, and planting the pot in the landscape
- non-variegated foliage reversions should be immediately removed by digging up that particular stem and crown, to prevent it from predominating with its greater vigor
- if placed in hot, dry sites, its growth will be restricted, and the variegated foliage may scorch in Summer; in this case, a mowing off of the old foliage and irrigation of the crowns will allow lush, new foliage to soon appear
- the variegated form has multicolored wide leaf margins of red, bronze, cream, and yellow that contrast well with the otherwise green leaf blade
- leaves are alternate along the upright to procumbent herbaceous stems, with a cordate base and ovate leaf blade, to 3" long
- foliage has a pungent diesel oil smell when mown, cut, or crushed
- foliage and stems die back to the ground with a hard freeze
- the four white bracts are the barely noticeable portions of the sparse, minature, and relatively inconspicuous inflorescences, occuring in June and July and often lost amongst the showy leaf variegation
- ornamenally insignificant
- herbaceous stems that die back to the ground every Autumn
- edging, border, foundation, focal point, bed, or planter groundcover
- should only be used in a restricted root zone area due to its rapid spread out-of-bounds
- medium texture
- thick density
- multicolored foliage as a groundcover
- tolerant of wet sites
- invasive due to underground spreading rhizomes (and very hard to get rid of, as the rhizomes break off upon digging, and the plant is somewhat tolerant of many herbicides)
- slow to emerge in Spring
- zones 5 to 8
- native to Japan, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas
- variegated groundcovers (Aegopodium podgraria 'Variegatum', Fragaria vesca 'Variegata', Pachysandra terminalis 'Variegata', Vinca minor 'Golden Bowles', etc.)
- Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon' - Chameleon Houttuynia - as described herein, and practically the only form available, with multicolored foliage for full sun to partial shade conditons, also listed as Houttuynia cordata 'Variegata'
- Houttuynia is named after Martin Houttuyn, an 18th century Dutch naturalist.
- cordata translates as "heart shaped", and refers to the cordate shape of the leaf base.
- Chameleon Houttuynia is a multicolored groundcover for moist to wet, sunny or shady sites, but is also very invasive.
- Houttuynia cordata is known as a deciduous groundcover with striking multicolored foliage, adaptable to fairly dry or soaking wet sites and full sun to partial shade conditions.
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