When we moved into our house there was an attractive groundcover plant in the garden, near the back door. It’s called “chameleon plant” (Houttuynia cordata ‘Tricolour’) after its multicolour foliage. It reminds me a bit of English ivy with a kaleidoscopic leaves of red, pink, yellow, and green. It sports pretty white flowers too. If it stayed where you planted it all would be well.
Usually planted as a ground cover, pond marginal plant or a colour plant for the shade, the Houttuynia 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 basket or container, surprise! The flowers form seeds and seedlings sprout all over. There is no containing it.
I did a bit of stonework where the plant was and as it was winter the plant had died back. As I innocently spread the dug out soil around various parts of the garden I didn’t realise I was spreading parts of the plants roots around too. I know now. This invasive plant has now sprung up everywhere. Not since Japanese knotweed and Horsetail have I seen anything so invasive. At least with the Horsetail you can clean pots and pans with their abrasive silica based leaves. These Houttuynia don’t seem to have any redeeming features whatsoever.
There doesn’t seem to be a place where the plant doesn’t grow in the garden. 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 which eliminates the sole motivation you had for planting it in the first place. If you see the before and after picture I have you will see that when the leaves are new and fresh they look lovely. All of the rooted cuttings in my garden are coming out a dull green and are really unattractive as they smother other plants. Leaf eating insects don’t really seem to like them either and as yet I haven’t seen a slug anywhere near them.
Is there a natural solution?
I’m sure there is a powerful chemical that could rid the garden of this invasive plant, but it’ll probably kill everything else off at the same time. My only solution in my garden will be to be very thorough when I dig up the roots, making sure I get them ALL. Clipping the ones that are growing right back before they set seed will control the spread a bit too. In about three years I hope to have them gone so it’s a long term plan. I will not be composting the roots or throwing them into the bin either because they will either come back to haunt me or it’ll be someone else’s problem as I would be spreading them around. I’ll burn them.
I have had a great knife for nearly twenty years now and it does everything in the house and garden. I have used it for chopping vegetables in the kitchen, opening bags of coal, pruning back plants, opening cardboard boxes, sharpening pencils and even cutting plastic bottles and tins and it’s never had to be sharpened. It’s a fantastic knife that has also been composted quite a few times as it’s thrown out with the newspaper full of peelings. I have taken it a step too far this week though and thought it could cope with cutting heavy duty electrical cable. I’m in the process of setting up electricity into the cabin and have some really thick cable laid as it need to go underground outside for part of its journey. The cable was really thick and took some sawing to get through, there were different types of metal too so I’m not sure if it was the copper or steel that did the damage.
I didn’t realise just what a difference having a blunt knife makes to your day. Onions are like leather and are tough to get through; even carrots break up and crack when you try to chop them. My usually beautiful dinners with their lovingly sliced veggies have a more rustic look to them. I do have an oil stone so I think it’s a job to do this week to try and bring the knife back to its former glory. I’ll test it out by slashing a few Houttuynia down.