Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon'
Common Name: houttuynia 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Saururaceae
Zone: 4 to 10
Height: 0.75 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Greenish white with showy white bracts
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Water Plant, Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful
Tolerate: Heavy Shade


Easily grown in humusy, consistently moist to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Variegated cultivars develop best foliage color in full sun. Plants spread aggressively by rhizomes and may need to be restrained by soil barriers or planted in areas where fixed structures such as sidewalks or buildings will restrict spread. In water gardens, grow in containers as marginal aquatic plants. Plants tolerate up to 2” of standing water over the crowns. In natural ponds, plants are also often grown in containers sunk into the mud to maintain control and to avoid unwanted spread. Grow as a ground cover in moist, boggy areas.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Houttuynia cordata is a rhizomatous perennial that typically grows 9-15” tall and spreads indefinitely and often vigorously by rhizomes. It is primarily grown as a ground cover in moist to wet areas, including aquatic margins. Species plants feature ovate to cordate dark blue-green leaves (to 3” long) edged with red. Foliage is aromatic when bruised. Tiny, inconspicuous greenish-white flowers in 1-1.5” spikes are subtended by four showy white petal-like bracts. Flowers appear in mid to late spring. The plant is eaten in China and Vietnam.

Genus name honors Martin (or Maarten) Houttuyn (1720-1794), Dutch naturalist and physician.

Specific epithet means heart-shaped for the leaves.

‘Chameleon’ (synonymous with ‘Variegata’ and ‘Tricolor’) features green leaves variegated with shades of red, pink, yellow and/or cream on bright red stems.


No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for aphids and slugs. Spreads aggressively.


Ground cover for pond or water garden margins. Bog gardens. Moist borders.