Content Detail

Houttuynia is an attractive, but very aggressive ground cover. It should be used carefully since it is a colonizing ground cover and can spread rapidly.

  • Family (English) Lizards-tail
  • Family (botanic) Saururaceae
  • Tree or plant type Ground cover, Perennial
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Low-growing plant (under 6 inches), Small plant (6-12 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9, Zone 10
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest late spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Creeping, Irregular
  • Growth rate Fast

Size and Method of spreading: 

Houttuynia grows about 12 inches tall and can spread almost indefinitely. It is a colonizing ground cover, spreading easily by rhizomes. Colonizing ground covers produce underground stems that spread out horizontally and shallowly, produce roots, and then send up new shoots. These plants are strong growers and may have the potential to grow aggressively.

Native geographic location and habitat: 

Houttuynia is native to Japan.

Leaf description: 

The alternate leaves are heart-shaped. The leaves of the species are green, but the cultivars that are commonly sold are variegated, with shades of green, cream, and red. When crushed, the foliage has a citrus-like scent. The leaves are deciduous, often dying with the first frost.

Flower description: 

The small white flowers appear in late spring to early summer. They are actually small yellow flowers, surrounded by 4 white, petal-like bracts.

Fruit description:

  The fruit is a capsule which is not ornamentally important

Plant care:

Houttuynia can tolerate a wide range of conditions: from moist to very wet soils and from full sun to moderate shade. Its leaves will show less variegation in shade. It often emerges late in spring and can be one of the first plants to die back in fall.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

This plant has no common serious disease or insect problems. It can overrun the garden and may need to be controlled.

Chameleon Houttuynia (Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’): 

The leaves are variegated green, cream, and red on this cultivar.


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