The Worst Plant in the World

September 28, 2014 | By | Comments (43)
Chameleon Plant

Photo: www-baumschule-horstmann-de

This plant sure looks pretty, doesn’t it? Kinda like English ivy with kaleidoscopic leaves of red, pink, yellow, and green. It sports pretty white flowers too. DO NOT PLANT IT! If you do, you will be sorrier than Angelina Jolie after she married Billy Bob Thornton.

It’s called “chameleon plant” (Houttuynia cordata ‘Tricolor’) after its multicolored foliage. If it stayed where you planted it, it would be OK, but like Bruce Springsteen, it was born to run. Usually planted as a ground cover or a color plant for the shade, it 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 container, surprise! The flowers form seeds and seedlings sprout all over. There is no containing it. And soon your garden looks like this.

Chameleon Plant


No garden in the South is safe from this thug, because there is no place it will not grow. 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 (above), which eliminates the sole motivation you had for planting it in the first place.

Save Me, Save Me!
Unfortunate victims of chameleon plant have been flooding Grumpy’s mailbox with desperate pleas for a miracle cure. They’ve pulled and pulled and pulled this menace, filling up trash cans with this horticultural plague, only to see it pop up all over the garden again and again. “It’s taken over my flower beds and invaded my monkey grass!” they wail. “Isn’t there any way to get rid of it for good?”

Sure. Set off a tactical nuclear weapon in your garden. Pave over your garden with a foot of concrete. Get Nancy Grace to move in next door.

Fail to do any of these things and the outlook is dire. Chameleon plant will be with you forever. So do what Grumpy implored in the first place. Never plant this!


  1. Ellen Gooding

    Dear Grumpy, Your response was SO NOT helpful and no I am grumpy. You were my last hope before the foundation of my house is upended by Chameleon plants. UGH!

    June 6, 2017 at 11:08 am
  2. Linda

    Life can be funny. I went into your website to learn if houttynia cordata, could be propagated with clippings. I have the vine but wanted to add it to another part of the yard. Couldn’t believe that this lovely plant could be so hated. I have not had the invasion that many of you have described. I just think the leaves are gorgeous,and the small white blossoms so pretty. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure……

    May 14, 2017 at 3:50 pm
  3. B.L. Blazy

    Meant to say plant daffodils and daisies in it.

    April 27, 2016 at 7:52 pm
  4. B.L. Blazy

    Love this plant. Have a wonder huge circle of it. plant daffy and raises questions in it.
    Beautiful and no mowing!

    April 27, 2016 at 7:51 pm
  5. Things I suck at as an adult | unhipdotcom

    […] weeds. Lots and LOTS of weeds. Oh… And these obnoxious ivy things. It’s called Houttuynia or Chameleon Plant. And it’s considered by many to be the “worst plant in the […]

    April 21, 2016 at 2:46 pm
  6. Ghislaine Mathieu

    An organic suggestion is to spray the plant directly with vinegar with 20% acidity. For reliable results, this must be done in hot weather.

    October 24, 2015 at 6:18 pm
  7. Fibert

    Cashmere Bouquet. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? HateHateHate. Someone planted it in this New Orleans yard many years ago and its legacy lives on…all over this yard, the yard next door, under houses, out of cracks…it’s spiky dense stems and really stinky leaves are in no way compensation for the brief pink flower cluster that appears before it too becomes a stinking wad of ugly. You try cutting it away, you try spraying it away, you damage your wrists trying to dig it away…

    October 25, 2014 at 1:59 pm
  8. Beth

    Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, is indestructible and hS taken over my lawn, gardens, neighbors yards… Yes it smells nice, when I mow it down, yes it stays green, and never needs watering, but it can never be removed, pulled out or eradicated. Plant it if you must

    October 20, 2014 at 9:26 pm
  9. Steve Bender


    Kudzu will not be a problem as long as you have a herd of cows to graze on it. they love it! Failing that, spray with Roundup according to label directions.

    October 14, 2014 at 6:17 am
  10. Steve Bender

    No plant will grow with zero water. This one is slow to spread in a low-rainfall area, so that’s about the only benefit of your drought..

    October 14, 2014 at 6:02 am
  11. catwink1941

    i read recently that kudju contains medicinal qualities which will redeem it, just like tobacco has an ingredient which is used against Ebola . How about THAT!!!

    October 3, 2014 at 4:58 pm
  12. Nana Without Plants

    Will this stuff grow without any water!!!! Our California landlord has taken all the water faucets away and I only have some big pots with plants I water with a gallon jug thingee. Please answer. All we have now is mud.

    October 3, 2014 at 4:55 pm
  13. Brenda Hyman

    Cinnamon vine has been the worst!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 2, 2014 at 1:33 pm
  14. Linda

    No one has mentioned Kudzu. I know it was planted years ago but surely not any more. It is also impossible to control. It shows up more in rural areas. What is best to use to eradicate?

    October 2, 2014 at 9:35 am
  15. RedneckRosarian

    Reblogged this on Helena Beautiful and commented:
    Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardening has a word to the wise

    October 1, 2014 at 9:08 pm
  16. Miz Mo

    How about Wisteria? We hate her!!!!!

    October 1, 2014 at 1:23 pm
  17. Sherri

    Ok…no more posting by phone! That was nonsensical. Sorry.

    October 1, 2014 at 5:06 am
  18. Sherri

    My landlord is a total jerk and the yard is full of nasty rocky fill dirt and weeds…that he calls “grass”. He will send someone to mow without warning if it gets so much as ankle high and then add already other daddy hundred bucks to your rent that month. I have sweated and toiled to have a little bit of beauty in this yard but I am plotting already for wicked things to plant when it comes closer to time to move out. Muahaha! Thanks for already other possible pest to already other do to my list.

    October 1, 2014 at 5:05 am
  19. fl sue

    Add Mexican Petunia to the list. Beautiful with purple flowers when you plant but spreads like crazy with very strong roots Same issue. Do No Plant. Thought it was gone but the rains came and surprise, more than before. Its also draught resistant.

    September 30, 2014 at 8:02 pm
  20. connie

    I got a clipping of wondering jew from a friend years ago. It spread like wild fire all over the yard. I thought I got rid of I years ago but am now seeing new plants coming up. I also planted 2 vines. One is called potatoe vine because it has potatoe looking bulbs growing all over it. When they fall on the ground they take root. Th
    e other is qeens crown. They have taken over the fence between me and a business that moved in next door and climbs all over their equipment.

    September 30, 2014 at 7:48 pm
  21. Cindy

    I gave up and sold the house and moved ! LOL

    September 30, 2014 at 7:24 pm
  22. Colin McKnight

    It’s not just the south that suffers from this plant. It took me years to eradicate it from my tiny yard (I was attracted by the colorful foliage and its shade tolerant habit). The stuff spread by runners that would crawl under the bluestone pavers of the patio, and heave them out of level. When I lifted the stones, it would be a soiid mass of runners underneath. What a relief to be rid of that plant!

    September 30, 2014 at 12:36 pm
  23. Steve Bender

    Because it’s pretty and people will buy it.

    September 30, 2014 at 10:36 am
  24. Cindy S.

    I had this plant at my house in town in a shady area, and it never grew much over several years. However, yarrow, and the evil horsetail rush, now those are a different story!

    September 30, 2014 at 7:02 am
  25. annette r.

    They planted this in the newly landscaped beds outside of a restaurant I patronize about two years ago when they redid the beds. It made for a lovely accent and I made a point to look for some. Happily didn’t find it as I noticed this summer that it has taken over the huge bed where it was planted and all that remains of the other plants that were put in at the same time are the flowering stalks of several hostas. The are poking up through the thicket that is this plant now. Everything else has literally been consumed by it.

    September 30, 2014 at 6:24 am
  26. Karen

    Add Japanese Knot Weed to this list! Comes up everywhere and grows to at least 6′ tall if left alone. Spreads the same way as your Chameleon Plant and is a pain to eliminate. Round up does a good job though as long as you are aggressive.

    September 29, 2014 at 10:42 pm
  27. rhonda

    My mother gave me some mint 15 years ago and neither of us knew that it had to be pot contained. I’ve been trying for years to get it out of my front flower bed (along with another plant that goes everywhere). After pulling up plants and roots for weeks this year I finally gave up, it was killing my back. All my attention went to the flower beds in my back yard, the ones free of mint, morning glorys and that other aggravating plant.

    September 29, 2014 at 10:24 pm
  28. Kathy

    It can’t be any worse than that tall purple ruellia!

    September 29, 2014 at 10:10 pm
  29. Crow’s Nest Antiques

    I have to laugh at this article and the comments! It’s in a garden bed surrounding my business and the tourists absolutely love it. It is invasive, but beautiful. In the spring each stem has a tiny white flower on the top – charming! As for the smell….I LOVE it. Oh well. To each his own.

    September 29, 2014 at 7:36 pm
  30. Jan Muller

    I read it takes five years to eradicate and it took me four. First I dug it up by roots, than either Rounded up stragglers or dug them up, leaving no leaves for the plant to feed on.
    It should be against the law to sell, I bought mine mail order. By the way this was in my N.Y. garden.

    September 29, 2014 at 3:54 pm
  31. Kathy

    Add Japanese aster to this list. Pretty variegated foliage all year. Pretty blue flowers briefly in late summer. But it spreads everywhere. Enormous mistake…

    September 29, 2014 at 2:24 pm
  32. nancy

    yarrow – spreading – across – my – entire – flower – garden. HELP

    September 29, 2014 at 1:19 pm
  33. Marjory Gray Busby

    use of eliminator weed and grass killer, better than round up and less costly will kill the plant, just dig up what you can see and spray the new sprouts as you see them.

    September 29, 2014 at 12:20 pm
  34. Carol

    not only does it take over but it stinks. i found out the hard way

    September 29, 2014 at 12:15 pm
  35. Suz

    Evening Primrose. NEVER PLANT IT! Pretty two weeks out of the year. Looks like weeds the other 50 weeks out of the year. Spreads EVERYWHERE! I was afraid to bring any of my plants when we moved, fearful it would sneak in and get started at the new house.

    September 29, 2014 at 11:55 am
  36. pepper benjamin

    Morning Glory … I’ve been pulling it off a fence for 5 years, thought I’d finally beaten it… just saw some purple blooms peeking through a pine nearby…

    September 29, 2014 at 11:47 am
  37. Brenda

    I made the same mistake with Violets. I planted two plants and they are everywhere. Every time I believe I have them killed out, they pop up somewhere else in the yard.

    September 29, 2014 at 11:29 am
  38. Judy schultz

    Mother-in-law tongue. The tubers run everywhere and deep. It almost impossible to get it all out of your yard.

    September 29, 2014 at 11:23 am
  39. Kim Lincicome

    I had no luck with this plant up North.. but thanks for warning not to plant here!

    September 29, 2014 at 11:18 am
  40. Frank

    Dig it up where planted. Then as the new sprouts come up, spray with Round Up when the first leaves appear. Be persistent and you will eventually rid your self of it. I think I am almost there, but it’s been a chore.

    September 29, 2014 at 11:16 am
  41. Maggie

    Is this plant the reason Grumpy is grumpy? 🙂

    September 28, 2014 at 9:30 pm
  42. Genie Krivanek

    This is, indeed, a hellish plant. It is not, however, the ONLY hellish plant. Mexican Heather has a root ball from Hell!!! If you plant it you’ll need dynamite to remove it. Vinca spreads, and spreads and spreads, and comes up in the oddest places. Gladiola spreads and keeps coming up because you CANNOT remove all the bulbs no matter what you do. And all ivey…what a nasty little invader THAT is. And even my beloved Natchez Crepe Myrtle is CONSTANTLY coming up in places where I don’t want it. The South, unfortunately, has a myriad of plants we shouldn’t plant…but we do and live with the regret!

    September 28, 2014 at 1:59 pm
  43. Betsy

    I got rid of it by being very persistent in removing every piece as it started to grow. I dug up miles and miles of roots and I dug very deep to get as much as I could. And the roots go to China, I think. If you leave even a fraction of an inch of root in the ground a new plant will sprout. Why do garden centers sell it?

    September 28, 2014 at 10:14 am

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