Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Sunday - March 20, 2011

From: Muskogee, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: How to eradicate non-native invasive Houttuynia cordata from Muskogee OK
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have planted a very invasive plant called houttuynia and cannot get rid of it! It is very stinky and the stems break off easily at the roots. I cannot dig it up anymore - it is all over in my flower bed! Do you know of something I can spray on it to eradicate it - and not kill my other flowers!?

ANSWER:

Since this plant is native to southeast Asia, we have no information on it in our Native Plant Database. However, we are always interested in controlling or eliminating invasive plants, native or not. From a website by Ohio State University, we found this article on Houttuynia cordata, which indicates, among other things, that is is invasive because it spreads by underground rhizomes which, even if a small fraction is left in the soil, can still continue propagating. A wonderful argument for investigating the habits and nativity of any plant before you plant it.

Please, no spray! One of the things you will learn when you read the above link is that it seems to be resistant to many herbicides. We have a more or less standard operation that we suggest for trying (notice we said trying) to control invasive plants. Any spray you try will probably not faze the invasive, but will lay waste to all the broadleaf plants around, including your ornamentals. Buy some wide-spectrum herbicide and some small sponge disposable paintbrushes. Clip off every stem you can find emerging from the soil and then, quickly, within 5 minutes, paint the cut stub with the undiluted herbicide. You must do this right away because the stem will quickly begin to heal over to protect the rhizomes beneath. Of course, don't allow the plant to bloom and keep all leaves cut off in order to deny those rhizomes of the food they get from the leaves. Theoretically, in a perfect world, that would cause the rhizomes to starve to death. However, the way that plant became so invasive is by being very tough and adaptive, so you can't let up. Apparently, the plant is somewhat dormant in the winter, so that would be a good time to really make a digging assault on the rhizomes and be sure to dispose them where they won't root again! But you must persist and keep after the plant, constantly looking for sprouts in places you didn't expect it to be.

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Lilac bush roots dangerous to house foundations
August 06, 2008 - Are lilac bushes dangerous to the foundation of a house? There is a lovely white-blooming lilac that grows against the house outside my bedroom window. My ex-husband said that the roots would destro...
view the full question and answer

Control of non-native invasive ground ivy in Grand Junction TN
May 08, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, I live in the Southwest portion of TN about 50 miles east of Memphis. We have an invasive plant, called Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea L in our yard and pasture now which is ta...
view the full question and answer

Non-native creeping fig and non-native nutgrass in Carmichael CA
September 28, 2009 - Will creeping fig choke out nut grass?
view the full question and answer

Non-native weeping willow losing leaves
June 03, 2008 - We have a willow tree (weeping), which sprung up naturally about 12 years ago. It has done very well until this summer. After its bloom in late March, it is losing its leaves again..turning yellow and...
view the full question and answer

Identification of a tree in Florida with bell-shaped red flowers
November 23, 2012 - A friend in Florida has asked about identification of a tree with a flower none of us have ever seen. It starts with a green pod, then flowers into, what looks to me like a Chinese lantern, or bell. I...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.