Chameleon plant is tough to control

Chameleon plant has attractive foliage but it spreads rapidly. The sap has an unpleasant smell, adding to the chore of pulling it. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Chameleon plant has attractive foliage but it spreads rapidly. The sap has an unpleasant smell, adding to the chore of pulling it. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: We have a small cabin by a stream. Our garden beds are 6 feet up from the water. Two years ago, our gardens were infested with chameleon plant. It’s taken over everything! I don’t want to totally dig up my beds because I have other plants in them. Is my only method to get rid of the chameleon plant to pull it up by hand? Kirsten Schaetzel, email

A: Normally I would say digging everything out and replacing the soil is best. But digging so close to the water will lead to erosion. I think the only way to kill chameleon plant, Houttuynia cordata, is to use a nonselective herbicide, but I think the distance is a little too close to use regular glyphosate (Roundup, etc.). The label says to avoid application near bodies of water. The active ingredient is not the problem, it is the additives that are sometimes used for spraying in a landscape. But there is a solution: look for glyphosate products labeled for use in aquatic environments (Rodeo, Shore-Klear, etc.). They do not have the additives, but you need to mix in a “spreader-sticker” chemical (CideKick, Turbo, etc.) to be sure the herbicide is absorbed by the leaves. You might have to paint the herbicide onto the chameleon plants with a foam paintbrush to avoid hurting your other plants.

Q: I plant my tomatoes, cukes and squash in pots on my deck. I’ve cleaned them and gotten rid of all the roots. Can I reuse the soil? Kitty Peschell, email

A: Unless you had problems with leaf diseases on your plants last year, there’s no reason not to reuse the old soil. As you likely noticed, natural decomposition reduced the volume of that soil. The average particle size is a little smaller now. This will reduce the needed internal drainage of the soil. I suggest you use perlite to mix with the old soil to increase its volume.

Q: Is it possible to container-grow a bougainvillea? It would be placed in a sunroom so light wouldn’t be a problem. Darlene McDonald, Johns Creek

A: I don’t think you can give it enough light indoors to promote blooming. Bougainvillea definitely won’t live outdoors in the winter in Atlanta. The best bet is to keep it indoors until April then place it in bright shade outdoors. It will grow huge by fall if you keep it fed and watered regularly. At that time, you’ll have to chop off most of the stems in order to bring it back inside. Put it in front of a sunny window for winter, don’t feed it, but water it when the soil gets dry. Repeat the process each year.

Walter’s email address is georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his comments at 6:35 a.m. on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener.

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