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I was given a plant a while back that I was told repels mosquitoes:

Picture of the plant growing inside a 10-gallon nursery pot

The little I know about it:

  • it has dark green heart shaped leaves that grow up to about 3½" wide by 4½" long (9cm by 11cm).
  • the stems, ribs on the leaves and the underside of the leaves all have a reddish tinge.
  • the leaves are alternate on the stems.
  • it's herbaceous in Portland, Oregon (USDA zone 8a).
  • it tolerates shady conditions; I have it in a half-full 10 gallon nursery pot by the northwest corner of my house where it only gets light for part of the afternoon and it seems to be doing OK.
  • it spreads by underground roots which are similar to those of bindweed, though it does not seem to spread as aggressively -- a bindweed would have climbed out of the pot by now, but it's staying inside. Also, its roots seem harder to break than those of bindweed.
  • it may originally have come from east Asia -- my plant is at three degrees of separation from the source, who I'm told is Korean.
  • I don't know what its flowers look like.

What is this plant?

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In case it is Hottuynia as Kevinsky mentions, then these two questions are relevant: gardening.stackexchange.com/q/305/109 and gardening.stackexchange.com/q/2900/109. Most importantly, they are extremely invasive. –  Lorem Ipsum May 28 '12 at 22:55

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

This is a variety of Houttuynia cordata. The most popular cultivar is "Variegata" which has multicoloured leaves of white green and red. The way to confirm the identification is to pinch off a leaf. There is a unique smell associated with this plant. I can't describe it but the Wikipedia article refers to it as "fish mint". If it has mosquito repellent properties the ones in my garden are unaffected by it.

This plant grows well in moist to wet soil and even grows in water in partial or full sun. After this was introduced to my garden by a well meaning gardener I can confirm that plants are invasive in gardens and difficult to eradicate.

After reading the article I see that it can be used as a garnish and I'm hoping to find someone who likes the taste so they can eradicate it by eating it.

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The smell is definitely "unique". Glad I asked because the subtext for the question was where would be a good place to plant it. :/ –  Niall C. Jun 3 '12 at 14:19

I have it growing in my garden in the southern most part of Virginia. I can attest that it is extremely invasive. On the other hand, it makes a beautiful display with the white flowers in May. After that, I'm in a never ending battle of keeping it at bay. It is even growing up through the deck.

It grows solid green in my garden with full morning sun (east exposure). When growing in more direct sunlight (a southern exposure), the leaves become variegated, white, lighter green, dark green and pink to red. The height is also severely restricted, and it stays under 6 inches. In my experience, it does nothing to repel mosquitos here in the Tidewater, VA area.

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