The Dirt on Variegation

There is a rising trend among plant parents for unique, bicolored and tri-colored variegated plants. Variegated refers to flowers or plant leaves that are typically two or three colors, and at sometimes, more than that. These plants are often very rare and hard to find!

When plants are found in the wild with variegation, a latin plant’s name would include an italicized word variegata as the second part of the name. In contrast, if a variegated plant is a cultivar, this would be indicated through a capital, single quoted ‘Variegata.’


Types of Variegation


1. Chimeral Variegation is caused by a genetic defect, in which a single plant displays two different chromosomal make-ups. In this case, some of the tissue is able to produce chlorophyll and other tissue is not. Chimeral Variegated plants usually have white or yellow zones that are mixed with a solid green color. An example of this type of variegated plant is the Variegated Monstera deliciosa.



variegated monstera


2. Natural Variegation, also called Pigmented or Pattern-Gene Variegation, are naturally patterned plants. This means the pattern is written in the plant’s DNA and passed down from generation to generation. Examples of Natural Variegated plants include Snake Plants, Rattlesnake Calathea, Fishbone Prayer Plant, Pink Rubber Tree, Magenta Triostar, and Silver Evergreen. It is common for horticulturists to create cultivars or hybrid species with natural variegation to highlight the natural patterns.



Variegated snake plant


3. Reflective, or Blister Variegation is when tiny air pockets are formed between the pigmented lower layer of the leaves and the unpigmented upper layer of the leaves. When light hits these areas, it is reflected, creating the leaves to have a silver shine. Examples of this type of variegated foliage are the Satin Pothos, Watermelon Peperomia, and Philodendron Gloriosum.



satin pothos

Tips to Care for Variegated Plants


Light: Bright, indirect light is preferred for variegated plants to thrive. These plants typically require more light than their non-variegated counterparts.


Water: Ensure you water your plant until water begins dripping through drainage holes. Make sure the soil dries in between waterings.


Pruning: If your plant’s leaves are slowly turning all green and losing their other colors, this means the plant is reverting. To avoid this, prune the stems whose leaves are turning green as soon as the leaves appear.


Fertilizer: Fertilize your variegated houseplants during growing seasons in order to ensure the best growth results.


Soil: Mix 2-3 parts of potting soil mixed with 2 part perlite.


Now that you know what variegation means, the types of variegated plants that exist, and how to care for variegated plants, keep your eyes open for these unique and rare plants when plant shopping!

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