Variegated plants can be beautiful additions to any garden. Still, the changes in color on their leaves can make them difficult to take care of properly, especially when you’re used to having your plant-care duties split into simple sunlight or shade categories.
To effectively grow and care for variegated plants, you must understand their challenges and how to overcome them. Variegated plants can be more demanding than their solid-colored counterparts, so they often end up in your trash after their first season with you.
To keep your variegated plants thriving, we’ve recommended several unique tips on how to grow and care for variegated plants.
What Are Variegated Plants?
Variegated plants are a unique category of plants with multicolored, mottled, or stripped leaf patterns. These plants have different designs and are beautiful additions to any garden, balcony, or windowsill. These plants have leaves that are a mixture of two or more colors, like pink, green, white, yellow, and blue.
Variegations happen when the plant produces extra chlorophyll in one leaf area (usually the center), creating a lighter stripe than the rest. The chlorophyll in variegated plants absorbs less sunlight than in solid green plants.
Variegated plants thrive in bright, sunny spots, so be sure to place them near a sunny window or on your property where they will get enough sunlight. Many different types of variegated plants include coleus, caladiums, and impatiens.
A few essential tips for growing these colorful beauties are as follows:
- Place in light but indirect sun so that the color stays vibrant
- Water every day or every other day, depending on heat levels
- Plant in loose soil with plenty of drainage holes
- Prune regularly to promote a healthy shape
What Causes Plants to Variegate?
Variegation is caused by two or more different pigments within a single leaf. The most common cause of variegation is an increase in chlorophyll, typically in plants exposed to prolonged periods of intense sunlight.
When this happens, chlorophyll and other pigment production decrease, leading to the two-toned leaves that we call variegated plants. Variegated plants grow in nearly every climate, from tropical rainforests to hot deserts.
Some have said that one good indicator of whether or not a plant will develop variegated foliage is its growth rate; slower growers tend to produce such leaves more frequently than those who grow faster.
How Do Plants Develop Variegation?
Plants can become variegated in three ways:
1. Infection With A Virus:
Plant variegation can indicate signs of infection since certain viruses create discoloration and blotches on plant leaves. Nutrient deficiencies, particularly magnesium and iron, can cause variegated plant discoloration. Hence, you should permanently remove the damaged leaves to prevent infectious diseases in plants.
2. Natural Variegation:
Pigmented plants are naturally variegated plants that develop variegated leaf patterns attributable to a pattern gene in the plant’s DNA. A good example is Calathea lancifolia, which has naturally variegated leaves.
3. Genetic Modifications:
Genetic mutation is the most frequent way for plants to become variegated. As a result, plant leaf tissues are unable to synthesize chlorophyll. As a result, specific plant cells generate chlorophyll; other parts do not, resulting in the plant’s variegated coloring.
Types of Variegated Plants
Colorful and distinctive leaves are found in different varieties of variegated plants, such as:
- Dracaena – There are several variegated dragon tree types, including ”Golden Coast,” which has golden borders, and ”White Jewel,” which has white stripes.
- Monstera ‘deliciosa’ Variegata”: This popular variegated Monstera, also known as Monstera albo, is a multicolored climbing plant with magnificent contrasting white variegation and huge, fenestrated leaves that may grow up to 4 meters tall.
- ‘Monstera’ Thai Constellation’‘: ”Thai Constellation” is another variegated Monstera cultivar with mottled creamy white, multicolored leaves.
- ‘Calathea’ White Fusion’‘: The Calathea is a beautiful plant mix of dark green and white foliage. The white stripes in the calathea leaves look to be painted with broad strokes of color. This calathea enjoys direct sunshine and dry soil.
- Pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum): Various pothos with variegated leaves with varying levels of white on their glossy, smooth leaves include ”Marble Queen,” ”N-Joy,” and ”Happy Leaf.”
Growing Variegated Plants
Plants variegated by a mutation in their DNA don’t function correctly because of malfunctioning chloroplasts. This causes the plant to produce more chlorophyll, which gives the leaves their green color. The variegated effect is enhanced when plants are grown in solid light.
To grow variegated plants, we recommend the following steps:
- Choose a location with plenty of natural light, but be careful to place your plants at a window or other direct source of solid sunlight.
- When planting, don’t over-water your plants.
- Remember to fertilize every two weeks during active growth periods.
- Mist them often to prevent bacteria or fungi infestation.
How to Care for Variegated Plants
Variegated plants are beautiful additions to any garden but require special care. Here are a few tips we recommend to help you care for variegated plants:
1. Adequate Sunlight:
For the variegation pattern in these plants to show up, they need more light than other houseplants. Find a sunny spot near a window or outside where they can get plenty of sunlight. However, if you want to grow the variegated plants inside, place them as close to a sunny window as possible with no obstructions blocking their light source.
A potting mix containing sand is better suited for this plant type than peat moss or barks chips. This potting is ideal because it drains well and retains less moisture around the plant’s root zone.
3. Trimming Your Variegated Plants:
Variegated plants add many fun, bright colors to your home environment. Trimming these plants is easier than you might think. To trim your variegated plants, we recommend following these two easy steps:
- Always trim variegated plants in the early morning or late evening so the plant will dry out quickly.
- You should use sharp scissors or shears sterilized with alcohol to avoid spreading disease among your houseplants.
Applying fertilizer is an integral part of growing variegated plants. Fertilizing will help keep your plants healthy by providing the necessary nutrients. While you can use any fertilizer, organic fertilizers are preferred as they are more natural and do not harm the environment. Mix a quarter cup of slow-release fertilizer with two cups of water in a watering can or another container to properly fertilize your plant.
Variegated plants need more frequent watering than other plants. You should water the plants thoroughly until the water drains from the pot. However, the watering should be moderately done so the plant stays at the pot’s bottom.
When watering, you should do so in the morning, eight hours after your last watering. A great way to check if a variegated plant needs watering is by looking at the leaves, and if they are drooping, chances are they need water.
Frequently Asked Questions
How should I look after my indoor variegated plants?
Provide the variegated plants with sufficient lighting. Because these leaves have less chlorophyll than non-variegated leaves, your variegated plant will require more sunlight. The more variegation a plant has, the more light it needs.
Which fertilizer is best for variegated plants?
Fertilizers such as Dyna-Gro and Growth Technology (GT) are two popular urea-free fertilizer products for variegated plants. Urea-free fertilizer is more suited to slower-growing and salt-sensitive plants, making it the best bet for variegated plants.
Why do plants lose their variegation?
Plants losing their variegation can be caused by seasonality, sunlight, or other conditions. It can be tricky to reverse variegation loss, although you can prevent it from taking over a whole plant.
Are regular plants more expensive than variegated plants?
Variegated plants are often more expensive than their all-green counterparts because they are more challenging to grow and maintain. They are also less stable, so your plant is more likely to revert to its original all-green state.
What causes variegated plants to revert?
For a variety of causes, variegated plants can turn green or revert. It might be a response to low light levels or temperature fluctuations. It might also be caused as a survival strategy, as the plant becomes stronger as it accumulates more chlorophyll.
Variegated plants are a great way to add color and variation to your garden. The most straightforward technique to cultivate variegated plants is to propagate multicolored sections or a genetically variegated variety. Variegated plants are susceptible to sunburn, so you must care for them properly to protect them from harsh conditions and keep them looking their best.