Everything To Know About Variegated Plants 

Everything To Know About Variegated Plants 

Oct 28, 2022

In recent years, as an impact of a global pandemic, on top of typical everyday stressors of life, the popularity of gardening and growing plants has seen a significant increase. With that increase, the horticulture industry has seen a significant jump in the interest and demand for variegated plants.

Whether you’re just getting into the plant world, or you’re a seasoned expert in all things green and leafy, the concept of variegated plants is likely to fascinate you. Keep reading to learn all there is to know about variegated plants, as well as a few fan-favorite indoor and outdoor plants that sport this unique phenomenon.

What Does Variegated Mean?

variegated ivy

In the botanical world, variegation is defined as differently colored zones in the leaves and sometimes in the stems and fruits of a plant. The word originates from the Latin term ‘variegatus,’ which is said to mean ‘made of multiple colors.

Different Types of Variegation

With such a broad definition, some may argue that all plants are variegated in one way or another. However, there are certain types of variegated plants that are more sought after than others.

variegated philodendron cobra

Chimeral Variegation

The most well-known type of variegation is referred to as Chimeral Variegation. This kind of coloring in a plant’s foliage is a result of a genetic mutation. These plants exhibit multiple chromosomal make-ups allowing some parts of the plant to produce chlorophyll, while other parts of the plant cannot.

Some common examples of plants with chimeral variegation are the Variegated Monstera Deliciosa, and the Philodendron Pink Princess. These highly sought-after plants boast the typical Split-Leaf Philodendron foliage with lustrous green, larger-than-life leaves, and grand fenestrations. However, what makes the plant so sought after is the unique splashes of white color on the leaves–no two leaves come out alike.

satin pothos variegated

Blister Variegation

Another type of variegation seen in plants is called ‘Blister or Reflective Variegation.’ This type of variegation is a little less obvious than Chimeral Variegated but brings an immense amount of understated beauty to a specimen.

With this type of variegation, tiny transparent pockets of air form within the middle layers of the leaf. When light hits the foliage of a reflectively variegated plant, it gives a shimmery appearance that almost seems to sparkle in the light. A prime example of a plant that boasts blister variegation is the Silvery Ann Pothos.

variegated calathea

Pattern-Gene Variegation

In addition to reflective variegation is a more frequent type of variegation seen in plants is called ‘Pattern-Gene Variegation.’ This is when the plant is naturally patterned, and it is simply in the DNA of the plant.

This common type of variegation can be seen readily throughout the Prayer Plant or ‘Calathea Family.’ For instance, the Calathea Makoyana boasts the most unique splashes of deep green patterns atop a light green canvas of leaf. With Pattern-Gene Variegation, the colors and shapes on the leaves are a lot less random and more symmetrical than that of chimeral or viral variegation.

viral variegation

Viral Variegation

Last on the list of types of variegation to look for in plants is Viral Variegation. That’s right, plants are just as privy to viruses as we humans are! And while viruses cause our noses to run and bodies to weaken, they actually can work to cause random variegation in plants!

While variegation is often sought after in plants, viral variegation can be a death sentence for your plant. If you think your plant has been infected with a virus, be sure to take action and quarantine your plant.

thai constellation

Why are Variegated Plants So Expensive?

With leaves that look to be almost hand-painted, it’s easy to understand why people have become so infatuated with the phenomenon of variegated plants. But with their uniqueness, and high demand comes a significant price tag.

Some variegated plants have an average price between 5 and $7,000! If you’re wondering what type of person would spend the price that could be a down payment on a car, on a plant that could very well die, well you’re not alone!

The main reason that variegated plants are so expensive is because they are rare. Some variegated plants are harder to get than others, but there are few plants with variegated foliage that naturally occur in the wild.

philodendron reverted

What Causes A Variegated Plant To Revert

After you’ve broken the bank on your variegated houseplant, the last thing you want is for the plant to revert back to its original colors! But unfortunately, this happens more frequently than we’d like to admit.

Whether your unique splashes of color are a result of a natural anomaly, or they have been carefully engineered and bred, there is always a chance that your variegated leaves may go completely green. The scientific explanation for this is a result of unstable changes in the leaf’s cells.

Because variegated plants lack typically chlorophyll levels, they also lack solar energy which is a main component of photosynthesis. It is fully possible, that if not given ideal conditions, your variegated plant will revert to its original form as a survival mechanism. Thus, variegation loss can be brought on by a variety of factors including but not limited to drastic changes in temperature, insufficient lighting, and a lack of nutrients.

encouraging variegation in plants

How To Encourage Variegation In Plants

If your precious variegated plant is starting to revert, there are a few steps you can take to attempt to encourage new variegated leaves.

The first step is to chop and prop–prune and propagate your plant that is. By taking a top cutting from your plant, you are encouraging new, healthy growth from your plant. The next step is to place your plant in an ideal atmosphere; a place with bright indirect sunlight and moderate humidity levels.

You will have to have patience as you wait for new leaves to emerge, but you can get a hint of what your next leaf will look like by studying the color of the stems.

Fan-Favorite Variegated Houseplants

  • Monstera Thai Constellation
  • Pink Princess Philodendron
  • White Princess Philodendron
  • Philodendron Cobra
  • Philodendron Brasil
  • Pearls and Jade Pothos

Popular Variegated Garden Plants

  • Variegated Boxwood
  • Variegated Liriope
  • Variegated Pachysandra