By Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Horticulturist
Photographs courtesy of Costa Farms
Variegation is one of the hottest—if not the single biggest—trends we’re seeing in the houseplant world. It’s no wonder why… Foliage with blotches, streaks, or splashes of color stand out from the crowd of more traditional green houseplants. Are variegated houseplants right for your home or office? Absolutely! Here are five of our favorites and a few things to keep in mind.
Goeppertia kegeljanii 'PP0005'
Showing off long, narrow green leaves veined in darker green, Network Calathea is subtle from a distance and stunning when you get up close. It holds up better to dry soil than most other Calatheas, making it a great choice for practically any home or office.
Polka Dot Begonia
There’s a lot going on with Polka Dot Begonia. It features big, wing-shaped leaves (the origin of another of its common names, angelwing begonia) that are rusty red on the undersides and bronzy green on top. What makes it stand out, though, is that each leaf is variegated with an array of silvery-white spots. It can grow four feet tall or more over time, making it a showpiece plant!
Botanists have put Xanthosoma through a number of name changes (you might see it listed as Xanthosoma lindenii or Caladium lindenii), but no matter what you call it, this is a stunning plant. It features dark green, arrow-shaped leaves veined in creamy white. Give it good growing conditions and those leaves can reach 15 inches long or more, making it a showstopper in your home.
Silver Dragon Alocasia
Alocasia ‘Silver Dragon’
Silvery tones pair well with everything, making plants like Silver Dragon Alocasia beautiful to enjoy by themselves or combined with other plants. This beauty offers thick, silver leaves veined in gray green. It’s especially stunning when sited near dark-leafed plants like Raven® ZZ to accent its metallic sheen.
Moonshine Snake Plant
Dracaena trifasciata ‘Moonshine’
One of the easiest houseplants to grow, Moonshine Snake Plant tolerates just about any room of the house so you can enjoy its carefree nature and good looks. Each of its sword-shaped leaves is silvery green with a bit of dark green mottling or banding.
Sold on variegated houseplants? Here are some considerations:
Most variegated houseplants (the exception being varieties like Global Green Pothos that have green-on-green variegation patterns) have less chlorophyll than their straight-up-green counterparts. This means they have less fuel for growth—so they’re slower and sometimes more difficult for growers. This typically makes them costlier to produce and more expensive in stores.
Variegated selections can be a little different in how they respond to light than non-variegated forms of the same plant. Varieties that have white variegation (such as Manjula Pothos or White Calcite Aglaonema) are more susceptible to unsightly sunburn in bright light since there aren’t pigments protecting the leaf surface. Alternatively, on other varieties their variegation may fade if they don’t get enough light.
If you see a houseplant that has a variegation pattern where every leaf is different, there’s a good chance that variegation isn’t genetically stable. While this is fun and offers the novelty of not knowing exactly what the next leaf will look like, it also brings the potential of reversion. Reversion is when a plant genetically jumps back to a previous form, and with variegation, this can be a non-variegated form.
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