Variegated or variegated plants at home – growing and care

Lovers of indoor flowers are gradually changing their attitude towards green interior decoration. Increasingly, original forms of perennials, unusual blooming, curly, decorative leafy forms of plants with amazing terry flowers of mélange color and leaves with variegated patterns on leaf blades appear in living rooms and other places of rest in an apartment or private household. Particularly attractive are decorative leafy forms of plants with patterns in the form of spots, lines, stripes of white, cream, yellow flowers. They illusoryly increase the illumination of the room, give the dwelling a light festivity.

Variegated hibiscus, variegata. Farmer Mahmood Al-Yousif

The history of the origin of the term “variegated plant”

Such plants used to be called variegated, variegated, spotted. At present, paying tribute to the fashion for everything foreign, a new name “variegated plants” has been assigned to them. The term “variegat” in translation from English and Latin means the familiar word “motley”, “spotted”.

Biological feature of variegates

Variegated plants are highly decorative, but quite capricious. They require increased attention and react negatively to any even insignificant change in their familiar environment. Such instability of variegated plants to environmental conditions is due to the presence of several genotypes in the tissues of plant cells. As a result of a genetic malfunction, mutations undesirable for the plant appeared in the form of chlorophyll-free cells.

Like all deviations from the genetic norm, mutant cells weaken the plant, and it requires increased attention, like any diseased organism. Throughout their life, the vast majority of mutant plants have been trying to get rid of the “beautiful disease” and at the first opportunity they switch to the usual green forms. Therefore, variegated crops need special care during cultivation and reproduction in order to preserve their original genetic disease.

Variegat requirements for living conditions

The variability of plants depends on a number of factors and is not always inherited, even during vegetative propagation. Therefore, when dealing with variegated ornamental-deciduous plants, it is necessary to carefully monitor all the necessary requirements of variegates to the main development conditions, which, among others, include light, heat, air and soil moisture.

Variegated ivy, or hederaVariegated ivy, or heder. Farmer crabchick

Attitude to light

For all plants, the main requirement is illumination, the level of which is individual for each species and type of crops. Light is especially important for variegated leaves. Variegation does not refer to stable mutation, therefore these plants during their life, in accordance with the amount of light, can lose their peculiarity and from variegated to become a common plant with green leaves. For variegates, bright diffused light is optimal. At noon, they can be shaded with a grid that retains up to 50% of direct sunlight.

Soil requirement

Variegated floral and decorative leafy groups of plants require light, permeable and porous (for good aeration of the roots) soil. She needs a high moisture capacity to retain sufficient moisture in the soil. Due to the insufficient amount of chlorophyll (due to its absence in discolored mutant cells) variegates grow slowly and dense soil for them is one of the negative factors. In order for the soil conditions to meet the requirements, you can buy ready-made soil soil or prepare your own soil mixture of the following composition: add 6 parts of leaf, 2-2 parts of peat, 3 part of coarse sand to 1 parts of sod land. Mix everything thoroughly. Moisten and check acidity. The prepared soil mixture should be neutral (pH = 6-7).

Attitude to warmth

With enough light, it is heat that is critical for the normal development of plants. Variegates, like ordinary houseplants, are divided in relation to heat into 3 groups:

  • growing at any positive temperatures (tradescantia, dracaena, ficus)
  • cold-hardy (oleander, agave, some palms, hosts). In winter, they need to lower the air temperature to +8 – +12 ºС
  • thermophilic, for which even the winter temperature should not fall below +25 ºС (date palm, centia, cacti, bromeliads)

Queen Victoria's Agave, 'Variegated'Queen Victoria’s agave, ‘Variegated’. Farmer GREGORIUZ

Humidity of air and soil

For normal development, this group of plants needs high humidity. It is necessary to spray the plants with clean water without calcium and chlorine 1-2 times a week and wipe the leaves with a smooth leathery surface with a damp cloth 1 time in 7-10 days.

To keep the soil moist between watering, the pallets should contain wet expanded clay, moss, pebbles. The water evaporates and creates a humid atmosphere around the plant. This is especially important for monsters, philodendrons and other plants that form aerial roots.

Care for variegates

Fertilizers and fertilizing

  • During the active growing season, plants are fed every 2-3 weeks with a diluted solution of a balanced complete mineral fertilizer (nitroammofosk, nitrophoska).
  • Variegates respond well to the application of granular mineral fertilizers with a slow release of nutrients (sticks, balls and other forms).
  • As a rule, these plants do not tolerate increased acidity. Therefore, when using peat in a soil mixture, it is necessary to feed the plants with a diluted infusion of wood ash once every 1-4 weeks.
  • To prevent variegates from losing their main decoration – variegation, they should not be overfed with nitrogen fertilizers.
  • In order not to overfeed the plants and not keep them on a starving ration, it is better to use special complex mixtures containing microelements that have a positive effect on variegation (organic-mineral mixture “Merry Flower Girl”).


To preserve the elegant appearance of plants, variegates must be provided with sufficient moisture. Therefore, plants in the spring and summer must be watered abundantly. The next watering is carried out when the top layer of the soil dries up by about 5 cm, but not less than on the phalanx of the finger. If the soil is wet below, watering is transferred for 1-2 days. In winter, watering is moderate.

It is better to water the plants less often, but provide full water. Surface watering, when the main clod remains dry, only harms the plant. To water properly, you need to pour water in a thin stream along the inner wall of the pot or other container. Fully moistened soil is considered when water appears in the sump. To be sure that the soil ball is completely moistened, the water from the sump is drained only after 0,5 hours.

Ficus rubbery, or Ficus elastic variegated formFicus rubbery, or Ficus elastic variegated form. Farmer Geek2Nurse


Variegates, like ordinary plants, need transplantation in several cases:

  • with a strong growth of roots,
  • with a large above-ground mass,
  • with a plant disease,
  • in poor soil (usually after purchase).

The transplant is carried out in the spring in March-April or after the plants leave the dormant period.

  • Young plants after reproduction in the first years of life are transplanted into large containers annually,
  • mature plants are transplanted after 2-4 years if necessary. If the roots are fragile, the transplant is replaced by transshipment,
  • large bush- and tree-like forms in tubs and boxes are not transplanted, but replace the top 5-10 cm layer of soil with a fresh mixture.

Preparing and carrying out the transplant

The day before transplanting, the soil under the plant is watered abundantly, for easy extraction from a pot or other container.

  • Prepare the landing container. New pots are soaked in hot water for 2-3 hours, and used ones are thoroughly washed and disinfected in a solution of dark red potassium permanganate for 1-2 hours.
  • Drainage is placed on the bottom of the prepared pot and part of the soil mixture is poured into a slide.
  • The plant is removed from the old container and examined. Sick, dry, broken roots are cut off.

The root system is dipped in a root solution and, carefully spreading the roots along the mound of earth in a pot, the plant is planted. Top with soil mixture, gently crushing the soil and shaking the pot. The root collar must be left flush or above the soil (unless otherwise provided for by the biological characteristics of the plant). The top layer of soil from the surface of the pot should be at a level of 2,0-2,5 cm so that when watering, water does not overflow over the edge of the pot.

If the plant has a fragile root system, it is better to carry out transshipment. In this case, the roots do not completely free the old soil. The main lump, together with the roots, is placed in a new container and covered with soil mixture.

In tree-like forms (in boxes and tubs), replace the top 5-10 cm layer of soil with a new mixture.

After planting, the soil is watered (not flooded) with water. Excess water from the pan is removed after 0,5 hours.

The first feeding after transplantation is carried out not earlier than in 1-2 months.

Transplanted plants are kept in partial shade only for the first 5-8 days, and then placed in a permanent place with sufficient lighting, covering from direct rays at lunchtime.

Peperomia blunt-leaved 'Variegata'Peperomia blunt-leaved ‘Variegata’. Farmer OnlinePlantGuide

Reproduction of variegated plants

Variegated plants reproduce by seeds, cuttings, parts of the rhizome, dividing the bush, and grafting. Seed reproduction does not give the desired results, variegation is lost. If the mutation is unstable, then when cuttings, young plants can form ordinary green leaves.

To preserve variegation, variegates are propagated at home vegetatively – part of the rhizome or cuttings with a heel. Variegated perennials grow up to 10 years. Therefore, it is best to buy a young grafted seedling, a daughter plant or a division in a store and at home to get an adult bright, elegant variegated plant with proper care.

When breeding at home

  • by dividing the rhizomes, sansevier, ferns, cyperus, hosts, heucheras reproduce),
  • air layers can be used to obtain young variegates with maternal signs of variegation (rhododendrons, ficuses, dieffenbachia, dracaena, monstera, chlorophytum),
  • cuttings (aucuba variegata, bauhinia variegated, peperomia variegata).

In variegated plants (especially when the light regime is disturbed), growths or “reverse” sports with green leaves appear. They need to be removed. Otherwise, they drown out the variegated shoots (epiremnums, Schefflera, monstera, tradescantia, variegated stonecrop) and the plant becomes a common green-leaved plant.

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Anna Evans

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