Variegated indoor plants – what do you need to know?

We have all seen the posts, ‘in search of variegated Monstera’, or the prices variegated plants are fetching on Trade Me. So, what is making these plants so sought after? And, when you get your hands on one, how do you make sure that you keep that precious variegation in your plant that you have paid for?

The beautiful variegation of Monstera deliciosa.

Let’s start at the beginning. What creates that stunning variegation we have all fallen in love with? Plant variegations can occur due to one of three reason. Firstly, it may be created through the mutation of a new plant. Or, it may be a consequence of the environmental effects on an existing plant. Lastly, it might be the result of careful engineering through plant breeding. Either way, once this new variety of plant has been found, it is usually breed as a point of difference to provide colour variety for you, our plant enthusiasts. Variegation can come as a mix of colours within the same leaf, and can venture to include the stem of the plant as well. It can come in the form of an albino colouring such as the example of the albino Monstera, or a solid colour like pink, which is seen on the Philodendron Pink Princess.

Image Source: thejoyofplants.co.uk

A variegated plant, whilst beautiful, is actually a plant which is at a disadvantage in comparison to its fully-green leaved friends. Due to the lack of colouring (chlorophyll) in the leaf, your plant is unable to photosynthesis as well as it normally would, reducing its ability to grow and thrive. However, a variegated plant is not ‘sick’. It will generally have smaller leaves, and grow at a much slower rate, but when kept in the right conditions you will be able to enjoy them the same as all of your other plants. What are the right conditions? A variegated plant needs you to find it a bright-sunny spot, where the light is filtered before it reaches it. In front of a window which has a netted curtain is an example of an ideal spot. A variegated plant also likes consistent temperatures, and a variety appropriate watering schedule. If your variegated plant isn’t happy it will let you know by starting to revert back its standard form. It does this to ensure its survival by improving its ability to photosynthesis. If you notice this happening, simply change anything you think isn’t working, trim any leaves reverting to stall the process, and hope your beautiful variegated leaves continue to grow.