A mutation called Variegation

As PLNTSlovers we have collected quite a few beautiful plants. Certain plants have something that stands out to us, which is why we add them to our collection. This can be their leaf shape or colour, or maybe even because of the pattern they have on their leaves. One very popular pattern is variegated leaves. But this isn’t always just a regular pattern, like the stripes on a Calathea Zebrina. In this blog we will tell you what variegation is and how you can take care of plants that have variegated leaves.

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What is variegation?

You can say that plant leaves are variegated when they have more than one colour. This can be in all types of patterns, like stripes, splotches and speckles. These patterns are usually white, but this can also be in different colours, like pink.

What causes variegation in plants?

Variegation can be caused by a lack of chlorophyll in the leaf. This is the substance that gives leaves their green colour. When the plant has other dominant pigmented colours, it is still caused by the lack of chlorophyll, which is basically the lack of pigment. Chlorophyll also supports the plants while photosynthesizing. This process is vital for the plant, since this is their way of producing energy with the usage of sunlight.

You have plants with stable variegation and unstable variegation.

Stable variegation

When a plant is stable in their variegation, it means that the variegation will occur in every leaf and the plant can’t lose its variegation. Examples of plants that have stable variegation are, Philodendron Ring of Fire, Syngonium Pink Splash and Scindapsus Epipremnum Aureum.

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Unstable variegation

A lot of plants have unstable variegation, which means that they can lose their variegated spots and bounce back to their natural green (or other coloured) form. Examples of plants that have unstable variegation are Monstera variegata, Philodendron Pink Princess and Syngonium Aurea Variegata.

When a plant has lost its variegation, it can be quite a bummer, but it doesn’t have to mean that you have lost your special patterned leaves forever. You can decide to cut back your plant. You will have to cut back to where your plant has lost its variegation. Then wait and see if your plant will produce new leaves that have variegation.

Viral variegation

Another way that plants can get variegated leaves is by specific viruses. These viruses destroy the pigment in the leaves and flowers of the plant. An example of a viral infection that causes variegation is the Mosaic virus. This virus is transmissible to other plants, this can happen through pest infestations from Aphids or White Flies. There is no cure for this disease, so it's best to prevent it, by pest control.

This is also the reason why it is always important to inspect your plants when you buy them. Sometimes it occurs that PLNTS lovers think they find a variegated plant in a garden centre. Most of the time this is not the case and the plant shows some variegated spots due to disease, pests or lack of nutrition.

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Why are variegated plants so expensive?

Unstable variegated plants are more expensive, due to their special mutation. They are also harder to care for and to propagate. These factors all play a role within the price of a plant. Another factor is supply and demand. Variegation in plants occurs less frequently than plants having regular leaves. But PLNTSlovers tend to fall for their gorgeous patterns and the demand becomes higher than the supply.

How to care for a variegated plant

Now we know that variegation is occured due to the lack of chlorophyll, which helps the plant within the process of photosynthesis, we can understand that this plant might need a little more help from us PLNTS parents to be able to create enough energy.

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Step 1 The first step is to expose your plant to more light. All plants have specific needs when it comes to light, but when your plant has variegated spots, you have to expose it to more light than the regular form of this species. You can place the plant next to a more light exposed window, but this risks your plant getting scorched by the heat near the window. You can also add a grow light to your urban jungle, and place your variegated plants underneath it. It is important to read how much room needs to be between your specific grow light and the plant, since placing it too close to the light source can also cause burned leaves.

Step 2 The second step is to get your watering routine on point. Water also plays a very important role during the process of photosynthesis, so to support your variegated friend you need to be able to provide it with the exact amount of water that it needs. Always be careful with overwatering your plants, since this can cause waterlogged soil and root rot. A simple device that can help you with getting your watering routine on point is the Tessa watermeter. But if you are willing to invest a little bit more, you can also get the Naomi plant sensor for a full health examination to support you during your PLNTSparents duties.

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Step 3 Next on the list is maintaining a stable temperature for your plant. Variegated plants are extra sensitive and can be harmed by temperatures. You can look up what your plant species prefers and make sure the temperature stays around that cosy temperature at all times.

Step 4 Lastly, use the correct nutrition for your plant. Plant nutrition contains nitrogen, when a variegated plant is provided with too much nitrogen, this can cause an overgrowth of chlorophyll within the plant. This will make your plant more green. But before switching nutrition, check what your plant needs and make a decision based on that information.

Wow, that was a whole biology class! We hope this information provides you with enough knowledge to proceed with caring for your variegated beauties. If you have any additional questions, don’t be afraid to reach out to us. Oh, and we would love if you shared your variegated plants with us on Instagram, under the hashtag #PLNTS. We can’t wait to see your stunning plant collection there!


I PLNTS fanno subito la felicità di Renée, che è sempre a caccia di tendenze per le piante. Ispirare la nostra comunità con consigli per gli interni, sorprendenti fai-da-te e divertenti elenchi è ciò che le riesce meglio!

06 agosto 2023