Variegated indoor plants: our top picks
Variegated indoor plants add an extra layer of interest to an indoor plant display and brighten your home. Variegated plants are those whose normally-green leaves are patterned with white, yellow or even pink or red colours.
With most indoor plants being green and leafy for most of the time, variegated forms add colour among the green.
Variegations are usually the result of a change in the growth of the plant that causes part of the plant to develop a variegated appearance. The variegated part is then propagated vegetatively (for example by cutting or grafting) and continues to produce its variegated patterning.
Occasionally a variegated plant reverts to green. If you spot a green stem on a variegated plant, always prune it off so that it doesn’t outgrow the rest of the plant and lead to a loss of the variegated colour and pattern.
Only the green parts of a variegated leaf undergo photosynthesis and produce starch to fuel the plant’s growth. Plants may lose their variegations if they are grown in dark conditions as the plant struggles to produce enough nutrients for plant growth. If a variegated plant isn’t thriving, move it into a more brightly lit spot (but not into direct sunlight, which could lead to leaf burn).
Our top variegated indoor plants
Here are our top picks for robust and interesting variegated indoor plants.
Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’ (green leaf with a yellow stripe, also known as Happy Plant) is a variegated form of the corn plant, and a very popular indoor plant. This variety is particularly robust and maintains variegation even in low light. For brightly lit patios or verandas there are several colourful dracaenas that do well in containers. Dracaena marginata ‘Colorama’ and ‘Tricolor' are tall varieties with strappy pink variegated leaves. Learn more about dracaena here.
The variegated dwarf umbrella tree (Schefflera arboricola ‘Madam de Smet’) is a wonderful addition to any interior for its compact size and brightly variegated leaves. Each green leaf displays generous splashes of yellow colouration. It is ideal in a container in a well-lit spot indoors or on a patio out of direct sun.
Also known as peacock plants due to the bold patterning on each leaf, calatheas have been popular indoor plants for decades. They form leafy clumps, which hold their leaves up on stiff stems. There are many named varieties with subtle patterns in green, purple and black tones. Want advice on keeping your calatheas happy and healthy? Click here!
There are many forms of aglaonema (Aglaonema) selected for their boldly patterned leaves and colourful stems. Popular variety ‘Silver Queen’ has silver green leaves with darker green markings. It survives in low light conditions indoors, but does best in a brightly lit spot.
These foliage plants have tall-stemmed, variegated leaves in tones of pink, white and green. Popular form Stromanthe sanguinea ‘Tricolour’ has leaves that are variegated on their topside and pink beneath, adding contrast to the look of the container.
Long grown for its cane-like stems and variegated green and white leaves, dieffenbachia is an indoor foliage plant that can tolerate lower light conditions and retain its variegations. The latest varieties available, ‘Tiki’ and ‘White Tip’, make an eye-catching contrast when grown among other foliage plants. ‘Tiki’ has pale leaves with grey-green marks, while ‘White Tip’ has strong white markings. Keep dry between watering and in bright light but out of direct sun. Note: keep dieffenbachias out of reach of pets and children, as chewing the stems can cause swelling in the mouth and throat, leading to the plant’s common name of 'dumb cane'.
There are many philodendrons with dramatic markings. As these indoor plants climb, they can be used to spill over shelves or climb a support. Varieties with good variegation include ‘Brasil’ (elongated green foliage), ‘Birkin’ (green heart-sheaped leaves with white venation), ‘Pink Princess’ (striking pink, white and green leaves) and ‘White Princess’ (white, light green and dark green).
Devil’s ivy or pothos (Epipremnum aureum) is one of the brightest and easiest of all variegated indoor plant to grow. It has a climbing or draping habit. ‘Marble Queen’ has green, heart-shaped leaves marked with cream.
Monstera deliciosa has large leaves ornamented with naturally occurring holes that give the plant its common name of Swiss cheese plant. A very new variety, ‘Thai Constellation’ has leaves splashed with cream and yellow creating a pattern like a galaxy of stars. As this variety is very eye-catching, adding one to your collection will make you the envy of all your friends. Keep in a brightly lit spot indoors out of direct sun. Allow potting mix to almost dry out before re-watering and keep the large leaves clean from dust.