50 Unique Plants with Variegated Foliage

Introduction:
Plants with variegated foliage can add a touch of intrigue and charm to any garden. Their leaves boast streaks, edging, or splotches of different colors, creating a captivating visual display. While green and white or gold and green combinations are common, there are countless variations to explore. However, it’s important to exercise caution when introducing variegated plants, as an excessive amount can be overwhelming and distract from the overall aesthetic. Despite differing opinions among gardeners, variegated plants can lend a unique element to your space. Colin Skelly, a Master Horticulturist, shares his perspective: “Ordinarily, I’m not drawn to them as individual specimens, but when designing, variegated plants are often a useful addition of foliage variation or to draw the eye.” Let’s delve into a list of 50 fascinating options that can bring diversity and allure to your garden.

Key Takeaways

Variegated Trees

Variegated trees serve as striking focal points and add a touch of drama to your landscape. Here are some noteworthy options to consider:

1) Box Elder (Acer negundo)

Acer negundo

  • Common Name(s): Box Elder
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring
Further reading:  The Beauty of Roselilies: A Floral Revolution

2) Norway Maple ‘Drummondii’ (Acer platanoides)

Acer platanoides

  • Common Name(s): Norway Maple ‘Drummondii’
  • Hardiness Rating: H7
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green, yellow, and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring

3) Variegated Sycamore ‘Simon-Louis Frères’ (Acer pseudoplatanus f. variegatum)

Acer pseudoplatanus f. variegatum

  • Common Name(s): Variegated Sycamore ‘Simon-Louis Frères’
  • Hardiness Rating: H7
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Pink, green, and white

4) Sweet Chestnut ‘Albomarginata’ (Castanea sativa)

Castanea sativa

  • Common Name(s): Sweet Chestnut ‘Albomarginata’
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and white
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer

5) Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Cercis canadensis

  • Common Name(s): Eastern Redbud
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Purple and green
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring

6) Wedding Cake Tree (Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’)

Cornus controversa

  • Common Name(s): Wedding Cake Tree
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Cream, green, and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer

7) Kousa ‘Gold Star’ (Cornus kousa)

Cornus kousa

  • Common Name(s): Kousa ‘Gold Star’
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green, cream, yellow, red, and purple
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring
  • Fruiting Season(s): Autumn

8) Chinese Privet ‘Excelsum Superbum’ (Ligustrum lucidum)

Ligustrum lucidum

  • Common Name(s): Chinese Privet ‘Excelsum Superbum’
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer/Autumn
  • Fruiting Season(s): Autumn

9) Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Liquidambar styraciflua

  • Common Name(s): Sweet Gum
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green, orange, purple, and red
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring

10) Flamingo Willow (Salix integra ‘Hakuro-Nishiki’)

Salix integra

  • Common Name(s): Flamingo Willow
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Pink, green, white, and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring

Large Variegated Shrubs

Large variegated shrubs can serve as the backbone of your garden design. They work well as standalone pieces or in combination with variegated trees. Here are some exceptional choices:

11) Field Maple ‘Carnival’ (Acer campestre)

Acer campestre

  • Common Name(s): Field Maple ‘Carnival’
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Pink, cream, green, and yellow

12) Japanese Maple ‘Butterfly’ (Acer palmatum)

Acer palmatum

  • Common Name(s): Japanese Maple ‘Butterfly’
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring

13) Angelia Tree (Aralia elata)

Aralia elata

  • Common Name(s): Angelia Tree
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green, orange, and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer/Autumn

14) Japanese Laurel ‘Golden King’ (Aucuba japonica)

Aucuba japonica

  • Common Name(s): Japanese Laurel ‘Golden King’
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring

15) Japanese Barberry ‘Rose Glow’ (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea)

Berberis thunbergii

  • Common Name(s): Japanese Barberry ‘Rose Glow’
  • Hardiness Rating: H7
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Pink, purple, and white
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring

16) Oleaster ‘Limelight’ (Elaeagnus x ebbingei)

Elaeagnus x ebbingei

  • Common Name(s): Oleaster ‘Limelight’
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Silver, gold, cream, and green
  • Flowering Season(s): Autumn

17) Oleaster ‘Maculata’ (Elaeagnus pungens)

Elaeagnus pungens

  • Common Name(s): Oleaster ‘Maculata’
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green, silver, and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Autumn
  • Fruiting Season(s): Winter

18) Spindle ‘Ovatus Aureus’ (Euonymus japonicus)

Euonymus japonicus

  • Common Name(s): Spindle ‘Ovatus Aureus’
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer

19) Silver-Margined Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

Ilex aquifolium

  • Common Name(s): Silver-Margined Holly
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green, cream, and pink
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring
  • Fruiting Season(s): Autumn/Winter

20) Laurustinus (Viburnum tinus)

Viburnum tinus

  • Common Name(s): Laurustinus
  • Hardiness Rating: H4
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Winter/Spring
  • Fruiting Season(s): Autumn/Winter
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Small Variegated Shrubs

Smaller variegated shrubs play a crucial role in filling mixed borders and under-storey planting. These plants are versatile and offer a wide range of colors and textures. Here are some delightful options:

21) Rock Rose ‘Gold Prize’ (Cistus x hybridus)

Cistus x hybridus

  • Common Name(s): Rock Rose ‘Gold Prize’
  • Hardiness Rating: H4
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green, cream, and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer

22) Bluebeard ‘White Surprise’ (Caryopteris x clandonensis)

Caryopteris x clandonensis

  • Common Name(s): Bluebeard ‘White Surprise’
  • Hardiness Rating: H4
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green, cream, and silver
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer
  • Fruiting Season(s): Autumn

23) Winter Creeper (Euonymus fortuneii)

Euonymus fortuneii

  • Common Name(s): Winter Creeper
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring

24) Hardy Fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis)

Fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis

  • Common Name(s): Hardy Fuchsia
  • Hardiness Rating: H4
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer/Autumn
  • Fruiting Season(s): Autumn

25) Hebe ‘Silver Queen’ (Hebe × franciscana)

Hebe × franciscana

  • Common Name(s): Hebe ‘Silver Queen’
  • Hardiness Rating: H3
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green, white, cream, and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer/Autumn

26) Dog Hobble ‘Rainbow’ (Leucothoe fontanesiana)

Leucothoe fontanesiana

  • Common Name(s): Dog Hobble ‘Rainbow’
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green, pink, and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring

27) Lily-Of-The-Valley Bush (Pieris japonica)

Pieris japonica

  • Common Name(s): Lily-Of-The-Valley Bush
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Red, green, and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring

28) Sage ‘Tricolor’ (Salvia officinalis)

Salvia officinalis

  • Common Name(s): Sage ‘Tricolor’
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green, cream, silver, and purple
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer

29) Golden Large Thyme (Thymus citriodorus)

Thymus citriodorus

  • Common Name(s): Golden Large Thyme
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring/Summer

30) Variegated Greater Periwinkle (Vinca major)

Vinca major

  • Common Name(s): Variegated Greater Periwinkle
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring/Summer/Autumn

Variegated Climbers

Variegated climbers are excellent choices for adding interest to walls, fences, or other structures that may lack visual appeal. They not only enhance aesthetics but also provide nesting spots for birds and contribute to the overall well-being of wildlife in your garden. Consider these stunning climbers with variegated foliage:

31) Kolomikta (Actinidia kolomikta)

Actinidia kolomikta

  • Common Name(s): Kolomikta
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and pink
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer
  • Fruiting Season(s): Autumn

32) Variegated Porcelain Berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata)

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata

  • Common Name(s): Variegated Porcelain Berry
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green, pink, and white
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer
  • Fruiting Season(s): Summer/Autumn

33) Ivy ‘Dentata Variegata’ (Hedera colchica)

Hedera colchica

  • Common Name(s): Ivy ‘Dentata Variegata’
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Autumn
  • Fruiting Season(s): Winter

34) Ivy ‘Glacier’ (Hedera helix)

Hedera helix

  • Common Name(s): Ivy ‘Glacier’
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green and cream

35) Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris)

Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris

  • Common Name(s): Climbing Hydrangea
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer

36) Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)

Jasminum nudiflorum

  • Common Name(s): Winter Jasmine
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Winter/Spring

37) Jasmine ‘Argenteovariegatum’ (Jasminum officinale)

Jasminum officinale

  • Common Name(s): Jasmine ‘Argenteovariegatum’
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green, silver, and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer/Autumn
  • Fruiting Season(s): Autumn
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38) Honeysuckle [Harlequin] (Lonicera × italica Harlequin)

Lonicera × italica Harlequin

  • Common Name(s): Honeysuckle [Harlequin]
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green, blue, and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer

39) Japanese Honeysuckle ‘Mint Crisp’ (Lonicera japonica)

Lonicera japonica

  • Common Name(s): Japanese Honeysuckle ‘Mint Crisp’
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Semi-Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green, cream, and pink
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer
  • Fruiting Season(s): Autumn

40) Star Jasmine ‘Tricolor’ (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

Trachelospermum jasminoides

  • Common Name(s): Star Jasmine ‘Tricolor’
  • Hardiness Rating: H4
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green, pink, cream, white, and red
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer

Herbaceous Plants With Variegation

When it comes to layering your garden, herbaceous plants offer a wealth of variegated foliage options. These non-woody plants provide endless opportunities to incorporate captivating colors and patterns. Here are a few noteworthy picks:

41) Masterwort ‘Sunningdale Variegated’ (Astrantia major)

Astrantia major

  • Common Name(s): Masterwort ‘Sunningdale Variegated’
  • Hardiness Rating: H7
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer

42) Aubrieta ‘Purple Cascade’

Aubrieta

  • Common Name(s): Aubrieta ‘Purple Cascade’
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green and silver
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring/Summer

43) Siberian Bugloss ‘Hadspen Cream’ (Brunnera macrophylla)

Brunnera macrophylla

  • Common Name(s): Siberian Bugloss ‘Hadspen Cream’
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring

44) Variegated Cranesbill (Geranium macrorrhizum)

Geranium macrorrhizum

  • Common Name(s): Variegated Cranesbill
  • Hardiness Rating: H7
  • Foliage Type: Semi-Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer

45) Plantain Lily ‘Cathedral Windows’ (Hosta ‘Cathedral Windows’)

Hostas

  • Common Name(s): Plantain Lily ‘Cathedral Windows’
  • Hardiness Rating: H7
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and yellow

46) Variegated Fringed Iris (Iris japonica)

Iris japonica

  • Common Name(s): Variegated Fringed Iris
  • Hardiness Rating: H4
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Foliage: Green and white
  • Flowering Season(s): Spring

47) Variegated Japanese Iris (Iris laevigata)

Iris laevigata

  • Common Name(s): Variegated Japanese Iris
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and white
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer

48) Pineapple Mint (Mentha suaveolens)

Mentha suaveolens

  • Common Name(s): Pineapple Mint
  • Hardiness Rating: H5
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer

49) Catmint ‘Six Hills Gold’ (Nepeta ‘Six Hills Gold’)

Nepeta

  • Common Name(s): Catmint ‘Six Hills Gold’
  • Hardiness Rating: H6
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green, silver, and yellow
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer/Autumn

50) Perennial Phlox ‘Becky Towe’ (Phlox paniculata)

Phlox paniculata

  • Common Name(s): Perennial Phlox ‘Becky Towe’
  • Hardiness Rating: H7
  • Foliage Type: Deciduous
  • Foliage: Green and cream
  • Flowering Season(s): Summer

If you decide to incorporate variegated plants into your garden, it’s crucial to research their environmental requirements and growing needs. Select plants that are well-suited to the specific conditions of your garden. Adequate light levels are especially important, as variegation may diminish if plants don’t receive the appropriate amount of light. This loss of variegation, known as ‘reversion,’ can be prevented by ensuring plants are placed in suitable spots. If reversion occurs, promptly prune out the reverted section to maintain the plant’s attractive appearance. Remember, choosing the right plant for the right place is key to a thriving and visually stunning garden.

References

  1. Variegation. (n.d.). University of Washington Botanic Gardens. Retrieved March 27, 2023, from https://depts.washington.edu/hortlib/keyword/variegation/