green leaves of the Fittonia house plant with red variegation running along the vein lines of the leaf.

Variegated Plants Need light to maintain colouring

Read Time:1 Minute, 57 Second

Variegated plants are often known for having a combination of colours running through their leaves. If you’ve never heard this word before, don’t worry. Usually the two most common colours are green, and white. But sometimes it can be green and another colour, like gold, pink, red, silver, or purple.

The reason this is important to know, is because a variegated leaf doesn’t absorb light the same way as a non-variegated (all green) leaf does.

That means making sure that variegated plants receive enough light to maintain their colouring. This can require a bit of planning when thinking through where to plant variegated varieties outdoors. For house plants, it will mean making sure the plant has access to a windowsill, or strong light source.

What makes it Variegated?

The green parts of the leaf contain Chlorophyll (This is what makes them green), which means the it will absorb sunlight. Plants use the sunlight to photosynthesize – which is how a plant generates food to grow. The white or other coloured parts of the leaf do not contain chlorophyll.

Variegated plants are usually the result of a mutation in their genetics that has been cultivated. Though its not completely clear why some plants variegate, it could be considered a defence mechanism in some cases.

This is especially true in conditions where the leaves of the plant might be susceptible to a leaf miner. Leaf miners are interested in finding food, and a fully green leaf is a better sign of that.

If the leaf already has white running through it, it could be a deterrent to an insect hoping to get nutrients from the rest of the leaf.

As long as your variegated plants have enough light they will maintain their two tone colours. Sometimes, if a plant isn’t getting enough light, or a high enough intensity of light, it can revert back to all green leaves.

Design

Variegation can add some variety, and colour to your garden. Although the decorative patterns might look sickly sometimes, as long as the plants are otherwise healthy there is nothing to worry about. Some patterns can be quite quirky, and add an element of charm to a garden design.

Enjoy, and happy gardening!

Comment below to let me know about your favourite type of variegated plant.