How to Keep Variegation in Plants

If you’ve ever seen a plant with multicolored or patched leaves, then you know what good variegation looks like. Variegation happens when a plant doesn’t produce enough chlorophyll to turn the entire leaf green, and nicely variegated plants are a nice, decorative addition to your home. However, plants only produce variegation under certain conditions, and they could revert back to completely green leaves if the environment isn’t right. Luckily, preserving variegation is easy! You can also recover the variegation if the plant starts reverting back to green with some easy tips. plants are a nice, decorative addition to your home. However, plants only produce variegation under certain conditions, and they could revert back to completely green leaves if the environment isn’t right. Luckily, preserving variegation is easy! You can also recover the variegation if the plant starts reverting back to green with some easy tips.

 
Keep the plant potted so you can move it around. Variegated plants are sensitive to light and temperature changes, so leaving them in the same spot could make preserving the variegation harder. It’s much better to leave the plant in a pot that you can pick up and move around. This way, you can relocate the plant if it starts losing variegation.[1]
  • It’s overall easier to maintain variegation if you leave the plant indoors so you can control the temperature and sunlight.
  • You can still put variegated plants outside, but leave them in the pot instead of planting them in the ground. This way, you can move them inside if you have to.
  • Repot your plant every 6 months or any time you see long roots coming out from the bottom of the planter. However, avoid trimming the roots because you might kill the plant.

Place the plant in full sun to encourage variegation. Variegated plants need more sun than solid green plants because they don’t have as much chlorophyll to absorb sunlight. If you’re growing a variegated plant, leave it near a sunny window or a bright spot on your property so it absorbs enough sun to stay healthy.[3]

  • Lack of sunlight is a major reason that plants lose variegation, so keeping your plant in a sunny spot is also an important way to preserve variegation.
  • Most variegated plants will still grow just fine in partial shade.[4] However, they might lose variegation without full sun.

Water the plant on its recommended schedule. Watering correctly can be tricky. On the one hand, plants need enough water to stay healthy and build chlorophyll. On the other, waterlogged plants will overproduce chlorophyll and lose variegation.[5] The best thing to do is look up the recommended watering schedule for the plant type and stick with that to preserve its variegation.

  • There is a lot of variation in watering requirements for different plants. Agave plants, for example, are very hearty and don’t need much water, whereas a euonymus needs to be watered as much as twice a week. That’s why it’s best to water your plant according to its recommended schedule, especially if you want to preserve the variegation.
  • If you start seeing brown spots on the leaves, it could mean that they’re dehydrated.[6] You may need to water the plants more frequently.

Maintain a consistent temperature where the plant is. Quick temperature snaps, both cold and hot, can shock the plant and cause a loss of variegation. Keep your plant in a spot where the temperature is consistent and avoid large swings. This should prevent the plant from losing variegation.[7]

  • While the ideal temperature depends on the plant, most indoor plants will grow well at 58–86 °F (14–30 °C).[8] For variegation, consistency in temperature is more important than the specific temperature.
  • It’s much easier to control the temperature for indoor plants than outdoor ones. If there is a cold or hot snap coming, it might help to move outdoor plants inside so they don’t get shocked.

Bring your plants outside in the summer if you want to display them. Variegated plants make great houseplants, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep them cooped up. As long as it’s warm and sunny outside, most variegated plants can grow outside just fine. Bring them outside during the summer months to decorate your property if you want to.[9]

  • If you notice the variegation fading on your plants, move them back inside where you can control the environment.
  • Pay attention to any cold snaps that might come and make sure you bring the plants back inside so they don’t get shocked.
  • Slugs and snails like hostas, particularly, so it’s best to keep these inside or monitor them regularly for any bugs.