Traditionally, GGW Plant Pick of The Month highlights a specific genus or cultivar. I’m going to try something different for October and feature plants with variegated foliage. They function as important accents in my seasonal displays. Note, photos will include companion plant names as well.
The term “variegated” calls to mind childhood memories of our spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) nestled in its macramé hanger in front of the bathroom window. A combination of green and white markings on the same leaf is indicative of variegation. But variegation in its broadest sense includes leaves with two or more colors, with or without green.
Nancy Ondra’s wonderful book, Foliage: Astonishing Color & Texture Beyond Flowers (photography by Rob Cardillo), devotes an entire chapter to ‘marvelous multicolors’. She addresses the origins of variegation, patterns, siting, as well as how to use multicolored plants successfully in the garden.
What causes leaves to be multi-colored? Ondra explains that cells found in the leaf normally contain chloroplasts, which typically hold chlorophyll (green) pigments necessary to carry out photosynthesis. When chloroplasts are absent, leaf tissue will be white; if they are present but lacking chlorophyll, those tissues may instead be yellow, pink, red, purple, or other hues due to the presence of other pigments.
Canna ‘Striata’ (shown above), a Missouri Botanical Garden Plant of Merit, Canna ‘Phasion’ (syn Canna ‘Tropicana’) and Croton ‘Petra’ are three of my favorite variegated plants. All perform best in full sun and moist, well drained soil. Although Cannas can often tolerate ‘wet feet’.
Below are photos other variegated plants I worked with this season.
A more mature specimen with additional companion plants can be seen here.
Note, the plants I have chosen to highlight in this post are considered annuals in my USDA zone 5 gardens.
If this is your first time visiting GGW Plant Pick of The Month and you’d like to participate, here is how it works. Simply post your comments below and link to your own site where you’ve posted photos of variegated plants and comments about your experiences working with them. Notes regarding successful planting combinations are especially welcome!