Trees and shrubs: variegated foliage

Add variation to your borders and brightness to a full spot by choosing trees and shrubs with variegated foliage.

Introduction

Variegated plants have leaves with streaks and blotches of different colours. Typically these would be a combination of two colours; green and gold or green and white.

A plant with variegation can be the finishing touch to breakup a monotone green border or lighten a dark corner of the garden. However use sparingly, as too much variegation can make your garden too busy.

Practical considerations

Most variegated plants require full sun or dappled shade to maintain their variegation and vigour. The paler parts of the leaf lack the chlorophyll needed to create energy for growth. So plant in a sunny situation to make full use of the chlorophyll they have. This principle does not hold true for all variegated plants but needs to be considered.

Sometimes variegated plants will revert back to their original plain green colour; this is known as reversion. Prune out the reverted branch or shoot before it takes over and affects the overall appearance of the plant. It could be a sign that the plant needs more light to maintain the desired variegation.

Suitable plants

Below are some trees and shrubs with silver or golden variegation. See our Find a Plant for a wider selection of plants with variegated foliage.


Trees

Acer negundo 'Elegans', A. negundo 'Flamingo', A. platanoides 'Drummondii' AGM, A. pseudoplatanus 'Simon-Louis Frères'
Castanea sativa 'Albomarginata'
Cornus controversa 'Variegata' AGM, C. florida 'Daybreak', C. kousa 'Gold Star'
Ligustrum lucidum 'Excelsum Superbum' AGM (e), L. lucidum 'Tricolor'
Liquidambar styraciflua 'Golden Treasure', L. styraciflua 'Silver King', L. styraciflua 'Variegata'
Liriodendron tulipifera 'Aureomarginatum' AGM
Quercus cerris 'Argenteovariegata'
Zelkova serrata 'Variegata'


Smaller shrubs

Abelia × grandiflora Confetti = 'Conti', A. × grandiflora 'Francis Mason' AGM
Cistus × hybridus ‘Gold Prize’
Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca 'Variegata' (e)
Cotoneaster atropurpureus 'Variegatus' AGM
Daphne × burkwoodii 'Astrid', D. odora 'Aureomarginata' (e)
Euonymus fortunei Blondy = 'Interbolwi' (e), E. fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety' AGM (e), E. fortunei 'Emerald 'n' Gold' AGM (e), E. fortunei 'Harlequin' (e), E. fortunei 'Silver Queen' AGM (e)
Forsythia 'Fiesta'
Fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis 'Variegata' AGM, F. magellanica var. gracilis 'Versicolor' AGM
Hebe × andersonii 'Variegata' (e), H. ‘Rhubarb and Custard’ (e), H. speciosa 'Variegata' (e)
Hypericum × moserianum 'Tricolor'
Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow'
Pachysandra terminalis 'Variegata' (e) AGM
Phormium cookianum subsp. hookeri 'Cream Delight' (e), P. cookianum subsp. hookeri 'Tricolor' AGM (e), P. 'Sundowner' (e) AGM, P. 'Yellow Wave' (e) AGM, P. tenax 'Variegatum' (e) AGM
Pieris japonica 'Little Heath' (e) AGM, P. japonica 'White Rim' (e) AGM
Salvia officinalis 'Icterina' (e) AGM, S. officinalis 'Tricolor' (e) AGM
Vinca major 'Variegata' (e) AGM, V. minor 'Argenteovariegata' (e) AGM, V. minor 'Alba Variegata' (e), V. minor 'Aureovariegata' (e)
Yucca filamentosa 'Bright Edge' (e) AGM, Y. flaccida 'Golden Sword' (e) AGM


Larger shrubs

Abutilon megapotamicum 'Variegatum'
Acer campestre 'Carnival', A. palmatum 'Beni-schichi-henge', A. palmatum 'Butterfly' AGM, A. palmatum 'Oridono-nishiki', A. palmatum ‘Marlo’
Aralia elata 'Variegata' AGM
Aristotella chilensis 'Variegata' (e)
Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia' (e) AGM, A. japonica 'Golden King' (e), A.  japonica 'Variegata' (e)
Azara microphylla 'Variegata' (e)
Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Harlequin', B. thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Rose Glow' AGM
Buddleja davidii 'Harlequin'
Buxus sempervirens 'Elegantissima' (e) AGM, B. sempervirens 'Latifolia Maculata' (e) AGM
Camellia × williamsii 'Golden Spangles' (e)
Cordyline australis 'Torbay Dazzler' (e)
Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' AGM, C.  alba 'Sibirica Variegata', C. alba 'Spaethii' AGM, C. alternifolia 'Argentea' AGM, C. florida 'Rainbow', C. mas 'Variegata' AGM, C. sericea 'White Gold'
Elaeagnus × ebbingei 'Gilt Edge' (e) AGM, E. × ebbingei 'Limelight' (e), E. pungens 'Frederici' (e), E. pungens 'Goldrim' (e), E. pungens 'Maculata' (e) AGM
Euonymus japonicus 'Ovatus Aureus' (e) AGM, E. japonicus 'Microphyllus Albovariegatus' (e)
× Fatshedera lizei 'Annemieke' (e) AGM, × F. lizei 'Variegata' (e) AGM
Fatsia japonica 'Variegata' (e) AGM, F. japonica ‘Spiders Web’ (e)
Forsythia 'Golden Times'
Griselinia littoralis 'Variegata' (e)
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Quadricolor', H. macrophylla 'Tricolor' AGM
Ilex × altaclerensis 'Belgica Aurea' (e) AGM, I. × altaclerensis 'Golden King' (e) AGM, I × altaclerensis 'Lawsoniana' (e) AGM, I. aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata' (e) AGM, I. aquifolium 'Argentea Marginata Pendula' (e), I. aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea' (e) AGM, I. aquifolium 'Golden Queen' (e) AGM, I. aquifolium 'Golden van Tol' (e) AGM, I. aquifolium 'Handsworth New Silver' (e) AGM, I. aquifolium 'Madame Briot' (e) AGM, I. aquifolium 'Myrtifolia Aurea Maculata' (e) AGM, I. aquifolium 'Silver Milkmaid' (e) AGM, I. aquifolium 'Silver Queen' (e) AGM
Kerria japonica 'Picta'
Ligustrum lucidum 'Excelsum Superbum' (e) AGM
L. ovalifolium 'Aureum' (e) AGM
Lonicera nitida 'Silver Beauty' (e)
Luma apiculata 'Glanleam Gold' (e)
Myrtus communis 'Variegata' (e)
Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki' (e), O. heterophyllus 'Variegatus' (e) AGM
Philadelphus coronarius 'Variegatus' AGM
Photinia davidiana 'Palette' (e), P.glabra 'Parfait' (e)
Pieris 'Flaming Silver' (e) AGM
Havila ‘Mouwsvila’ (e)
Pittosporum eugenioides 'Variegatum' (e) AGM, P. 'Garnettii' (e) AGM, P. tenuifolium 'Abbotsbury Gold' (e), P. tenuifolium 'Irene Paterson' (e) AGM, P. tenuifolium 'Silver Queen' (e) AGM, P. tobira 'Variegatum' (e) AGM
Prunus laurocerasus 'Castlewellan' (e), P. lusitanica 'Variegata' (e)
Rhamnus alaternus 'Argenteovariegata' (e) AGM
Rhododendron ponticum 'Variegatum' (e)
R. 'President Roosevelt' (e)
Sambucus nigra 'Aureomarginata', S. nigra 'Marginata'
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus 'Foliis Variegatis'
Syringa emodi 'Aureovariegata'
Viburnum tinus 'Variegatum' (e)
Weigela 'Florida Variegata' AGM, W. 'Praecox Variegata' AGM
Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata' (e) AGM


Climbers/wall shrubs

Actinidia kolomikta AGM
Ampelopsis  brevipedunculata 'Elegans'
Ceanothus 'Pershore Zanzibar' (e)
Hedera algeriensis 'Glore de Marengo' (e) AGM
H. colchica 'Dentata Variegata' (e) AGM, H. colchica 'Sulphur Heart' (e) AGM, H. helix 'Caecilia' (e) H. helix 'Eva' (e) AGM, H. helix 'Glacier' (e) AGM, H. helix 'Goldchild' (e) AGM, H. helix 'Little Diamond' (e) AGM, H. helix 'Midas Touch' (e) AGM, H. helix 'Minor Marmorata' (e), H. helix ‘Oro di Bogliasco’ (e)
Jasminum nudiflorum 'Aureum', J. nudiflorum 'Mystique', J. officinale 'Argenteovariegatum' AGM, J. officinale 'Aureum'
Lonicera × italica  Harlequin = 'Sherlite'
Pyracantha 'Sparkler' (e)
Solanum dulcamara 'Variegatum'
Stachyurus 'Magpie'
Trachelospermum jasminoides 'Variegatum' (e) AGM


Bamboos

× Hibanobambusa tranquillans 'Shiroshima' (e)
Pleioblastus auricomus (e) AGM, P.chino f. aureostriatus (e), P. variegatus 'Tsuboii' (e), P. variegatus (e) AGM
Pseudosasa japonica 'Akebonosuji' (e)
Sasaella masamuneana f. albostriata (e)

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