Variegated Shrubs: How to Plant, Grow and Care (2022)

It is no wonder that gardeners love growing variegated shrubs. These purposeful plants add sparks of excitement and a pop of color everywhere they grow, and it makes sense as to why! Everyone wants a yard that stands out amongst the others, and what better way to do this than adding flair with variegated shrubs.

Thankfully these plants are easy to care for and can brighten your home with just their existence. Plants are an important part of the world. They give us oxygen, beauty, and nutrients. While variegated shrubs are not for consumption, their beauty is stress-relieving to look at and admire.

Shrubs generally refer to bush-type plants, but not all bushes are bulky. If you want a unique shrub or landscape plant then keep on reading for more information. Variegated shrubs are a gorgeous choice for homeowners looking for something new.


What are Variegated Shrubs?

To best understand what a variegated shrub is, we have to break down the phrase ‘variegated shrubs.’ Variegated refers to multiple colors on foliage. These multiple colors can show themselves as patterns or nonsensical streaks and splatters.

Now, shrubs are plants that are woody at the stem and branch out. This diverse classification is broad, which is what we will see today. No two shrubs are completely identical, and they have different colors, leaf shapes, and purposes.

How can you tell if a plant is variegated? This is actually really easy! Variegated plants have distinct colors and patterns. Any plant that has various colors on its leaves, and is healthy, is variegated.

Shrubs are also everywhere! This type of tropical plant is often regarded as a landscaping plant that can be placed in shady areas that receive partial lighting. Variegated shrubs grow tall and wide, providing shade themselves. Interestingly, variegated shrubs can also produce flowers in the spring.

Are variegated plants better? This depends on who you ask! Variegated plants have a special beauty that is hard to explain. However, the benefits of variegated plants are no different than regular plants without such variations in color.

What are Variegated Shrubs

The Benefits of Caring for Variegated Shrubs

You would be surprised at all the benefits available to homeowners and gardeners that grow and care for variegated shrubs. Not only are these eye-catching plants great to have in a home, but they provide extensive benefits.

Natural Shade

Variegated shrubs provide natural forms of shade for your backyard or front yard. This not only helps keep the sun away during the summer months but also provides relief.

Improves air quality

Variegated shrubs are notoriously known for their ability to clean toxins from the soil and air through their energy processes. Having clean air in your home and yard can help you breathe better and improve your skin quality as well.

It brings in native wildlife and pollinators.

Shrubs are great spaces for animals to reside in. It isn’t uncommon to see rabbits, squirrels, and birds make their homes in the gorgeous foliage of shrubs. Not only do shrubs welcome animals, but also pollinators like butterflies, bees, and moths during the springtime as the shrubs bloom.

Save You Money

If you plant your variegated shrubs in certain locations, you can save money each month on your energy bill! For instance, as the seasons change, the leaves fall from shrubs, unlike some trees. This allows sunlight to enter your home, which decreases energy consumption.

The same works for the hot summer months! If you plant shrubs next to the window. Their large leaves and flowers can shield your home away from harmful rays. This, in turn, helps your AC system not work so hard while providing cool air.

Lack of wind damage

During windy weather, you may be afraid that you will see damage to your windows. Thankfully, with variegated shrubs, you can have better peace of mind. These large plants, with their spectacular colors, cover and protect your windows from damage from hail or flying debris.


The Top 7 Most Beautiful and Easy to Care for Variegated Shrubs

Making a decision on which variegated shrub to choose and plant is hard! There are so many options. You may find yourself thinking, which plants have variegated leaves? Since variegated leaves are a mutation, they can be hard to find and are rare! The following list below is a few popular variegated shrubs.

1. Cornus alba ‘Ivory Halo’ (Variegated Dogwood) – Top Pick

Top Pick
Cornus alba 'Ivory Halo' (Variegated Dogwood)

The Cornus Alba, also known as 'Ivory Halo' or the Variegated Dogwood shrub, is a large plant that grows 4-6 feet tall. The shrub has gorgeous large thin leaves that range in colors but are primarily emerald green and white.

All the leaves of this plant are unique and don’t follow a uniform pattern, which is one of the reasons it’s our top pick! The stem of the plant is red and vibrant. In the spring and summer, you will be happy to notice white flowers blooming. The flowers are plentiful and happily welcome pollinators.

The variegated dogwood shrub changes with the seasons as leaves fall during the winter but come back in time for spring, with flowers! The best growing zones for this plant are USDA Zones 3-7. They make a beautiful addition to any home interested in variegated shrubs.

2. Ligustrum Japonicum Howardi – Runner Up

Runner Up
Ligustrum Japonicum Howardi

The Ligustrum Japonicum Howardi is the runner-up on our list, but let me tell you, it is a tough race! This plant is happiest growing by a window with partial shade. It’s super low maintenance and only needs water before it is in the ground and while it is still a seedling.

Like most shrubs, the Ligustrum Japonicum Howardi grows both tall and wide. The leaves, however, are what make this shrub a showstopper and delight to care for! The leaves are dark deep green, but during spring, the top leaves develop yellow and bright while the bottom leaves remain a vivid green.

Some leaves even have two tones of colors! This is a great shrub if you are looking to contrast it alongside brighter colors from other plants and flowers. For example, the deep greens and yellows would look vivid against a teal or Fuschia pink.

3. Variegated Weigela Bush – Multicolor Flowering Shrub – Best Variegated Shrub for Animals

Best Variegated Shrub for Animals
Variegated Weigela Bush - Multicolor Flowering Shrub

The Variegated Weigela Bush brings in birds and pollinators. It is also known as a multicolor flowering shrub, as its flowers bloom bright and plenty! The flowers are pleasing to the eye and jaw-dropping.

The flowers are a combination of pink and white, while the leaves are deep green to a pale yellow. The flowers bloom in the spring and are weaved throughout the flower. Sometimes it looks like the shrub is more of a flower than anything else! The unique combinations of colors add a beautiful contrast.

The growing zones for this plant are between 4-9. When fully grown, this magnificent variegated shrub stands at 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide. It spreads well and can propagate on its own if any of the ‘branches’ touch the ground.

 4. Shrub Variegated Boxwood – Best Variegated Shrub for Frost Survival

Best Variegated Shrub for Frost Survival
Shrub Variegated Boxwood

Variegated Boxwood shrubs are undeniably the best type of shrub to beat the cold and icy frost that comes with winter. However, you do need to make a few changes. As the temperature outside drops, you should add mulch to the base of your shrubs to protect the roots from freezing.

This hardy plant needs either full sun or partial sun to survive. This shrub is an evergreen plant with unique aspects. For instance, the leaves are a creamy white and almost neon green that shines. It does not flower, but the leaves alone are stunning!

If you are looking into purchasing and growing a Variegated Boxwood shrub, you should be located in USDA zone 6-9. If not, it can make it more difficult, but not impossible, to grow this shrub. It is also tall and widespread and grows rather quickly.

5. Variegated Ficus Triangularis – The Prettiest Shrub

The Prettiest Shrub
The Variegated Ficus Triangularis

The Variegated Ficus Triangularis is a plant with many colors! It’s unique because of the shape of the leaves. This plant has heart-shaped leaves with different colors. The hearts shine with green, yellow, and white tones.

There are no springtime blossoms with this shrub, but honestly, it isn’t needed! The hearts speak for themselves. If you do choose to get this shrub, you should not place it in direct sunlight. The harsh rays of the sun can burn the leaves. It is a less hardy plant than the others on this list.

The best way to decorate your home with the Variegated Ficus Triangularis is by highlighting the contrasting colors. For instance, you can pair this heart-shaped plant with vivid roses. These grow well together, and can even share space.

6. Snow on The Mountain Variegated Shrub – Best for Front Yards

Best for Front Yards
SNOWBUSH Mountain Variegated Shrub

The Mountain Variegated Shrub is a personal favorite. This tropical plant thrives in warm and humid climates. Unlike the other shrubs on this list, this one is not as hardy. It needs partial or full sun and warm temperatures consistently above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Mountain Variegated Shrub can still be low maintenance if you live in the right climate. The leaves are small and petal-like, which remind us of a flower opening up. This is especially true with the colorful blend of pink, green, and white.

This delicate flower, which also looks like it has snow on it because of the white specs, looks spectacular in a container or on the ground. It can grow rather large as well, up to six feet tall, but can be trimmed back easily.

7. The Variegated Liriope – Best Flowering Shrub

Best Flowering Shrub
Variegated LIRIOPE

The Variegated Liriope is probably the most common variegated shrub. This plant is easy to propagate and is a gorgeous decoration for both backyards and front yards. It can reach up to two feet tall but does not grow wide.

The Variegated Liriope has a combination of green, white, and yellow leaves that are not uniform. Most of the time, however, the leaves have a white or yellow border and a green center. The leaves are also long and skinny. They stretch and bend; this plant is also referred to as a ‘spider plant.’

Possibly the most show-stopping part of this shrub, though, are the flowers. Pink and purple flowers trail up and down on long dark pink stalks. These flowers only bloom and appear though during spring.

This interesting shrub also brings nutrients to the soil, protecting other root plants from critters and pests as the leaves dangle down. The two best ways to use and decorate this variegated shrub are to use it as a border for walkways and paths and to border trees or outdoor furniture.


How to Properly Care for and Grow Variegated Shrubs

Before choosing to purchase and use variegated shrubs in your landscape, it is important to learn more about how to properly care for and grow these plants! Typically, there are two ways to grow variegated shrubs.

You can plant seeds, but they do take a lot longer! The more common way of growing variegated shrubs is through propagation. Some plants have little fuzzy fibers on their new growths. These fuzzy little fibers are actually undeveloped roots!

Another way that many people find variegated shrubs is through their local nurseries or landscaping companies. This option is the fastest, as the shrub is typically already mature during the time it’s at a nursery. All that’s left is for you to plant it in the ground or a larger container.

How to Propagate Variegated Shrubs from Cuttings

If you have decided to propagate shrubs, you are in the right place! You can use a pair of scissors or shears for this next step. Cut right below a node, where the new leaf and stem meet on a new spring growth that is at least 4-6 inches long. It can be longer but has to be less than 12 inches long.

You also need to take out any leaves except for the top two or three; this way, the energy is on creating roots and not the leaves. If you do leave leaves on your cutting, it may take longer, or your plant will rot with the extra time it takes.

While it is tempting to want to drench your new cutting in water, do not dip it into water. While some plants, like tomatoes and peppers, need to root in water, shrubs are different. They are more fragile and need protection from overmoisture and root rot.

Instead, put the shrub cutting into potting soil with nutrients and damp soil. Some people recommend purchasing and using a root stimulator. I have had success without using the liquid, but you can always use it if you’d like!

Next, put the new cutting either in a greenhouse, or create a miniature one to mimic the effects of trapping the humidity. You can do this by placing two large containers over each other with the plant inside or by using a plastic bag over the plant. However, always make sure that there is oxygen flow by poking holes, similar to drainage holes.

Propagating is such an inexpensive and unique way to make more variegated shrubs. If you already have some on your lawn, you can try this method and produce more. This way, if any harsh weather harms your plant, you have others to replace them.

How to Propagate Variegated Shrubs from Cuttings

What Happens After Propagation?

Truthfully, there is no way of telling if the plant will be variegated. This is because variegated shrubs and plants are variegated because of a genetic mutation where two different chromosomal makeups are in a single plant.

This confuses the plant, and only some parts produce chlorophyll or the vibrant green color we all know and see. While the word mutation may be scary, there is nothing to worry about. The plant is not sick, just a slightly different color!

After propagation, your variegated shrub should root in the soil. After the last sign of frost, place it outside in the full or partial sun, unless it is a type that needs shade. After a few weeks, you should see more growth in the leaves and root systems.

Caring for Variegated Shrubs is not difficult, but there is a lot that goes into it. You need to be aware of the specific plant’s growing zone, soil type, watering schedule, and if they need fertilizer!

What Zones Can you Grow Variegated Shrubs?

This is not an easy question to answer. There are over one hundred different types of variegated shrubs, and they all require different care. However, most variegated shrubs are tropical plants that thrive in USDA zones higher than ‘3’.

The warmer and closer to a tropical location your area is, the better chance you will have at propagating and caring for variegated shrubs. These plants need sunlight, but be careful! Don’t give a new seedling or cutting direct sun as they are still getting used to the sunlight.

With that said, you should also never place a shrub in direct sun for more than eight hours. You can grow variegated shrubs in containers inside or outside. Inside shrubs require the use of grow lights, so they have enough light and energy to produce food and grow.

Keep in mind, though, that shrubs typically do not survive harsh winters. These plants need extra care, like adding mulch to their soil or covering them with heat blankets.

What Kind of Soil Can you Grow Variegated Shrubs?

Variegated shrubs require soil that is versatile and low maintenance. Although this is true, these hardy shrubs can grow anywhere, regardless of the exact type of sand, as long as it is fertile and well-draining.

Since these shrubs are likely to develop diseases and root rot, they need soil that drains well. This is more important if you are planting a variegated shrub in a container. The soil can be sandy and light, but not enough that it absorbs too much water, creating mushy roots.

The soil should also be free from pests or diseases. If you used the soil previously on a plant that died because of a disease or fungus, you shouldn’t use the soil again as the disease can spread. It is almost impossible to treat plants and cure them of diseases in the soil.

How do you Water Variegated Shrubs?

When variegated shrubs are seedlings, they need to be watered often, nearly every day. This way, their roots grow quicker and settle in the soil. If they do not get enough water, the growth of the plant stunts, which is hard to reset.

Once the roots are set, you can slowly stop watering as much. Variegated shrubs like to be dry, but not to suffer from droughts. If your plant’s leaves are curling or turning brown, it could be from a lack of water. They do bounce back soon after though, when you water them again!

Watering will lead to rotting, especially since the roots and stems are wood-based. These plants are especially susceptible to root rot near winter. Since the temperatures are colder, you do not need to water the plant as frequently.

How do you Water Variegated Shrubs

What Fertilizer Is Needed for Variegated Shrubs?

It is not always necessary to add fertilizer to your plant. However, if you notice that they lack minerals and vitamins, you can add them as needed. The recommended fertilizer is a complete fertilizer with all nutrients and minerals. This is a balanced type.

Fertilizers cannot be used to treat diseases, though. All plants are susceptible to fungus and pests, regardless of how much fertilizer you add to the soil or the plant’s leaves. Fertilizer just adds nutrients that are missing from the soil.

Adding too much fertilizer to Variegated shrubs can be harmful though, causing leaves that curl inward or droop and fall off. The main minerals that deplete in soil are Nitrogen and phosphorus. The only way to find out for sure though is to purchase a soil test to test the surrounding soil.

How to Decorate Lawns and Backyards with Variegated Shrubs

The most enjoyable part of having variegated shrubs is being able to decorate them, and there is a lot that can be done! Variegated shrubs are beautiful alone but complement other plants vibrantly with their contrasting colors!

Since you get to choose there are many things you have to think about. What purpose will your variegated shrubs have? Since they have benefits, are you going to use them? For instance, if you want shrubs to provide you with shade and privacy, the best place to plant them is near a window.

As the shrubs grow, they cast shadows that block the sunlight, something that is great for the heat! It also gives you something amazing to look at from the inside of your home. The leaves are happily on display by the window. You can even coordinate this to be a window near your room or office!

Many shrubs are smaller varieties as well. You can easily place them in decorative containers of many colors. For instance, if you have an aesthetic, you can keep the aesthetic in your backyard and front yard with containers.

If you like rustic farm designs, a metallic and vintage-looking container may be your best bet. However, you do need to make sure that the container has drainage holes! If it doesn’t, it can cause problems like root rot.

Surprisingly, you can also grow root vegetables in the same raised beds as variegated shrubs. Not only do the shrubs provide clean air, but they add nutrients to the soil that are beneficial for many root plants such as carrots, onions, garlic, and radishes.

Decorate Backyards with Variegated Shrubs


Conclusion

All in all, variegated shrubs are a pleasure to the eye. The multiple colors on the foliage are truly breathtaking. Because of the contrasting colors and blooms, there is no wonder as to how these shrubs are so popular in lawns!

There is also a lot that can be done with them, since they provide so many benefits. Variegated shrubs clean the air and soil, shade our homes, and can save you money each month on your electric bill—all of this from just one plant.

Regardless of how you choose to grow or decorate your variegated shrub, I am sure that the journey will be worth the end results!

FAQs

What are variegated shrubs?

Variegated shrubs and woody plants that extend upward and outward have foliage of various colors and patterns. The colors don’t have to be uniform but are typically a combination between emerald green, a creamy white, and vibrant pink.

Which plants have variegated leaves?

There are all kinds of plants that naturally have variegated leaves. The most common ones are houseplants and outdoor shrubs/hedges.

Are variegated plants better?

Variegated plants are a beautiful addition because of their striking colors and patterns. However, other than the external beauty, there are limited differences compared to shrubs that are not variegated.

How can you tell if a plant is variegated?

The easiest way to tell if a plant is variegated is to look at the foliage. If all or the majority of the leaves are different colors and patterns but the plant is not sick, it’s likely variegated.

How do you make variegated plants at home?

You can make variegated plants at home very easily! These plants only require a few cuttings, damp soil, and a greenhouse-like environment with humidity.

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