What is a variegated plant? / Get back the variegation from reverted plant!

What is a variegated plant?


Variegated plants are a category of plants that have multicolored leaves, creating striped, blotched, or bordered leaf patterns. These types of plants come in a wide range of colors and designs, from bright pink to pale white splashes of color against dark green leaves.

Bicolored variegation is the most common leaf pattern-plant species with this type of variegation has a lighter color mixed into green foliage. Other types of variegation include tricolor and Quadri colors, and these types of variegated plants contain either three or four different colors within the leaf.


Type of variegations

  • Chimeral variegation

Caused by a mutation in the meristem where two or more genotypes in the cell layers cause the tissue that can produce chlorophyll and tissue that cannot. The meristem is where cell division and active growth happen. It is made of root tips, leaf edges, shoot tips, and vascular cambium.

Chimeras vary widely in stability across the plant spectrum. Variegation in the unstable forms can revert to all green or all non-pigmented (like in the all-white leaves of variegated Alocasias or the all-pink leaves of Philodendron Pink Princess.) The only way to keep the variegation going sometimes is to prune off the non-chimeral stems below where they started. Examples are variegated Monstera, variegated Alocasias, and variegated Colocasia.

  • Natural/Pattern variegation

It is a genetic trait in a cultivar that is inherited and can be fixed by selecting out plants by vegetative division and propagating by seed. Different cells in the tissue express different colors. Calathea is a great example of this. The pattern is always the same on every plant in a species.

  • Transposons

It is a genetic element that can move around. They are sometimes called jumping genes. They can move randomly on the chromosome and make what is called genetic mosaics. The effect created a splashed color. They differ from Chimeras because the pattern is inherited through the seed.

  • Pathogen Infection

Some viruses can cause color variations in plant tissue. Two are the Mosaic virus and the Color Break virus. These are sometimes introduced into plants while in tissue culture on purpose to produce variegation. But this can be unstable and fade over time. It can be made stable sometimes through vegetative propagation.

  • Reflective variegation (also called Blister variegation)

This is where tiny air pockets are present between the pigmented lower cell layer and the non-pigmented upper cell layer. This makes a patch of transparency that reflects light and gives a shiny or silver look. It can cover the entire leaf, or be patchy.


How to check variegation of node

A variegated node needs to have variegation present in the stem as well as the leaves. Lightly variegated leaves attached to a fully green stem are unlikely to ever produce strongly variegated growth.



Each node has 2 types of growth points. Either the same side with the leaves or the opposite side of the leaves. Depending on where it pops up new buds.

Propagate by cutting the top part of the plant that has a pattern of variegation, make sure that new leaves are still on their way to unfurling, or even safer, This is done so that the new leaf will continue to unfurl normally and the cycle for new leaves is still on track. There will be no dormant nor delay for the new leaves to come out. 

Some variegated plants will revert to their original color but cutting from variegated node plants has a higher percent to become variegated than normal node plants.


Why do plants lose variegation?

Variegated plants either fall under stable or unstable due to their ability to revert to their natural solid green state. Thus, plants lose variegation when they change to their natural, green coloring. Stable variegated plants refer to cultivars that remain variegated and do not revert to their solid green coloring; whereas, unstable variegated plants can revert to a solid green leaf. Variegation reverts for varying reasons; however, plants commonly revert to a solid green state to better capture sunlight for photosynthesis, as chlorophyll helps absorb light.


Get back the variegation from reverted plant!


Tops of variegated plant.


Node of variegated plant.



The node of this plant that should be cut is the area of white and green because it has a high percentage to become variegated.


Cut off the reverted part or fully variegated part and keep the variegated node on the uppermost part of the plant.


The node of this plant that shouldn't cut is the area that has only white color or only green color because it has the low percentage of becoming variegated.