Variegated Plants

This term usually refers to plants with a combination of white (or yellow) and green zones. Patterns or mottling in the colour of leaves can arise from differences in the amount of the green pigment (chlorophyll) or from variations from other pigments.

Variegation may also be induced by viral infection or a genetic characteristic passed through the generations by seed.

However, the chief cause of variegation is from mutations in a plant’s chloroplasts (The food producers of a plant – main role being to conduct photosynthesis) giving variation in the amount of chlorophyll. These changes may be random, causing marbling of leaves or may result in a loss of pigment  at the growing point of stems and leaves causing irregular white markings. 

Latin Name Location Flowering season Description

Aegopodium odagraria 'Variegatum'

Ground elder


May to June

A fast-spreading deciduous perennial with elder-like leaves. It grows to 10-50cm in height and forms an extensive mat of white-margined leaves, with rounded heads of small and rather insignificant white flowers.

Ajuga reptans 'Burgundy Glow'



Late spring to early summer

A spreading evergreen perennial which reaches 10-50cm in height. It has silvery-green foliage and short spikes of deep blue flowers.

Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia'

Spotted laurel


April to May

A dense, compact medium-sized evergreen shrub with large leathery leaves that are spotted yellow. Its small purple flowers are followed by bright red berries when pollinated.

Aucuba japonica 'Sulphurea Marginata'

Japanese aucuba



A dense bushy evergreen shrub native to Japan and the Himalayas. It has large glossy dark green leaves that will produce attractive purple flowers. Bright red oval berries are produced after flowering.

Berberis thunbergii 'Atropurpurea'

Purple Japanese barberry


April to May

A compact, deciduous, prickly shrub with rich reddish-purple leaves turning vivid red in autumn. Small yellow spring flowers are followed by red berries in autumn.

Berberis thunbergii

 'Rose Glow'

Japanese barberry ‘Rose Glow’


April to May

A compact, deciduous prickly shrub. Its foliage is purple-red and marbled with pink and white, turning purple later. Pale yellow spring flowers are followed by bright red autumn fruits.

Buxus sempervirens

Common box


April to May

A large evergreen shrub which reaches a height of 5m or more. It has a compact habit and small, glossy oval leaves. It produces small yellowish flowers in the leaf axils.

Castanea sativa

Sweet chestnut



A deciduous tree which reaches heights of 20-35m. The yellow flowers of both sexes are borne in 10–20cm long, upright catkins. By autumn, the female flowers develop into spiny cupules containing 3-7 brown nuts that are shed during October.

Castanea sativa 'Variegata'

Variegated sweet chestnut



A round to broadly spreading deciduous tree with oblong, toothed, glossy, dark green leaves. The leaves feature creamy-white margins and turn yellow in autumn. The flowers are pale yellow male catkins.

Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea'




A large, spreading deciduous shrub with tiered branches and ovate, white-margined leaves. Its small white flowers form in clusters and are followed by black berries.

Cornus mas 'Variegata'

Cornelian cherry ‘variegata’


Late winter

A medium-sized deciduous shrub with ovate leaves featuring bold white margins. Small yellow flowers form in clusters on bare stems in late winter. These are followed by glossy red fruits.


Euonymous fortunei 'Silver Queen'

Spindle ‘Silver Queen’



A bushy evergreen shrub with dark green, ovate leaves. The leaves feature white margins and are often tinged pink. It produces small pale green flowers in summer, which are occasionally followed by pale pink fruits.

Euonymous japonicus 'Aureus'




An evergreen shrub with dark green leathery leaves with bright yellow centres. Pale white flowers are sometimes followed by orange berries.

Euonymous japonicus 'Latifolius Albomarginatus'




A bushy medium-sized dense, evergreen shrub with pale green young leaves. These become blue-green on maturity with narrow, white margins. Small green flowers are occasionally followed by fruit in autumn.

Hedera helix

Common ivy


Late summer to late autumn

An evergreen, climbing flowering plant native to most of Europe and western Asia. It can reach heights of 20–30m. The greenish-yellow flowers are produced in 3-5cm umbels. The fruit are purple-black or orange-yellow berries which ripen in late winter.


Hedera helix 'Oro di Bogliasco'

Goldheart ivy


October to November

A vigorous evergreen climbing shrub which grows to up to 8m in height. It has dark-green 3-lobed leaves with a large central yellow patch. Its small yellow-green flowers are produced in clusters and are followed by black berries.


Atlantic ivy




October to November

A large and vigorous evergreen climber with broad, 5-lobed dark green leaves. Small greenish flowers are produced in umbels and are followed by black berries.

Holcus mollis 'Albovariegatus

Variegated creeping soft grass


June to July

An herbaceous perennial which forms a mat of linear, white-margined leaves. Panicles of pale green flowers are produced in summer.

Ilex aquifolium




A dioecious evergreen tree or shrub. The spiky dark green leaves are glossy and leathery. In male specimens, the flowers are yellowish. In the female, flowers are small and white or slightly pink. The fruit is a bright red or yellow drupe, which matures around October or November.

Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea'

Silver hedgehog holly



A large, bushy evergreen shrub with purple young shoots. Its small leaves are spiny on the upper surface as well as the margins, which are edged creamy-white. Its small flowers are a dull white.

Ilex aquifolium 'Golden Milkmaid'




A dense evergreen tree with an upright spreading habit. Its yellow foliage is edged in dark green. The flowers are not ornamentally significant. It produces red berries in late autumn.

Iris foetidissima


Stinking iris


May to July

A species of iris native to western Europe. Its flowers are usually dull blue or dull yellow tinged with blue. Seedpods open in autumn to expose rows of orange-red seeds.

Kerria japonica 'Variegata'




A deciduous shrub with arching branches. Its bright green leaves are margined creamy white, and it produces single yellow flowers.

Lamium galeobdolon 'Hermanns Pride'

Yellow archangel


April to June

A compact, semi-evergreen ground cover plant. Its foliage has silver streaks and its small yellow hooded flowers form in clusters.

Lonicera nitida 'Silver Beauty'

Bush honeysuckle



An evergreen shrub with green leaves that are edged white. It produces fragrant creamy-white flowers.

Lunaria annua



March to April

A species of flowering plant native to the Balkans and southwest Asia. It has large, coarse, pointed oval leaves with marked serrations. It produces racemes of white or violet flowers, followed by light brown, translucent, disc-shaped seedpods.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus'

Variegated Japanese silver grass


Early autumn

Available as deciduous or evergreen grasses with tufted or spreading habit and reaching up to 2m tall. Its erect stems bear arching, white-striped linear leaves and reddish flowers.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’

Zebra grass


August to September

A deciduous grass with arching, linear leaves which feature cream or pale yellow bands. It produces panicles of light pink flowers.

Phalaris arudinacea 'Picta'




A tall deciduous bamboo-like ornamental grass with broad, dark green leaves that are striped creamy-yellow with a pink tinge. It produces long panicles of pinkish-white flowers.

Prunus laurocerasus

Cherry laurel

Habit variant

Early summer

An evergreen species of shrub or small-medium sized tree of up to 18m in height. The dark green leaves are leathery and shiny with a finely serrated margin. The flowers form in erect racemes of 30–40 flowers, each with five creamy-white petals.

Prunus lusitanica 'Variegata'

Variegated Portugal laurel


Early summer

A bushy evergreen tree or large shrub which grows to 6m tall. Its ovate leaves have narrow white margins. Small white flowers form in racemes.

Pulmonaria saccharata



Late spring

An herbaceous perennial native to France and Italy. It grows to 10cm in height with 60cm width. Its lance-shaped leaves feature white spots. Funnel-shaped flowers are pink or white.

Quercus cerris 'Variegata'

Turkey oak



An upright and round, deciduous tree which can reach a height of 10-15m. Its green and creamy-white leaves are oval and glossy.

Ruta graveolens


Common rue


June to September

A hardy, evergreen shrub native to southern Europe. Its alternate leaves are bluish-green. The greenish-yellow flowers are produced in terminal panicles.

Sambucus nigra



May to June

A small deciduous tree native to the UK and much of Europe. Flowers are borne on large, flat, umbels. Individual flowers are creamy coloured with five petals. Small purple-black berries appear in late-summer to autumn.

Silybum marianum

Milk thistle



An annual or biennial thistle with spiny-edged oblong leaves which are shiny green with milk-white veins. It grows 30-200cm tall with a conical shape. The red-purple flower heads are 4-12cm long and wide.

Viburnum rhytidophyllum 'Variegatum'

Leatherleaf viburnum



A slow-growing shrub with long dark green leaves with pale yellow and cream variegation. Clusters of white flowers are produced by mature plants.

Viburnum tinus 'Variegatum'

Variegated laurustinus


Winter to early spring

A bushy evergreen shrub with ovate leaves with yellow margins. Pink buds open into small white, pink-tinged flowers.

Vinca major 'Variegata'

Variegated greater periwinkle


Spring to autumn

An evergreen, clump-forming shrub with erect leafy flowering stems. Its ovate leaves are margined with cream. Violet-blue flowers are produced from spring to autumn.

Vinca minor


Dwarf periwinkle


Spring and summer

A trailing evergreen shrub, that spreads along the ground and roots along the stems to form large clonal colonies. Its leaves are a glossy dark green with a leathery texture. The star-shaped flowers are violet-purple.

x Cupressocyparis leylandii 'Harlequin'

Variegated leyland cypress



A columnar evergreen conifer which can reach 18-24m in height. Its grey-green foliage has white patches and is produced in plume-like sprays.