Variegated foliage plants—those with more than one color in the leaves—can be versatile, easy to grow and provide multi-season interest in the garden or a container.
Incorporating plants with leaves striped or splotched can brighten a shady spot, complement bold and showy flowers or provide continuity and flow in a garden design. Here are just a few favorites.
Variegated False Holly
Variegated False Holly
(Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’)
‘Goshiki’ typically refers to a beautiful koi of five colors, making this an aptly named cultivar. Leaves of this lovely evergreen emerge a dark pink and mature to green splattered with specks of creamy white, grey and yellow. Slow growing to 4 feet to 8 feet tall, it’s best in part sun to part shade and is great as an accent or in a year-round container.
(Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’)
While some spotted laurel have become rather commonplace in the landscape, ‘Crotonifolia’ deserves consideration for a spot in the shade garden with its dark green, shiny and thick leaves heavily splashed with yellow. Useful as a hedge, foundation plant or accent, it’s also striking in cut flower arrangements. Plant in part to full shade. Grows to about 6 feet.
Ivory Halo Dogwood
(Cornus alba ‘Bailhalo’)
Four seasons of interest from a deciduous shrub are the result of this fast-growing, multi-stemmed dogwood. Long green leaves with subtle creamy white margins are beautifully displayed against a dark green backdrop. Late spring yellowish-white flowers eventually produce light blue berries attractive to birds. Vibrant red stems are a real standout in the winter garden and in floral arrangements. Plant in full sun to part shade and prune hard every 2-3 years to retain red stem color.
Angyo Star Tree Ivy
(x Fatshedera lizei ‘Angyo-Star’)
This cross between the large, bold-leaf Fatsia japonica and ivy (Hedera) is a real beauty with dark green leaves edged in cream. Its habit can be sprawling, but it’s worth space in the garden or it can be trained to climb. Best as a specimen plant in bright shade, it’s usually evergreen in zone 7b. It can die back to the ground with temperatures in single digits, but it emerges with gusto in spring.
Heucherella 'Solar Eclipse'
‘Solar Eclipse’ Foamy Bells
(Heucherella x ‘Solar Eclipse’)
The maple-like leaves of this cross between coral bells (Heuchera) and foam flower (Tiarella) are an eye-catching dark burgundy, almost brown, with lime green edges and hold their color well throughout the season. White flowers in spring are long-lasting making this a wonderful addition to the shade garden or a container. Forms a clump to about 12 inches tall and wide.
Asiatic Jasmine 'Snow N Summer'
Two very different, but eye-catching Asiatic Jasmines can be grown as climbers or as groundcovers. In the shade garden try ‘Snow N Summer’. New growth emerges rosy pink, turns to white and then matures to dark green with white speckles. Fragrant white flowers in spring are a bonus. Perfect as a colorful groundcover or in a container. ‘Summer Sunset’, with its hot, bold colors ranging from red to orange, yellow, green and white, can be grown in sun to part shade.
So many beautiful and oh so different sedges from which to choose! A longtime favorite is Carex ‘Evergold’ with its graceful, mounding habit and striking yellow and green variegation. It’s beautiful spilling over the edge of a container or at the front of the border. And it’s deer resistant! Grow in part shade.
(Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’)
Culinary and colorful! Tricolor sage has grayish-green leaves streaked with white and purple and pink. It’s wonderful in a container or in the herb or butterfly garden as its lavender flowers will attract pollinators. Grow in full sun and well draining soil.
‘Solar Eclipse’ Heucherella courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries. All other photos courtesy of Logan Trading Company.
Sharon O’Neill works in the perennials and shrub department at Logan Trading Company. She can be reached at (919) 828-5337 or at [email protected]