Home Houseplants How To Induce Variegation In Plants

How To Induce Variegation In Plants – GIY Plants

Close up of a variegated Monstera Deliciosa leaf and how to induce variegation in plants.

Variegation, a sought-after trait in ornamental plants, lends beauty to gardens with its unique patterned foliage. We delve deep into understanding the mechanics behind variegation and how to induce it artificially.

What Is Variegation?

Variegation refers to the appearance of differently colored zones in the leaves, and sometimes the stems, of plants. This aesthetic appeal often comes from the absence of chlorophyll in some plant cells, resulting in variegated leaves. It’s important to note that while variegation may occur naturally, it can also be induced.

Natural vs. Artificial Variegation

Natural vs. Artificial Variegation of green and white plant with white flowers blooming.

Natural Variegation

Variegation can occur naturally in many plants. This natural variegation arises from genetic mutations in the plant, which may affect chlorophyll production. Spotting a naturally variegated plant in the wild can be quite the treat for plant enthusiasts.

Artificially Inducing Variegation

Plant breeders and enthusiasts alike have been keen on understanding how to induce variegation in plants. The ability to artificially variegate plants provides a chance to enhance the ornamental value of otherwise green-leaved species.

How to Induce Variegation

Variegated Croton with yellow, red and green and how to induce variegation in plants.

Using Chemicals

Chemicals like ethyl methanesulfonate can be used to induce mutations in the plant, resulting in variegation. However, it’s vital to approach cautiously as some chemicals might cause irreparable damage to the plant.

Gamma Rays

Exposing plants to gamma rays can induce genetic mutations, leading to variegation. It’s a technique often used by plant breeders but requires expert handling.

Mosaic Virus

Introducing the mosaic virus to certain plants can result in variegated patterns. While this method can produce stunning results, it’s essential to remember that this is a viral variegation and may have side effects on other plants.

Plant Tissue Culture

Plant tissue culture methods, especially when combined with chemicals, can lead to variegation in some plants. The process involves growing plants from cells in a laboratory setting under controlled conditions.

Maintaining the Variegation

Close up of a pink variegated pink princess philodendron and maintaining the variegation.

Once you have a variegated plant, maintaining the variegation becomes crucial. Variegated parts of a plant might revert to their green state if not cared for appropriately.

Light: Ensure the plant gets adequate sunlight. Variegated leaves have less chlorophyll, so they require more light for photosynthesis.

Pruning: Regularly prune non-variegated shoots to maintain the desired pattern.

Disadvantages or Issues

While variegation can enhance the aesthetic appeal of a plant, it’s crucial to understand that there are some drawbacks.

Photosynthesis Limitation: As variegated leaves have less chlorophyll, they might not be as efficient at photosynthesis.

Vulnerability: Variegated plants might be more susceptible to pests and diseases, especially those with chemically induced variegation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does variegation look like?

Variegation in plants refers to different colors or patterns on the leaves or other plant parts. This can range from patches of different colors to stripes or spots.

How can I maintain variegation in my plants?

To maintain variegation in plants, providing the right conditions for the plant is essential. This includes ensuring proper sunlight, watering, and fertilizing. Regular pruning is also necessary to remove any non-variegated growth.

Can I induce variegation in houseplants?

Yes, it is possible to induce variegation in houseplants. The method may vary depending on the type of houseplant. Still, genetic manipulation and selective breeding are standard methods plant breeders use.

What is chimeral variegation?

Chimeral variegation refers to the type of variegation that occurs due to genetic variation within different layers or tissues of the plant. This can result in distinct patterns or colors on the plant’s leaves or other parts.

Can I induce variegation in a non-variegated plant?

It is possible to induce variegation in a non-variegated plant through various methods, such as genetic mutation or chemicals. However, the success rate may vary.

How do plant breeders create variegation in plants?

Plant breeders use various techniques, such as selective breeding and genetic manipulation, to create plant variegation. The specific methods may vary depending on the desired traits and the type of plant being bred.

What is blister variegation?

Blister variegation is a type where the variegated areas appear raised or blister-like. This can create an interesting texture and visual effect on the plant’s leaves.

Can I propagate plants with variegation?

Yes, plants with variegation can be propagated through various methods, such as taking cuttings or dividing the plant. However, ensuring that the propagated plant retains the variegated traits is essential.


Inducing variegation in plants requires a blend of science and art. While it’s possible to artificially introduce variegation, the health and well-being of the plant should always be a top priority. Whether you’re a plant breeder or an enthusiast, understanding the intricacies of variegation can help you appreciate these unique plants even more.

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