Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

Plants with variegated foliage have grown on me. Some are nicer than others – I generally prefer the ones with white/creamy coloured markings to the more yellow pigments. But just a few dotted around create bright golden or silvery accents, adding drama and contrast and lightening up shady corners. Here’s my pick:


Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Queen’

Good for: Evergreen structure

This stylish shrub has small greyish green and cream leaves with contrasting black stems. It gets big but is easy to clip to shape – and the foliage is great for flower arranging. Likes sun or part shade.

Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’

Good for: Winter interest

Cornus (dogwoods) are grown for their red stems revealed in winter when the leaves fall, but this variety also has elegant pale green and white leaves that shimmer in the sun. It works best in full sun, planted somewhere visible during the winter.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

Good for: Scented winter flowers

This classy rounded shrub has glossy green leaves with fine golden margins and clusters of deliciously scented pink flowers in January. Tricky to get established but worth it. It prefers a sunny sheltered spot.

Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’

Good for: Architectural leaves

This new Fatsia variety has the trademark handsome evergreen leaves but with a delicate sprinkling of pretty white markings. It looks lovely with white-flowers and adds light to areas of dappled shade, where it’s most happy.

Weigela ‘Nana Variegata’

Good for: Spring flowers

I inherited one of these deciduous shrubs and have grown to love the light cream and olive green leaves, plus the mass of pale pink flowers in May. Prune after flowering and grow in sun or shade. 

Herbaceous perennials

Iris pallida ‘Variegata’

Good for: Adding drama and structure

With boldly striped blue-green and white leaves leaves and lilac blue flowers, this is a showstopper! Likes a sunny well-drained border.

Hosta ‘Francee’

Good for: Creating a lush feel

This smart hosta has large stylish green leaves with contrasting white margins and spikes of blue summer flowers. They need protection from slugs or grow in a large container in a shady area. Lovely with ferns.


Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’

Good for: Height and autumn/winter interest

An upright grass with cream-striped leaves and airy purplish flower sprays becoming pale brown in winter. Lovely!

Carex ‘Ice Dance’

Good for: Evergreen groundcover

Tough and useful evergreen grass with shiny narrow evergreen leaves edged with creamy white margins. A smart plant for tough spots in sun or part shade.

Hakonechloa macra ‘Alboaurea’

Good for: Underplanting and edging

This low growing grass has vividly striped yellow and green leaves and spills over pathways softening edges. It likes sun or part shade.


Trachelospermum jasminoides ‘Variegata ‘ (Star Jasmine)

Best for: Lightening up a fence

A rarer form of the popular evergreen climber with the same fragrant white flowers in mid-summer . The glossy olives green leaves are splashed with creamy white blotches that are tinged pink in autumn. Mine looks pretty with a pale pink rose growing through it. Happy in sun or part shade.

They tend to need a bit more sun than non-variegated variety, but this varies. If plants lose their variegation cut off the plain green leaves.

This article first appeared in the July 2018 issue of SE22 magazine