Variegated plants to light up the garden 

Plants with variegated foliage, different coloured zones on leaves, can add a lightness to a garden, breaking up the green. I prefer the ones with white/creamy coloured markings to the more yellow pigments. These plants with their pale leaves work well with blues, dark purples, pastels and whites, and dotting a few around the garden can add an attractive contrast to other foliage and light up shadier spots. Once you start looking, you’ll find many plants from holly and ivy to acers and euphorbias have a variegated version. Here are a few to consider. 


Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ 

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. Plant it somewhere visible during the winter.  

Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Queen’   

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. 

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’  

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.  

Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ 

This newer 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. 

Weigela Florida Variegata 

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’  

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

Hosta ‘Francee’ 

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. 

Brunnera macrophylla Variegata  

Brunnera are invaluable ground cover plants for spring colour and their leaves create interest and texture in themselves. There are many different varieties with variegated markings in creams and silvers.   


Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’  

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

Carex ‘Ice Dance’  

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’  

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) 

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.