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Let's Talk Variegation & Why Half the Population Want It

Variegation, the one plant topic (and plant itself) people love to hate and hate to love. But why? They are such hard-work, needy, attention-seeking, beautiful, loving, and a downright asshole some of the time (if not all). But only if you don't know what you're doing. If that is you, don't worry. We'll hold your hand every step of the way to caring for your new babe. We'll start with 'what exactly is variegation' and the types.

So what is variegation?

Great question, I'm glad you asked. Variegation is the different tones or different colours in a plant's foliage. There are a few reasons why it occurs and I'll explain this in just a moment. The very basic and quick answer now though, is that there is a genetic mutation or that the plant is lacking chlorophyll. Probably sounds worse than it actually is. Because of this, variegated plants are usually super slow growers and do run the risk of being easily damaged. Sounds daunting? Don't worry. Remember we are holding your hand.

Are you ready to go shallow diving into the deep depths of the variegation world? Let's go!

Chimeral Variegation

'What on earth is this?' I hear you say. This is probably the most common type of variegation (apart from Pattern-Gene) that we are accustomed to seeing in nurseries, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok etc. It is caused by a genetic mutation in the plant where some cells can produce chlorophyll and others cannot.

Side note on here: Chlorophyll is the green colour in foliage and it is super important to a plant to photosynthesise and grow.

Back to Chimeral. Are you following along okay? So usually with Chimeral variegation, we see it almost splattered on a solid green form or parts of the leaf may have a white variegation. So you visual learners can see it, this Syngonium Fantasy is a perfect example. For people who are super confident and wanting to learn more, this is an example of a Half Moon Variegation.

Syngonium Fantasy

Chimeral Variegation, being a mutation, is considered an unstable variegation meaning it doesn't take too much (depends on the plant, I guess) to revert back to it's green form. If you were to take cuttings off a mother plant to propagate (what we have done with the Fantasy above), you need to ensure you are cutting and propagating from an already established variegation in order to continue the pattern. Green cutting = green new plant. Which is usually not what people want.

Pattern-Gene Variegation

This is just a fancy schmancy way of saying the plants are naturally pigmented or variegated. That's they key word for this, pigmented. Plants that are naturally coloured. The painting of Mother Nature. Think Calatheas. Or Coleus. Or Stromanthes. Or Syngoniums. All are great examples of colours that are beautifully painted and colourful. This type of variegation is built naturally in the DNA of the plant. AKA no mutation like Chimeral and you're always guaranteed to have super similar (if not exact) copies of each plant.

Stromanthe Tricolour

Reflective Variegation

Reflective variegation is one of our favourite types here at Plants by Wendy. Because it creates these beautiful almost silver, shiny, metallic-looking coating on plants that sparkle under the sun. How on earth is that even a legit thing that these plants can do?! Thankfully some other super smart, super clever, super plant lovers figured this out for us. Long story short, there are little air pockets that form between a pigmented lower and unpigmented upper layer that causes the shine and beautifulness. Some great examples are aroid plants (Anthuriums, Philodendrons, Alocasias) where you can see the veining sparkle when the light hits the pockets.

Alocasia Black Velvet

See, isn't it so super pretty? Begonia Rex's have the same thing to. And once I found out (it just so happened to be my birthday) I was oh so generously gifted (by myself) all the varieties because priorities and it was my birthday after all. Self-care blah blah blah.

Anyhoo, that's about all today folks. I don't want to overload you with too much information but I can totally go further down this rabbit hole with you if you so wish. In the mean time, if you're up for the test, go through some of our favourites online at the moment and see if you can tell us which variegation is which.

Love always,

Plants by Wendy

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