What is it about variegated plants that sets our hearts all a-flutter? It's probably the striking nature of the colors and the mystery of whether or not the next leaf will turn out the same.
To start with, let's define what variegation is. The word itself comes from the Latin variegatus which means composed of various colors. And while it can mean various colors, we most often use it to refer to leaves that would ordinarily be green but have some addition of white in them.
It is unusual because plants are supposed to be green. That lush green color comes from chlorophyll, a pigment that is responsible for the absorption of light to provide energy for photosynthesis. Basically, chlorophyll is what makes food for plants, giving them the energy to grow. A plant becomes variegated when some of a plant's cells lack chlorophyll.
In many cases, you'll find plants with genetic variegation. That's variegation that is stable from one generation to the next. Propagate from cuttings or seeds, and you'll most likely get a similarly variegated plant. Examples of these are the Fittonia Nerve Plant or Prayer Plants.
Other times, variegation is a random mutation (also called chimeric). This is the variegation that we hope will come out on the next leaf, but that isn't a guarantee. This kind of variegation is caused by random mutations within plant cells that cause chlorophyll not to be created. And we get to benefit from it with the beauty these mutations cause in plants like Pearl and Jade Pothos and various Hoyas.
Tips to Increase Variegation:
1. Place plant in plenty of light. If the amount of light gets too low, a plant may increase chlorophyll production and become more green, or favor leaves that have more green.
2. Prune leaves that have too much green. If your plant's new leaves emerge with lots of green, prune some of them off. Plants are smart and will favor leaves that produce more food and energy. Removing those leaves can keep the variegation going.
3. Feed Regularly. Be sure your plant is receiving regular fertilizer. If the plant has all the nutrients that it needs, then variegations can remain more stable.
Now it's time to sit back and enjoy your lovely, variegated plants. It's such a great feeling waiting and watching the next leaf emerge when you never know quite what nature is going to produce.