The Q&A Archives: Variegated Plants for Part Shade

Question: I am looking for a list of variegated part shade plants that would work in clay soil in southern Ca. They would get regular watering.

Answer: Here are a few of my favorite plants with variegated foliage:
Siberian (or Tatarian) dogwood (Cornus alba) has variegated forms--for example, light green leaves edged in cream; red branches give it winter interest.

Bishop's weed (Aegopodium podagraria) has creamy-edged foliage and brings light to shady areas.

Solomon's seal (Polygonatum sp.)is an excellent choice among variegated plants for highlighting a shady area; its lance-shaped leaves are sometimes edged in white, and dangling spring flowers add to its charm.

The colorful foliage of caladiums has splotches or streaks of red, rose, salmon, white or green. The range of colors makes them extremely versatile. Note: caladiums should be planted only after temperatures are consistently in the 70s. They will quickly rot in the ground if the soil is damp and cool. Once the foliage fades in the fall, the bulbs can be dug up and stored in a box filled with sand or peat moss in an unheated garage.

The popular groundcover vinca is available in a variegated form, as is liriope (Liriope muscari).

A variegated form of pulmonaria has white spots on its long green lance-shaped leaves.

Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum) has variable coloration--often silvery-green and darker green.

Virginia creeper (Pathenocessus quinquefolia) 'Star Showers' has mottled leaves of dark and light green.

One version of the sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) has colorful pink, green and white foliage.

Hostas are the best known variegated plants for shade. While he loves the solid green and blue cousins, James is partial to those hostas whose leaves are trimmed in creamy white--like the old standby 'Francee', which has white leaf margins or the similar-looking 'Patriot'. A little beauty known as 'Ginko Craig' is one of his favorites.

Hydrangea is a shade-loving shrub, and there are many varieties with large and attractive variegated foliage.

You can even get variegated herbs, such as tricolored and golden sage. They taste just like regular sage, but they're a bit more interesting to look at.

Best wishes with your garden!

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