Variegated leaves may have leaves spotted with two colors or one color on the inner part of the foliage and a second color along the edge or "margin." Some plants go above and beyond the call of duty, featuring not two but three different colors on their leaves. These are some of the best examples of plants with bi-colored foliage that you can include a few in your landscaping to spice up your flower beds.
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Variegated Dogwood Shrub
Variegated foliage gives a plant interest even in the absence of flowers. An example is this red twig dogwood bush with variegated foliage, Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'. This variegated shrub does bear flowers in spring sometimes succeeded by berries, but it's valued more for its bi-colored leaves to enjoy for three seasons.Continue to 2 of 24 below.
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It's hard to choose the best attribute of yellow archangel, Lamium galebdolon. Is it the variegated foliage? Or is it the yellow flowers? Fortunately, we don't have to choose. It is not, however, tough to choose this perennial's worst feature: It is one of the worst invasive plants in North America.
A clump-forming plant, it reaches one to three feet in height, with a similar spread. The variegation on the plant takes the form of irregularly shaped silver splotches throughout the leaf with a jagged edge. The flowers form in bunches, growing in a ring around the stem.Continue to 3 of 24 below.
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Yellow loosestrife, Lysimachia punctata 'Alexander', commonly called "Alexander's loosestrife." is another perennial valued as much for its foliage as for its flower spikes. In late spring and early summer, when the plant blooms with yellow flowers, the foliage is white and green, but when the plant first emerges in spring, its leaves are a more interesting pink and green.Continue to 4 of 24 below.
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We don't usually think of red salvia, Salvia splendens as a variegated plant. A popular annual used as a bedding plant, red salvia is usually grown for its flowers, not its foliage. However, this gold-spotted variety, 'Dancing Flame', qualifies as a prime foliage plant, meaning its red flowers are just a bonus.Continue to 5 of 24 below.
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These nasturtiums, Tropaeolum majus 'Jewel Hybrids', are another example of a variegated annual. We often think of nasturtiums as fall flowers—we sow their seeds in early June, and they bloom in early autumn. Their orange and yellow flowers fit in well with traditional fall color schemes.Continue to 6 of 24 below.
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Nora Leigh garden phlox, Phlox paniculata ' Nora Leigh' has two-toned leaves, as well as two-toned flowers. The leaves of this garden phlox have green centers with white edges, while the flowers have a deep pink center, surrounded by a light pink.
Don't confuse garden phlox with creeping phlox, which is a low-growing ground cover that blooms in spring. Garden phlox blooms in summer.Continue to 7 of 24 below.
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Two-Toned Dalmatian Iris
This iris not only bears the beautiful flowers one expects from an iris but lovely leaves, too.
Variegated Dalmatian iris, Iris pallida 'Variegata', has a purple flower and green and gold, sword-shaped leaves. Like many irises, it boasts fragrant blooms.Continue to 8 of 24 below.
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Columbine plants are known for both their attractive foliage and pretty flowers, but variegated columbine, Aquilegia vulgaris 'Woodside Variegata' offers even more interesting foliage than most types. Columbine flowers can be yellow, white, red, blue, purple, pink, or bi-colored reaching up to two 2 feet in height. Columbine plants bloom in late spring to early summer and re-seed readily if you don't deadhead them.Continue to 9 of 24 below.
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Living up to their name, tricolor sage plants, Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor' display three colors. Other variegated plants also boast three colors, such as ornamental kiwi vines and tricolor beech. Tricolor sage's third color—after green and white—is a rosy purple.Continue to 10 of 24 below.
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Sweet Tea Heucherella
Heucherella 'Sweet Tea' has a leaf with a dark center and a lighter color on the perimeter. Heucherella is derived, both linguistically and botanically, from a cross of Heuchera and Tiarella. For most types of this perennial, the leaves are more interesting than the flowers. Some sport golden leaves, such as Heucherella 'Solar Power'. Sweet Tea is no exception in this regard.Continue to 12 of 24 below.
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Frosty Morn Stonecrop
Frosty Morn stonecrop plant, Sedum bears bi-colored leaves. The name derives from the white or "frosty" edging displayed on its leaf margins. Like other succulents, such as hen and chicks, this perennial tolerates low-water conditions.
Although this succulent does blossom, it is valued most for its variegated leaves. As with Autumn Joy stonecrop, the flowers of this sedum appear in clusters atop the plant. The flowers tend to bleach out in the sun in very hot areas but can retain a pinkish color in cooler areas.
Other variegated stonecrops include:
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- Phedimus spurius 'Tricolor'
- Sedum telephium 'Lajos' or 'Autumn Charm'
- Sedum alboroseum 'Mediovariegatum'
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While ribbon grass, Phalaris arundinacea, is an attractive plant, beware of its aggressiveness. As a substitute, grow the similar but better-behaved Carex 'Spark Plug', a type of sedge.Continue to 15 of 24 below.
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Minute Man Hosta
Minute Man hosta is one of several hosta plants that are variegated. Minute Man hosta plants' leaves are white around the edges and green at the center. These markings make Minute Man, like H. Patriot, H. Frances Williams, and H. Francee, examples of so-called "marginally variegated" hostas. All are best grown in partial to full shade.Continue to 16 of 24 below.
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Ornamental Kiwi Vines
Male kiwi vines bear small white flowers in spring and put on a better foliar display than the females. The attraction in growing Actinidia kolomikta 'Arctic Beauty' vines is their variegated foliage. As the leaves emerge in spring, they're green, but they soon pick up splotches of white. Even better, some leaves then develop pink tips. The coloration does, however, fade some as summer progresses.Continue to 17 of 24 below.
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Jack Frost Siberian BuglossContinue to 18 of 24 below.
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Harriet Waldman Japanese Maple
Acer palmatum 'Harriet Waldman' is one of the Japanese maples. Its leaves display three colors: pink, white, and green. It's the newest leaves that contain the most pink. Fall foliage will be yellow, orange, or red, depending upon conditions. Harriet Waldman Japanese maple eventually reaches a height of 15 feet tall.
Some other types of maple trees are also prized for their variegated leaves, such as Acer pseudoplatanus 'Brilliantissimum' and Acer rubescens 'Silver Cardinal'.Continue to 19 of 24 below.
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Joseph's Coat Plant
Joseph's coat plant, Alternanthera ficoidea, is a tropical plant grown for what is sometimes the intense second color that accompanies the green color in its leaves. For cultivars where the second color is intense, it will be orange, purple, or red. In other cultivars, it is less intense brownish or coppery. Since Joseph's coat can be grown year-round only in zones 10 and 11, it is treated as an annual in other zones where its color explosion can be used to punch up window boxes and the like during the summertime.Continue to 20 of 24 below.
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Snow-on-the-mountain plant goes by several common names, including bishop's weed and goutweed. Take the "weed" in those common names seriously, because Aegopodium podagraria will spread, but the Variegatum cultivar is better-behaved than the species plant. Some people value snow-on-the-mountain as an option for a variegated flowering ground cover in zones 3 to 9.Continue to 21 of 24 below.
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The Carol Mackie cultivar of daphne bush, Daphne x burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie', bears sweet-smelling flowers in spring, along with variegated foliage. Of the two qualities, its variegated leaves may be the more important, since they can be appreciated for the greater part of the year.Continue to 22 of 24 below.
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Wolf Eyes Dogwood
Wolf Eyes dogwood, Cornus kousa ' Wolf Eyes', is one of the Japanese dogwoods. It has variegated foliage and white flowers. The effect of so much white is dazzling when this tree is in bloom. Berries follow the blooms for a fall display, but the fall foliage of Cornus florida or flowering dogwood is much better than that of Wolf Eyes.Continue to 23 of 24 below.
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There are various variegated euonymus shrubs. Moonshadow, Euonymus fortunei 'Moonshadow' has green and gold leaves, with the gold in the center and the green on the margins.
The green and gold color scheme isn't consistent. The gold is strongest on the newest leaves, while it tends to fade to a creamy color on the older ones. Still, the creamy color is attractive in its own right.
Moonshadow euonymus makes a good groundcover as it tends to stay short and spreads out horizontally. The outer branches bear a creamy yellow color, giving the overall plant a bright appearance.Continue to 24 of 24 below.
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Emerald 'n' Gold Euonymus
The leaves of Emerald 'n' Gold euonymus, Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald 'n' Gold', are green on the inside and gold on the outside. The leaves on some of Emerald 'n' Gold's new branches will revert to a plain green color over time, You should always prune off green areas so that the energy of the plant goes into making more variegated leaves.