Once reserved only for serious plant collectors, variegated Monstera deliciosas are growing in popularity and are becoming a staple houseplant in many homes. So, if you want to learn more about this somewhat hard-to-find, expensive, and distinctive foliage plant, here’s what you need to know.
What Is Variegation?
The term variegation refers to the appearance of differently colored zones in the leaves and stems of plants. Variegation occurs due to a lack of chlorophyll in some of the plant's cells, which most commonly occurs as a result of cell mutation. Some fungal diseases can also result in leaves looking variegated. Foliage variegation can be two-toned, tri-colored, or even quadricolored, and occur in a variety of patterns such as splotches, stripes, dots, blocks, and more.
Variegated plants can revert to a fully green state due to changes in temperatures, lighting, or cell mutations. Once a plant reverts to green it's not possible to regress to variegated. Encourage your variegated monstera deliciosas to stay in their variegated state by keeping them in their proper lighting and humidity, and providing the right amount of water.
Types of Variegated Monsteras
Five main types of variegated monstera deliciosas are available in addition to the true variegated monsteras—or Monstera deliciosa ‘variegata’.
These six species benefit from bright, indirect light, well-drained and moderately moist soil, and high humidity to ensure they thrive.
Monstera deliciosa ‘Thai Constellation’
Monstera deliciosa ‘Thai Constellation’ is likely the most popular and widely available type of variegated monstera in the United States. 'Thai Constellation' monsteras have splotchy galaxy-like variegation patterns in shades of creamy white and light yellow. Most, if not all, of the leaves will have some type of variegation on them. This is a distinguishing characteristic as most other variegated monstera varieties display both variegated and non-variegated leaves.
In all parts of the country 'Thai Constellation" can be grown indoors as a houseplant. It tolerates low light but grows faster in a bright location.
Monstera deliciosa ‘Albo Borsigiana’
A close runner up to the 'Thai Constellation' monstera in terms of popularity is the Monstera deliciosa ‘Albo Borsigiana’, or albo monstera. This stunning plant is defined by brilliant pure white variegation and a blocky and splotchy variegation pattern. This sets it apart from the speckled 'Thai Constellation' monsteras, and it is common to see pure white leaves develop on a mature albo monstera. The albo monstera is also known for being a smaller-leaved monstera variety which makes it more compact at maturity.
Monstera deliciosa ‘Aurea’ (or ‘Marmorata’)
A less commonly-found cultivar of variegated monstera is the Monstera deliciosa ‘Aurea’, also referred to as the Monstera Borsigiana Aurea, or simply Monstera Aurea. In contrast to the 'Thai Constellation' and albo monstera, the aurea is characterized by yellow variegation that occurs in a splotchy pattern. Similar to the albo monstera, the leaves of a monstera aurea are more compact and rarely grow to be more than two feet in diameter at full maturity. Monstera aurea typically has less variegation on the leaves than other variegated monstera varieties and some leaves can develop without any variegation at all.
The ‘mint monstera’ is the newest variegated monstera on the scene, and if you are hoping to add this one to your collection it will be difficult to find. Mint monsteras are characterized by minty green or white-green variegation with a marbled variegation pattern. Not much is widely known about this particular cultivar, however, the mint green variegation is not always consistent across the whole plant—with bright white variegation often occurring throughout the leaves as well.
Monstera deliciosa ‘Variegata’
This type of variegated monstera is considered to be a “true” variegated monstera, and the variegation occurs naturally due to genetic mutation after germination. This type of variegation is not stable and can occur in a variety of colors and patterns. True variegated monsteras are not common and are not typically sold commercially because the variegation is a chance genetic mutation, and therefore is not predictable.
Variegated monstera 'adansonii'
The 'variegated monstera adansonii' is a rare and highly coveted cultivar. It is nicknamed the "Swiss Cheese" plant due to the holes in the leaves and sports a white or yellow coloring in the variegation. Expensive and hard to find, this plant has smaller leaves than most other monsteras. A slow grower, this type of monstera is a genetic mutation, and can only be grown by propagation, which also explains its high cost.
Why Are Variegated Monsteras So Expensive?
Let's face it—if you want to add a variegated monstera to your collection, you will likely need quite a lot of cash. While variegated monsteras are growing in popularity they are still relatively scarce, with single-leafed cuttings often going for a couple of hundred dollars at the least. Some varieties, including the mint monstera and monstera aurea, are sometimes priced at a few thousand dollars apiece.
First, many of these variegated cultivators cannot be grown from seed and are either lab-cultured (such as the 'Thai Constellation'), or they are cuttings from one mutated mother plant (such as the monstera albo). This means that availability for these plants is limited, and the high demand for variegated monsteras has caused prices to skyrocket.
Second, variegated monsteras are usually more difficult to grow and more delicate than the average Monstera deliciosa, which makes them more difficult to ship and distribute. This also means that not everyone can successfully grow a variegated monstera, and they are often grown and propagated by specialty nurseries or collectors.
What to Know When Buying a Variegated Monstera
If you want to purchase a variegated monstera, keep in mind a few factors, especially if you are purchasing online. Remember that most cultivars cannot be grown from seed—so do not fall for scams where people are trying to sell 'Thai Constellation' or albo monstera seeds.
If you are buying a cutting, it is imperative that the cutting has at least one node present on the stem. Without a node, the cutting will never grow roots and develop into a viable plant.
Lastly, while a cutting or plant with a large amount of variegation can be tempting, avoid purchasing a variegated monstera cutting that is fully white or variegated. The lack of chlorophyll required to feed the plant means that the cutting will not survive.
Diseases and Disorders. North Carolina State University Extension Gardener Handbook.