Once reserved only for collectors, variegated Monstera deliciosas are growing in popularity and are becoming a staple in many homes and plant collections. So you may be wondering what the deal is with these variegated monsteras? Here’s everything 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.
Types of Variegated Monsteras
There are five main types of variegated monstera deliciosas available including the “true” variegated monsteras - or Monstera deliciosa ‘variegata’.
All five 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 can be identified by their splotchy star-like variegation pattern in shades of creamy white and light yellow. Most, if not all, of the leaves of a Thai constellation monstera 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.
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 even 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 in its maturity.
Monstera deliciosa ‘Aurea’ (or ‘Marmorata’)
A less commonly found cultivator 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 may 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 tough 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 as the variegation is more of a fluke due to genetic mutation, and therefore is not predictable.
Why Are Variegated Monsteras So Expensive?
Let's face it - if you want to add a variegated monstera to your collection, you will likely be forking out some serious cash for it. 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 even going for a couple of thousand dollars apiece.
There are two main factors that make variegated monsteras more expensive than your typical houseplant.
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 harder 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 speciality nurseries or collectors.
What To Know When Buying a Variegated Monstera
If you are looking to purchase a variegated monstera there are a couple of things you should keep in mind, especially if you are purchasing online. Remember that most cultivators 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 full 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 needed to feed the plant means that cutting will not survive.