Why settle for plain green leaves when there are others with such startling markings?

Why settle for plain green leaves when there are others with such startling markings?

Polka-Dot Plants

Variegated Flora Abounds

Variegated plants abound. The normally green leaves of many species may be striped with white or yellow across or along their entire length. All types of plants, from agaves to spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum), may display this color combination. Some, like cannas, even throw red, pink, or orange into the mix. Garden-type geraniums (Pelargonium selections) also come splotched with orange, red, and purple. Most of these plants display their colors in areas that conform to the structure of the leaf. The variegation may follow the veins of the leaves or be concentrated at the edges or center. There are few, however, that break out of this mold and can only be called polka-dotted.

Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ is called the gold dust plant precisely because its glossy green leaves are liberally speckled with golden yellow spots. Another plant that looks as if the bleach bottle had been leaking somewhere nearby is leopard plant, Farfugium japonicum ‘Aureo-maculatum.’ The leathery leaves are nearly circular, with slightly jagged edges, and are held on stiff stems in a handsome mound about three feet in diameter.

There is a white speckled version of Aspidistra elatior. Known as the cast iron plant, this lily family relative is one tough cookie, surviving low light levels and drought with aplomb. Some of the handsome cane-type begonias also have dotted leaves. These silvery white dots are evenly scattered over leaves that are sometimes referred to as angel wings in reference to their shape. Two species of calla lilies, Zantedeschia albomaculata and Z. elliottiana have white spots all over their green, spearhead-shaped leaves. These callas are of the winter-dormant sort whose leaves disappear in fall to reappear in spring, followed by summer blossoms.

Most outrageous of all the spotted plants, though, are those of Hypoestes phyllostachys. Also known as freckle face or pink polka-dot plant, the green leaves may be dotted with white or hot pink. The spade-shaped leaves are only two- to three-inches long and the whole plant hardly exceeds two feet, but it is worth finding just the right spot or container to display its retro-looking spots. Why settle for plain green leaves when there are others like these with such startling markings?

Virginia Hayes, curator of Ganna Walska Lotusland, will answer your gardening questions. Address them to Gardens, The Independent, 122 W. Figueroa St., S.B., CA 93101. Send email to

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

You Solve It,’ City Tells County on Library Money Shortage

To avoid financial shortfall, city sends ball back to county's court.

Vigil for Victims in Palestine Held at Courthouse

Community gathers to protest injustice.

Stoker to Be Sworn into EPA Job

Former Santa Barbara County supervisor confirms his appointment as regional head of Environmental Protection Agency.

Live Stream of Channel Island Falcons Makes History

Webcam follows wild peregrine falcon family on the Channel Islands.

Sonos Informs Employees of Potential Layoffs

'Restructuring' could affect 96; how many in Santa Barbara unknown.