Polka-Dot Plants

Variegated Flora Abounds

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

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?


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