Variegated plants give that much needed contrast to your garden’s fare with their patterned leaves

With gardens shrinking rapidly, many Bangaloreans have only a stand or two of ornamental plants which are grown for their showy foliage, most often on their balconies or terrace. Since the choice is limited, many of the plants are chosen for their unusual leaves. Some ornamental foliage have a striking appearance created by lacy leaves or long needles, while other ornamentals are grown for distinctively coloured leaves. In fact mixing and matching plants with only deep green glossy leaves with plants that have variegated and colourful leaves can create quite an interesting miniature home garden.

Educationist Christine Pereira says, “I love variegated leaf plants, interspersed with flowering plants, they brighten up every garden, dress up every bouquet of flowers and generally make perfect indoor plants, because they enliven every room, atrium or patio. Most of my coleus and crotons were cuttings from friends, which I brought home and propagated into individual plants in my garden.”

Most commonly, ornamental garden plants are grown for the display of aesthetic features including flowers, leaves, scent, and overall foliage. Some plants even boast of an unusual coloured stem, like a variety of the palm family (Arecaceae). The Bismarkia palm has leaves of an unusual and striking blue and the plant can cause quite a stir, in an otherwise green and plain looking garden.

Sneha Naidu, who boasts a beautiful terrace garden in Fraser Town says, “Contrasts always help bring out the best in everything — people, food, colours. Variegated leaves cut through the monotony of a single colour in any garden.”

According to the BBC, variegated plants are actually pretending to be ill to avoid being eaten by leaf-munching insects. German researchers in the forests of southern Ecuador found that the plain green leaves of a plant were far more frequently damaged by mining moths than those of variegated leaves of the same species nearby. Mining moths lay larvae into the leaves, and the caterpillars munch through the leaf surface, leaving a white trail of damage behind. The plant imitated their variegation patterns, the scientists realise, which is their way of deterring the mining moth from laying its eggs, by pretending to be ill with white patches.

Suzanna Gayatri Kurian who teaches yoga and is an advertising consultant says, “Variegated leaves are a great camouflage for insects and reptiles. That is the reason why I have nearly touched so many garden lizards which blend seamlessly into the colour of these leaves.” And Promila Chaturvedi who runs a commercial nursery says her favourite is the Epipremnum aureum or the ‘Marble Queen’, which is a variegated money plant, which makes a great gift to friends for special occasions.