By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
Shrubs and shrub-like perennials make up the majority of plants in the landscape, especially the variegated landscaping shrub. While oftentimes the result of a mutation or virus in nature, many variegated shrubs are now bred for their exceptional foliage. These plants are great for adding interest and color to dark corners of the landscape.
Deciduous Variegated Shrubs
Deciduous variegated shrubs are among the most versatile and can brighten up shady areas with ease. Try some of the following:
- Hydrangea – Variegated hydrangea shrubs, like H. macrophylla ‘Variegata,’ not only provide stunning flower color but have attractive silver and white foliage for additional interest.
- Viburnum - Try the variegated shrub variety (V. Lantana ‘Variegata’) with pale, creamy yellow and green leaves.
- Cape Jasmine Gardenia - Gardenia jasminoides ‘Radicans Variegata’ (may also be called G. augusta and G. grandiflora) is a variegated gardenia with fewer flowers than your average gardenia. However, the beautiful gray-tinted foliage, which is edged and speckled with white, makes it well worth growing.
- Weigela – Variegated weigela (W. florida ‘Variegata’) welcomes the landscape with white to pale pink blooms from spring through fall. Yet, its distinctive green foliage edged with creamy white is the shrub’s major attraction.
Evergreen Variegated Landscaping Shrubs
Variegated evergreen shrubs provide year-round color and interest. Some of the most popular varieties include:
- Euonymus - Wintercreeper euonymus (E. fortunei ‘Gracillimus’) is a creeping evergreen shrub with colorful white, green, and purple leaves. The purple wintercreeper (E. fortunei ‘Coloratus’) has foliage that is green and edged with yellow, which turns pink in winter. Silver King euonymus (E. japonicus ‘Silver King’) is an upright shrub with beautiful, dark leathery green leaves and silvery-white edges. Occasionally, pink berries follow its greenish-white flowers.
- Jacob’s ladder – Variegated Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium caeruleum ‘Snow and Sapphire’) shrubs have green foliage with bright white edges and sapphire blue flowers.
- Holly - Variegated English holly (Ilex aquifolium ‘Argenteo Marginata’) is an evergreen shrub with shiny dark-green leaves and silvery white edges. The berries help set this shrub off, especially in winter, though you must have both a male and female to produce them.
- Arborvitae - The Sherwood Frost arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Sherwood Frost’) is a beautiful slow-growing shrub with a dusting of white on its tips that become more prevalent during late summer and fall.
Perennial Shrub Variegated Varieties
Perennials offer a wide range of variegated options. Some of the most common shrub-like varieties include:
- Autumn sage – The variegated autumn sage (Salvia greggii ‘Desert Blaze’) is a round bushy plant with bright red flowers nestled amongst its beautiful cream-edged foliage.
- Perennial wallflower – The shrub-like perennial wallflower (Erysimum ‘Bowles Variegated’) has attractive grey-green and cream foliage. As an added bonus, this plant produces stunning purple blooms from spring through fall.
- Yucca – Variegated yucca varieties include Y. filamentosa ‘Color Guard,‘ which has bright gold foliage edged in green. Once the weather cools, the foliage becomes tinged with pink. Variegated Adam’s Needle (Y. filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’) is a striking yucca with leaves that are edged with creamy white to yellow color.