Two-Tone Conifers – Learn About Variegation In Conifers

Yellow-Green Conifer Tree Needles
variegated conifer
(Image credit: Emma Grimberg)

Conifers add focus and texture to a landscape with their interesting evergreen foliage in shades of green. For extra visual interest, many homeowners are considering conifers with variegated leaves.

If two-tone conifers appeal to you, keep reading. We’ll tell you about some of the coolest variegated conifer varieties, trees that will draw all eyes to the landscape.

Variegation in Conifers

Many conifers have needles that darken as they age or needles that are darker green on top and lighter green underneath. These are not the two-tone conifers we have in mind, however.

True variegation in conifers means that the needles on the trees are actually two distinct hues. Sometimes, in conifers with variegated leaves, entire twigs of needles can be one color while the needles on other twigs are a completely different color.

Other two-tone conifers can have green needles that are splashed with another contrasting color.

Variegated Conifer Varieties

  • A prime example of two-tone conifers is the variegated Hollywood juniper (Juniperus chinenesis ‘Torulosa Variegata’). It’s a small, irregularly shaped tree with a big impact. The tree is upright and the needles largely dark green, but you’ll find the foliage splashed with a pale shade of yellow. Some twigs are entirely yellow, others are a mix of yellow and green.
  • The Japanese white pine Ogon Janome (Pinus parviflora ‘Ogon Janome’) also attracts attention with butter yellow variegation on its green needles. Each and every needle is banded with yellow, creating a truly striking effect.
  • If you prefer conifers with variegated leaves in contrasting shades other than yellow, take a look at Albospica (Tsuga canadensis ‘Albospica’). Here’s a conifer whose needles grow in snow white with only small traces of green. As the foliage matures, it darkens into forest green and new foliage continues to emerge a pure white. A stunning presentation.
  • Another one to try is the dwarf spruce Silver Seedling (Picea orientalis 'Silver Seedling'). Grow this small variation in the shade to appreciate how the ivory branch tips contrast with the rich green interior foliage.
  • For a mounding variegated conifer, there is the Sawara false cypress Silver Lode (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Silver Lode'). This low-growing shrub is eye-catching since its feathery green foliage is flecked throughout with silver highlights.
Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.