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Of the Variegated Variety: Variegated Shrubs for the Landscape

Variegated shrubs can brighten up a dull or shady border and add interest in the garden when flowers are scarce but more drama is desired. But which variegated shrubs are best for your landscape, without creating too much patterning or distractions?

How to Plant Variegated Shrubs

While a variegated shrub with its eye-catching foliage can be a lovely addition to the yard, too many of these unusual plants can overwhelm your landscape. Avoid planting variegated shrubs next to each other or too close together where different foliage patterns can clash. Instead, plant them among plain foliage plants where the leaf coloring will be highlighted and therefore better appreciated. At the same time, avoid creating distinct stripes, polka dots or other predictable patterns in the yard, and instead opt for more organic, flowing lines that will add elegance to the natural variegation of the foliage.

Top Variegated Shrubs

There are many beautiful variegated shrubs you can choose from, and it is best to investigate tried-and-true options at your local nursery or note what showy shrubs you like best at a local park or botanical garden. To get you started, consider these amazing and popular variations…

  • Carol Mackie Daphne (Daphne x burkwodii ‘Carol Mackie’) – Semi-evergreen. Yellow leaf margins that mature to creamy-white. Part shade.
  • Dappled Willow (Salix integra ‘Hakuro-nishiki’) – Deciduous. Emerging pink foliage matures to variegated creamy-white and green. Sun to part shade.
  • Emerald-N-Gold Euonymous (Euonymous fortune ‘Emerald n Gold’) – Evergreen. Rounded, olive-green leaves with bright yellow margins turn pinkish-burgundy in the winter. Sun to part shade.
  • Gold Dust Aucuba (Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’) – Evergreen. Large, glossy, green foliage splattered with yellow. Part shade.
  • Variegated Boxwood (Buxus semperivrens ‘Elegantissima’) – Evergreen. Small, medium-green leaves with creamy white to gold margins. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated English Holly (Ilex aquifolium ‘Argenteo Mariginata’) – Evergreen. Dark, shiny green leaves with creamy-white margins. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Variegata’) – Deciduous. Large leaves with bright-white, uneven margins. Dappled sun with afternoon shade.
  • Variegated Japanese Kerria (Kerria japonica ‘Variegata’) – Deciduous. White-edged narrow green leaves. Part shade to shade.
  • Variegated Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica ‘Variegata’) – Evergreen. Deep green leaves with a wide, white margin. Part shade.
  • Variegated Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’) – Deciduous. Leaves mottled and edged with white. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated Wegelia (Wegelia florida ‘Variegata’) – Deciduous. Medium-green leaves broadly edged in creamy-white maturing to lime-green. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated Yellow Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Silver and Gold’) – Deciduous. Creamy-white wavy margins. Sun to part shade.
  • Variegated Winter Daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata’) – Semi-evergreen. Gold-edged green leaves. Part shade.

Whichever variegated shrub you prefer, be sure you choose a variety that will thrive in your yard. Pay close attention to soil quality, watering and sunlight needs, or else the foliage coloration may be far less brilliant than expected. Take steps to minimize pests or wildlife that may nibble on leaves, and carefully nurture the shrubs until they are well-established. By choosing a variegated shrub thoughtfully and providing it the proper care, you can easily add dramatic, multi-colored foliage to your landscape.