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Variegated Plants: Tips for Purchasing Your First Plant

Published on August 13th 2019
A close up of a flower
A variegated Caladium plant leaf

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If you read my previous article about variegated plants, you will be caught up on why they are so special and different. If you haven't gotten around to reading it, I would recommend you do so before continuing with this article.
Plants are wonderful and the fact you can produce more from what you have, cheaply, at home, by taking cuttings is brilliant. But care should be taken, particularly if you're new to growing plants.

Cutting size:

Ensure any purchases are of a good size, the larger the plant, the more resources it contains and the better chances of survival. I would avoid cuttings with a single leaf as these are very risky, particularly for new growers.
There is little room for error with single leaf cuttings and in my experiance, they fail at least half the time. Be wary of small cuttings, often they are not worth the price and it's better to wait for a larger, more established specimen, particularly if the cutting is to be posted.


Any and all cuttings should have at least one node, preferably 2 or more in order to provide the best chances of survival.
A node is the thickened part of a plant stem where new growth is produced from, this can be stems, leaves or roots. Single node cuttings are a huge risk to beginners and better avoided until you've had some practice at propagation. These are however, everywhere at the moment due to the popularity of certain species.
Chawisa has some wonderful roots growing on her cutting:

Rooted cuttings:

The purchase of rooted cuttings is a standard method of acquiring a sought after variegated plant, however this does come with risks. You should ensure anything you are looking to buy is healthy and free from pests and diseases as standard. For rooted cuttings please don’t purchase without a good look at the roots. They should be established, white to brown in colour and healthy-looking in order to give your cutting the best chance of survival. Black roots are something to avoid like the plague, a sure sign of root rot.

Unrooted cuttings:

You may also see unrooted cuttings for sale, I think these are best avoided, especially if you're new to plants, buying online and relying on the post for delivery. Unrooted cuttings are generally freshly cut from the mother plant, they are easily stressed and need stable conditions in order to produce roots. Being bashed around in the post is stressful, even once you've received your cutting, it won't start growing new leaves until it has formed a strong root system, so you'll be waiting a long time for that pretty variegated foliage.


So many people are having bad experiences with plants and rot, particularly when purchasing online. From what I've observed this is mostly due to a lack of knowledge and correct packaging, particularly amongst sellers.
A good example of some less than healthy roots by Cristina.
Sending plants in the post is convenient, but unless done with proper care, it can lead to extremely disappointing results. Plants need water, this is hard to come by in a cardboard box, so a common method of packaging plants for the post is to wrap the roots in some moist, not soaking moss or kitchen roll. This provides the roots with a moist environment and can help reduce transit stress. Wrapping a layer of cling film, loosely around the moss/ tissue layer helps contain the moisture and protect the rest of the packaging from getting soggy. Plants should then be secured so they aren't rattling around to reduce the possibility of damage. Then placed in a container that won't allow for compaction; a solid plastic tub or cardboard box is ideal.

Variegated seeds and cuttings:

It is extremely unlikely that seeds will produce variegated plants, particularly with Monstera and Philodendron species, please avoid purchasing seeds labelled as variegated, these are typically a scam.
A variegated cutting needs to have variegation present in the stem as well as the leaves. Lightly variegated leaves attached to a fully green stem are unlikely to ever produce strongly variegated growth. So if a spectacular white and green plant is your goal, purchase with care, look for cuttings which show variegation in the stem. Any reputable seller should be providing images of the leaves, stem and cut, or if it's a rooted cutting, the healthy roots.

I'd love to hear what you think, or see your variegated plantas! Please feel free to tag me:

Some fantastic looking variegated plants to inspire you:

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