Magazine article Sunset

Variegated Plants That Brighten Small Spaces

Magazine article Sunset

Variegated Plants That Brighten Small Spaces

Article excerpt

When space is at a premium, you need a plant that will do more than stay green

They can brighten the darkest corners, create the illusion of shade, convince you they're blooming when they're not. They are variegated plants, versatile performers especially well suited to the small stage.

Take a condominium courtyard or a narrow entrance border. Variegated plants bring structure, texture, and color to small spaces such as these, while simultaneously tackling roles for which their plainer-leafed cousins would be clearly miscast. Varieties with the whitest leaves, for example, can do wonders for a dark alcove. Conversely, plants with mottled leaves seem dappled with shade, a visual relief in areas with full sun.

The following variegated varieties all perform well in small spaces. Sunset Western Garden Book climate zones follow entries when available.


Evergreen euonymus (E. japonica) has long been a useful shrub in areas subject to temperature extremes. 'Silver Princess', a new variety, grows taller than wide (3 by 2 feet) and has neat silver-edged leaves. Zones 2-20.

Heterophyllus 'Goshiki' is a variegated holly-leaf osmanthus whose leaves are shiny dark green with creamy splotches. Younger leaves are more variegated than older ones, while the youngest outside leaves are washed with pink and peach. 'Goshiki' tops out at 3 1/2 feet tall. It grows well in full sun along the coast, in light to deep shade almost everywhere else in California except the desert. Zones 3-10 and 14-24.

The ubiquitous Pittosporum tobira is now available in a dwarf variegated version, 'Cream de Mint'. It has light green leaves with yellow-gold edges and grows about 2 1/2 feet tall and wide, Zones 8-24.

Newcomer Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light' is understated but handsome. Its variegation washes out at midday, but in morning and late-afternoon sun the creamy white edges of its rosemary-like leaves create a pretty dappled effect. …

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