Not Without Some Reservations
Many variegated plants are mutants or so-called “sports”, meaning a genetic mistake has occurred that affects the plant’s green pigment. In the case of white and cream mutations, it’s decreased production of chlorophyll (the molecule vital to photosynthesis that absorbs sunlight to produce the plant’s food and green color). This makes them attractive to slugs and snails and subject to foliar sunburn, dry-out and hail damage. Remedies include relocating the plants to more favorable sites and investigating slug-control methods. Also, learn how to propagate your own plant favorites to ensure you have replacements on hand.
Variegation can also be the result of a variety of viral diseases, environmental stresses or mineral deficiencies (for example, yellowing due to lack of iron and magnesium). Sometimes these mutants and environmentally-altered plants can exhibit changing variegations and even reversion to their species’ original colors. I have experienced this, which is most disappointing considering its effect on your garden’s design. If you detect changes, simply remove the offender. My friend Marnie Wright, who supplied the photos for this article, has many variegated plants in her Bracebridge, Ontario, garden. She advises carefully checking plant labels and nursery catalogs to determine which plants may change their colors throughout the growing season.
The yellow and green leaves of yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus ‘Variegata’) are variegated in spring and turn all green during the summer.