One of the hottest trends in houseplants in the last few years has been variegated plant specimens. The contrasting colors and patterns never fail to add visual appeal to a collection. Nothing illustrates this trend more than the rare Instagram darlings that are variegated Monsteras. These beloved plants are few and far between and have lots of people asking how to properly care for them, and more importantly, how they can actually get their hands on one.
Variegated Monsteras are extremely hard-to-find houseplants known for their classic leaf fenestrations and variegated coloring on the leaves. Variegated plants are scarce and are often unstable, making them collectors’ items. Their care is very similar to regular Monstera species, but the reduced amount of chlorophyll in their variegated leaves needs more light to thrive.
If you do a quick internet search for variegated Monsteras, you’ll probably be inundated with offers for cuttings or seeds at prices that range from “Holy smokes, that’s more than my rent!” to “I suspect this low, low pricing is too good to be true…” If you find yourself searching for a way to bring one home, arm yourself with everything you need to know in order to make a smart purchasing decision.
In this article, I’ll cover everything from what variegation actually is, to the most common variegated Monstera varieties you’re likely to encounter and how to properly care for them. I’ll also go over the best (and worst) ways to source variegated Monstera varieties, so you have the best chance of owning a healthy specimen of your very own.
What is Variegation?
Variegation in plant foliage is the appearance of natural variations in the coloring of the plant tissue on the leaves and stems. This is most commonly caused by a genetic mutation within the plant’s cells that hinders or prohibits the plant’s ability to produce chlorophyll, causing discoloration within the tissue.
Chlorophyll is the green pigment present within specific cell structures of the plant. Along with being instrumental in photosynthesis, it is also responsible for giving leaves and stems their green color. When chlorophyll numbers are reduced in certain segments of a plant’s foliage, you are left with tissue that can range in color from light green to yellow or even white.
Variegation can occur in many different patterns, such as stripes, dots, large blocks, and more. They can have a marbled appearance throughout a leaf, or be more defined into a larger section, often called sectoral.
How Do Monsteras Variegate?
Generally, when you run across a variegated Monstera, you are very, very lucky, mainly because the natural phenomenon is so rare.
Unlike naturally patterned houseplants that have their variegation written into their DNA, in most cases, a variegated Monstera plant results from a genetic mutation within the plant’s cells that cause the reduction of chlorophyll. This typically happens after a normal Monstera plant has grown from seed.
This type of variegation is known as “chimeral variegation” because the plant actually contains cells with different types of DNA in them, the regular and the mutated. This means that a plant’s leaves can have large sections of regular green coloring and blocks or splotches of discolored tissues made up of cells with mutated DNA.
The amount of variations is unique to the plant, from small speckles of variegated tissue to completely white leaves growing from an otherwise green plant.
Because variegation in Monsteras tends to be due to a genetic mutation, it is also a relatively unstable trait, and the plant can often revert back to a normal, green specimen without warning.
Also, because variegation is an indication of a lack of chlorophyll within the leaf tissue, a plant may begin to produce more non-variegated leaves as a survival technique to increase photosynthesis and food production.
Types of Variegated Monsters
Now that you understand how variegation generally works, let’s go over the most common types of variegated Monstera varieties and what makes them unique.
Monstera deliciosa ‘Variegata’
This variety is going to be your classic Monstera deliciosa with a variegated flare. Also known as “Albo Variegata,” this plant will have the ubiquitous leaf shape, but with splotches of cream or white on the leaves. You may also see entirely white leaves or ones that are half white, half green.
Because this variety is due to a genetic mutation after the plant has germinated, it is one of the more unstable variegated varieties, and therefore, not often grown commercially. However, I’ve listed it first because it is a classic example of how Monstera species variegate naturally.
Monstera deliciosa ‘Albo Borsigiana’
A more stable and a more commercially viable variety over Variegata, this sub-species of Monstera deliciosa is a smaller, more compact version with more reliable variegation. You’ll often see more defined, pure-white variegation on these plants, with a greater likelihood of getting an all-white leaf the older the plant gets.
Monstera deliciosa ‘Aurea’ (‘Marmorata’)
This variety of Monstera is excellent for folks who like yellow variegation. Rather than brilliant white, this variety, known as both ‘Aurea’ or ‘Marmorata,’ sports pale- to deep-yellow splotches in very similar patterns as ‘Albo Borsigiana.’
Its habit and size seem to trend with ‘Albo,’ but tend to have larger leaves.
So, I’ll admit…the jury is still out on this one. The ‘mint monstera’ seems to be the new kid on the block when it comes to variegated Monsteras, but in reality, not a whole lot is known about this particular variety.
Some people think it’s a variation of another variegated Monstera, like ‘Albo,’ but many plant experts don’t seem to have a definitive answer on whether it is its own cultivar or just a unique form of variegation.
These plants are defined by their mint green variegated color, showing in a more marbled pattern. Their leaf sizes, although bigger, seem to stay smaller than many large-leafed Monstera varieties.
However, ‘mint monsteras’ usually have the chimeral variegation, which means that minty color can turn bright white. The pattern can move from marbled to sectoral or even fully unvariegated as the plant continues to grow.
Think of these as the unicorn of variegated Monsteras. Everyone is looking for one, so they tend to be pretty rare and really expensive.
Monstera deliciosa ‘Thai Constellation’
Last, but certainly not least, is the ‘Thai Constellation.’ In fact, this is probably the most widely available variegated Monstera, and therefore, one of the most popular.
This variety was propagated in a laboratory in Thailand (hence the name) using tissue culture techniques. Because of this, every cell of the plant contains the DNA mutation responsible for the variegation, making it a much more stable and reliable variegated variety.
The ‘Thai Constellation’ exhibits beautiful, white, star-like speckling in a marbled variegation pattern. The neat thing about this plant is that, because the variegation genes are built into the DNA, you can reliably assume most of the plant with variegate.
Can You Make A Variegated Monstera?
It probably doesn’t shock you to hear that variegated Monsteras often come with a hefty price tag attached to them. It makes sense. When a houseplant becomes the next trendy thing and it just so happens to be quite rare, it isn’t long before people drop substantial amounts of money to acquire one.
Because of this, many people want to know if they can create variegations in their own Monsteras to get the same effect. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
First of all, naturally occurring variegation is extremely rare and is often unreliable. There is always a small possibility that your Monstera will someday exhibit the mutation that causes variegation, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. If you’ve got a normal, green specimen at home, that’s likely all you’re ever going to have.
Alternatively, people have made the connection between some fungus strains and viruses that can sometimes cause a plant to variegate as a side effect of infection. Please, please, do not go infecting your houseplants with disease in order to try to force variegation. This is not a reliable method, and, more often than not, you’ll just end up with a very sick (or dead) plant.
So, Why Are Variegated Monsteras So Expensive?
It all comes down to availability. Variegated Monsteras have skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years due to current houseplant trends and the rise of plant enthusiasts taking their passion to social media platforms.
They are also relatively rare, so it’s the classic case of demand outnumbering the supply. Remember, most variegated varieties of Monstera are due to genetic mutations that may or may not ever present themselves.
In fact, large-scale nurseries may plant several thousand Monstera seeds and only see one or two variegated specimens. And, because these are caused by mutations, even those may not be reliably variegated forever.
Even in the case of genetic variegation, like with ‘Thai Constellation,’ the supply is fairly limited, at least at this point. Only so many cuttings can be taken off of a plant at one time, so it can take years before a reputable grower can ramp up their supply.
A third factor is that variegated varieties are often smaller and grow slower than normal Monstera varieties, so the opportunity to take more cuttings from a stable, variegated specimen is fewer and farther between.
These aspects contribute to keeping the price high, and many plant shops and nurseries don’t want to carry the overhead if they can even source a variegated specimen unless they know they have a buyer.
Can You Buy Variegated Monstera Seeds or Cuttings?
Yes, variegated Monsteras are expensive and can be hard to find. However, if you aren’t scared off by the price tag and are willing to take the risk, it isn’t impossible to source a plant or even a cutting.
However, you must be very careful! Shady people have already pegged variegated Monsteras as an opportunity to scam us plant nerds into buying fake or subpar products and walk away with our money.
If you are in search of a variegated Monstera, you’ll inevitably run into some sellers who can offer you various quantities of “real” seeds for a low or not-so-low price.
Here’s the truth…forget the price. Forget the seeds. This is not a reliable way to produce a variegated Monstera.
While it is true that you can grow Monsteras from seed relatively easily, and you can find reputable outlets online that sell them at reasonable prices, you’re still going to end up with a regular Monstera.
Remember that the mutation for variegation in Monstera is very rare and that it happens after the seed has germinated and grown into a small plant. There is no way to tell which seeds will grow to be variegated specimens.
Even if the seeds are collected from a variegated plant, it is extremely unlikely any of them will produce anything other than a normal Monstera.
Cuttings are a more reliable way to purchase a variegated Monstera if you aren’t going to splurge on a full-grown specimen. Depending on the variety you are in search of, cuttings will offer you a more accurate look into how the plant will behave, although you need to be aware that variegation can often revert as a plant grows.
In the case of ‘Thai Constellation,’ because the genes for variegation are embedded in the DNA of every cell, cuttings from the plant should reliably variegate like the mother plant.
In the other varieties, whose variegation depended on genetic mutations, the results are less certain. Again, these varieties have chimeral variegation, where some cells have the genes for variegation, and some do not.
Cuttings from these plants can still be variegated as long as some of the mutated genes are present in the cutting taken, but again, they may grow into a regular Monstera over time. So, there’s some risk involved in purchasing cuttings, but this is still a more reliable method than buying seeds.
The other caveat with cuttings is that they are inherently fragile. I say you should always stick to rooted cuttings, but I know some people are willing to take a chance on rooting out fresh cuttings at home.
If that’s the case, remember that most cuttings should be taken as fresh as possible and then shipped to their final destination within a matter of a couple of days, at most.
With variegated plants, you often deal with less robust varieties with lower chlorophyll levels, making them more susceptible to the elements during the shipping process. If you are having them shipped, be sure to ask how the seller helps protect your cuttings throughout the process.
Tips for Purchasing Variegated Monstera
As you can see, buying variegated Monsteras can get a little murky. There’s plenty of people out there trying to make a buck, but I think as long as you’re considering your source, you’ll find there are lots of folks who genuinely want to share the variegated goodness.
- Buy Full-Size Plants: If you are set on owning a variegated Monstera plant and have the money to spend, I would suggest using a reputable site to purchase a full-established, young plant. This way, you can often see exactly what you’ll be getting, can ask for additional photos of the plant in question, and make the appropriate arrangements to get it to your home safely.
- Read the Reviews or Buy Local: Stick to sellers who have good reviews and a lot of seller history, and if possible, pick someone somewhat local to you to avoid long and expensive shipping. If you buy a young plant, make sure it has at least three or more leaves and is well-rooted in its pot.
- Try to Find a Rooted Cutting: If an established plant isn’t in the cards, look for rooted cuttings next. Again, make sure you pick a reputable seller and ask them how they took their cuttings and rooted them out. A legit seller will often have those details upfront in the description. Make sure there is at least one node on the plant, or else it won’t grow. It’s even better if there are two or more.
- Look for Marbled Variegation: If you are choosing a variety that’s variegated due to genetic mutation (basically all but the ‘Thai Constellation’), choose cuttings that have marbled variegation on them, if possible. This means that the mutated cells are more dispersed throughout that section of the plant, so you have a better chance of keeping the variegation as the plant grows.
- Don’t Worry About Water Rooted Cuttings: Some people don’t want water-rooted cuttings because they think they’ll be shocked when they get transplanted to soil, but Monsteras, even the variegated ones, are robust and hearty enough to handle that transition, so don’t worry too much about that.
- Be Cautious: If you do want to take your chances with unrooted cuttings from the stem of a variegated plant, be sure to proceed with caution. Even a legitimate seller can ship you some with the best of intentions, but you can still end up with a regular Monstera if the cutting doesn’t contain enough of the variegated tissue.
- Set Reasonable Expectations: I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating so you can manage your expectations. Depending on the varieties you purchase, you can still end up with a Monstera that reverts back to a non-variegated form as it grows in your home. Just be sure to keep that in mind when you are deciding how much you want to spend and exactly what varieties you are willing to grow.
How to Care for a Variegated Monstera
You may be wondering if there are any differences in caring for a variegated Monstera compared to a regular variety. The good news is, in general, variegated varieties are almost as easy and low-maintenance as their non-variegated counterparts. Aside from a few modifications, you can care for your variegated plants as you would any normal Monstera.
Watering habits should stay the same. Only water your variegated Monsteras when the top two inches of soil have dried out. This ensures that there is plenty of damp soil available to the plant at all times without fear of overwatering. For more information on watering Monsteras, check out this article.
Most Monstera varieties like lots of dappled or indirect sunlight. This roughly translates into at least six hours of indirect exposure every day. With variegated varieties, you will probably find that they do better with even more sunlight than that.
Depending on how variegated a specimen is, the amount of chlorophyll available to the plant can be drastically reduced, so the plant needs longer exposure times to capture adequate sunlight to photosynthesize enough to keep the plant healthy and alive.
You may find that lightly variegated or mostly marbled plants don’t require much additional sunlight at all, but more heavily variegated plants need the primo spot near a south-facing window. You can also consider supplementing with a grow light if it looks like your plant needs additional exposure.
Keep in mind that sunlight levels change drastically throughout the year, so keep a close eye on your variegated plants to make sure they are staying healthy through the fall and winter.
An important aspect of care for variegated Monsteras is utilizing some strategic pruning to maintain the plant’s level of variegation. Remember that most varieties have chimeral mutations and can start out heavily variegated but revert back to fully green as the plant puts out new growth.
In fact, with this type of variegation, you may see a plant move from sectoral variegation, with large white or yellow blocks or blotches of the leaf, to a more marbled appearance, to virtually no variegation present, and every combo in between.
By pruning certain leaves at certain times, you can help the plant maintain the right amount of variegation that is pleasing to the eye and healthy for the plant.
To do this, assess all the leaves on your Monstera. If you see a lot of fully green leaves, you can start by pruning some of those back. This helps keep the plant from fully reverting back to a normal green plant by preserving the leaves that contain the cells with the mutated genes that cause variegation.
Do the same thing if you see too many leaves that are entirely white or have large blocks of variegation on them. Because heavily variegated leaves lack most of their chlorophyll and don’t contribute to the plant’s health much, they are a huge resource suck for the whole system. Too many of these types of leaves will leave your plant struggling to stay healthy, let alone put out any new growth.
I think the best variegation to maintain on the plant is the marbled type. You still get the visually appealing look of variegation, but no one leaf is so variegated that it becomes detrimental to the plant.
Another thing to watch for is brown spots. The variegated sections of the leaves are often much more susceptible to browning, mainly because they aren’t as healthy as the regular, chlorophyll-rich, green leaves, and they tend to die and deteriorate sooner.
To maintain your plant’s appearance and minimize the amount of browning on variegated portions, prune out leaf sections that have begun to brown or wither. It may be that you are clipping a quarter or half of a leaf, but that will go a long way in keeping the plant healthy.
When considering care for your plants, one last thing to keep in mind is that variegated Monsteras do not grow as fast or get as big as traditional Monstera varieties.
Again, this is likely because the variegation is actually a resource burden on the plant. Due to the lack of chlorophyll in these cells, heavily variegated plants have to work harder to maintain their production of nutrients.
Mostly, you will see this translated into the slower growth rate of the plant and the smaller leaves sizes, typical of variegated Monstera varieties. When assessing the health and wellness of your plants, just remember that the slower growth rate for variegated varieties is nothing to worry about.
It’s true that we are witnessing the variegated Monstera’s rise to fame. Due to their scarcity and price tag, they have become the most popular plant no one can seem to get their hands on. While it is possible to get one for yourself, just be aware that there are many factors to consider before dropping next week’s grocery bill on a rooted cutting.
Consider which varieties you’d like to own and what type of variegation they have so you understand the best way to care for them. Look for reputable sellers of young plants or rooted cuttings over the dime-a-dozen deals on “real” seeds. Once you do have your very own variegated Monstera, give it a good spot in your home and keep an eye on it to make sure it’s maintaining its health and variegated appearance.
There will always be some inherent risk to owning a variegated Monstera, but by knowing how to purchase them and how to care for them, it is possible to have such a beautiful plant in your collection and be the envy of all your friends.