In this article I focus on the best variegated succulents for landscape purposes.
When most people think of color in the landscape, they pretty much mean flowers. Yet foliage can add so much to the garden. Let’s look at some of the intriguing hues that are provided by various kinds of succulents. Most of the ones discussed here will be hardy in parts of the U.S. In some cases, these are evergreen, providing color throughout the winter.
A good place to start is with some of the variegated types of succulents that are available. Of the yuccas, there are quite a few cultivars with variegated foliage. Yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’ has tri-colored leaves. In the center, there is dark green. This is bordered by lighter green and yellow-cream. It is hardy to zone 5. When mature, this plant can reach three feet in height. The lance-shaped foliage is about an inch wide, and over two feet in length. The species plant is native to the southern U.S.
Spanish bayonet is also known as Spanish dagger (Yucca aloifolia). This plant and its cultivars can be quite tall when in bloom, over ten feet. Several variegated cultivars of this are available. They include Yucca aloifolia ‘Marginata’ with yellow along the edges of the dark green leaves. The leaves are about two inches wide and 2½ feet in length. This plant can have a branched trunk. The species plant is native to the southern U.S. and Mexico.
Yucca aloifolia ‘Tricolor’ has stripes of either bright yellow or white along the center of the foliage. When immature, these can also have tinges of red.
Yucca aloifolia ‘Variegata’ has stripes of creamy white along the edges.
Spanish dagger (Yucca gloriosa) is native to the southern U.S. Hardy to zone 7, this is also called mound-lily. Yucca gloriosa ‘Variegata’ has yellow along the edges of the leaves. In southern regions, this can have a short trunk that reaches 8 feet in height. The leaves are up to 2½ feet in length and two inches wide.
A variegated form of Adam’s needle (Yucca filifera ‘Garlands Gold’) has boldly colored foliage that is yellow in the center. Along each side of that are areas of green. This plant can reach four feet in height.
Of the agaves, the following are the most colorful. The century plant or American aloe (Agave americana) comes in a variegated form. ‘Agave americana Medio-picta’ has wide stripes or streaks of yellow down the center of the leaf. Normally, this cultivar is smaller than the species plant. In addition, there are other versions of the cultivar. ‘Medio-picta-alba’ is mostly white.
In addition, there is a variegated form of the century plant, called Agave americana ‘Variegata’. This one has cream or yellow along the edges of the foliage. Even the spines on this are yellow.
Some of the sedums offer quite a bit of variegation. Kamschatka stonecrop (Sedum kamtschaticum) is native to Siberia, Japan, and China. Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Variegata’ has creamy white along the margins. Less than 8 to 9 inches in height, this is smaller than the species plant. The blooms are yellowish-orange. It is hardy to zone 3-8.
Sedum sieboldii ‘Medio-variegatum’ has large, creamy yellow flecks in the center of the leaves. Often the edges will be reddish. Siebold stonecrop is hardy to zone 3 or 4. Less than a foot tall, its stems tend to be ground-hugging. Foliage is in whorls of threes.
Sedum spathulifolium is native to the western U.S. Sedum spathulifolium ‘Capo Blanco’ features evergreen leaves that are unevenly coated with a waxy bloom when they are immature. These mature to silver with hints of reddish-purple on the leaf margins. Hardy to zone 5, this is about four inches tall. The blooms are yellow.
Sedum ‘Frosty Morn’ has light green leaves with a wide band of white around the margins. It is highly variegated. For the most part, this upright plant is a foot tall. It features white or pinkish blooms in late summer. Hardy in zones 3 through 9, this was introduced to the U.S. from Japan by Barry Yinger.
Sedum alboroseum ‘Medio-variegatum’ has an overall yellow appearance. The gray-green color is pretty much restricted to the margins of the foliage. Even the stems of this plant are yellow.
Sedum spurium ‘Variegatum’ has creamish-pink along the leaf margins. In some cases, the individual leaves, which are evergreen, can be pinkish-red. This has a creping growth habit, and is less than ½ foot in height. The blooms are white to pink, and open in July and August. It is hardy to zones 3 through 8. The species plant is native to Asia Minor.
Euphorbia characias ‘Emmer Green’ is probably the most vigorous variegated form of this Mediterranean native. It features white along the edges. The floral bracts also show some variegation.