Variegation is the appearance of differently colored zones in the leaves, and sometimes the stems of plants.
If your reading this you are aware of the ever popular Monstera plant. It's a houseplant owners usual staple plant. Everyone has seen it and almost everyone has bought it. However what you might not know about the Monstera is that their are multiple breeds AND that the rare unicorn 'variegated' Monstera plant has more then one state.
Variegation is when the leaf/stem has different colors throughout the plant. Okay. But why? A lack of green pigmentation occurs in a plant because it is lacking what we call chlorophyll. For the sake of easy reading lets just say it's a chemical, otherwise we will get a bit to scienc-ey here! Eg: The formula for chlorophyll is C55H72O5N4Mg (lets not go down that road).
So your plant is lacking the chemical Chlorophyll which is why the white/cream spots appear on your Monstera because the chlorophyll is what gives the plant green pigment. Now for this reason your already variegated plant MAY produce another variegated leaf after propagation because of its genetic makeup. BUT more likely then not the missing chemical causing variegation could have been completely random and we call this chimeric breeding as it hasn't been inherited. Now as you've most likely seen variegated Monsteras can be between $300-$5000 AUD due to their rarity. So let's discuss the differences between variegation so that before you spend your hard earned dollars you can understand what exactly it is that you are buying.
So here we have a Monstera Deliciosa plant. This is the staple and where we begin exploring the difference between green form plants and variegated. In the photo you can see that the plant is quiet a deep green color- in other words not variegated (plenty of pigment). Your most popular variegated plants are a form of Monstera Deliciosa. What we are looking to differentiate is between a Monstera Deliciosa and a Monstera Deliciosa var Variegata (which literally means a multicolored Monstera Deliciosa in latin). So the next step is to start finding plants without full green pigment and identify the different types of variegation.
Monstera Deliciosa var Thai Constellation:
Here we have what we call a Monstera Thai Constellation. You can instantly tell that the leaf patterns have some sort of pigment issue because they aren't the consistent emerald we have previously seen. The spots are more of a creamier white and they almost look like a speckled galaxy. These ones are much more slow growing then your usual Monstera so it is quiet hard to find them in larger sizes, you will notice these are almost exclusivity sold in small sizes. They are a rare beauty but not as rare as our next plant. You should expect to pay between $250-$500 for one of these in the smaller sizes.
Monstera Deliciosa var Albo Variegata:
This ultra rare Monstera Deliciosa variegation is commonly called the Albo-Variegata. What makes it so rare is the stunning white leafs- it almost looks like someone has poured paint right over the whole plant and very often will have atlease one FULL white leaf.. Alike the Thai Constellation it's a slow grower which makes it a lot harder to propagate. They can all be propagated but may take quiet awhile and not always produce a variegated plant- which is why they are so expensive and rare!
Monstera deliciosa var borsigiana 'Aurea':
Even more rare is the Monstera Deliciosa var Borsigiana! As you can tell it's variegation is more of a yellow colour then a white! Yep that's right folks, variegation comes in multiple different colours in some plants even purple but more on that later. It's genetically NOT a mix of the Albo and Thai but it sort of looks like it!
Notes on buying a Variegated Monstera
If your as in love with the variegation on these beautiful plants as we are and going to take the risk of spending the extra money keep reading!
Because of the lack of chlorophyll the photosynthesizing process is something that can leave impatient owners frustrated. For plants to go through the photosynthesize process they need light, water and carbon dioxide. Each plants leafs contain something called chloroplasts which hold chlorophyll. As we know plants need sunlight to survive, and chlorophyll is what captures the suns energy to feed the plant. So when we get into variegated monsteras, we know that they are lacking in chlorophyll due to the pigmentation issues. Take the Albo-Variegata you've just seen. Those beautiful large white leafs are lacking A LOT of pigment, meaning in turn they are going to have a much harder time going through photosynthesis. This doesn't mean that they won't grow though. It just means they are going to take patience, care and careful observation. For this reason you'd assume they'd love a lot of extra help. However they should be fertilized HALF the amount of your usual Monstera Deliciosa as the extra salt intake in fertilizer could hurt their slow growing process.
Before spending the big bucks on these beautiful plants! Cuttings are currently selling at $300-$600 a pop. Check your sources. Make sure your plant has NODES and before transporting via mail it should have roots for the ultimate successful journey. A lot of dodgy Ebay sellers may sell you a potted cutting, so you can't see online if they have a developed root systems or even nodes! It's happened a lot to unsuspecting spenders and if your reading this you can understand the financial risk when making the decision.
Care on Variegated Monsteras
As we've discussed a few different varieties lets get onto the care factor. Now you know that these guys are lacking chlorophyll you may read that they are considered 'parasitic', I think that's a pretty misleading term. It's simply that it's genetics don't have the advantage of the usual Monstera. So it needs a little extra help. The best advantage I can provide for you is to make sure it gets indirect light but a lot of it! Since you now know that the sunlight is what gives the chloroplast in plants the extra push to produce energy it's obvious that without chlorophyll this guy is gonna need that little bit extra exposure to sunlight. So no dark rooms! Humidity is a must do with these plants, their naturally found in high humidity areas so give it as much as you can. Your watering schedule however is a tad different. Normal Monstera Deliciosas love a bit of water but are also pretty drought tolerant for a tropical plant. Thai Constellations are not drought tolerant, be aware of this fact and do your research to the specific variegation for the best results. Albos & Borsigiana variegation's require very little water in winter and as mentioned half the amount of fertiliser. Winter will be the hardest challenge, but treat it kindly and you'll have a beautiful rare plant all to yourself.