Variegated orchids are rare beautiful gems for any orchid collection. Their leaves have intriguing patterns of different colors, giving us something to admire even when the plant is not in bloom. What’s more, the variegation differs from leaf to leaf and may change under different lighting situations and stages of growth.
In this article, we have compiled a list of 43 orchid species and hybrids with variegated foliage.
If you are looking for a unique one with pretty leaves to add to your collection, this article has what you need.
Types of variegated leaf patterns in orchids
A “variegated leaf” refers to one with more than one color, which can be in a mottled pattern, in spots or patches of colors, striped, or with a border of a lighter color.
The lighter color can be yellow, white, light green or silver.
The variegated colors and patterns often vary from leaf to leaf and from plant to plant of the same species or hybrid. The color may change in different stages of growth and also in different lighting in the environment.
Since variegated orchids are rare, they are generally more expensive.
What causes variegation in orchids?
– Natural variegation
Variegation can be natural.
During cell division, cytoplasmic organelles like chloroplasts are usually split about evenly between daughter cells. But sometimes by chance one daughter cell will have no chloroplasts. The locations with a partial or complete lack of green chloroplasts will result in a lighter color. This is how spotted and striped patterns are naturally created in the leaves.
When this happens at the dividing tissue at a growth tip or at the meristem, variegation may become permanent.
Many Phalaenopsis species have naturally variegated leaves with an even distribution of spots or stripes of a lighter color. Some species (e.g. Phalaenopsis Schilleriana, Phalaeneopsis Philippinensis, Phalaenopsis Pinlong Cheris, Phalaeneopsis lindenii) have more uniform and clear markings throughout the leaves, while others (e.g. Phalaenopsis Stuartiana, Phalaenopsis Sanderiana) have less clear and uniform markings on their leaves.
– Induced variegation caused by a virus or chemical
Variegation can also be induced or provoked by viral infection or inoculating a chemical into an orchid during the germination stage. Certain chemicals can be used to kill chloroplasts to induce variegation. The result is an abnormal distribution of green chloroplasts in plants that normally have even distribution.
According to the American Orchid Society, orchids with a virus infection may result in yellow stripes in the leaves, with ringspot patterns or yellow or purplish blotches.
If you take a virused orchid for checking, many variegated species show positive for virus but seem to be asymptomatic to transmit the virus to other orchids.
If the variegation is an induced genetic mutation, they need to be cloned asexually by stem cutting to preserve the plant tissues rather than reproduced sexually by pollination.
Care for variegated orchids
Since variegation is due to a lack of chlorophyll, such orchids tend to prefer a lower light level. So they are more delicate than their normal counterparts.
More light will cause markings to appear in yellow, while less light will make them turn white.
Variegated Orchids for Home Growers
Orchid with unique variegation
1. Macodes petola (variegated jewel orchid)
Orchids with mottled markings on leaves
2. Phalaeneopsis schilleriana
3. Phalaenopsis sanderiana
4. Phalaenopsis Pinlong Cheris
5. Phalaneopsis Punctatissima ‘Sweet Fragrance’
6. Phalaenopsis celebensis
7. Phalaeneopsis Stuartiana
8. Phalaeneopsis lindenii (mini-orchid)
9. Phalaenopsis deliciosa ‘Silver Leaf’
10. Phalaeneopsis Philippinensis
11. Phalaenopsis Bronze Maiden
Orchids with a light-colored border
12. Phalaenopsis Amabilis Variegated
13. Phalaenopsis Sogo Yenlin ‘Coffee’
14. Phalaenopsis Sogo Vivien ‘Leaf’s Edge’
15. Phalaenopsis ‘Coffey’ (mini)
16. Chia E. Yenlin ‘Variegata’
17. Oncidium Kathrin Zoch ‘variegata’
18. Cymbidium Golden Elf var. variegata
19. Dendrobium Speciosum ‘Maizuru’ variegated
20. Dendrobium Anosmum, variegated
21. Dendrobium Magic Beans, variegated
22. Dendrobium Moniliforme Albomarginatum, variegated
23. Dendrobium Kingianum variegated
24. Dendrobium Burana jade variegated
25. Dendrobium Loddigesii variegated
26. Dendrobium Aphyllum variegated
27. Dendrobium Hybrid variegated
28. Cattleya Moscombe ‘variegata’
29. Neofinetia falcata variegated
30. Arachnis Maggie Oei
31. Grammatophyllum scriptum
Orchid with striped variegation
32. Sedirea Japonica Minmaru Shima
33. Sedirea Japonica Minmaru
34. Sedirea Japonica Seigyokumaru
35. Vanilla Planifolia variegata
36. Oncidium Sharry Baby Red Fantasy
37. Oriental Cymbidiums Variegated
38. Cymbidium Sinense
39. Cymbidium Ensifolium
40. Cymbidium ensifolium Shi Zhang Hong
41. Bulbophyllum reticulatum
42. Epiphronitis Veitchii ‘Variegata
43. Alba Variegated Chinese Orchid
Which one is your favorite?
Oncidium Kathrin Zoch variegata. Orchideen-Wichmann. https://www.orchideen-wichmann.de/fr/oncidium-kathrin-zoch-variegata.html
“File:Dendrobium loddigesii Orchi 2013-05-05 022.jpg” by Orchi is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
“報歲愛國 Cymbidium sinense ‘Patriotic’ [香港沙田國蘭展 Shatin Orchid Show, Hong Kong]” by 阿橋花譜 KHQ Flower Guide is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
“[Taiwan] Cymbidium ensifolium (L.) Sw., Nova Acta Regiae Soc. Sci. Upsal. 6: 77 (1799)” by sunoochi is licensed under CC BY 2.0