Variegated leaves reverting (turning green)

Wed. Jul. 25, 2018

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show:  Variegated leaves reverting (turning green)

A friend of mine, Faith Appelquist, is a fabulous local arborist with her company Treequality.  She puts out a monthly newsletter where she shares great information on trees, quotes from cool people and yummy recipes! Sign up for her newsletter, it’s really worth it!

Anyway, the reason I brought her up is she had just shared about variegated shrubs reverting back to their old ways.  And I was amazed by that, thinking I hadn’t seen that happen.  Then, go figure, I went on a garden tour last weekend and there was a variegated plant with plain green leaves coming back!

Dogwood ‘Ivory Halo’ with leaves reverting back to their original color

Faith, she’s so with it!  First, a variegated plant is a cultivated variety that has splashes of white, pink or yellow on it’s leaves.  It happens with selective breeding.  However, what can also happen is that the leaves revert back to their original green.  The plant is actually trying to protect itself as the variegated variety is not as vigorous due to the level of chlorophyll in the leaves.

This is a bummer as you bought the variegated variety specifically to brighten up an area or simply because they’re quite lovely… and they are more expensive. has a great article on reverting leaves.

Norway maple reverting back. Photo by Lee Valley Tools

So, the question is, can you do anything about it?  Faith says, yes.  Examine the plant and determine where the green shoots originated. They should be removed well back into variegated leaves.

take a look at this close up… you have to follow down to where the green starts. Nip it!

If left un-pruned, Faith says, reversions will eventually dominate the plant and the homeowner who paid a premium for a variegated maple is eventually left with a plain old Norway maple.