It’s funny how variegation, a survival mechanism in plants, became an aesthetic trait everyone loves. So it’s not surprising that people panic when their beloved variegated plant starts reverting. But is it possible for reverted plants to develop variegation again?
Redeveloping variegation is not possible for most plants. Once they have reverted completely there is a less than 1% chance of it developing variegated foliage again. It’s a rare phenomenon and impossible to replicate. However, some plants are an exception, like the Pink Princess Philodendron.
If you would like to learn more about the Pink Princess Philodendron check out these 2 articles:
Below, I elaborate more on this with tips to preserve variegation in your plants:
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Table of contents
Why Do Variegated Plants Revert Back to Green?
Often, variegated plants that revert are of the chimeric variegation type. These plants have two or more different genetic cell types – one of which had a random mutation causing variegation to develop. These don’t contain chlorophyll pigments that make up the green color in non-variegated foliage.
However, compared to genetic variegation, where the cell types are stable and consistently appear in every propagation, the chimeric generation is unstable and can disappear anytime. This is usually caused by a lack of sunlight. In some cases, temperature extremities may also cause a plant to revert.
If the plant is not receiving adequate light, it starts growing more green leaves to absorb as much as it can around it. This will eventually lead the dominant cell types to overtake the variegated cells. Sometimes, the plant will even fill the variegated parts with chlorophyll, effectively changing its colors.
It’s vital to remember that chlorophyll pigments are responsible for photosynthesis in plants. So reverting is a plant’s survival mechanism to ensure it keeps making food for itself to keep growing.
How Do I Get My Variegation Back?
In short, you can’t, kinda. Once a plant has reverted, it typically stays reverted because the plant has no survival incentive to variegate but it does have an incentive for more chlorophyll. You may have heard of people successfully propagating their reverted plant and getting some variegation back in their newer leaves. Well …
I hate to break it to you, but these people are extremely lucky because it’s a pretty rare occurrence. Remember how the cell mutation itself is random? Unless you are blessed by the plant fairy, the best thing you can do is prevent your plant from reverting entirely.
All you have to do is to remove all the new green leaves. You can choose to propagate these or discard them, but ideally, trimming them away is your best chance of avoiding complete reversion. Afterward, place in a brighter area with more indirect or direct sunlight, depending on the plant’s needs.
It’s also worth checking if your plant’s surroundings have fluctuating temperatures. You want to ensure your variegated plants are receiving such optimal care that they wouldn’t dare revert anymore because they are happy as can be. It sounds simple, but any plant owners and gardeners know how fussy they can get, especially if they live indoors.
Are There Any Plants That Can Re-Variegate?
Some plants seem to defy this no-reverted-variegation rule – we do love rebellious plants in this house. Based on what this Reddit user experienced, Pink Princess Philodendron is one example. Interestingly, I’ve seen the reverted version called Burgundy Princess develop green leaves with the pink variegation again from propagated stem cuttings. So it does hold up. I’ve recently written about this plant and its reversion which you can find out more about in this article.
Other notable plants the Reddit user mentioned were White Knight Philodendron, White Wizard Philodendron, and Philodendron Giganteum. I personally have not seen these myself, so I can’t confirm their reverted variegation capability. But other than that, it’s safe to assume that other reverted plants have a very slim chance of growing back variegated. But hey, worth a shot!
With that said, there’s nothing wrong with a reverted plant. If anything, it’ll grow better and thrive longer. But if you really want to keep its variegated features, then be quick, save it from itself, and give the plant more light, for goodness sake!