Four Great Variegated Shrubs

Cool Splash Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle
Kevin Next To Cool Splash Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle

A variegated plant has leaves with more than one color, green with white or soft yellow shades being the most common. The colors can be uniform or random and usually have a streaking effect, but they can also be spots or blotches. 

Let's take a look at four of my favorite variegated shrubs and show you why they add that little "extra" to your gardens:

  • Rainbow Sensation Weigela
  • Ivory Halo Dogwood
  • Creme de Mint Dogwood
  • Cool Splash Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle

Rainbow Sensation Weigela, Weigela florida ‘Kolmagira’

As a bonus to the variegated leaves of this sensational small shrub, it also has clusters of abundant pink flowers that bloom in May or June each spring. But its most distinct feature is the variegated foliage with shades of pink, green, and cream. Here's the stats:

- Height: 3-4 Feet

- Width: 3-4 Feet

- Hardiness: Zone 4-8

- Exposure: Full sun to part sun

There are hundreds of varieties of Weigelas. As a general rule of thumb, they will bloom on both old wood (last season's growth) and new wood (this season's growth). If you need to prune your shrub and maximize flowering, shear it shortly after it is done blooming each season. New growth will be stimulated, and flower buds will begin to set for the next season.

My Rainbow Sensation happens to die back to the ground after most winters, and I still get lovely blooms even though I only have new spring growth. Why does it die back? I think this shrub's Zone 4 hardiness rating is closer to Zone 5 than 3. When this dieback happens, but the shrub consistently "comes back," it is considered a sub-shrub. I have many sub-shrubs where I live due to our brutal winters in the northern Great Plains.

I highly recommend growing the Rainbow Sensation due to its unique colors and characteristics. Rainbow Sensation is a First Editions introduction, a great brand with dozens of winter hardy selections.

Ivory Halo Dogwood, Cornus alba 'Bailhalo'

Ivory Halo is a compact form of the Variegated Dogwood. It stands out in all seasons due to its variegated white-edged leaves in the spring/summer, fall fruit, and bright red twigs in the winter.

The stats:

- Height: 4-6 Feet

- Width: 4-6 Feet

- Hardiness: Zone 3-7

- Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade

Dogwoods respond well to rejuvenation pruning. I recommend rejuvenation in late winter to enjoy the red twigs all winter. New growth in the spring will be fast with dogwood. The new growth that flushes out for the season will also give you the best twig coloring for the following winter. On average, I rejuvenate my dogwood shrubs every third year. 

The dogwood group will tolerate wet soils but also do great in slightly dry conditions. The Ivory Halo is no exception here. The Ivory Halo is a durable shrub! Though more significant in size than the Rainbow Sensation, it also has many excellent characteristics throughout the growing season, making it a great shrub for your gardens. Recommended!

Creme de Mint Dogwood, Cornus alba ‘Crmizam’

What a great little shrub! You'd think it was an Ivory Halo if you did not look closely, as the leaf variegation is similar. But when fall rolls around, you'll notice a nice pink fall color mixing with the green and white variegated leaves, and the stems for winter interest are a chartreuse green rather than bright red.

The Stats:

- Height: 4-5 Feet

- Width: 4-5 Feet

- Hardiness: Zone 3-8

- Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade

The best twig color for winter interest will develop when grown in full sun. I always look for plants with winter interest and recommend this shrub on that quality alone. Since we are on the subject of dogwood, stem colors on the Yellow Twig Dogwood might also be interesting to you. For a couple of seasons, I had all three growing in our landscape, but the deer decided the yellow one needed to go.☹️

Cool Splash Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle, Diervilla sessifolia' LPDC Podaras'

The Cool Splash is not a true honeysuckle, but it is still pretty cool! The leaf variegation is equally bright like the former two dogwoods but has more of a puckered glossy look. The Cool Splash is a slower-growing, more compact shrub with dainty little yellow flowers that appear in the summer.

The Stats:

- Height: 2-4 Feet

- Width: 2-4Feet

- Hardiness: Zone 4-7

- Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade

My Cool Splash is growing relatively slowly and staying close to the lower range of the height and width listed above, 2 feet. Tolerant of many soils, avoiding very dry sites for this shrub is best. I've noticed bumblebees are attracted to the flowers and have read that the butterflies will also be drawn here. The Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle group has underground suckers that can be a bit invasive. I am not noticing it on my Cool Splash after seven years in this location. Cool Splash is another First Editions introduction. A similar plant, Diervilla lonicera, also a dwarf bush honeysuckle, is a very aggressive species with reddish-green foliage and yellow flowers.

All four variegated shrubs can be seen in the tour below. Enjoy the video!

Kevin Shares Four Favorite Variegated Shrubs On YouTube

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