If you could look at a plain green plant or you could look at something with interesting leaves, which would you choose? This is not a trick question!
So many people just choose plants based on flower color–period. They don’t realize there is much more out there. For years this was how we gardened, both indoors and out: we bought plants based on their flowers, and when they stopped flowering, we bought more plants that flowered at different times.
It was the shade gardeners that taught us it was all about the foliage. And from that emphasis on foliage, we started to decide that maybe we could have everything–interesting leaves and gorgeous flowers.
Now the edible plant world is getting into the act. They are giving us interesting leaves and interesting fruit to go with it.
This is a variegated kumquat. But you don’t have to get something this exotic. There are variegated lemons, all sorts of variegated peppers–you get the idea.
Even better, with variegated citrus plants, when they bloom, which is sometime in the winter, the fragrance is just delicious! I can often tell when one of mine is blooming from across the room! They often begin to bloom right about this time.
The fruiting cycle is about a year from bloom time to ripe fruit–I just picked a lemon on Christmas eve and a have a few more unripe lemons yet on my plant so I’ll have some yet to come.
Here’s another great variegated plant that I’ll bet many of my southern readers grow as shrubs. This is a pittosporum (I have no idea if it has a common name–not to my knowledge anyway!)
I fell in love with this plant in Italy of all places, bought a little 4″ plant from a mail order grower and 18 years later this is what I have. I need to keep it window sill sized because it’s not hardy in my zone. I have seen huge shrubs of these as I have traveled in the south.
A bonus is that this foliage makes nice cut flower fillers (if you have enough of it.)
A second bonus is that when it blooms–quite late for me–in May or early June–it’s quite fragrant. My pollinators love it since it’s outside by then!