Variegated plants are popular as houseplants because they add a splash of colour to the home all year round. Most variegated plants are green and yellow, but some have red on their leaves as well. Of these, only a few have large, attractive leaves and grow well indoors as houseplants. In general, variegated plants are damaged by direct sunshine but also less able to grow in lowlight conditions as they have less green chlorophyll pigment for photosynthesis.
The rubber plant (Ficus elastica) is grown as a house plant but can become a large tree up to 100 feet high. It is cultivated for its large, oval, glossy leaves (up to 12 inches long). Rubber plants will tolerate low light levels but need well-drained soil and should never be left in waterlogged soil. There are several variegated cultivars of the rubber plant including Decora, with reddish green leaves and pale yellow veins.
Tropical American caladiums produce broad, heart-shaped leaves with bright, red, green and white spots, mottles and veins. The leaves can be up to 14 inches long. There are dozens of varieties with different colours and patterns. Caladiums become dormant during the winter, and the tubers can be stored in a dry place at around 15.6 degrees Celsius. Grown indoors, caladiums need bright light and regular fertilising to look their best.
The croton (Codiaeum variegatum) is a very variable houseplant with colourful leaves. They can be oval or elongated and variegated with red, pink, green and yellow. Crotons thrive on a windowsill with bright, indirect sunlight and need to be watered and misted regularly. They do not appreciate cold drafts or large fluctuations in temperature. Croton plants can grow up to 10 feet high.
The marantas are also known as prayer plants and come from the tropical Americas. They are clump forming or trailing plants with colourful, rounded leaves. Maranta leuconeura "Erythroneura" produces rounded leaves with red veins and patches of greenish yellow on a dark green background. It needs bright but indirect sunshine and should never be allowed to dry out. Marantas benefit from regular misting and fertilising during the warmer months of the year.