When you create a home garden, one of the aims is to make it enjoyable for as long a season as possible. Evergreen shrubs with variegated leaf offer dependable color in a backyard year-round. Even if nothing is blooming, splashes of gold, cream, white and even pink make your landscape a pleasure to check at. Variegated evergreens give your lawn a start toward shade throughout the year.

Gold Dust Plant

Several varieties of the broadleaf evergreen gold dust plant (Aucuba japonica variegata) have white or yellow speckled glossy green leaves, among them “Gold Dust,” “Mr. Goldstrike” and “Crotonifolia.” The plant reaches a height and width of 10 feet, which makes it a candidate for hedging in addition to specimen planting. Suitable for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 10, the gold dust plant requires moist soil and partial to full shade. Pointed oval leaves may reach a few inches in length. All areas of the plant are toxic, a consideration for gardeners with children or pets.

Japanese Euonymus

To get a slightly spikier appearance, Japanese euonymus (Euonymus japonica) sends up big clusters of stems covered with shiny dark green oval leaves. Varieties “Silver King” and “Aureomarginata” have gray-white and gold leaf margins, respectively. “Silver King” attains a height of approximately 5 ft and a width of between 2 and 3 feet. Hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 7 through 9, it shares the family tolerance for poor soil. Plant these plants in full sun.

Glossy Abelia

Glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) rises to a height of 3 feet with a slightly wider spread. Evergreen at the top half of its hardiness range, the variegated variety “Confetti” (Abelia x grandiflora “Confetti”) is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 9, and sports leaves splashed with green, creamy white and pink patches. Provide full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Abelia’s water needs are low to medium. “Confetti” adds pink flowers to its colorful display in late summer and early fall.

Snow Bush

Yet another pink-splotched evergreen is commonly referred to as snow bush (Breyna distichi) or Hawaiian snow bush. The “Roseo-picta” variety supports green and pink leaves on pinkish-red stems. A Pacific island indigenous, this 3-foot-by-3-foot shrub requires partial shade and always moist soil in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. Allowing soil to dry out can result in leaf drop.

Dwarf Plum Yew

The “Korean Gold” plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia) attracts a very distinctive variegated appearance to small spaces. Growing roughly 10 inches high with a 3- to 6-foot propagate, this slow-growing dwarf evergreen has gold-tipped green needles. Increase it in partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 9.


A fall-blooming broadleaf evergreen, silverberry (Eleagnus pungens) is among the several plants with variegation in the margins of leaves. Silverberry tolerates a variety of soils, can develop in terms of full sun to full shade and is a reliable choice for USDA plant hardiness zones 7 through 9. Mature plants are around 10 feet high and wide. Variety “Maculata” features yellow leaves with green margins and coppery undersides, while “Clemson Variegated” has green-bordered white leaves. Small autumn flowers have a fragrance often likened to gardenia.

Fragrant Daphne

While some gardeners complain that particular species of daphne (Daphne odora) are fussy about growing states, others find daphne a low-maintenance pleasure. “Marginata,” a wide variety of the odora species, which is a fragrant evergreen for USDA plant hardiness zones 7 through 9. Plants reach 4 feet in height with comparable spread. Clustered green leaves have yellow margins and the plant tolerates shade or sun, preferring rich, near-neutral soil. Its exceptional winter-blooming habit can make putting it worth the risk.

See related