The first time I saw a plant that had leaves with different colored patterning, I just had to have it! Then, in what seemed like no time at all, all the leaves turned from that pretty variegated pattern to solid green. What happened?
In nature, when a plant is solid green but has some stems with variegated foliage that section is called a sport. The sports are removed and propagated to make more plants with this attribute. At some point as the new variegated plants mature, they can start to revert back to the mother plant of all green foliage. The good news is that once you see even one stem that is trying to revert to sold green foliage removing it right away slows the reverting. When variegated plants are checked often and all solid green stems are removed from their origin they can continue to be variegated for their lifetime. Once a plant has turned mostly green however, it may not come back variegated when all that green is removed.
When designing a garden it's nice to know that many variegated foliage plants like to live in dappled shade. This is great news because some solid green foliage plants can get a bit lost in shady spots. Adding variegated foliage creates a more dynamic design. For collectors of variegated plants it can be a delight to have a whole section of the garden filled with variegated plants all fighting for attention. For other viewers though, this lack of any defined focal point can become a dizzying array with nowhere for the eye to rest. Start with a variegated plant on a corner or in a container that can be moved around to find just the right spot or group some of the same variegated plants under a small tree.
Here is a list of some great variegated plants: