I saw this question on “Why is the foliage turning yellow on this climbing indoor vine?” and have a tangential question. Plants in question are pictured. All indoor plants.

So understand the concept of natural variegation in these leaves but I am puzzled. On the left-hand side of the picture the green leaves are fairly solidly green. On the right-hand side, there is clearly some variegation of yellow spots.

For a bit of background, I live in NYC. The deal is clippings of this specific plant have existed in my family since the 1970s. Basically my dad bought this in the early 1970s, and kept it alive up until the 1990s when he passed away. I took the plant and I would start making clippings to make more plants and more plants.

As far as I remember, for the past 15 years or so the leaves were solidly green. But in the past 2 years I moved into a new building and the water from the pipes is—frankly—not so great. I drink bottled and filtered water personally but use tap water to water these plants.

Many of these clippings were just sitting in jars of water until a few months back when I potted them. But after I potted them and placed them in a sunny window I was stunned not only by the mottling of yellow, but also the size of the leaves and stems on these mottled clippings is noticeably larger than what I ever remember them to have been in the past. Growth also seems quite aggressively faster than what I remember.

Which is all to say: What would cause this big difference between the plants on the left-hand side of the picture versus the right-hand side of the picture? Could it be something in the water from the tap? The fact they are now in a pot? Level of sunlight in a new location? Maybe something connected to the terra cotta pots? Some are pots made in Italy and others made in Germany if that matters.

In the great scheme of things, I’m not complaining about any of this. But as someone who essentially has grown up with clippings derived from this plant for decades, I am a bit baffled as to why this kind of sudden change has happened now.

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  • 3
    Happy plants make large and mottled leaves. You did everything a) right and b) possibly better than the rest of the family ;-)
    – Stephie
    Sep 29, 2015 at 5:01

2 Answers 2


It looks like the older leaves (near the base of the stem) are the less variegated. As I noted in my answer to the question you mentioned, higher light levels promote the variegation (and better growth), because under low light, the plant needs as much chlorophyll in the leaf surface as possible, for photosynthesis. In better lighting, the plant starts showing the variegation. So when you took cuttings of green stems, you couldn't see which ones would be (under full lighting) more variegated than the others.

As for why the different cuttings are variegated differently, it's because of the cuttings you took. These plants show Chimeral variegation.

Because the variegation is due to the presence of two kinds of plant tissue, propagating the plant must be by a vegetative method of propagation that preserves both types of tissue in relation to each other. Typically, stem cuttings, bud and stem grafting, and other propagation methods that results in growth from leaf axil buds will preserve variegation. Cuttings with complete variegation may be difficult if not impossible to propagate. Root cuttings will not usually preserve variegation, since the new stem tissue is derived from a particular tissue type within the root.

So if you take a cutting from a more variegated part, that resulting plant will be more variegated, on average. Of course, light still affects the leaf color. If you see a shoot of mostly green, or mostly yellow, and take that as a cutting, that's what the new plant will be closer to.

These are tough houseplants, and will put up with your inferior tap water better than most. It looks great!

  • Except the questioner says the cuttings were from green plants initially, which would render chimerism irrelevant, would it not?.
    – Bamboo
    Sep 29, 2015 at 16:35
  • @Bamboo no, because (as explained in my answer) the full green was from insufficient lighting. With bad lighting, the plants will be full green, but once returned to good lighting, they regain their original variegation. They don't lose it for good, through lighting.
    – J. Musser
    Sep 29, 2015 at 16:49
  • I'm aware of that, as you can see from my original answer if you read it - I just don't see where chimerism fits in here - a green plant, if not originally the green variety, will return to its former variegated state given enough light, without chimerism playing any role at all. And they're less variegated near the base of the leaves because there's less light availability there... its your reference to chimerism and what role you think its played I'd like explained
    – Bamboo
    Sep 29, 2015 at 17:37
  • I was explaining why one plant can have drastically different variegation, under the same conditions, as another, while both were grown from cuttings from the same stock plant, and should be genetic clones. That was (if I understood correctly) the OP's question.
    – J. Musser
    Sep 29, 2015 at 17:51
  • We;ll have to agree to disagree then - chimerism played about as big a part in this plant's coloration as dancing round the moon at midnight and incanting strange spells did, in my opinion... it would have happened anyway, given its likely the original plant was actually a variegated one, just no one realised. I know from my own because it becomes brightly variegated in winter, when it finally gets some sunlight for 6 months, where currently its almost all green.
    – Bamboo
    Sep 29, 2015 at 18:01

There are two basic varieties of Epipremnum, or Pothos (Devils' Ivy in the UK, and often still referred to as Scindapsis, its original Latin name) - one is variegated and the other is plain green. These days there are a range of variegated ones, but the basic species is either variegated or non variegated. The variegated ones like more light, and if they are grown in dim situations, they revert to plain green. Sometimes, if inspected closely, what looks like an all green plant may have slightly lighter streaks or portions, but nothing you'd notice if you weren't examining it closely.

It may be that your previous cuttings over the years were from plants grown in lower light situations, and you then kept them in similar circumstances - but they may have been the variegated version all along, and its only now, if you're growing them in a lighter place, that the variegation is revealing itself. From the photo, it looks as if the growth to the right has been getting more light than that on the left, so that might explain what's happened, and it would also explain the difference in growth rate and size. Your variegated plant there looks very attractive, the variegation is particularly streaked and marbled, wish mine looked so good...

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