green plant with yellow spots

Spotted Tropical Plants

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Tropical plants with spotted leaves will brighten a shady area and give the landscape a tropical feel. They can also grow as potted plants on a deck, patio or terrace. Although most of them require at least partial shade to prevent sunburn damage on the leaves, there are two tropical plants with spotted leaves that will retain their colorful foliage in sunny locations.

Full-sun Tropicals

Caladiums (Caladium bicolor) and elephant ears (Alocasia spp.) are tropical plants grown for their large leaves. Caladiums, also commonly referred to as elephant ears, angel wings or heart of Jesus, are shade-loving plants. However, the “Strawberry Star” hybrid (C. “Strawberry Star”) can grow successfully in full sun. The plants are 1 to 1½ feet tall with 10-inch-long, arrow-shaped leaves. The leaves are white with green veining and dark pink spots. They are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 12.

“Hilo Beauty” is an Alocasia or elephant ears hybrid (A. “Hilo Beauty”) that grows to 3 feet tall with 1- to 2-foot-long, arrow-shaped leaves. The leaves are dark green with cream-yellow spots and splotches. It is hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11.

Partial-shade Tropicals

Polka dot plants (Hypoestes phyllostachya) and ti plants (Cordyline fruticosa syn. C. terminalis) thrive in partial shade. All polka dot plants have spotted or splotched leaves, although the spots can be pink, red or white. They grow to 1 to 2 feet tall with 2-inch-long ovate leaves. Tiny lavender flowers are produced by these plants from spring to fall.

Ti plants, also known as cabbage trees or good luck plants, grow to between 3 and 10 feet tall, depending on the cultivar. Their long, corn plant-type leaves can be burgundy, pale green, pink or red. The “Amabalis” hybrid (C. fruticosa “Amabalis”), however, grows to about 10 feet tall with oval leaves that are dark green with dark pink and white spots. Older plants bloom in the spring, producing 12-inch-long panicles of yellow-red flowers. Both of these tropical plants are hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11.

Full-shade Tropicals

“Angel Wing” or trout-leaf begonias (Begonia x argenteo-guttata “Angel Wing”) and peacock gingers (Kaempheria laotica) can brighten shady areas with their spotted foliage. “Angel Wing” begonias will grow in partial shade, although too much direct sunlight will scorch the leaves. They are hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11 and grow to a height of 2 to 3 feet. Their large, angel-wing shaped leaves are deep green with bright white spots. They bloom nearly year-round in frost-free climates in pink, red or white.

The “Satin Checks” peacock ginger hybrid (K. “Satin Checks”) grows to only 3 inches tall and quickly spreads to cover the ground. Its leaves are 8 inches long and 6 inches wide with burgundy spots on a light green background. Small purple flowers are produced by the plants briefly in the summer. It is hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11.

Winter-blooming Tropicals

Rex begonias (Begonia rex) can grow in the bright shade of tall trees for colorful, spotted foliage in the landscape from spring to fall. When temperatures begin to cool in the fall, bring them indoors for decorative foliage and pink or white flowers during the winter. The plants are hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11 and grow to 1 foot tall. There are many hybrids available with a variety of leaf colors and spots. “Boston Cherries and Chocolate” (B. rex “Boston Cherries and Chocolate”) has purple-brown leaves with red, purple or silver spots. “Maui Mist” (B. rex “Maui Mist”) has dark green leaves with pink spots and silver highlights.

Spotted Tropical Plants. Tropical plants with spotted leaves will brighten a shady area and give the landscape a tropical feel. They can also grow as potted plants on a deck, patio or terrace. Although most of them require at least partial shade to prevent sunburn damage on the leaves, there are two tropical plants …

Gold Dust Plant – Aucuba japonica

Botanical Name: Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’

Green leaves heavily dusted with golden-yellow spots makes Gold Dust Plant a cheery house plant, and a beautiful accent among other foliage plants.

You’ll have easy success with this compact, upright shrub because it adapts well to indoor conditions.

In fact, it doesn’t need much attention to thrive. It grows well in a pot. Just shade it from direct sunlight, keep it cool and well-watered. Prune it back each spring to keep it small.

Aucuba japonica varieties include both male and female plants that produce clusters of tiny purplish flowers in spring. They’re not very attractive, but if pollinated, the flowers are followed by bright red berries carried on the plant through the winter.

Aucuba japonica is known by a few common names: Gold Dust Plant, Japanese Laurel, Spotted Laurel and Japanese Aucuba. A few cultivars are available. ‘Crotonifolia’ has broad leaves spotted with yellow. ‘Serratifolia’ (shown below) has mottled yellow saw-tooth leaves. ‘Picturata’ is broadly splashed with yellow-gold across its leaves.

Care Tips for Aucuba Japonica

Prune in spring. Although slow-growing, Gold Dust Plants will get tall and leggy over time. Prune the stems back hard in spring to keep Aucuba japonica a manageable size indoors and to encourage branching.

Pruning tip: Cut stems at a 45В° angle, just after a node (the place where a leaf or branch is attached to the stem). Use sharp pruners to avoid tearing the stems.

Repot in spring, moving up to a container 1 size larger every 2-3 years, or when needed. If your Japanese aucuba is already big, you can top-dress instead by removing the top 2-3 (5-7.5 cm) inches of soil and replace it with fresh potting soil.

Clean those beautiful spotted leaves to keep them dust-free. Wipe them off with a damp cloth.

Aucuba Japonica Care Tips

Origin: Cultivar with parents native to Japan and China

Height: Up to 3 ft (90 cm) indoors. Prune to keep the shrub small.

Light: Bright indirect light. Some cool, direct morning sunlight is fine. Bright, filtered sunlight will help Gold Dust Plant keep its variegation. Don’t move it outdoors unless you have a cool, shady spot for it.

Water: Keep the soil evenly moist from spring through fall. Then, cut back on watering in winter when growth has slowed.

Humidity: Average room — around 40% relative humidity or higher. Because levels can drop drastically in winter, it’s a good idea to use a pebble tray or cool-mist humidifier.

Temperature: Cool (45-65В°F/7-18В°C) temperatures year-round suit this Japanese laurel just fine. In fact, it can tolerate cold — down to 5В°F/-15В°C — and is sometimes grown as an outdoor shrub.

Soil: All-purpose houseplant potting mix

Fertilizer: Feed monthly spring through fall with a water-soluble fertilizer.

Propagation: Sow seed in spring. Or take 4 in (10 cm) stem tip cuttings in spring or summer and root in moist potting mix.

Get tips for growing Aucuba japonica indoors. Find out how to grow, water, repot and fertilize Japanese aucuba, also known as Japanese Laurel and Gold Dust Plant.