Do you admire the iconic vertical leaves of whale fin snake plants but wondered if you could find a variegated version? There are at least five beautiful varieties worth collecting. They are easy to care for and suitable for plant enthusiasts of any experience level.
This article describes and compares the five variegated plant types. It also summarizes their basic care requirements.
Variegated Whale Fin Plant Care Sheet
|Common Names||Variegated whale fin plant, Sansevieria Masoniana variegated, variegated whale fin sansevieria|
|Scientific Name||2017–present: Dracaena masoniana var|
Pre-2017: Sansevieria masoniana var
|Origin||The base type comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The variegated types developed in plant nurseries.|
|Growth||Often reach 10–14 in (25–35 cm). May reach 2ft (60 cm) tall.|
|Flowering||They rarely grow greenish-white cylindrical clusters at night and have a citrus scent.|
|Ease of Care||They are perfect for beginners.|
|Soil||They need well-draining soil like 2 parts succulent mix, 1 part sand, perlite, or pumice.|
|Light Needs||Inside: They grow best with bright, indirect light. |
Outside: Keep them in partial sun.
|Watering Needs||Water them thoroughly until draining, then wait until fully dry again.|
|Temperature||They prefer 64–79° F (18–26° C) but still grow above 59° F (15° C).|
|Humidity||They prefer 40–60% humidity, which is typical household humidity.|
|USDA Hardiness||Outside, they will grow in zones 9–11.|
|Potting||The pot size needs to be wider than the leaf and heavy enough to prevent the tipping of taller plants.|
|Fertilizer||Fertilize with ¼ diluted low nitrogen or cactus formula.|
|Propagating||You propagate them by division and leaf cutting.|
|Care Problems||Overwatering: Wilt, yellowing leaf, gray leaf, root rot.|
|Pests||Can get thrips, aphids, brown scales, mealybugs, and spider mites.|
|Toxicity||They have saponins, which cause gastric problems for people and pets.|
Different Types of Variegated Whale Fin Plant
Plant enthusiasts have developed variegated whale fin snake plants in nurseries worldwide. They differ from the regular type, Dracaena masoniana, in leaf color, patterns, growth rate, and height. Variegated varieties also grow slower than the regular whale fin plant.
But the variegated types still have lots in common with the original variety. They share a typically single, paddle-like, upright leaf that grows very slowly. Mature plants will grow two or even three leaves. They also love hot, dry, and partially sunny conditions.
Often, the original type’s mottling of dark and medium green shows through variegated patterns. Variegated varieties also retain a coiled, purplish-white base and rhizome. Outdoor plants sometimes sprout small, green-white clusters of citrusy flowers.
1. Variegated Whale Fin Snake Plant (Dracaena masoniana ‘Variegated’)
The variegated whale fin plant (Dracaena masoniana Congo ‘Variegated’) is the original type but variegated. It’s also hard to find and often expensive.
It has the traditional mottled green of the species, vertical yellow stripes, and purplish-white margins. The mottling can look like horizontal, zig-zagging bands. The yellow pattern on the topside will vary across individuals. The combination sometimes looks hazy, like you’re looking at the plant through a fog.
Some have more and thicker stripes on one side, others even on both sides. Yet others have a more random pattern, like a barcode.
Further, the green mottling may show more in some plants over others. It may also favor one side over the other, and even vary on whether the darker green or lighter green predominates.
2. Variegata Whale Fin Plant (Dracaena masoniana var. Variegata)
The Variegata whale fin plant (Dracaena masoniana var. Variegata) is often confused with the Masoniana Congo Var. But while the other is the original type with variegated patterns, the Variegata is a distinct cultivar.
The main difference to keep in mind is that the Variegata does not grow as large as the base type. It often grows to 10–14 in (25–35 cm) but can reach >50cm.
Its patterns also vary less between individuals. They usually favor having broader stripes toward the outside and narrower ones between.
Much of the variation can come from how the plant is grown. The less light the Variegata receives, the less richness and contrast the colors have. Sometimes the yellow stripes will have faded enough to appear like a pale green.
Variegata is also easy to find and cheap. So, if you aren’t sure if you found the variegated base type or the Variegata whale fin plant, chances are you found the Variegata.
3. White Variegated Whale Fin Plant (Dracaena masoniana var. Variegata ‘White’)
The white variegated whale fin plant (Dracaena masoniana var. Variegata ‘White’) resembles the Variegata type but has a layer of white to it.
Sometimes the outer green remains unfiltered, but the yellow stripes and green between them have whitened. Other plants have a whiter look, including the outer green region.
The brighter the light this type grows in, the more white it’ll look. Low-light plants and new leaves have a creamy look rather than a real frost.
Even with the variegated colors and the white, you can see the base type’s mottling pattern. They come together like layers in a painting.
Mediopicta Whale Fin Snake Plant (Dracaena masoniana var. Variegata ‘Mediopicta’)
The Mediopicta whale fin plant (Dracaena masoniana var. ‘Mediopicta’) also developed from the Variegata type. This variety also has the classic mottled green rim like other types. But it has a distinct, broad, creamy-yellow to lemon-yellow middle.
Leaves growing in lower light or are new may have more mottling shown through the gold.
Because it has less chlorophyll in the leaves, Mediopicta smaller than other types. It often grows up to 10–14 in (25–35 cm) height.
Bruda Whale Fin Snake Plant (Dracaena Masoniana x Dracaena Elliptica)
The Bruda whale fin plant (Dracaena masoniana x Dracaena elliptica) stands out from other variegated types. It’s not a pure descendant of the original whale fin snake plant. Instead, it is a cross with D. elliptica, a bushy snake plant of Southeast Asia.
Bruda’s inherited a similar growth form as the D. masoniana with large, paddle-like leaves. Younger and low-light growing plants show more mottling. In contrast, older and bright-light growing ones show more steaks.
This type often has a narrow rim of dark green, if at all. Among the ones with streaks, most of the leaves are pale green or yellow. The marks are vertical and uneven, with some darker green and some white. But they mostly have pale green or yellow.
How To Care For Variegated Whale Fin Plant
You care for variegated whale fin plants the same way as you would for any whale fin plant. They require minimal care and space. Give them a well-draining soil mix, bright indirect light, minimal water, and a warm environment.
Variegated whale fin snake plants thrive the most in well-draining soil. Use a succulent or cactus soil mix with added aeration. For example, mix two parts of succulent soil with one part of sand, perlite, or pumice for added drainage. These additions to the substrate also maintain the variegated whale fin snake plant’s preferred neutral soil pH.
Further reading: Snake Plant Soil Mix: How To Make Using Expert Recipes
Variegated whale fin snake plants benefit from bright, indirect light. The more of it, the stronger color contrast.
East-facing windows or other windows from a distance or through sheers work best. Otherwise, you can use south- and west-facing windows or a covered patio in the summer.
If the plant has too much direct light, move it away from a window or behind a sheer.
If you observe the leaves growing narrower than expected, place the plant where it can get more light.
You will want to water your variegated whale fin snake plant thoroughly, until the water goes through the pot’s drainage holes.
Wait until you can’t feel any moisture in the first few inches of soil before you water again. On average, this interval is every 10 days in the summer and every 2–3 weeks in the winter.
Wilting, yellowing, graying, and shriveling leaves mean you need to water less. Withhold watering until the soil dries, then go to a routine of going by the moisture in the first few inches.
The plant has root rot if the problem has gone on long enough that the stem is mushy. You’ll have to cut the dead roots and repot the plant with fresh soil or get a leaf cutting to propagate.
Temperature and Humidity
Variegated whale fin snake plants prefer 64–79° F (18–26° C) but grow as long as the temperature stays above 59° F (15° C). They like typical household humidity, specifically between 40–60%. Other than that, keep them away from vents and cold windows.
Variegated whale fin plants need pots as wide as the leaf will grow. So, if you have more than one leaf and want to keep the plant that way, it’ll need a wider pot.
Taller leaves like the Masoniana Congo Var. benefit from heavier pots. Ceramic and terracotta help with the plant’s stability. Terracotta also absorbs more excess water.
Usually, you will need to repot every 2–3 years. It takes that long for significant growth. Even if the plant doesn’t need more space, it needs fresh soil and nutrition.
Variegated whale fin plants grow well on their own. But if you want to use fertilizer, get a low-nitrogen or cactus option. When you apply it, dilute it by ¼ the recommended concentration.
Also, use it when you water. That way, the chemicals get absorbed more and do not sit on the roots.
You can propagate variegated whale fin snake plants by division and leaf cuttings.
When the plant has more than one leaf that’s more than several inches tall, you can cut to divide it at the rhizome. Let it dry for a few days, and pot it.
Similarly, you wait for an extra leaf to get big enough with leaf cutting. But you cut it at the base of the leaf and submerge the cut for several weeks until it grows roots. Then you can pot it.
Further reading: 7 Easy Steps to Divide & Repot a Snake Plant
Variegated whale fin snake plants can get brown scales, thrips, aphids, mealy bugs, and spider mites.
- Brown to yellow oval bumps are brown scales.
- Black dots indicate thrips or aphids.
- White fuzz means mealybugs.
- Webbing comes from spider mites.
You can pluck these pests off by hand or spray neem oil and wipe it evenly over infested areas. The worst locations will be the undersides of leaves.
A compound called saponin exists in and on variegated whale fin snake plants. When eaten by people or pets, it causes gastrointestinal distress.
Some people get rashes from touching saponin. Use gloves when handling the plant if you think you might have an allergic reaction.
All five of these variegated whale fin plants add color to a home with minimal space and effort. Some like the Variegata are cheap, and easy to find. Others like the Bruda and Masoniana Congo Var are more expensive, and difficult to find. If you’re a fan of whale fin snake plants, you will have plenty to collect.
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