South Carolina is in a humid, subtropical area with long, hot summers and short, mild winters. The average summer temperature is 70 to 92 degrees F. and winter temperature is 32 to 55 degrees F. South Carolina averages 49 inches of rain each year. The plant life in South Carolina benefit from the warming influence of the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean and the protection of the Appalachian Mountains that block the cold air from the interior of the United States during the winter. Variegated plants are used to lighten the mood and color of any South Carolina garden.
The coleus (Coleus x hybridus) is a tender perennial which means that it will need replanting if damaged by freezing temperatures. Coleus has a square stem with showy leaves. Variegated colors of red, pink, orange, yellow and cream create patterns on a green background. Coleus grows 6 to 24 inches tall and 8 to 12 inches wide. It likes partial shade and moist, well-draining soil full of organic material. Pinch off the blue flower spike to promote leaf growth. The coleus adds color all season long in flower beds and borders.
Caladium (Caladium x hortulanum) grows from tubers to form bushy groups of heart-shaped leaves. The caladium grows 12 to 24 inches tall and spread to 24 inches wide. The leaves persist from late spring until the first frost. They are colored with combinations of green, white, pink and red. Caladium prefers partial shade and moist, well-draining soil high in organic matter. This variegated plant is not hardy in South Carolina. Grow this plant as an annual or store it indoors over the winter. Caladium provides color in shady areas and it thrives in warm temperatures.
Chameleon houttuynia (Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon') is a fast growing groundcover with red and yellow variegated, 2 to 3 inch long leaves. These leaves obtain a purplish tint in the autumn. Houttuynia grows 15 to 18 inches tall and 18 inches wide clumps. Small white flowers that look like tiny dogwood blossoms are produced in the spring. This plant enjoys damp rich soil, full shade and will thrive in standing water. It is invasive in boggy areas. Houttuynia is useful for stabilizing stream and pond banks.
Japanese Blood Grass
Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrical var. koenigii) is a warm season, slow growing ornamental grass. It grows 12 to 18 inches tall and spreads 24 inches wide. This grass begins green with red tips becoming deep blood red by the end of summer. It turns copper color in the fall. It likes fertile, moist soil in full or partial sunlight. It rarely flowers so it does not produce very many seeds. It is not considered invasive. It is used as color spots in flower borders and containers.