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Variegated Cannabis: A Colorful Wonder or Sign of a Problem?

July 14, 2023

Variegated cannabis crops are trendy in 420 communities. They’re stunning, unique, and unusual, which appeals to cannabis enthusiasts with an aesthetic drive.

The variegated parts of a marijuana plant may appear as borders, circles, stripes, or spots. These distinct markings could be due to genetic formation or something more serious. 

Understanding the different causes of this cannabis phenomenon is essential to addressing it correctly. Join us as we unpack marijuana variegation, its causes, and how it affects plant growth and yields.

Let’s dig in.

What is variegated cannabis?

Variegation is the appearance of varying patterns, colors, or pigmentation intensity on different plant parts. The affected sections are typically pale, making them stand out from the rest of the crop.

variegated weed leaf
Variegated weed leaf

A variegated weed plant usually showcases two-toned leaves, or flowers and stems with a mottled, striped, or blotched appearance. The emergence of contrasting shades in weed crops may occur naturally, through genetic mutations, or viral infections. 

This plant condition may not be preventable or treatable if a genetic mutation caused it. Some people consider variegated plants visually appealing, opting to use them for ornamental purposes.

It’s imperative to study the meaning of different marijuana colors to understand the multi-tonal nature of your plant. With this knowledge, determine the underlying cause of variegation in your crop and address it promptly to promote healthy growth and maximum yields.

What causes variegated marijuana plants?

Variegation in cannabis plants usually arises from viral infection or cell mutation but may also be a random occurrence. 

Regardless of the causes of variegated weed, the underlying pattern is similar. A section of the plant appears paler than the usual crop color because it lacks chlorophyll. This pigment is responsible for the herb’s green hue. 

Through close observation, you can almost tell the cause of variegation in your weed plants. If it’s a genetic trigger, the crop displays a highly distinctive pattern but lacks peculiarity when it’s a virus.

Below is an in-depth review of the common causes of variegation in weed plants. 


Although there are numerous forms of cannabis mutations, none stands out as genetic variegation. Changes in the genes associated with cell division, pigment production, and chlorophyll synthesis can contribute to variegated cannabis leaves. 

Genetic mutations may affect the chlorophyll synthesis pathway, causing reduced production of this pigment. Insufficient chlorophyll makes some sections of your plants green while others become white or yellow.

This variegation type is typically stable and remains consistent in subsequent plant generations. It may also occur due to epigenetic changes. These alterations don’t amend the genetic code, but affect the expression of genes in crops. 

The changes arise mainly from environmental stressors and usually lead to alteration in pigment production, causing variegation. 

Some marijuana strains may be genetically predisposed to variegation because of their breeding history or lineage. For most landrace cultivars, variegation could be a natural environmental adaptation. 

Many enthusiasts claim it’s possible to cross certain cannabis hybrids purposely to produce variegated descendants. 

variegated cannabis leaf


Chimerism in cannabis plants results from two or more genetically unique cells merging to create a single tissue or organism. This phenomenon occurs during embryonic formation, leading to a crop that contains different cell types with varying genetic makeup. 

The different tissue formations could display their distinct traits as your plant grows, resulting in variegated marijuana. 

In other words, a chimeric marijuana crop may contain a tissue type that produces high chlorophyll levels, generating green leaves. A different tissue in the same plant could release reduced chlorophyll content, causing yellow or white patches on the blades. 

Chimeric variegation can also arise from environmental stressors or genetic mutations. These factors could meddle with the expression of genes associated with chlorophyll synthesis and transport, triggering colored zones on your crop. 


Albinism is a genetic phenomenon that disrupts melanin production in crops and animals. This pigment adds color to the eyes, skin, and hair. If the condition hits your cannabis herbs, it may cause variegation, leaving you with chlorophyll-deficient albino plants.

Plants require chlorophyll to turn sunlight into energy for optimal photosynthesis. Albino weed plants lack this essential pigment, so they can’t make the food needed to sustain them. Some crops turn white from the early growth stages, while others lose the green hue with age

Albinism-induced variegation mainly features white patches on the stems, leaves, and buds of your cannabis plant. Contrary to some myths, the crop doesn’t have to bleach entirely to be albino, as this occurrence is rare. 

This condition can weaken the crop’s ability to protect itself from environmental stressors like harsh weather, pests, and diseases. With poor defenses, your cannabis plants are more susceptible to damage. 

A fully albino marijuana plant may not survive for long. If this anomaly has taken over most of your crop, expect lower-than-average cannabinoid levels. 

Besides genetics, albinism in weed plants may occur due to hybridization. Some breeders usually backcross weed strains to activate their recessive traits, like albinism. This modification aims to enhance crop aesthetics rather than bud potency. 

albino cannabis


Sometimes, a variegated cannabis plant arises from pathological interference, like the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). In this scenario, your crops won’t display any distinctive patterns, only distorted, pale color markings.

TMV affects your marijuana plant’s chloroplasts, cell organs that support photosynthesis. The virus could damage these organelles and cause reduced chlorophyll in some leaf sections, triggering yellow or white patches

The variegation induced by TMV is highly unpredictable and varies with the plant. Some crops may display slight shade differentiation, while others have more pronounced color zones. 

tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) on a leaf
TMV symptoms on a cannabis leaf

Besides inducing variegation, other tobacco mosaic virus symptoms to watch out for include leaf curling and stunted growth. Some growers also report mosaic-like markings of light and dark green patches.

TMV usually spreads through contaminated equipment or contact with infected crops. Take prompt steps to minimize virus proliferation by washing your tools and hands before handling the plants. 

Are variegated weed plants bad?

Variegation in cannabis plants can have positive and negative effects. It may produce two-toned leaves, which most enthusiasts find aesthetically appealing. The condition could also result in gorgeous crops crowned with pure white nugs and snowy pistils. 

Some growers believe variegated marijuana plants boast a unique genetic diversity, which is ideal for breeding. 

Despite these aesthetic advantages, variegation hampers photosynthetic capacity due to insufficient chlorophyll in some plant sections. The absence of this essential pigment may cause stunted growth, lower yields, and poor-quality buds. 

Variegated plants might also become more susceptible to environmental stressors like low humidity or high temperatures, which can escalate growth challenges. Such crops may have a shorter lifespan since they cannot gather enough energy to sustain vigorous development. 

Grow your weed reliably, variegation or not

A variegated weed plant may stun your eyes with its unique appearance, but it has no advantage over typical crops. It lacks enough chlorophyll to sustain photosynthesis and optimal growth.

The best way to deal with variegation in your marijuana plants is to determine the underlying cause. The triggers range from genetic mutations and chimerism to albinism and TMV

If you encounter genetic-induced variegation, there isn’t much to do, as you can’t alter the plant’s genetic makeup. For variegation caused by environmental stress, adjusting the cultivation conditions like nutrient levels, temperature, and light intensity may help.

We stock a wide array of top-shelf cannabis seeds in the United States. We can’t guarantee a decorative variegated plant, but we can promise you high germination rates, sturdy genetics, delicious flavors, and bountiful yields.

Buy premium marijuana seeds from us today to get the most bang for your buck. 

variegated cannabis


Variegation in cannabis is a broad topic. We narrow it down by answering the most frequently asked questions below.

Does high light increase weed variegation?

High light intensity may increase the chances of variegation in some weed strains, especially those from elevated altitudes or abundant sunlight. The phenomenon occurs naturally in these cultivars, helping the plants regulate photosynthesis. 

When you expose cannabis crops to high-intensity light for too long, they can develop photodamage, resulting in leaf wilting, burning, or bleaching. This condition could culminate in variegation, but it’s usually a sign of plant stress. 

Do variegated weed plants grow slower?

Variegated cannabis crops typically grow slower because of the limited photosynthetic ability of the affected parts. Without enough chlorophyll, these plants cannot produce sufficient energy to sustain rapid development. 

Can I avoid variegated cannabis?

Avoiding this condition in cannabis plants depends on the underlying variegation cause and the specific strain. Some cultivars are inherently variegated, producing similar offspring regardless of the cultivation conditions. 

If you’re not growing a naturally variegated strain, minimize the risk of variegation by choosing healthy seeds and maintaining consistent cultivation conditions.

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