Need Help?

Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

See my work on Pinterest at Garden Guru Montreal

« Plants, Civilization, and Human Nature, a book review for | Main | When Plant Breeders Get it Right, There's No Such Thing As Too Much Pleasure. »

How Can a Gardener Love Only One Hosta?

A gardening magazine recently posted an online article about an editor’s favorite Hosta plant. I read it with some dismay. How can anyone love only one Hosta when there are thousands and thousands of varieties in existence?

Choosing a Hosta can be overwhelming because, to the untrained eye, all Hosta may look alike. For the ardent gardener, they are easily divided into families of color and into variegated color combinations. Within each family, they are further classifiable by size, shape, texture, height and width. No sooner does a new attractive Hosta variation come to market, when another similar one is introduced, only a season later. Some discipline and a keen eye are required not only to keep track of one's favorites but also to distinguish the similarities between last year's and this year’s introductions. A scrap book containing the plastic picture tags of Hosta already bought and planted can be helpful in keeping track of what one owns or needs.

Most gardeners grow this perennial for its foliage, for its invaluable contribution to shade and textural gardens and for its ability to sustain itself in challenging growing conditions, where other perennials may perish. It is also grown effectively on slopes to prevent erosion and has rightfully earned its moniker as the work horse of the garden because it is virtually indestructible. Few gardeners appreciate Hosta flowers, even though some varieties sport beautiful lavender-blue spikes or voluminous white ones. Many homeowners find them unsightly and prefer to keep their gardens neat by snipping off the flower stalks before they bloom.

In spite of all of the Hosta choices available, I often revert back to using favorites that I discovered years ago; usually those that I have successfully propagated. Nevertheless, because of my clients’ desire for exclusivity, I must also work with newer varieties when they become available. To meet that challenge, I follow one guiding principle: - a new plant must be significantly different from the “run-of the-mill” or the “true-and-tried”; it should stand out as unique.

Here are some Hosta plants that have attracted my attention in seasons past: and Ice, because its narrow green edges accentuate the broad white centers, creating a white fountain in the garden. Spirit, because it feels mysterious. Sweetheart is a most striking and unusual plant.


interne.ici-et-la.caCherry Berry, is a charming, miniature Hosta with narrow speared leaves that are unique. Brim Cup, when it is young, reminds me of mouse ears; its glossy yellow - green leaves are one of the most effective Hosta color combinations in the garden.


This year I will be adding the following new varieties to my test garden: Wu, grows to a Hosta-gigantic height of 150 cm. or 59 inches; I have no idea how, or if, it should be used in an urban garden. It will be fun figuring out where to plant it. Effect is not new to the market, but it's new for me. I am attracted to the combination of the unusual foliage undulation and its citron color.’s Adventure: The photograph suggests that it is most unusual in color, spirit and design. I am excited to try it out in my garden. If it's not sold out by the time I shop, it may turn out to be the most interesting of them all.

Traditional garden handbooks advise the reader that Hosta prefer not to be transplanted. That hasn’t stopped me from digging up mature plants, carefully slicing through the root ball, and making several perennials out of one. I have even planted single, rootless leaves in early spring that established themselves by end summer. There are two major drawbacks to digging up Hosta. First, mature plants are difficult to uproot, and even more difficult to move where soil is heavy. Second, during propagation - by - division they suffer from leaf shock and will appear comatose for the balance of the summer. Considering that one mature Hosta can yield up to 12 new plantlings, a one-season coma is a small price to pay for such garden magic.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (6)

Allan, Both Empress Wu and Captain's Adventure look very impressive. I'll have to keep an eye out for those and think about places they might go in the garden. I have a weakness for hostas that make a big architectural statement, which is why I love the species H. nigrescens, which I think is the progenitor of all the vase-shaped hostas. I usually divide mine after their nubs have surfaced but before the leaves unfurl. I think my sandy soil probably makes this process easier, and I've never had any problem with plants suffering leaf shock. Thanks for sharing these new varieties.

April 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJean

I wonder if your plants do not experience leaf shock because you divide them when the nubs appear and before the leaves unfurl?

April 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterAllan

Hostas are like potato chips, it is hard to stop with one. I filled my backyard with them, and I am always looking for more. Great post.

April 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTracysmorris

The title of your post intrigued me because I could never choose just one hosta, twenty maybe, but not one. Large leaf hostas have to be dug up and divided before the leaves open. If you do it then there will be no affect on the plant. Medium, small, and miniatures can be divided any time it is still cool out even if the leaves are unfurled. I love all hostas originating from H. tokudama, and I am currently into miniatures, especially the mouse ears clan.

Thanks for elaborating on the advice for dividing Hosta. It is most appreciated.

April 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterAllan

Hi Alan,
I didn't know about there was such a huge diversity of Hostas.
I heard about there are a few different colors but your post really taught me a lot new.
Until 2 years ago I didn't even know my Hosta would bloom.
I got this plant a few years ago from my son and planted it in a container and it never bloomed until 2 years ago and last year. Now I have to wait and see if it will bloom this year again too. I have kept it in the same spot. One year I thought I lost it due to a freeze (unusual cold freeze here in SE Texas) but the plant came back and that was also the year it has bloomed for the first time.
Best Regards and thanks for the great information
Paula Jo

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>