has become even longer!
It would seem that horticultural programs teach their
first year students the adage: 'Rest, Renew, and Regrow'.
For most part Hosta are pretty easy plants to grow. Yes there are varieties that are easier or harder to grow; but for most part Hosta are easy.
First: This simple adage, conveys the adjustment period for perennials first being planted in a particular garden. Hosta is a perennial.
Second: The first year it is planted it will 'Rest', The second year the plant will 'renew' its rhizomes and foliage for that growing location, and finally in the third year the plant will 'regrow' in its generally expected growing behavior.
This adage also presumes that the plant will survive rotting (primarily Crown Rot in the spring), invasive pests (like slugs. voles, moles, rabbits, and dear), infections and virus (like HVX [Hosta Virus X]), and even natural disaster (like hail).
Each and every reputable hosta vender will tell you get your hosta from someone you 'TRUST'. Who to trust has gotten interesting in that I can list a dozen hosta venders I would 'trust' while at the same time I could point to another dozen hosta sources I would NEVER trust the plants from. Before you buy do some research about the variety of plant you want. Learn enough about it to make a probable identification of it on the spot. I say probable because with over over 5,600 registered; and who knows how many unregistered hosta that are out there; there are some that get hard to identify. Some varieties do look very, very, very similar. So similar in fact only a specialist might be able to definitivily be able to identify it correctly - and I am not talking about your every day garden store sales clerk who's a Master Gardener. I am talking about the hosta guru who can see the botanical differences between these plants.
NOTE: There have been many many unregistered Hosta that have been produced, valued by hosta enthusiasts, and sold over the years. Do not presume that an unregistered hosta are less worthy to have in your garden, or to add to your collection.
Why be careful about where buy or who to receive from?
1) What you get may not be what the plant is labeled or is professed to be. Many times it is not malicious but none the less … it may cause all sorts of embarrassment to you if you have that friend who comes over, who also collects hosta, and you say 'x' plant is 'y' variety. As defensive as you might get - because of the circumstances of how you acquired that plant you might actually be wrong about what you think you have. Keep in mind that even the BEST hosta retailers from time to time make mistakes in shipments. Most honorable venders will attempt to find a professional resolution to the issue.
2) Take a moment to think about why some venders sell their plants for under a certain price. Hosta sales have become as evil as a war zone with each hosta grower trying to under bid the next with their price. The writer admits that even they do exhaustive hosta searches for 'x' varieties before making a purchase. In the end I purchase from the vender that has MOST of the varieties I want. I as a general rule will ignore the price - but price does effect it. Recently I considered acquiring Hosta "White Feather". I decided not to go with the lowest price. The lowest price was $9.00, but it was from a vender whom:
- I had not heard of;
- did not respond to my e-mail inquiry, and;
- had no indication on their website if they tested for hosta virus' before shipment.
In short price might be a good indicator sign to watch for, and yes we're still on subject in that if plants are to 'Rest, Renew, Regrow' as they must also be 'healthy, happy and held' (a.k.a. protected).
Reader: "Have you purchased White Feather yet"?
Reader: "Why not?"
Author: "Well ... that leads me into my next topic! …"
Hosta growers will say time and time again that Hosta are easy. The more experienced ones might tell you that sometimes their hosta will do better in 'x' place than somewhere else. They too are probably telling the truth. Hosta Trivia: Human genomes are simpler than any hosta! Somewhere in that mess of DNA that hosta have there is something that says to the plant 'I prefer location x best'. In my garden I have moved hosta even 6 inches in one direction and have seen a difference in how the plant grows. So I have seen this phenomenon - I may not fully understand it - but I have seen it.
Hosta for a general rule like 60% to 80% shade. All hosta respond to sunlight. Give it to much or to little and its color might become off from what is expected. For some years I had Brim Cup. Eventually Brim Cup became green on green, I handed it off to a friend and told then what the problem was and in their garden the plant changed back to colors it was supposed to (cream white with green). Sunlight definitely effects these plants. I have June and that always seems to be to green on green rather than green with yellow. That plant seems … acceptable.to me as one can see more of the 'yellow' in the spring.
White in plants is not a color! It is not a color because the plant does not produce chlorophyll in the white of the plant - nor can it produce white chlorophyll. In simplest terms white in plants is simply plant tissue being pretty.
Brim Cup did not like my garden - that's ok. There are other hosts that DO change color every year, not because they are not happy, but because that is what they do naturally. Holy Mouse Ears and Frosted Mouse Ears do this. They both come up totally green and then as the months go on white appears on those plants. In photos this can be a dramatic transformation, and watching this over the months can be exciting - when will these plants 'reach their peek"?
Where as some hosta go from 'x' color to white, there are small group of hosta that come up white and then produce color. It is these hosta that some growers say are the very hardest too grow. They are considered this because they depend on the food stored up in their rhizomes over the winter to get them through the early season to then produce chlorophyll in the later part of the spring. These plants (I think) need MORE sun to compel the chlorophyll to become productive. These plants include but are not limited to: White Feather, White Trouble, and Nougat. The Hosta Yellow Emperor, Zebra Stripes, and Work of Art grow on the same principle most likely, The white hosta are in general considered rare; and they are rare because they are hardest to grow.
And is the end reason why I have not ordered a White Feather because I am not confident I have the right place to plant it - though it am still very tempted to try.
In my last edition I related how Eeyore observed that plants do communicate what is happening; and during 2013 I hinted at there were problems in my 2012 season. When I wrote either of those comments I was only looking at a microcosm at what was really happening. At this time I think I can put the dots together and explain what was fully happening - it still may not be perfect; but the picture looks pretty good at this point.
I must stress that low hosta successes came to my full athenian by 2011 and before, and I took it upon myself to try to dig deeper into why they were happening. Paying for plants over and over again gets to be a bummer. Keep in mind that what I see in my garden may or may not be the same as yours.
- When replacement plants arrived I committed the error of leaving the tissue paper ON the plant. While on face value they can hold water in place for the newly planted hosta (or any plant), and it can decompose relatively quickly; I may also took the risk of setting the ground work for rotting and drowning the plant.
- Also during this year I began to explore liquid fertilizer. Something that I was told after that fact was that many man made fertilizers have some equivalence to salt. Salt and hosta never go together. Salt equates to a poison to hosta. Lack of that information was the second error.
- Another thing I was not cued into was that ANY man-made fertilizer needs to be used with water to dilute it - no matter what the bottle says (my opinion).
During the 2013 year I took a distinct step back. I knew I had a problem since that was the worst spring for hosta I had ever had. The solution had to be hiding in my garden somewhere; I just needed to learn new things about gardening to find it. I also knew that it may take several years to sort the problem out. Hosta I knew could be tremendously temperamental plants when they wanted to be.
One of the shifts from 2012 to 2013 was to move from liquid fertilizer to solid. The solid fertilizer chosen was sheep shit. I fertilized every NEW hosta replanted that year. By the year end I saw noticeable improvement in each of the plants (see my 2013 notes).
I also began to talk to other gardeners about hosta and their growing habits. Numerous growers said that a 100% success rate should be considered more normal than not. By end of the year (down the last week) I had gotten a good dose of comments from others which in some cases were counteractions to each other. Some said keep the plants dry in the fall; while others said water then just before the first frost. Some said use tarping in the spring where others suggested not to. Some were adamant about the problem being crown rot as others tried to take a step back and said it was just a drainage issue.
YES - Crown Rot can be a problem in hosta gardens (or any perennial garden) if the right meteorological conditions occur, in the right order, in the spring or even in the fall to cause plants to take water in, then freeze, and then burst cell membrane causing the condition for rot to take hold to destroy the whole of the near-hibernating plant. This gardener has no disagreement about the issues and concerns about Crown Rot.
I decided that my first task was to take a serous look at the water drainage of my small raised bed - some thing I had never observed. All of the discussions centered around water as well. Over the late winter and early spring I watched the snow melt to see if the drainage was the problem. Between March 8th to April 7th the snow had its melt, and during that time I saw no indications that water had excessively stood. Yes there were days where there was standing water seen but it did not stand for more than a few hours. This suggested to me that drainage is not the central problem. This part of Minnesota was also fortunate that the conditions for crown rot did not occur (thawing, moisture, followed by immediate refreezing) this year.
I do believe that from this I have learned that putting to bed a dry garden reduces the threat of crown rot as the dry soil will take the moisture in the spring and reduce the plant stress as it warms above freezing. The dryer the bed; the better - from hosta cut back to the first snow. I truly believe that aided in their survival last winter. The reverse also needs to occur in the spring from first (initial) melt to stabilized temperatures of the 50ºs the ground ought to be kept on the dry side.
But I think there is more to this than winter freezing and thawing, and fertilizing correctly… I think there is a relationship between hosta and temperature …
Most of us are aware the hosta will show new season spikes in the spring when the temperatures reach about 60ºF/15ªC; some of us have noticed that there might be a second round of hosta spikes emerging when the temperature reaches about 70ºF/21ºC. At that point MOST of us would say ‘They’re up and nothing more will come’. Most of us would be content at that point.
The reason why some of those hosta have not come up I think is that they have not reached the temperature to do so! I'ld like to suggest to my followers to wait until after that first firm wave of 80ºF/26ºC temperatures before you take that third, last hard look at your garden. I think, if my theory is right, you might be in for some pleasant surprises; and find that hosta come up in more than two waves during the spring. Remember that DNA originated from the tropics of China, Korea, and Japan.
Reader: So your waiting to see if the others come up, and your not quite sure if Hosta White Feather is the right thing to plant.
Author: Right. The 80 degree mark is expected in Minnesota on the last half of the week of June 15 to 21st; and on into the next week.
Reader: I. and probably other readers, have noted you have a wish list of about 300 hosta. What are your immediate interests in wanting to try to grow?
I have a small list of plants I am interested in right now. They come from both the Chaos and Distraction list and the Aesthetic list. The hosta are:
- Designer Genes (red stems with light green leaves)
- Foiled Plot (a very new variety being released. Think of it as Hosta Popcorn without the white. It was the name that caught my attention).
- Jaws (leaves are serrated, yes hosta can have non-smooth edged leaves!)
- My Fine Feathered Friend (Yes, another classic name for hosta! The leaves white 'feathering' pattern is disproportionately small to the rest of the leaf.)
- Nougat (white leaves that develop with green splotches to become variegated. Leaves are inconsistent in coloration)
- Total Eclipse (this hosta has a white 'watermark' line on its face)
- Totally Twisted (leaves spiral on it their axis up to 360º around)
- War Paint (as controversial as the name might be, this hosta is worth noting. The leaves start as dark green and yellow. The leaf then produces a medium dark green which transitions through the leaf to carry the other two colors to its final color for the season. Another observer of this plant online has noted this transition takes only 5 weeks to occur.
- White Feather (leaves come up pure white and then holds the white as long as it can to change over to a lighter green coloration. The transition is a 'stippled' effect.
- Zebra Stripes (leaves start out as green veins on a white background, and then change to pure green leaf).
So the opening phrase, "Rest, Renew, and Regrow" comes back in to play once more. In the end I may have to wait till next year to choose and add that 22nd plant.
Lemon Lime has one new spike. This round may be passing through Fairy Ring stage and thus may need to be replanted for 'optimal growth'. 'venusta' may be experiencing the same thing.
Vulcan's leaves seem small to last years. I must remember that it started with smallish growth and produced larger leaves as the summer went on. The larger growth I was not expecting last year.
Little Chickadee has two new spikes of growth.
Dancing Queen is beginning to look proud. With a few more leaves and she'll be commanding the attention that she finally deserves. Looking forward to it.
Little Devil: Somewhere under that ground I strongly suspect there is a spike wanting to emerge; but we have to wait for that to come.
Itsy bitsy Spider I suspect at this point has lost its fight as it suffered tremendous stress last fall with TWO waves of 90º temperatures.
Emerald Tiara has finally sent up two more spikes, This ought to make it look more full and at least sets the plant back to where it was last season.
Xanadu Empress Wu had also finally sent up its third spike a bit off from where I remember putting it, but it is there! The first and second spikes are nearly at the stage that they were when I cut them back last fall. That's promising for the growth expected to come this season. The third division is up and trying to catch up.
Sum and Substance is producing leaves that have a spear shape to them than round. Not sure why. Some leaves look impressive. Hoping more to come.
The Blue Mammoth, T-Rex, and Popcorn rhizome sets from last year had growth when I planted the replacement hosta for each. The rhizome sets were also replanted in the hopes that they would emerge on their own soon. 12/6/14: Rhizome on T-Rex may have reached surface - leaves by the 15?
12/14/14: As a final comment to my hosta update this month. I dearly love my mom, and she knows I love hosta - since she was the one who started me on this journey of gardening. On the 22th of this month she brought to me four (4) new hosta. As many readers know one does not refuse gifts from ones mother. The hosta she brought were:
- Baby Doll
- Diameter: ?? - 12 inches
- Green leaves changing to variegated green and yellow; looks much like June when mature but in miniature.
- Irish Mist
- Diameter: ?? - 09 inches; first year release from Savory's Nursery. I feel a little fortunate to have this plant.
- Lightly wavy leaves that look something like Vulcan; color transformation has striping on the leaves as it goes from green and white to all green - very much like Zebra Strips.
- Diameter: 12 - 24 inches
- Simple wavy green leaves
- Rainbow's End PP 17251
- Diameter: 12 - 21 inches
- Red scape with black leaves; leaves change from green green to green white; leaves have unstable coloration.
Although the hosta mom gave me are wonderful additions to this garden space; the garden is far to crowed for what space I have. Maybe next year I can tactfully thin the collection back down to 20 hosta which I had originally begun to plan for last year.
The a fore mentioned discussion about adding hosta (from above) now has been totally scrapped. Replacement hosta for Itsy Bitsy Spider and Little Devil are still being considered. I had also considered adding one ... or two... more Dixie Chickadees to liven things up and that still might be done.
Where expansion of plants has occurred it has been impressive. As the spiking of new growth finishes out, the scapes and flowers will be next. Like last year I expect 'venusta' will be first once more …