Let’s face it, most of us are gravitated to white-centered hostas as the leaf contrast in usually very striking. We all think of hostas as the indestructible, easy, no care plant. The problem with the white-centered hostas is that there is no chlorophyll in the white tissue. The white part of the hosta cannot produce food for the roots and needs to be supported by the green parts of the leaf.
Hosta ‘White Christmas’
With that said you can imagine that the more white tissue in the leaf then the harder the plant is to grow. The fact is that these hostas don’t always perform as well as intended and sometimes they don’t survive. This does not mean that you should just give up on trying them but you need to understand that there are multiple factors that can aid you in your quest to grow them. The white-centered hostas will demand more light than other hostas but it wants to be indirect sun. What we mean by this is that morning sun is not as direct and hot as mid-day sun. If these hostas are sited in a bright morning sun location it helps the plant produce energy for the roots. A bright filtered sun during the day is also a good location. Too much direct sun can burn the white part of the leaf. If you have a mostly shaded location then white-centered hostas might not be what you want to plant there although there are exceptions. White-centered hostas with thicker leaves perform great in the shade garden. Examples for us are ‘American Sweetheart’, ‘Ann Kulpa’, ‘Lakeside Spellbinder’ and ‘Night Before Christmas’.
Hosta ‘American Sweetheart’
The white-centered hostas also want an adequate amount of water to help them perform. The only way some of the white-centered hostas will reach their potential size is if they receive a sufficient amount of sun and water in a location with good fertile soil. New Hampshire Hostas always lists the largest size each hosta could possibly reach at maturity, but this is very dependent on location and more important with the white-centered hostas. White-centered hostas will generally be much smaller than the listed sizes because of the the factors listed above.
For the casual gardener these hostas can be quite a disappointment if not sited correctly but for the avid hosta grower these are treasured plants that we try multiple times in multiple locations until we get it right. We have noticed with a few white-centered hostas that patience is a virtue. We stopped selling ‘Lakeside Love Affaire’ and ‘My Child Insook’ because they performed so badly in the container and in the garden. They did not die in the ground but also did not perform well enough to demand a location in the garden. We decided to leave them in the garden and gave them extra care (water and fertilizer), by the fourth year both of them performed pretty well. The ‘Lakeside Love Affaire’ was so nice that we have brought it back into production. This picture is from our garden this year (2014).
Hosta ‘Lakeside Love Affaire’
Another type of white-centered hostas that perform well are viridescent types. These hostas emerge with white but will add more green in the leaf as the season progresses which helps the plant perform better. Hostas that are viridescent are ‘Allegan Fog’, ‘Dancing Stars’, ‘Guardian Angel’, ‘Midnight at the Oasis’, ‘Whirlwind’, ‘White Christmas’, ‘White Elephant’ and ‘Zebra Stripes’.
Hosta ‘Guardian Angel’
In closing, we don’t want you to be discouraged if you were thinking about growing white-centered hostas but rather be educated on what you can do to have better success. You might get a little frustrated and you might have to try multiple times but everyone should own a successful clump of Hosta ‘Andrew’!
Most fine floral arrangements use fern foliage for contrast and texture. The fern provides a back drop for the colorful flowers. Ferns make the colors stand out. They are the Vanna White of the floral world. They can do the same in a hosta garden. Tall ones, short ones, flat ones or vertical ones – there is a lot of variety in the hardy ferns.
The Christmas fern and the Painted ferns can be used in the foreground of the taller hostas or to the side of the shorter hostas. The Ostrich and Royal ferns can stand tall in the background or to the side of the larger hosta.
The Painted ferns have the most color to offer of any of the hardy ferns. Painted ferns are very easy to grow so long as they do not go dry in the summer. Most of the painted ferns are in the 18 to 24 inch height range. Godzilla is a new painted fern that grows to 3 feet! Almost twice the size of the other cultivars. I can’t wait to see it in the garden in 2-3 yrs.
Any of the ferns can be used for massing if you have the room. Some of my favorite for specimen planting are those with dark green leathery foliage. The Shield Fern when it matures really stands out and draws your eye. To me they make a statement.
The rule of thumb has always been to never plant in summer, but rather plant in spring and fall when the weather is cooler. As this is a good rule, it is not set in stone. We do the majority of our planting in the summer months as the plants root in very quickly with the warm soil temperatures. It is not a good idea to plant new plantings in the beating sun, but most of the hostas are being placed in shade so that is not an issue.
Two Rules About Planting In Summer
You need to keep everything you plant well watered, especially during dry periods. So, if you are going on vacation for a week after you planted some new hostas, your results may not be gratifying.
It is also not a good idea to plant bare root plants in the heat of summer as the roots have been disturbed and it takes time for them to redevelop. Our plants are shipped to you in their container with soil (except for AK, AZ, CA and OR), so you don’t have that issue.
My Hostas Are Thirsty!
The most important ingredient to any garden is water. As we have seen in the news, some of you have an excess of water right now. However, up here in New Hampshire we have not seen rain in quite awhile and we have started to run sprinklers on our hosta beds. Extreme dry periods can stress the hostas and they will actually become smaller the following year.
Early morning is the best time to water as there is less evaporation and the plants dry during the day which helps against fungus and rot. A sprinkler left on for an hour once or twice a week will help the hostas through the dry periods. Don’t always rely on a rain storm as it is difficult to judge how much water was actually absorbed by the ground. We use a rain gauge to know how much rain we got with each storm. We like to see an inch of rain a week to keep the gardens flourishing. Check out our blog post on rain gauges.
What To Plant Now
If you do want to plant now, may we recommend some fragrant hostas? The fragrant hostas start to look their best when the summer heat arrives. Soon these beauties will adorn us with their sweet smelling fragrant flowers.
The most important ingredient to any garden is water. We amend and condition our soils in order to manage the water content. We mulch in order to retain water. Water is so essential to a successful hosta garden. It would only make sense that an instrument to measure the daily rainfall is a very valuable tool.
For several years I have had a very simple and inexpensive rain gauge near my side entrance in front of a clump of Hosta ‘Olive Bailey Langdon‘. It is mounted on a short post pounded into the ground in a bed of Thorndale English Ivy. The gauge is not mounted under any dripping trees or roof line. These would interfere with the accuracy.
Hosta ‘Olive Bailey Langdon‘
When there is more than ample rain in the spring to make the gardens flourish it is still interesting to know how much rain is falling from the sky. In the summer it is more valuable to know what fell on my garden that day. Do I need to water that new tree or hosta or lawn to insure survival?
Summer rains are frequently widely variable over a very short distance. This makes a gauge all the more valuable. You cannot rely on the local weather man to tell you the rainfall on your garden. Even a friend 10 miles away could experience a very different result from that last thunderstorm.
Think about where you could mount this great gardening tool in your garden.
For those of you that do not see them, but would like to, it is very easy. Cut an orange in half (I use the Navel oranges) and place it up off the ground atop a fence post or such.
If you remember my blog post about feeding wood peckers under my pergola, I have nails with the heads removed hammered into the top of the pergola. I slam the orange half on top of the nail to hold it in place. This is in view from inside where I can look down and see these colorful birds when they come to feed. The orioles are also visible and audible in the tree tops from time to time.
Our Eastern species of orioles winter in Central America and the top of South America. Seeing and hearing them is like having a piece of the tropics in your backyard for the summer!
For those of you in the West, I would imagine that the Bullocks Oriole would feed on oranges as well as our Baltimore and Orchard orioles do.
I also screw a six inch plastic jar lid to the same area atop the pergola. In this I place tablespoons of grape jelly or grape jam. They feed on this as well. Oranges seem to be the most popular and the jelly washes away in the rain. The orange halves are there until they are empty.
The oranges were in place this year prior to the oriole’s arrival. I noticed the week before they came that the Cat Birds were here – and feeding on the orange halves! If only I could get the Catbirds to stick with the oranges and leave the blueberries to me.
Empress Wu Hosta (40″T x 70″W) and Gentle Giant Hosta (46″ T x 70″W) have been two of our biggest sellers of the giant hosta varieties that we grow over the last two growing seasons.
Hosta gardeners are clearly obsessed with size and I can understand this from my own gardening experience. A four foot tall Gentle Giant sitting out in, or standing out in, a hosta bed is a tantalizing thought.
Sum and Substance Hosta (32″T x 72″W) and Blue Angel Hosta (32″T x 70″W) were the big two in popularity among the hosta giants for a long time. And they still are popular. No hosta garden should be without them.
We are often asked, “What is the bluest or best blue hosta plant?”
It is best to answer this question by first understanding why a hosta is blue. The top layer of a blue hosta leaf is covered with a glaucous coating that provides a blue appearance to the leaf. This coating is often written as being a leaf wax or leaf bloom. This coating is also on fruits including blueberries and plums. The more glaucous coating a leaf has the bluer the appearance.
Hosta Fragrant Blue
Hostas are generally bluer when they first emerge as this is when the leaf bloom is developed. Hosta ‘Fragrant Blue’ (which ironically is not fragrant) has an uncanny ability to send up new foliage late into the season which helps this hosta stay blue longer. Blue hostas plants are also generally bluer as they mature and the leaves generate a thicker leaf bloom.
Why Is My Blue Hosta Not Blue?
Now that we know why blue hostas look blue, we can figure out why they sometimes don’t look blue. The glaucous coating on the hosta leaf is susceptible to the elements of Mother Nature.
The biggest problem with the leaf bloom is that direct sunlight and heat can break down the bloom and decrease the blue color. You may often hear that blue hostas should not be grown in sun. Although direct sunlight should be avoided, blue hostas do their best with some morning sun or a filtered light situation.
Another way that the leaf bloom disappears is from rainfall and overhead watering. The constant pattering of water on the leaf breaks down the bloom and turns a blue hosta green. Customers are often surprised when shown that you can wipe the blue color off of the leaf with your fingers.
Hosta Silver Bay
Great hybridizing efforts have led to hostas with very thick leaf blooms that stay blue almost the whole growing season. Other blue hosta varieties emerge a brilliant blue but are blue/green to green by July. Blue hostas hold their color better in cooler climates and we have read articles of blue hostas being green by the end of May in the south.
There are also in our opinion different shades of blue. Some look silvery blue and others have a deep blue.
So, What Is The Bluest Hosta?
We have seen numerous posts on garden forums and everyone has their own opinion!
Here is a list of our favorites among the blue hosta plant varieties that we offer.