Fragrant Hostas

There are 58 fragrant hostas, all with their roots in H. plantaginea

H. plantaginea is the only fragrant species hosta, so any hosta with fragrance has H. plantaginea in its background.  Almost all of H. plantaginea offspring except H. ‘Fragrant Blue’ have a wonderful fragrance.  Fragrant hostas need ample sun to create a bloom.

H. plantaginea has the largest bloom of all hostas–approximately 6 inches.  The bloom is pure white and the most fragrant of all hosta blooms.  H. plantaginea blooms around 4 p.m. instead of 7 a.m. like most other hostas.  H. plantaginea is also unique in its ability to “reflush” new foliage during the summer months.  (Most hosta species send up all their foliage in the spring.)  H. plantaginea originated in eastern China, near Beijing and Shanghai, where it can be hot and humid.  This means that fragrant hostas are often the most heat tolerant and can do well in the southern United States up to zone 8 and sometimes even zone 9.

H. plantaginea was commonly known as “August lily.” It was brought to Europe in the 1790’s.

H. plantaginea, a top hosta for hybridizing

Because of the excellent traits of H. plantaginea, including large fragrant blooms, heat and humidity tolerance, beautiful form, “reflushing” of foliage, vigorous growth, and leaf sheen, it has been popular in hybridizing.  There have also been many sports from H. plantaginea and its offspring.

H. plantaginea ‘Aphrodite’, often called just H. ‘Aphrodite’, is a spectacular double-blooming, fragrant hosta and a sport of plantaginea.   Some people have a difficult time getting this hosta to bloom.  It seems to need moist soil, warm days and cool nights and plenty of sun to get it to bloom.  At HostasDirect, Inc. we have never had a problem getting ours to bloom.

Some other fragrant hostas include ‘Holy Mole’, ‘Guacamole’, ‘Stained Glass’, ‘Fragrant Bouquet’, ‘Avocado’, ‘Flower Power’, ‘Fried Bananas’, and ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’.

Deer prefer fragrant hostas

Deer tend to eat fragrant hostas first!  They apparently have a sweeter taste.

The yellow in a hosta is a genetic absence of chlorophyll, which makes the leaves appear different shades of yellow. As yellow hostas contain fewer food-producing chloroplasts, annual fertilizing is important.  (Note: Around 2003, the American Hosta Society changed its show terminology from “gold-leafed” to “yellow-leafed.”  Chartreuse hostas are considered to be in the green category.)

Yellow Hostas Need More Sun

As a general rule, a yellow hosta needs to be planted in a sunnier location to keep its color vibrant.  The yellow color may fade to green without at least two hours of full sun daily. Some glossy, chartreuse hostas change to yellow when exposed to more light, like H. ‘Sum and Substance.’ Yellow or yellow-centered hostas are often sun-resistant.

The temperature of a full-sun area can vary by the time of day and by your location (southern versus northern United States, high altitude versus low altitude).  Even though yellow hostas need some sun exposure, any hosta in full sun will need to be watered frequently.  Overhead watering during the middle of the day can cause water droplets to magnify the sun’s rays and burn the leaves.  Hostas grown in full sun will often turn to a lighter color and the leaves can elongate.  Yellow hostas are most vulnerable to sun damage early in the season when the leaves are expanding.  This is when trees have not gotten all of their leaves back yet.

Using Yellow Hostas in the Garden

Yellow hostas add color, brightness and contrast to the garden.  Their luminescent leaves glow at dusk, dawn or on rainy or overcast days.   Planting next to green or blue foliage makes all of the different colors stand out.  However, over-planting yellow hostas in a blue or green border can produce a spotty effect

Some Yellow Hostas

August Moon, Bitsy Gold, Cheatin’ Heart, Cherry Tart, Dawn’s Early Light, Daybreak, Dragon Tails, Faith, Fan Dance, Fat Cat, Fire Island, Golden Friendship, Golden Scepter, Golden Sculpture, Harriette Ward, Inniswood, Jaz, Jimmy Crack Corn, Key West, King Tut, Lemon Frost, Little Aurora, Maui Buttercups, May, Midas Touch, On Stage, Orange Marmalade, Paradigm, Paul’s Glory, Pee Dee Gold Flash, Piedmont Gold, Rosedale Golden Goose, Solar Flare, Stained Glass, Stardust, Stitch in Time, Sum and Substance, Summer Lovin, Sun Power, Teeny-weeny Bikini, Templar Gold, Thai Brass, Tortilla Chip, World Cup, Yesterday’s Memories, Zounds.

A small percentage of hostas predictably change colors during the course of the season. There are three types of changes:

Viridescence: Hosta emerges white or yellow and becomes greener.

Examples: Amy Elizabeth, Chinese Sunrise, Dawn’s Early Light, Eskimo Pie, Fortunei Albopicta, Gold Edger, Golden Oriole, Guardian Angel, Heart Broken, June Fever, Lemon Frost, Little Sunspot, Manhattan, Nancy, Night Before Christmas.

Lutescence: Hosta emerges green or chartreuse and turns to yellow or whitish yellow.

Examples: August Moon, Bitsy Gold, Bright Glow, Gaiety, Gold Standard, Golden Gate, Golden Scepter, Golden Sculpture, Golden Tiara, Golden Waffles, Grand Canyon, King Tut, Little Aurora, Lunar Magic, Midas Touch, Paradigm, Piedmont Gold, Sea Dream, Shade Master, Solar Flare, Thai Brass, Zounds.

Albescence: Hosta emerges yellow, yellowish green, or with green areas that turn to near white.

Examples: Celebration, Emerald Crust, Fan Dance, Grand Prize, Paul’s Glory, Red Hot Flash.

Lutescence and viridescence are caused by genes related to sensitivity to temperature.  With viridescence, higher temperatures slow down the activity of this inhibitor gene so that increasingly more chlorophyll is produced.  With lutescence, the gene(s) become more inhibiting as temperatures rise so less chlorophyll is produced.  Lutescent hostas need more sunlight than viridescent hostas to bring out their color to the fullest.

These color changes are genetic and are different from the color changes that result from different amounts of sunlight. (ie. ‘Guacamole’ can look at least three different colors depending on the amount of sun.)

Millions of hosta lovers grow hostas under trees, but there are some things to consider.

Every variety of tree grows differently.  Some trees’ roots grow near or above the soil surface and some grow further into the ground.  Some trees are sensitive to soil changes, while others are not.   Keep in mind that a tree’s roots often extend out to the edge of the tree’s crown (leaf growth) of the tree.

The positives:

  • Hostas by trees may get morning sun, late afternoon sun, or filtered light, all of which are ideal. They are more likely to be protected from the intense overhead sun from about noon to 4:30.
  • Hostas may get some hail protection.
  • You can reduce or eliminate the need for weeding or cutting grass around a tree.
  • The base of your tree will look more attractive.

The negatives:

  • Competition for moisture and nutrients—the soil may already be partially depleted, and tree roots can wrap around hosta roots.
  • It may be difficult to dig a hole due to dense tree roots.   (Our garden trowel can help.)
  • Hostas under trees may not get enough light.  Hostas do need some light!   For less light, select a dark green or blue hosta as these varieties have more chlorophyll.


  • Some hosta lovers plant their hostas in containers in the ground to protect the hosta from tree roots.   The container must allow for adequate growth of the hosta’s rhizomes (roots) and have good drainage.  About twice a year, turn the container about 120 degrees in case any tree roots are getting into the drainage holes.   You can also cut out the bottom of the pot.
  • Provide extra water and fertilizer.

Shade-tolerant Perennials

* Astilbe
* Meadow Rue
* Ferns
* Goatsbeards
* Bugbanes
* Epimediums
* Soloman’s seals
* Ligularias
* Cimicifiga
* Corydalis
* Heucheras
* Lamium
* Ajuga
* Lungworts
* Hepatica
* Thalictrum
* Brunnera
* Columbines
* Toadlily
* Bleeding heart
* Jack in the pulpit
* Primula
* Trollius

Shade-tolerant Annuals

* Impatients
* Nicotiana
* Browallia
* Torenia
* Coleus

Partial sun Perennials

* Daylilies
* Martagon lilies

This is THE book hosta lovers have been waiting for!  The Hostapedia is a dictionary-sized index of all of the hostas expert Mark Zilis has encountered, over 7,000 of them!  Each hosta listing has the origin, history, description, and current status of the cultivar, sometimes with a picture and additional comments.  With that amount of information, you’re guaranteed to learn something new. Definitely a must-have if you’re a hosta collector.

What makes a hosta go dormant?

Note, we are fortunate that one of the top, if not the top, shade plant botanists in the world, W. George Schmid,  has allowed me to print this helpful article.

About Flowering and Dormancy — By W.G. Schmid (© 2008 )

Hostas have a mind of their own when it comes to flowering and dormancy. Given a steady climate and weather, they flower faithfully and go dormant just at the right time.  If the weather turns on them, like our weather during the last few years, our usually reliable hostas become finicky and may not flower at all, and worse yet, go dormant during the middle of the summer.  They just will not “do their thing” if the environ-ment turns on them.  First let’s concern ourselves with in-ground plants only.  Observing them “doing their own thing” gave me the idea of recording some of their now unusual behavior and compare it with their normal behavior when it comes to flowering and going dormant.  Most of all I have to say applies to and has been determined for species.  Sports and closely related cultivars may behave the same way, but most other cultivars (hybrids) have a mixture of genes and my determinations may not fully apply to them or apply in a modified way.  Pots are an artificial habitat and can be moved around to change conditions.  This, of course, changes the environment on a whim and my notes do not apply to potted hostas.  Notwithstanding, I will deal with them peripherally.  Here is what I found, stated simply:

1) Flowering periodicity (timing) is rooted in genetics.

2) Dormancy is triggered by environment.

Genetics dictate if a plant is early-, mid-, or late-flowering. For example, H. kikutii is late flowering.  H. montana ‘Aureomarginata’ comes from a southern species of H. montana population so it comes up early wherever it grows.  It gets zapped north or south if there is a late freeze.  This trait cannot be changed by environ-mental factors because it is an evolutionary adaptation to the original habitat climate. If you don’t believe it, just observe H. ‘On Stage’, also a H. montana sport, but one that originated with a more northern population and comes up late enough to miss all the late freezes. So you need to know not only what species is involved, but also what latitude the parent population of a given sport grows.  Thus, for species growing all over Japan, like H. montana, the habitat location is imperative.  Hostas blooming time is set by genetic imprint, regardless of environment.  Yet, if a certain species has habitats that spread over different latitudes, there will be a difference in blooming time, due to an evolutionary adjustment to the location.  Most hosta species do not spread far and wide, so the blooming time is usually a uniform time.  Here in Tucker, Georgia, H. kikutii blooms mid-October until about November and I have some still blooming (in the final stages) out there now.  There is little or no difference in the blooming time between species on top of Black Rock Mountain (3600 feet) at the cabin or in our home garden in Tucker (1200 feet). So the primary timing for blooming start has nothing to do with elevation or temperatures (well, a little bit, but let’s not get complicated!).  Cultivars are another matter they have convoluted and mixed genes and it is impossible to draw conclusions since we don’t have their true genetic makeup in most cases.  They may be a hybrid between an early and late bloomer and one or the other might be dominant.  This could only be found out by observation and recording the results for each cultivar.

The rising of hostas in early spring is triggered by daylength (the days beginning to lengthen), the sun rising higher in the sky, and the outside temperatures beginning to rise. These environmental factors trigger a change in the supply of plant growth regulators (mostly hormones).  The concentration of each growth regulator changes in response to the favorable growing conditions; as a result, plant growth is stimulated.  But the internal growing mechanism is also controlled by the genetic make-up, meaning that the exact required values of warming and day length required differ depending on the original, evolutionary habitat.  That is why toad lilies wait until fall to bloom and daffodils come up while it is still snowing.

Shorter day lengths, i.e., the reduction in sunlight stimulates dormancy but that is INDEPENDENT of the flowering trigger.  Late blooming hostas bloom whenever they bloom in Japan (species only).  Thus, onset of dormancy can happen while there are full blooms on the raceme.  In fact, dormancy can be forced by early freezes while the hostas are in full bloom due to the fact they are late bloomers.  So dormancy is environmental and blooming is genetic. Hopefully they don’t overlap as they do with late blooming hostas sometimes.  H. ‘Tardiflora’ has inherited the late-blooming habit from H. sparsa. Here it blooms in mid-fall (a bit later than H. kikutii).

It is difficult to fool plants, including hostas.  Experimenting around with daylength or surrounding temperatures may be fun, but usually is prone to fail. Yes, you can cover the plant with blankets and change daylength but you will never be able to copy the natural rhythm of daylength.  Likewise, it is impossible to fake air temperatures (which are part of the dormancy trigger), unless the plants are grown in an isolation chamber or a greenhouse.  Root and rhizome chilling can be done in a pot, but for inground plants it makes no sense since the cold will not penetrate the ground deep enough if you just put a pile of ice cubes on top of the plant.  Potting and freezing the plants in a freezer has been tried by people who want to have hostas up and showing in February Flower Shows.  It works, but it is difficult to time, since the warm-up timing has to be adjusted to early- or late-blooming varieties (genes).  Anyway, soil temperatures do not matter for dormancy, because the plants will already be dormant when the soil finally freezes solid up north.  In the south our soil never freezes (or maybe an inch or so).  Cold periods have nothing or little to do with size.  That is primarly controlled by genes, and the amount of moisture and nutrient flow.  Hostas add sugars to the rhizome for next years growth after expending a bunch for blooming and setting seed (late August to early November – location dependent). If the late summer/early fall is dry, they cannot make enough sugars to add size. During drought periods, the rhizome even diminishes in size and as we have seen here in the South, making the rhizome dwindle away and the plant simply disappears after two or three drought years as the rhizome gets smaller and smaller.

There is some connection to length of growing season and plant size. In the North, the season is shorter and the plants must grow faster to complete their seasonal cycle.  The leaves will also grow faster and larger.  In the South they can linger longer and the leaves grow slower and smaller (and maybe more numerous) because they have more time to complete their cycle.  Blooming is still genetically time, but plant growth depends on many environmental factors. Some very late bloomers will be sometimes be caught by early freezes and the flowers will never open or even develop because early freezes destroy the blooms and trigger plant dormancy.  The same happens during severe drought. A lack of moisture and/or high heat will make the plant reduce its transpiration load by shedding leaves or going dormant altogether to save what is left of the rhizome.

How far south will hostas grow? Zone 10 is NOT a hosta habitat. Yes, you can try with a few H. plantaginea derivatives and perhaps store them in a cool area during winter.  I have seen them in sub-tropical Italy in pots.  Being in pots exposes the entire plant to cold air temperatures and they may get enough dormancy to return in spring.  They fail in the ground, though, because the ground stays warm all season.  Whatever might let them succeed in zone 10 would certainly not be a garden habitat, but an artificial one, like that of a hot house for growing orchid in the North.  Some the methods you suggest may work, but all are also artificial methods.  If you had a million, you could build a cool house with the temperatures adjusted to zone 6 and lots of artificial watering during late summer.  That might work but it will cost a fortune.  Here in the South, people grow some hostas in zone 8, but that is about as far south as I have observed them (in Savannah).  I have never seen hostas successfully grown in the ground further south in Florida (zones 9 and warmer), but I have heard of a guy in Florida who installed an underground chilling system to keep his hosta roots cold.  It might be better to grow sub-tropical plants or cacti.

Killing diseases on your garden tools

Garden tools and plants are expensive.   It is important you take care of both and try not to get plant materials that are infected in your garden in the first place!

One of the most, if not the most famous botanist in the world regarding shade perennials and in particular hostas is W. George Schmid.    He has authored such scholarly books as, “The Genus Hosta” and “Encyclopedia of Shade Perennials” and is a frequent contributor to “The Hosta Journal” and other scholarly works.    I asked George recently if he had seen any studies regarding how long to disinfect garden tools, which is increasingly important to prevent the spread of foliar nematodes and other garden diseases.   Here is what George wrote:

“To really disinfect your equipment, it must be very thorough. Brand new tools you can dip, but most of have those old, well used tools.  For those, use 1 part chlorine bleach to 10 part clean water solution.  It is important to wash the dirt off your equipment prior to soaking your equipment in this solution for at least 10 minutes to ensure that all microbial agents are killed.

Soaking in either a 1-to-5 solution of chlorine bleach or a full-strength Lysol or Pine-Sol brought the most consistent protection, as shown in tests conducted by UGA.  Just dipping the blade quickly often did not disinfect properly.  Chlorine bleach generally did a better job for quick dips, although none of the disinfectants proved 100% effective when using quick dips.  So soaking is recommended in all cases.  Tools have sometimes microscopic scratches that can contain air bubbles, which will prevent contact with the solution.  Soaking overnight is most effective.

Although chlorine bleach is the least expensive and generally most effective disinfectant, bleach does corrode tools when used frequently.  It also can splash up and ruin clothes. Lysol caused the least damage to clothes and tools.”

Tom Carlson, owner of this blog and of HostasDirect and IDealGardenMarker adds, “If you leave your tools in these solutions too long you will get corrosion, and possibly lots of corrosion.   So, the trick is to soak as long as needed but not much more.    Then, wash the tools with water and wipe it dry or let it air dry.   Plain water will rust tools very fast as well.    There is one preventative solution.   I know this sounds like a commercial but we have found our plated Hosta Trowels that we sell on our web site do not corrode and they work fantastic for any type of gardening – in particular hostas.    The plating keep any steel from being exposed to the chemicals or water.

A faster, more powerful server now powers HostasDirect.com

In the past few days we switched over to a brand new server.  This change will be most beneficial in the time that it takes to browse our website.  Pages are now several times faster to load!  This change is necessary to keep up with the most current technology.  In the transition, we have added additional layers of security as well as a more reliable backup system.  (Note: we have never had any security or credit card problems with our site.) Our website is powered by a large database, containing records of thousands of hostas for sale, hosta photos, hosta videos, content, customers, orders, and more!  It is our goal to keep up with the latest technology in order to provide you with the best hosta website out there!

Are Foliar Nematodes (Aphelenchoides fragariae) ruining your Hostas?

These pervasive microscopic worms can greatly disfigure a hosta.   Here is a short summary.

Foliar nematodes create brown streaks in your hosta leaves.   When these symptoms appear depends on your growing zone.  (It’s usually August in Minnesota.)  Although they may live in your hosta year round, the symptoms appear when these microscopic worms have amassed a large enough quantity in your hostas to begin to damage the leaves.  They are prolific egg layers and almost impossible to kill. One of the reasons for the increasing numbers of nematodes the past few years is because a few years ago the toxic chemicals that could kill these annoying worms were outlawed. I have read these same Aphelenchoides fragariae live in about 250 species of plants.

Foliar nematodes can be detected using a magnifying glass.  You can have foliar nematodes for a long time but not even know it as their symptoms have not appeared.  Thus, it is possible to share,  sell or buy infected plants without even knowing it.

What can you do to prevent foliar nematodes?

Purchase our Starter TC  or Advanced Starter disease free hostas.   These plants are grown in tissue culture plant laboratories and are tested for viruses and nematodes before going into mass production.   Most of these plants we sell in our business never even touch the ground.

How can foliar nematodes spread?

They travel via water.  If you have hostas infected with foliar nematodes at the top of a slope, you will likely find hostas in the “fall line” below the infected hosta as the nematodes traveled via water to the plants below!

Nematodes can be spread via non-sterilized garden tools that have nematodes on them.   It is important to disinfect all garden tools after each cut.   In particular, each cut if you suspect nematodes are a problem.

I sadly learned from two government disease experts that nematodes can be spread via animals such as pets, rodents, and even birds.   That is another reason why it is close to impossible to guarantee that anything grown in the ground does not have foliar nematodes.   One garden affected can spread foliar nematodes long distances in more ways than we think, so you need to be wary of where you get your plants.

As mentioned, the same foliar nematodes in hostas are appearing on 250 different species of plants now.   Some government plant disease officials told me they felt the many sources of supply of non-regulated plants sold on the internet are causing plant diseases to spread more rapidly.   Again, many people do not even know the nematodes are in their plants.

Pictures and information on foliar nematodes

HostasDirect on Hosta Diseases

University of Minnesota on Foliar Nematodes

The Hosta Library on Nematodes