In botanical terms, the term species denotes a plant group that occurs naturally and can breed together to create fertile offsprings, which are like themselves. A plant’s species name has two parts – the first part is the plant’s genus name (a genus being a group of one or additional plants having analogous attributes), while the second part is the species name of the plant, for instance, Hosta longipes. Similarly, a subspecies (subsp.) may be defined as a group of plants that occur naturally but vary distinctly from other plants belonging to the same species. Then again, smaller subdivisions occurring naturally in a specific species are known as forma (form) and varieties (var). Cultivated varieties of different species are known as cultivars, which have been particularly hybridized or cross bred.
Hostas are very valuable garden plants and it is always fascinating to have some original hosta species in your garden, which have been used to breed several different cultivars.
Till recently, the hosta species called H. fluctuans was solely grown in Japan. However, now this species is available in various regions and is considered to be a valuable hosta, as compared to other hostas, this species flowers much later in summer. This hosta species grows up to a moderate height – about 24 inches (60 cm), and bears dark green, curvy leaves that are of great use while making floral arrangements. The flower stalks of H. fluctuans are usually 4 1/2 feet (130 cm) tall and bear white blooms that are overspread with violet. Despite its fascinating appeal, this hosta species is not grown quite commonly, as it is not available readily. One of the most wonderful and much loved hosta worldwide – “Sagae”, is bred from H. fluctuans.
- H. Clausa
- This hosta species only grows up to a height of 8 inches and spreads expansively by means of its stolons. Plants belonging to this species produce deep green leaves, while their flowers never open completely. Although this species is rarely found in the gardens, the variety normalis is grown widely. The blue flowers of variety normalis do open and the plants form an excellent low ground cover in your garden.
- H. Crispula
- This hosta species has a moderate to large growth, usually growing up to a height of 16 inches. Its leaves are dark green having undulating margins with irregular white marks. H. Crispula produces slight lavender hued flowers. Ideally, this species should be grown in shade, outside full sunlight. A wonderful hosta species, H. crispula is prone to be damaged by wind and, hence, requires some protection.
- H. Decorata
- This is a low growing hosta species, usually having a height of 10 inches. The leaves of this plant are dull green with undulating, white borders, while the flowers have a deep violet-blue hue. H. Decorata is a stoloniferous hosta that spreads very slowly. Although it is quite difficult to grow this hosta species, it is becoming increasingly popular.
- H. Elata
- Contrary to the H. Decorata, this hosta species is a large plant growing up to a height of 30 inches. Plants belonging to this species have inconsistent characteristics, but they generally bear matt deep green hued leaves having wavy margins and conspicuous veins. The flowers of H. Elata have a mauve hue, while their anthers are yellow.
- H. Fortunei
- This is a relatively large hosta species which has derived its name from Robert Fortune, a plant collector of repute. Interestingly, the species’ identity has a baffling past and has eventually been lost. Nevertheless, some excellent forms of H. Fortunei have been developed and many of them are widely grown in gardens. The forms are, however, do not grow to any significant height, but are roughly only 14 inches (35 cm) tall. On the other hand, these plants spread fast and expansively, making an excellent ground cover. These plants bear light purple or deep lavender hued flowers. One form, called H. f. albopicta bears yellow leaves with green edges. However, the yellow leaves turn greener as they mature. Another form of H. Fortunei is called aurea, and whose leaves are entirely yellow and do not have green margins. As the name of the form H. f. aureomarginata suggests, the plant produces green leaves with golden yellow edges.
- H. Helonioides
- This is a robustly growing hosta species, which, dissimilar from majority of the hostas, have no problem growing in full sunlight. While the plant grows only up to a height of 15 inches (about 40 cm), the attractive flowers of this species appear on tall stalks. This makes H. Helonioides an extremely useful plant for growing facing a border. This species has two forms – one bearing green leaves and the other producing green leaves with white borders. Although the green form is grown widely, the second form is more popular among gardeners.
- H. Hypoleuca
- This hosta species is considered to be a fascinating plant, as it has acclimatized to its natural habitat quite cunningly. In its natural environment, H. Hypoleuca is found growing on rock faces and cliffs, which not only take up, but also reflect heat. Therefore, the leaves of this hosta have developed white undersides with a view to shield itself from such heat. H. Hypoleuca grows up to a height of 14 inches (35 cm) and produces extremely large green leaves that have a soft texture. These plants are in bloom for a very brief duration. Many people consider this hosta to be among the most gorgeous in the genus – irrespective of the fact whether it is a species or a cultivar.
- H. Lancifolia
- This hosta species grows up to a low to moderate height and is generally 12 inches tall having slender, dark green glossy leaves having the shape akin to that of a lance. H. Lancifolia bears purple blooms. This is a stoloniferous hosta species that spreads slowly. It is an attractive species and you may definitely try growing it in your garden.
- H. Longipes
- Like its name, which means “long feet”, this hosta species too is fascinating. The name of H. Longipes has its origin in the fact that when growing in its native environment, the plants thrust their roots deep inside the cracks between the rocks. This is an extremely popular plant in Japan. Unfortunately, it is not easily available in other places. Plants belonging to this species grow up to a height of just 8 inches (20 cm) and bear green leaves that are pointed.
- H. Minor
- This hosta species, as its name suggests, is a very low growing species. Plants belonging to this species grow only up to a height of 5 inches. The leaves of this species have a mild green color and are wavy, while the flowers have a pale purple hue. One form of this species – form alba produces white flowers and is believed to be a variety of the species called H. sieboldii. H. Minor is a stoloniferous species and spread moderately. This low growing species is excellent for growing in a peat bed or rock garden.
- H. Montana
- Although plants of this hosta species vary, it is a relatively large hosta growing up to a height of 30 inches. These plants have dark green, shiny leaves, while color of their flowers varies from off-white to light mauve. These plants grow erect making an excellent specimen in the garden. “Aureomarginata” is among the best forms of this species. This form bears very big shiny green leaves having irregular yellow edges and bear lavender hued flowers. H. Montana is an excellent species, which establishes very slowly.
- H. Nakaiana
- The name of this hosta species has its origin in Japanese and means “decorative hair-piece”, as the blooms of H. Nakaiana have resemblance to the conventional hairpins worn by women in Japan. Normally, plants belonging to this species grow up to a height of 12 inches (30 cm) and are especially mesmerizing, as their entire flower buds appear atop the scape.
- H. Nigrescents
- This hosta species has a moderate to tall height, usually growing up to 20 inches. It produces deep green, leathery leaves that are sprinkled with grey as soon as they appear. The flowers of H. Nigrescents have a light purple hue. The plant has derived its name “nigrescens” owing to its black colored budding shoots.
- H. Plantaginea
- This is a large hosta species, plants of which grow up to a height of 24 inches (60 cm) and produce heart-shaped leaves that have a lustrous, yellowish green hue. The flowers of this species are a major attraction – they are large, pure white and waxy. The aromatic flowers of H. Plantaginea open during the night. Japonica, one form of this species that was earlier called grandiflora bears large flowers, which are often referred to as the August lily.
- H. Sieboldiana
- Among the best-known hosta species, H. Sieboldiana is a relatively big plant that grows up to a height of 30 inches (75 cm). The plants of this species bear big, waxy, bluish-green leaves having a glaucous bloom. The flowers of this species have a sullied white hue. Compared to several other hosta species, H. Sieboldiana has the ability to tolerate drought better. However, it is best to grow this species in a place where there is enough moisture. In fact, elegans, a variety of this species, is considered to be more attractive compared to the species itself. Elegans produces big, creased leaves, while the flowers have a lilac hue.
- H. Sieboldii
- People often mistake this hosta species for H. Sieboldiana owing to the similarity of their name. Nevertheless, they are two different species, with dissimilar features. Dissimilar to H. Sieboldiana, this is a low growing hosta species, which usually grows up to a height of 12 inches (30 cm) and bears slender, lance-like leaves which have a matt deep green hue and three to four pairs of prominent veins. The flowers have a white and purple stripe. H. Sieboldii makes an excellent ground cover in extremely dry as well as moist conditions. This species has many varieties and cultivars, and kabitan is considered to be among the most excellent. This hosta cultivar bears vivid yellow leaves having a dark green, slender and wavy margin. The flowers have a rich purple hue. There is no doubt that kabitan is an outstanding hosta.
- H. Tardiflora
- H. Tardiflora is a relatively small hosta species, whose plants grow only up to a height of 10 inches (25 cm). The plants of this species bear slender, lance-shaped, leathery foliage. They have a smart and lustrous deep green look. The flowers of this species have a lavender hue, but they only bloom in the fall.
- H. Tokudama
- This hosta species has a low to moderate growth and is considered to be a minor adaptation of H. sieboldiana. Normally, plants belonging to the H. Tokudama species grow up to a height of 12 inches (30 cm) and produce circular leaves that are richly glaucous blue. They are heavily creased which makes them look distinct. The flowers of H. Tokudama have a sullied off-white hue. The growth of this plant is extremely slow. Several forms as well as cultivars of H. Tokudama exist and perhaps the best and most popular among them is flavocircinalis. This is a relatively large plant whose leaves have an irregular yellowish-golden border. Flavocircinalis bears very gorgeous looking light lavender hued flowers.
- H. Undulata
- While it is really worth growing this hosta species in your garden, the different varieties of the species are especially important for the gardener. This plant grows up to a moderate height, growing up to a height of 24 inches (60 cm). The leaves are extremely undulating with a creamy-white center, while the margins are quite broad having various hues of green. The flowers of this species are delicately lilac. Albomarginata is one popular variety of H. Undulata, which is occasionally referred to as “Thomas Hogg”. This hosta variety bears mid green leaves having uneven creamy-white borders. Another variety called erromena is a relatively large hosta growing up to a height of roughly 20 inches (50 cm) and produces green leaves. A large form of H. undulata is named H. u. univittata, which usually grows up to a height of about 18 inches (45 cm) and the leaves of this hosta form are relatively less undulating compared to those of the species. However, the leaves of H. u. univittata have a distinct central portion that is creamy-white, while the margins are broad and green hued. The characteristic H. undulata variety that is generally categorized as H. undulata var. undulata, which is occasionally also referred to as variegata, produces small leaves having a creamy-white central area with green edges. Usually, this hosta variety grows up to a height of 10 inches (25 cm) and bears lilac-hued blooms.
- H. Ventricosa
- This is a relatively taller hosta species that grows up to 24 inches (60 cm) and produces attractive mid green leaves and violet-purple flowers that are not only large, but also of good substance. Aureomaculata is an extremely popular variety of H. Ventricosa, which produces leaves having an intense sunshine yellow in the middle, while the margins have an asymmetrical dark green hue. The yellowish part in the center of the leaves turns out to be greener as they mature. As a result, the appearance of plants changes somewhat by fall.
- H. Venusta
- This is among the smallest of all hostas that are usually grown in the gardens. Plants belonging to this species form a very small mound that is only 4 inches (10 cm) above the ground. The plants produce petite, pointed leaves having a mid green hue and each leaf has three to four pairs of very prominent veins. The flowers of H. Venusta have a rich violet-blue hue. H. Venusta is an excellent hosta species for growing in rock gardens in shaded locations.
- H. Yingeri
- This is an interesting hosta species that was only discovered as late as 1985. It is a low growing having a height of just 6 inches (15 cm). H. Yingeri produces very amazing wide, textured, glossy green leaves that virtually squat on the ground. This species is extremely useful for cross breeding, besides being a wonderful hosta species itself.
The anatomy of hostas
Propagation of hostas
Cultivation of hostas
Growing hostas in containers
Hostas in the garden
Pest and diseases of hostas
Companion shade plants for hostas