Hosta 'Sum and Substance'

Hosta 'Sum and Substance' is the all-time classic specimen hosta. It forms a giant size (36 inches high by 70 inches wide) clump and is often used as a focal point plant in the landscape. For many decades it was thought to be a plant from Paul Aden who registered it in 1980. Recently, it has been determined that 'Sum and Substance' was actually originated by Florence Shaw of Massachusetts. It is a plant with unknown parentage but Field Guide to Hostas by Mark Zilis (2014) states that it is "...possibly a hybrid of 'Bengee' with H. nigrescens..."

The leaves are moderately corrugated, have deeply lobed margins, are cupped both up and down and have a long, distinct tip. It has thick substance which  makes it resistant to slug damage.  From late July into August, it produces large pale lavender flowers on four foot tall scapes.

According to The Hostapedia by Mark Zilis (2009), this cultivar "...helped shape the interest in hostas as shade garden plants. It was introduced to the nursery trade in the early 1980s by Paul Aden and Klehm Nursery. Once specimens began maturing in gardens in the late 1980s, gardeners everywhere took notice...Van Wade planted 'Sum and Substance' in his new collection in 1986, and by 1993. It had reached a hosta world record of 48" high by 114" wide...hybrids almost always more closely resemble the other parent...The number of sports that have been generated out of 'Sum and Substance' has been staggering..."

From the Field Guide to Hostas by Mark Zilis (2014), "I often wonder where the hosts world would be if 'Sum and Substance' had never been introduced."

This cultivar has appeared on several of the Popularity Polls by members of The American Hosta Society. It was the 2004 "Hosta of the Year" by the American Hosta Growers Association. This cultivar has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in the UK.


  1. H. 'Chartreuse Wedge'
  2. H. 'Daybreak'
  3. H. 'Green Sheen'
  1. H. 'Green Wedge'
  2. H. 'Vanguard'
  1. H. 'Abba Windows'
  2. H. 'American Idol'
  3. H. 'Bankrupt'
  4. H. 'Beauty Substance'
  5. H. 'Blizzard'
  6. H. 'Bottom Line'
  7. H. 'Buckeye'
  8. H. 'Corona'
  9. H. 'Crickett Bailedout'
  10. H. 'David Allen Haskell'
  11. H. 'Domaine De Courson'
  12. H. 'Eagle's Nest'
  13. H. 'Ferris Wheel'
  14. H. 'Final Summation'
  15. H. 'Fran Godfrey'
  16. H. 'Gift of Sight'
  17. H. 'Golden Piecrust'
  18. H. 'Golden Substance'
  19. H. 'Grand Total'
  20. H. 'Green Gables'
  21. H. 'Gunther's Prize'
  22. H. 'Honeysong Dream Edge'
  23. H. 'Irish Hills'
  24. H. 'Lady Isobel Barnett'
  25. H. 'Leather Sheen'
  26. H. 'Lodestar'
  27. H. 'Parhelion'
  1. H. 'Pomp and Circumstance'
  2. H. 'Prairie Sum Shine'
  3. H. 'Something Good'
  4. H. 'Sum and Subtle'
  5. H. 'Sum Cup-o-Joe'
  6. H. 'Sum It Up'
  7. H. 'Sum Like It Hot'
  8. H. 'Sum of All'
  9. H. 'Sum Piecrust'
  10. H. 'Sum Streaker'
  11. H. 'Sum Sunfish'
  12. H. 'Sum Total'
  13. H. 'Sum Treasure'
  14. H. 'Sum Upper Crust'
  15. H. 'Sum Whopper'
  16. H. 'Summa Cum Laude'
  17. H. 'Sumsational'
  18. H. 'Supersonic'
  19. H. 'Tiffney's Godzilla'
  20. H. 'Titanic'
  21. H. 'Totally Awe Sum'
  22. H. 'Variable Sum'
  23. H. 'Vim and Vigor'
  24. H. 'Warwick Ballerina'
  25. H. 'Watercolours'
  26. H. 'Winter Snow'
  27. H. 'Zebson'
  1. H. 'Abiqua Recluse'
  2. H. 'Academy Ametrine'
  3. H. 'Bubba'
  4. H. 'Courtesy'
  5. H. 'Dumplings with Sauce'
  6. H. 'Emma'
  7. H. 'Emmett Armitage'
  8. H. 'Euphoria'
  9. H. 'Fragrant Gold'
  10. H. 'Golden Decade'
  11. H. 'Golden Memories'
  12. H. 'Grand Canyon'
  13. H. 'Herman's Pride'
  14. H. 'Jaz'
  15. H. 'Jim Cooper'
  16. H. 'Joyce Trott'
  17. H. 'Kevin Kelley'
  18. H. 'Kitty Hawk'
  1. H. 'Leather Sheen'
  2. H. 'Little Black Scape'
  3. H. 'Little Razor'
  4. H. 'Lovely Loretta'
  5. H. 'M. Owen Papuga'
  6. H. 'Metallic Sheen'
  7. H. 'Moby Dick'
  8. H. 'Nancy Gill'
  9. H. 'New Wave'
  10. H. 'Old Coot'
  11. H. 'Ra'
  12. H. 'Raleigh Remembrance'
  13. H. 'Righteous Rays'
  14. H. 'Rosedale Big Bopper'
  15. H. 'Rosedale Genevieve'
  16. H. 'Small Sum'
  17. H. 'Sum More Magic'
  18. H. 'Tossed Salad'
  19. H. 'Warwick Ballerina'

This is one of an increasing number of cultivars which has been found to be susceptible to Hosta Virus X. As research continues, a greater number of cultivars are being reported where at least one plant has been confirmed to have been infected. Of course, this does NOT mean that you should not grow this hosta. Only that you should learn more about this potential problem and be on the look out for it in your garden and at the plant nursery.

Picture taken in 2010 at
Wade and Gatton Nursery and Wade Botanical Gardens

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