While entering information on over 12,900 hosta names in our database, we have tried to be consistent with the terms and definitions as defined in The American Hosta Society (AHS) procedures for registering new hosta cultivars. This is not always easy to accomplish since the descriptions provided by various information sources such as hosta books, online nurseries and catalogs deviate from these "official" terms. So, we have tried our best to make them to fit into the AHS format.

This is the term used for a "cultivated variety" of a plant. These names are written in a format that has a single apostrophe ' before and after the name. Cultivars are generally plants that have been propagated asexually (not by seed) so that each plant of a certain cultivar name is the same as every other plant with that name. An example would be Hosta 'Sum and Substance'.

The names of cultivars must fit certain standards set up by an international committee on plant names. In hostas, unfortunately, there are several instances where different plants have been given the same name. If one of them is registered with the AHS, that plant is the "official" hosta of that name. Any other, non-registered hostas of the same name need to be renamed to avoid confusion. Unfortunately, outdated or incorrect names may appear on plant labels or in books so we have included cross references to dozens of "Duplicate Name" hostas in our database.

According to the AHS, there are five official size categories for hostas including Giant, Large, Medium, Small and Miniature. In some information sources, actual measurements are provided for the hosta clump's height and spread while in others, terms such as "medium to large" or "tiny" are used and needed to be interpreted to fit one of the 5 categories.

Remember that sizes are based on physical measurements of individual plants at one point in time. Unfortunately, sometimes that may be based on measuring only one plant which may not be "typical" or it may be an immature plant that has more growing to do in future seasons. So, you are likely to encounter some variance in your hostas compared with the listed size in catalogs and websites. Fortunately, this should not be a major factor. More...


There are 3 official "base" colors which may be applied to describe hosta leaves. A base color is one that covers 60% or more of the surface of the leaf. Base colors include blue-green (commonly called blue), green (ranging from chartreuse to dark green) and yellow (including so-called gold colors).

A few highly variegated cultivars have the color white covering 60% of the leaf, however, white is not considered one of the base colors. More...

Leaf variegation occurs due to either the complete or partial absence of the green molecule, chlorophyll, in the plant's tissue. Variegation expresses itself in shades of white, yellow or various intensities of green or blue-green. There are three locations where variegation commonly occurs in hosta leaves including:


Marginal Variegation - This is the lack of chlorophyll and presence of an alternate color along the outside edge of the leaf blade. It can range from a pencil thin strip to a very wide pattern covering up to 40% of the leaf surface.


Medial Variegation aka Medio - In this case, the center of the leaf is a different color from the true base color (green, blue-green or yellow). In some plants, the white medial variegation may actually take up more than the 40% of the leaf surface.


Streaked Variegation aka Splashed - These plants have randomly occurring streaks of different colors spread throughout the base color. We sometimes use the term "speckles" when small areas of yellow, white and light green appear in the leaf. Streaked variegation is considered the least "stable" form and plants often revert to either the original base color or to a marginal or medial variegation. These plants are valued as breeding plants by hybridizers. More...

Determining which category fits a particular hosta is not always easy. We tried to base the variegation type on the location of the chlorophyll influenced base colors; green and blue-green. For instance if the center of the leaf is yellow with a relatively narrow band of green in the margin, is it a yellow medial (center) variegation or green marginal variegation? We would call it yellow medial variegation because the lack of chlorophyll is the basis of variegation.


There are several colors that may appear in contrast to the base color of a variegated hosta leaf. These would include yellow (light yellow to gold), white (which includes pure white, near white and cream colored), green (usually a lighter or darker shade than the base color) and blue-green.

New hostas are created or occur naturally in several ways including:


Hybrids - A hybrid is the result of transferring the pollen from the stamen of a flower to the pistil (egg) of that same flower (self-pollination) or the flower of a different hosta (cross or open-pollination). This may be the result of a conscious manipulation by a hybridizer or a "seedling selection" where bees did the transfer and the actual pollen parent plant cannot be identified.

When a cross is listed it is in the format: Pod Parent (Mother) × Pollen Parent (Father). Thus a cross of H. 'Blue' × H. 'Green' means that the seeds were borne on H. 'Blue' and H. 'Green' provided the pollen to fertilize them. If a plant is said to be a hybrid but only one plant is listed, it is the mother plant which bore the seeds and the pollen parent is unknown.


Sports - This describes the more or less "spontaneous" change of a part of a plant which then displays different characteristics from the rest of the mother plant. Such hostas may be the product of so-called "sport fishing" where a person discovers that one or more divisions of a hosta have mutated in the garden or nursery. We use the term "Nat-Sport" in our database to differentiate between this type and sports that originated in tissue culture.


TC Sports - This type of sport occurs during the tissue culture (TC) propagation of hostas. Since various growth hormones are used in the TC process and very large numbers of plants (clones) are produced in a short period of time, a higher percentage of sports occur than would be the case in the garden setting. Some of these sports are unique enough to warrant introduction as new cultivars. In recent decades, a large percentage of the new variegated cultivars have come from TC labs. More...


Unknown - Sometimes the exact origin of a cultivar cannot be determined. Someone just "found" a plant in his or her garden or the circumstances of the origination are long forgotten or were never recorded. Hosta experts might guess at the background of a cultivar based on the known characteristics of certain species or breeding plants. However, unless the mother and/or father are named cultivars, we have placed such plants in the "Unknown" category in our database. 


Hosta flowers generally range in color from white to near-white to various shades of lavender and purple. Some blossoms have stripes on them or translucent edges on the tepals (hostas have tepals rather than petals). We try to list the base color of the flower in our database.

Unfortunately, for some reason, even when a hosta is registered with the AHS, information on flower color and season is often omitted.

BTW - There are reports from Japan of hostas with yellow flowers...stay tuned. Also, many hybridizers are attempting to breed hostas with various shades of red in their blooms. More...

This refers to the approximate timeframe in which flowers are borne on a particular hosta cultivar or species. Generally, bloom times are given in a range of calendar dates but actual flowering time may vary by garden location (north vs south) and type of growing season.

The registration form lists Before June 1, 6/1 to 7/15, 7/15 to 8/15, 8/15 to 10/1 and After 10/1. Unfortunately, many hostas are described as flowering in "July" or "early August" which does no fit neatly into the official registration dates so we try to fit them in to the standard dates.

Based on the information sources we enter bloom dates as June, June into July, July, July into August, August, August into September, September and September into October.

Although hosta originators are asked to list specific bloom dates, it might be just as useful to think in terms of early, mid or late season blooming rather than to expect a plant to bloom the last week of June every year. Oh, well. More...


This is the year in which the cultivar was accepted for registration by The American Hosta Society. Each year, the AHS publishes a document that announces all the cultivars that completed registration during the previous calendar year. The release of this document completes the official registration process. For example, registration forms completed in 2010 are not truly registered until the publication is issued sometime in 2011.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, a fairly large percentage of new (and old) hosta cultivars are not registered with AHS. These are signified by an "NR" in this column. More...

This column designates the people or entity involved with the origination and/or registration of a new hosta cultivar. Generally the names listed fall into two categories.

- Originators are those people or enterprises involved in the "creation" of the cultivar. These are the ones who hybridized, selected or discovered a new plant as a sport or seedling.

- Registrants are the people or businesses who registered the cultivar with the AHS. In a large number of cases, one person or entity is both the originator and registrant. However, in others, it can be two or more different names.

For older, "historic" cultivars which were introduced before registration became available, another person may have completed the process on behalf of the now deceased originator. Some plants that originated outside the U.S. have also been handled in this manner. For example, Peter Ruh has registered many, many cultivars on behalf of other originators for a variety of reasons.

Also, The American Hosta Society itself has registered many cultivars on behalf of some of the early pioneers of the hosta world. So "AHS" may appear as the source of hosta cultivars although the organization has not actually originated any hostas.

BTW - The registration process also allows for recognizing the person who named the hosta cultivar and the person or business who introduced it into commerce. We do not list these names in our database but, if you are interested, they will appear on the official registration form.

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