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While entering information on over 13,700 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 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 Unfortunately, outdated or incorrect names may appear on plant labels or in catalogs and books so we have included cross references to dozens of "Duplicate Name" hostas in our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 by us 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 about Hosta Leaf Colors.


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:

 

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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.
 

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Medial or Medio Variegation - 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.
 

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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 over time. 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 large size center of the leaf is yellow with a relatively narrow band of green in the margin, is it a green medial (center) variegation or yellow marginal variegation? We would call it yellow marginal variegation since yellow covers 60% of the surface and is the base color of this leaf.

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.
 

More about Hosta Variegation Colors.

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

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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.
 

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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 basic term "Sport" in our database to differentiate between this type and sports that we know to have originated in tissue culture. Unfortunately, we are aware that many of the cultivars listed in this way probably originated in tissue culture but they are not listed that way in registration materials or in catalogs or other resources.
 

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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. However, many of the cultivars which are listed simply as a "Sport" probably originated in tissue culture but they are not designated that way in registration materials or in catalogs or other resources available to us. More on Tissue Culture Propagation...
 

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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 heritage of a cultivar based on the known characteristics of certain species or breeding plants. This results in comments such as "H. 'Sieboldiana' is in this cultivar's background" or it is an H. 'Sieboldiana'-type hosta. However, unless the mother and/or father are named cultivars, we have placed such plants in the "Unknown" category in our database. 

More about Hosta Hybridizing.

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 always 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 missing.

There is at least one hosta, H. 'Miracle Lemony' which has yellowish colored flowers. Also, many hybridizers are attempting to breed hostas with various shades of red in their blooms.

More about Flower Color.

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 make fit the standard dates as closely as possible.

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 about Bloom Season.

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 successfully completed registration during the previous calendar year. The release of this document completes the official registration process. For example, registration forms completed in 2020 are not truly registered until the publication is issued sometime in 2021.

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 about Hosta Registration.  Also, Lists of Registered Hostas

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 organizations who registered the cultivar with the The American Hosta Society 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 and others. So "AHS" may appear as the source of hosta cultivars although the organization itself 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.

The plant from which seeds are harvested is called the pod parent and it is the "mother" of the next generation of hostas. Often, only the pod parent can be identified because the flower was pollinated by bees and the source of the pollen is "unknown". Bees are notoriously bad record keepers. Plants with unknown pollen parents are often referred to as open-pollinated.

More about Pod Parents.

The plant that provides the pollen which fertilizes the eggs resulting in seed production is called the pollen parent i.e. the father. Most hybridizers carefully record the name of the plant from which they took the pollen when making precise crosses. However, many, many hybrids come from matings where the pollen parent is not known since the pollination was done by the bees wandering around the hosta beds.

More about Pollen Parents.

When a plant makes a "spontaneous" change in one or more of its parts, the new tissue is known as a "sport". Hostas are among the plants that seem to make these changes fairly frequently. Sometimes one division on the plant will suddenly change from an all-green plant to one that has some leaves that have leaves with a yellow variegated margin. When this change occurs in the garden or in nature, we call it a garden sport. During the high tech process of tissue culture propagation, a higher percentage of hostas seem to mutate into sports.

More about Sport Parent.

At times, the background of a hybrid hosta is presented in the form: (’Big Ben’ x ‘Trixi’) x [(’Tot Tot’ x ‘Darla’) x (’Macho’ x ‘Rhino’)]. This is called a Complex Cross.

In this case, we learn about the parents of the pod (female) parent and the grandparents of the pollen (male) parent but neither the actual pod or pollen parent are named. Although we know a lot about the plant’s heritage, we do NOT know the name of the parents so the parentage should probably be listed as “unknown”. In our Database, we enter this information as the Genetic Background of the hosta cultivar.

The complex cross shown above is like saying that Mary Smith and Jim Jones had a daughter. Judy Right and Bob Wrong had a daughter and Lily White and Ben Palmer had a son who got married. These two unnamed people had a son who married Smith and Jones daughter. They then had a son who they named Billy. What are the names of Billy's parents? We don't know from the information presented. We only know the mother's parents and the father's grandparents.

I'm not sure why hybridizers do not name parent plants that they use. I suppose there are cases where the parent plant is a seedling that has some undesirable traits but also has some traits the the hybridizer wants to pass on to the next generation. Therefore, they feel the parent plant does not warrant naming and introduction as a new cultivar in its own right.

Some hybridizers use a large group of hostas which are only given a number for a name. Jerry Hadrava of Iowa, for example, had around 18 breeding hostas in his RD numbering system that he used as parents for a large number of plants in his Rosedale Series. To our knowledge, although these plants are in the background of dozens of other hostas, none of them was ever given a true cultivar name.

More about Complex Crosses.

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