One of the "mysteries" of hostadom is that certain large, blue-green hostas with yellow marginal or medial (center) variegation suffer from a syndrome called spring desiccation burn. One of the all-time classic cultivars, H. 'Frances Williams' was among the first to be noted as experiencing this type of damage. Other Hosta sieboldiana-type plants such as H. 'Golden Sunburst' and H. 'Borwick Beauty' are also severely impacted. A similar plant, H. 'Olive Bailey Langdon' is only slightly affected. Others of this type do not seem to be bothered at all.

What happens is that by early summer, parts of the yellow variegation become translucent and then turn brown to rusty-orange in color. The blue-green tissue of the leaf is never affected. Also, similar types of plants that have white instead of yellow margins such as H. 'Northern Halo' and H. 'Northern Exposure' are not affected.

Over the years, I have grown H. 'Frances Williams' in 4 or 5 different locations in my landscape. These were in differing levels of shade and water conditions. Each one would look different from all of the others in terms of how much spring desiccation burn they suffered. Some would be severely bothered one year but hardly blemished the next.

The theory is that the problem is "physiological" which means that it is not caused by a disease or insect. Rather it seems to be caused when the leaves are rapidly expanding in the early spring and the night temperatures drop near or below freezing. High winds or direct sunlight on the plant the next day causes the drying and death of the leaf tissue. The dead tissue then turns a rusty orange color.

Here are some listings of hosta cultivars that a) Suffer Desiccation Burn or b) Resist Desiccation Burn.

 

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