Uncommon, Unusual, and Unique Hostas

Uncommon, Unusual, and Unique Hostas

Our favorite hostas that stand out and make a statement in the garden

By Published September 05, 2019 Updated August 01, 2023

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The following article is part of a series geared toward entry-level gardeners. For deep dives into a variety of perennials that we have sold over the decades, visit our archive of in-depth perennial articles written by Tony Avent, Dr. Patrick McMillan, and other Plant Delights and JLBG experts. We also have transcripts of our Gardening Unplugged videos, recorded during our Open Nursery and Garden Days, that have great information for gardeners of all experience levels.

Many folks believe hostas come in only two varieties; variegated and non-variegated. Nothing could actually be further from the truth and indeed the genus Hosta has grown to include over 6,000 unique cultivars of which more than 150 are garden-worthy specimens.

So, what makes a unique hosta? It probably all depends on your level of hosta nerdery but for the beginner, let's narrow it down to the most obvious traits; fragrance, foliage, and size.

Fragrant Hostas

Fragrant hostas fill the air with a wonderful and delicate scent and attract pollinators to your garden. A number of fragrant hostas today are derived from Hosta plantaginea which has been used to produce a number of fragrant hybrid hostas that also do excellent in our North Carolina summers.

Some of our favorite fragrant hostas:

Hosta plantaginea ‘Ming Treasure’ - 'Ming Treasure' is an exciting new hosta with chartreuse-edged foliage. It features a wide chartreuse margin that becomes more vibrant against the light green background as the season advances. In August, the plant produces 2-foot tall stalks topped with fragrant pure white flowers, which attract hummingbirds. Overall, 'Ming Treasure' is a delightful hosta with a combination of attractive foliage and beautiful flowers.

Hosta ‘Guacamole’ - This hosta is a reverse variegated sport of 'Fragrant Bouquet' with large chartreuse-gold foliage and a wide green edge. It forms a vigorous clump that can reach up to 4 feet in width. Just like 'Fragrant Bouquet', it also produces giant-sized, near-white fragrant flowers that attract hummingbirds in late summer.

Hosta ‘Summer Fragrance’ - This hosta is an upright vase-shaped variety with long light green leaves that have attractive white borders. It forms a 3-foot wide clump and produces highly fragrant lavender flowers on 40-inch tall scapes during midsummer. It is known for its strong growth and is likely to be a favorite for any gardener.

Hostas With Unique Foliage

Although variegated hostas can be real show-stoppers, there is an amazing amount of variation of foliage textures and shape above and beyond just variegated patterns. We also love pairing variegated with non-variegated for contrast. Some of our favorite hostas with unique foliage:

Hosta 'Designer Genes' - Hosta 'Designer Genes' is a stunning hosta with attention-getting features. It is an Arthur Wrede hybrid that forms a 1-foot tall by 28-inch wide clump of yellow leaves that emerge as brilliant gold in spring. The leaves contrast beautifully with the bright rhubarb-red petioles. As summer progresses, the leaves turn green, but the color can be maintained longer with some morning sun exposure. This hosta variety has shown great vigor and performance in the display garden, and the growers hope that others will enjoy it just as much in their own gardens.

Hosta 'Blue Waves' - 'Blue Waves' is an exclusive 2022 introduction by Plant Delights and JLBG, created by Hans Hansen. It is a complex cross involving 'Neptune', 'Komodo Dragon', and other hosta varieties. This hosta forms a 19-inch tall by 56-inch wide specimen with long pointed, deeply-waved blue leaves. The ruffled foliage is a particular favorite for the growers, and they hope others will enjoy it as much as they do.

Hosta 'Cathedral Windows'  - 'Cathedral Windows' is a hosta introduced by Hans Hansen, deliberately created as a tetraploid mutation of his renowned Hosta 'Stained Glass'. It forms 3-foot wide clumps with large, 9-10 inch round, dome-shaped golden leaves, bordered by a 3-inch wide dark green edge. In late summer, it produces 40-inch tall stalks with very large, highly fragrant flowers, attracting hummingbirds. It can be likened to a vibrant version of Hosta 'Holy Mole' due to its striking appearance.

Miniature Hosta Varieties

When you think of hostas, you probably imagine a large clump of foliage with wide leaves spreading out in every direction with tall scapes of lavender flowers. But did you know that there are hosta hybrids that are only 1" tall and less than 1' wide? These miniature hosta varieties are indeed unique hostas and worthy of adding to your garden or in a patio container. Here are just a few of our favorites:

Hosta 'Fingernails' - 'Fingernails' is a miniature hosta introduced in 2019 by Plant Delights and JLBG. It is a result of our breeding program and features extremely tiny leaves. The breeding involved crosses with 'Hush Puppie', 'Silver Bay', 'Blue Mouse Ears', and 'Cracker Crumbs'. 'Fingernails' is a vigorous midget, growing only 1 inch tall by 8 inches wide. Its unique feature is its tiny 1-inch long by 0.5-inch wide dark green leaves, attached to visible petioles, making it a truly distinct hosta variety.

Hosta 'Fingertips' - 'Fingertips' is a miniature hosta introduced in 2021 by Plant Delights and JLBG. It is a hybrid from 2007, involving 'Blue Mouse Ears', 'Silver Bay', 'Hush Puppie', and a special selection of wild collected Hosta sieboldii. This hosta matures at 3 inches tall by 1 foot wide, featuring pinkie-sized, cardboard-textured, light green leaves. The clumps are charming and topped with perfectly proportioned lavender flowers on thick stalks, starting in mid-June, just above the foliage mound. 'Fingertips' is a delightful addition to any garden.

Hosta 'Green Ice' - 'Green Ice' is a miniature hosta introduced by Plant Delights in 2018. It forms a compact clump, reaching 2 inches tall by 9 inches wide. The clump consists of dense, fast-offsetting .5-inch wide by 2.5-inch long pointed green leaves. In late June, short stalks emerge, bearing medium lavender flowers. The breeding process for 'Green Ice' began in 1995 and involved various crosses, including Hosta venusta, kikutii, 'Big Daddy', 'Blue Jay', and 'Dorset Blue'. This hosta is the result of careful breeding and is a delightful addition to any garden.

Tips for Growing and Caring for Your Unusual Hostas

Hostas are beautiful and popular shade-loving perennial plants known for their attractive foliage and low maintenance requirements. Here are some basic tips for growing and caring for hostas:

  1. Choose the Right Location: Hostas thrive in partial to full shade, so select a location in your garden that receives dappled sunlight or only a few hours of direct morning sun. Avoid planting them in areas with intense afternoon sunlight, as it can scorch their leaves.
  2. Prepare the Soil: Hostas prefer well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Add compost or well-rotted manure to the soil before planting to enhance fertility and improve drainage.
  3. Planting Hostas: Plant hostas in the spring or early fall when the temperatures are cooler. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of the plant and place it at the same depth it was in the nursery pot. Space multiple hostas about 1 to 3 feet apart, depending on the variety.
  4. Watering: Hostas like consistent moisture, so water them regularly, especially during dry periods. However, make sure not to overwater, as they don't like sitting in waterlogged soil. A layer of mulch around the base of the plants can help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.
    Image of Hosta 'Green Ice'
    Hosta 'Pixie Dancer'
  5. Fertilizing: Hostas benefit from regular fertilization. Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring when new growth emerges and again in mid-summer. Follow the package instructions for application rates.
  6. Dividing Hostas: Over time, hostas can become overcrowded and may need to be divided to maintain their vigor and health. Divide the plants in early spring or fall, every 3 to 5 years, using a sharp spade to separate the clumps into smaller sections.
  7. Pest and Disease Control: Hostas are generally resistant to pests and diseases, but slugs and snails can be a common problem. Use natural or chemical slug repellents if needed. Inspect the leaves regularly for signs of damage or disease and take appropriate action if necessary.
  8. Winter Care: In colder climates, hostas die back in the winter. Leave the foliage in place until it turns brown and withers naturally. It provides some protection to the plant. Once the leaves have died back, you can cut them back to the ground to prepare for the next growing season.
  9. Protection from Wildlife: Hostas are often favored by deer and rabbits, so if you have these animals in your area, consider using physical barriers or repellents to protect your plants.
  10. Variety Selection: Hostas come in various sizes, shapes, and colors. When choosing varieties, consider the mature size and growth habit to ensure they fit well in your garden space.

By following these tips, you can enjoy healthy and vibrant hostas in your garden, adding beauty to your landscape with minimal effort.

Hopefully this gives you a little insight into the wide variety of unique hostas available on the market today and gives you a reason to step outside of your hosta comfort zone. Be sure to check out our selection of unique hostas for sale and let us know if we can help you find the right hosta.

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