Hosta hypoleuca
Common Name: hosta
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asparagaceae
Native Range: Japan
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: Lavender
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful
Attracts: Hummingbirds
Tolerate: Heavy Shade, Black Walnut

Culture

Easily grown in evenly moist, organically rich, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Best in part shade (some morning sun or sun dappled conditions). Established plants have some tolerance for dry shade (particularly plants with thick leaves), but soils should never be allowed to dry out. Full size and quality form are best achieved with consistent moisture. Water is best applied directly to the soil beneath the leaves. Divide plants as needed in spring or autumn. Division is usually easiest in early spring before the leaves unfurl. Plant in locations protected from wind.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Hosta hypoleuca, sometimes commonly referred to as white-backed hosta, is a medium to large hosta that is native to Japan where it is uncommonly found in small isolated populations attached by clinging roots to damp but mostly sunny south-facing rocky cliffs, ledges and canyon walls. It is noted for its large, thick, medium to dark green leaves which are satiny above but have distinctive pruinose (waxy, powdery white coating) undersides. In Japan, this species is known as Urajiro Gioshi (hosta with the white underside). The white undersides are considered to be an adaptation designed to protect plant leaves from heat radiating off rocky surfaces where the plant is growing. In its native environment, this plant will typically send up only three large leaves, but when grown in gardens on flatter ground, it will send up 5-7 (sometimes to 12) leaves forming a more traditional hosta-like clump. In cultivation, plants typically grow to 15" tall spreading to 3-4' wide. Broad-oval, prominently-veined (9-11 pairs) leaves (to 13" long by 9" wide) have undulate margins, cuspidate tips and cordate lobes. Bell-shaped, pale lavender flowers bloom in a terminal raceme in mid to late summer (July-August) atop an upright to recumbent scape rising above the foliage mound to 26" tall.

Genus name honors Austrian botanist Nicholas Thomas Host (1761-1834) and was first established in 1812. The genus was subsequently renamed in 1817 as Funkia in honor of botanist Heinrich Christian Funk under the belief at that time that Hosta was an invalid name. Hosta was finally reinstated as the genus name in 1905 by the International Botanical Congress.

The specific epithet comes from Greek hypo meaning back and leucon meaning white in recognition of the leaf undersides.

Funkia remains a popular common name today in some areas. An additional common name for plants in this genus is plantain lily (foliage is somewhat plantain-like and flowers are somewhat lily-like in some species).

Problems

Slugs and snails are attracted to the foliage, chewing jagged holes in the leaves, and if left unchecked, can cause serious damage over a fairly short period of time. Watch for foliar nematodes which feed on the leaves causing interveinal browning. Leaf spots and crown rot are less frequent problems. Plants infected with Hosta Virus X (HVX) , tobacco rattle virus or tomato ring spot virus should be immediately removed from garden areas and destroyed. Otherwise, hostas are virtually pest-free and are considered ideal low-maintenance garden perennials. Leaves, particularly of exposed plants, can be severely damaged by hail storms. Leaves are commonly eaten, often voraciously, by deer.

Garden Uses

Hostas are a mainstay of shade gardens. Excellent as a specimen or in groups. Woodland gardens. Borders. Plant in shady areas where the pruinose leaf undersides can be easily observed. Although endangered in the wild, this hosta is available through some nurseries in the U.S.