A Little About White Hostas

I’m not sure I should admit this in writing, but the first time I saw a white hosta, at quick glance I thought it was dead.  Was it just a clump of overwintered leaves that had been neglected during spring cleanup?  As I’m not one to seek out a black petunia, a blue rose, or, for that matter a white hosta – it just seemed logical that the plant was ill or had befallen an unfavorable fate.  But at a closer look, I was definitely wrong.  It was a white hosta – healthy, and surprisingly quite interesting and even beautiful.  (In retrospect, I think it must have been a Hosta White Feathers).

'White Feathers' emerges nearly all white.

It turns out that a white hosta can be very much alive, with a few asterisks to the definition:

  • ALL WHITE HOSTAS:  A seemingly magical plant, brilliant in its all white hue.  Well, be wary because no matter your gardening experience a truly all-white plant will die.  There are some hostas that emerge entirely white, BUT in order to survive they turn to green as the season progresses.  Remember back to biology class and that plants use chlorophyll to make their food – so all plants need some green tissue.  But as long as the hosta can produce and store enough energy for its survival, there can be many possible color combinations.
  • PARTIALLY WHITE HOSTAS:  Color changes are actually fairly common in hostas, and can affect the whole plant, the leaf center, the margins, etc.  While external factors like sunlight and soil can affect the color, more permanent variations are due to genetic mutations.  The most frequent changes are:
    • Viridescense:  Emerge white or yellow and turn green.
    • Lutescense:  Emerge with shades of green that turn to shades of white or yellow.
    • Albescence:  Emerge in a shade of yellow-green and turn to near white.

'Guardian Angel' displays viridescense

'Little Aurora' displays lutescense

'Celebration' displays albescence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To determine the difficulty to grow, consider the ratio of white to green in the plant.  As a loose rule of thumb, the more white tissue there is, the more sensitive the plant and the more particular it will be about sunlight.  Additionally, white leaf tissue is often thinner, and can easily burn or melt-out.  Also remember, these plants need to create their food either in a fewer number of days/weeks than green hostas, or using less chlorophyll than green hostas.  They need the opportunity to make the most of what they’re given.

Perhaps this will be the summer I get my hands dirty.  I like the bold look of Lakeside Spellbinder and also the upright shape of Fireworks.

4 thoughts on “A Little About White Hostas

  1. Hi . Thanks for the info on white.near white hostas.White Feathers has been on my must have list for awhile now.
    Fireworks is a favorite of mine.

    Bill

  2. My only experience with a white hosta was one that was growing in a pot with a hosta at Costco. I’m assuming that it was a sport of that plant. It never turned green and the leaves would turn transparent and then die. I put it out of it’s misery later that summer.

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