Perfect Perennials

Hosta Glossary
All About Hostas
Plant Selection
Hosta Seed
Hosta Glossary
Dealing with Slugs
Dividing Hostas
Compost Tea
Invasive Tree Roots
Sun Tolerant Hostas


Hosta Golden Tiara

AlbescenceCultivars have yellow, yellowish green, or green areas that turn to near white.

AntherThe upper part of the stamen, male flower part, in a capsule-like structure, that splits to release yellow pollen. The color of the anther can be used to identify some hostas.

Anthesis The period of time between the opening of a flower and the setting of seed.

ApomixisThis occurs when asexual seed is produced without the normal fusion of pollen and egg resulting in seedlings that are genetically identical to the pod parent. This is found for example in H. ventricosa.

BloomThe white, gray, or blue downy surface on a leaf, also called Glaucous. Bloom can also mean the flower.

Bloom PeriodThe time period between when the first flower of a stem or clump opens or is receptive to pollination and the last flower is open or receptive.

Blue to Green – The loss of blue is caused by the loss of pruinose epidermal wax, which produces a blue, glaucous sheen over a green background color.

Bract The diminutive modified leaf or leaf- like structure on the flower stem below each flower. It protects the developing flower as the scape expands from the crown.

Chimera Plant or plant parts that contain cells from two genetically different sources and are important in variegation.

Clone A group of genetically identical individuals produced by asexual propagation.

Corolla In Hosta the corolla is a collective set of petals and sepals, fused into tepals, normally six, appearing as two sets of three.

Cordate Heart-shaped, having two equal, rounded lobes

Crown The base of a plant where the roots and shoots join. The crown is made up of the structure of old eyes (where present) and new eyes as well as dormant eyes. It is also the woody rootstock that stores the energy for the dormant hosta. Usually evident in a hosta with 3 or more eyes.

Cultivar A Contraction for "cultivated variety"; a cultivar is a plant that is clearly distinct, uniform, and stable in its characteristics, and when propagated, retains these characteristics.

Cupped The leaf blade has a concave shape.

Decurrent The way in which the leaf blade may run down the sides of the petiole.

Dormant Bud This is small white conical projection can be found around this season's active eyes and the former season's eye. Dormant buds can be forced out of dormancy if the main eye is damaged or by a chemical stimulant.

Drawstring This is a hosta problem where the edge of the leaf grows more slowly than the center, making the leaf cup and eventually tear around the edge. This usually occurs on Hostas with light-colored margins.

Eye A growing shoot from the crown, supporting 1 to perhaps 12 leaves. The new eyes are evident as projections from the crown in early spring. Hosta growers will discuss their hosta sizes based on the number of eyes, but recognize that a hosta with 3 small eyes may have less presence in the garden than one with 1 large eye.

Filament The long thin part of the stamen in the male part of the flower that holds the anther.

Flush A set of leaves arising from the eye(s). A hosta may produce 2, 3, or more flushes from each eye during a season. In some hostas, the later flushes will have a slightly different appearance from earlier flushes. For example, later flushes of 'Undulata' may show hazy green centers rather than the white centers of spring leaves.

Genus – A taxonomic unit below that of the family. All hostas are in the genus Hosta.

Inflorescence The arrangement of flowers and bracts along a stem, also called flower head.

Juvenile The non-adult phase of a plant’s life when leaves are often narrower than in the adult hostas and the variegated margin will be narrower.

Lanceolate A lance-shaped leaf that has a width that is less than half the length.

Lutescense Cultivars emerge green or chartreuse and turn to yellow or whitish yellow.

Melt-out The problem is most often seen with white-centered hostas where the leaf substance disintegrates leaving a skeleton or disappearing entirely.

Mid-rib This is the center vein of a leaf.

Morphology The study of the shape and form of plants.

Node The point on the leaf stem where they are attached to the crown.

Obovate Sides curved with greatest breadth above the middle.

Obtuse – Blunt-pointed, terminated by a rounded end.

OP (Open Pollinated) – This distinguishes controlled pollen crosses where the breeder transfers pollen from one flower to another from uncontrolled ones where the flower either pollinated itself or a hybrid was created by insect activity. Hosta pollen is too heavy to move by wind.

OS (Originator's Stock) At first (in the days of yore before tissue culture) this meant that you could easily trace your plant back to the original named plant, preferably with as few steps in-between as possible. Currently, it just means that you can positively state that the plant never went through a tissue culture stage. Perfect Perennials Nursery think that's worth some cost so you can be more assured of the stability of the genetics.

Oval Sides curved with greatest breadth at the middle, elliptic. Ratio = 2:1 to 3:1.

Ovate Sides curved with greatest breadth below the middle, egg-shaped. Ratio = 2:1 to 3:2

Petiole The stem or stalk of a leaf that extends from the ground to the base of the leaf and attaches the leaf to the crown. The characteristics of the petiole (flat, winged, etc.) can help in identifying hostas. Hostas with spotted or even purple/red petioles are hot right now, as breeders attempt to carry the red color into the leaf of the plant.

Piecrust In Hosta this is a consistent rippled or crimped appearance limited to the outer edge of a leaf.

PistilThe female part of the flower consisting of style, stigma, and ovary.

Pod – see seed pod

Pollination The transfer of pollen to a receptive stigma.

Pruinose Having the waxy "bloom" that makes a hosta leaf appear blue. Some "blue" hostas are better at maintaining this bloom throughout the season.

Reversion A mutation back to the original form. A streaked sport will often be unstable, and revert to the margined or plain-colored form.

Rugose Wrinkled, any leaf surface with uneven surface features. This includes dimpled, puckered, pursed, embossed, ruffled, pleated, wrinkled, and crinkled leaf surfaces.

Rugulate Wrinkled with a slightly rugose surface.

Scape The flower stem containing the inflorescence bearing a number of flowers. Usually a leafless stem but in the genus Hosta it is frequently furnished with bracts or small leaves. The characteristics of the scape can help identify the hosta. Some hostas are known for foliated scapes, meaning that smaller leaves or bracts may be attached along the scape.

Selfing The pollination of a clone by the same clone.

Seed Pod The fruit that forms after the hosta flowers. Usually called "seed pod," but there is "pod parent" meaning the female partner in a breeding pair, also called the one with ovaries that bears the fruit.

Shining Having a smooth, even, very shiny surface.

Shoot The stem and set of leaves of an individual division; dormant set of leaves all enclosed in a single set of leaf scales.

Species A taxonomic unit below genus. The number varies from 17 to over 200 Hosta species depending on the researcher.

Spiral Twisted, spiral as the placement of leaves emerging from the rhizome.

Sport A mutation from a mother plant. Sports usually denote a change in leaf color and/or form ('June' is a sport of 'Halcyon'), but may refer to different flowers as well. For exmple, H. 'Aphrodite' is a double-flowered sport of H. plantaginea).

Stamen The male parts of the flower consisting of the filament and the anther, usually six per flower.

Stigma The receptive female tip of the flower at the end of the style

Stellate A star-shaped arrangement around a common axis.

Stoloniferous Characterizing a rootstock, which sends out horizontal stems called stolons, often far reaching, from which new and independent plants arise.

Streaks Some hosta seed-grown plants or sports may show streaked variegation. Many streaked plants are unstable, and unless divided frequently will mutate to a "stable" form, usually with variegation.

Streaked Breeders In a breeding program, streaked plants are valuable because as pod parents they can pass on streaked properties to their offspring usually resulting in stable, variegated plants.

Striate Striated, marked with fine linear markings, streaks, or grooves.

Substance The weight, thickness, or sturdiness of the leaves. Good Substance is often used to imply good slug resistance.

TC (Tissue Culture) – Production of large numbers of test-tube baby hostas, beginning with only a slice from the crown of a plant. TC Liners are the babies, just big enough to plant out into the nursery. First year TC are a bit beyond that, perhaps at the end of one season's growth. The younger the TC plant, the greater likelihood that you can't be sure you're getting a carbon copy clone of the original. Perfect Perennials Nursery will not sell any TC plants. We sell only OS plants.

Tetraploid Tetraploidy is the trait of having twice as many chromosomes as what is "normal." Normally, the pollen provides one set of chromosomes from the male plant (pollen parent), the ovary provides a set of chromosomes from the female plant (pod parent), so the seed has a complete set of chromosome pairs (and so is called diploid). Either by natural or biochemical manipulation of the cells in the plant, it is possible to have plants with two (identical) sets of chromosomes in each cell. In hostas, there is a species that is naturally tetraploid: H. ventricosa that has the rare capability to produce seed by apomixis, or asexual means without benefit of pollen. By treatment of tissue cultures, hostas can be "converted" to tetraploidy, but this hasn't been done in hostas as much as it has in daylilies. Tetraploid plants generally have more vigor, substance, larger blooms, etc. A drawback of tetraploid plants is that the pollen is significantly larger (to hold the extra chromosomes) and so is difficult to use in breeding new hostas. Triploid hostas result from crossing diploid with tetraploid plants, and are effectively sterile.

Texture The characteristic of the leaf surface.

Udulate Wavy, either the leaf margin or the entire leaf is wavy.

Variegation Light edges or light centers of the leaf color.

Vein pairs The matched set of veins on opposite sides of the center midrib.

Veins – The prominent lines of connective tissue for carrying water and nutrients.

Viridescense Cultivars emerge with white or yellow leaf colors that ultimately become increasingly green.

Latin Pronouncements

Botanical names originally devised by Carl Linnaeus in 1737 are based on Latin and Greek. The names can be long and intimidating, but you don't have to be a linguist or a scientist to appreciate that using correct names actually simplifies your gardening life. The system classifies every living thing starting with kingdom through phylum, subphylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. Plant professionals use the genus and species to prevent the confusion that may arise with common names. With this system, everyone everywhere, no matter what his or her own language, understands which plant is meant by Hosta plantagenia.

The species names typically reflect a physical characteristic, such as color (e.g., aurea for gold), a geographic location or habitat (pratensis for "meadows" or montana for "growing in the mountains"), or a person (sieboldii, from "von Siebold").

Here is a list of commonly used terms for you garden plants:

alba - white

alpinus - alpine

alta - tall

angustifolia - narrow-leaved

aquifolia - sharp-leaved

arborea - tree like

arenaria - from sandy places

atropurpurea - dark purple-red

aurea - gold

auriculata - with ears

autumnalis - autumn bloom

azurea - sky blue

barbata - barbed or bearded

blanda - mild, pleasant

borealis - northern

caerulea - blue

campanulata - bell-shaped

campestris - from fields

canadensis - from the New World

candida - white

cardinalis - red

centifolia - many-leaved

chinensis - from China

cinerea - light gray

citrina - yellow

citriodorus - lemon-scented

coccinea - scarlet red

compacta - compact

concolor - one color bloom

conica - cone-shaped

contorta - twisted

cordata - heart-shaped

cordifolia - heart-shaped leaves

cristata - crested

divaricata - spreading

edulis - edible

elata - tall

elegans - slender

excelsa - tall

eximia - distinguished

flore pleno - double flowers

floribunda - flowering freely

foetida - strong-smelling

fragrans - fragrant

glauca - gray-white

granda - large, showy

grandiflora - large flowering

helix - twisting

lactiflora - white-flowered

lanata - woolly

lancifolia - lance-leaved

latiflolia - broad-leaved

lignea - woody

lobata - lobed

lutea - yellow-orange

maculata - spotted

microphylla - small-leaved

minor - small

mollis - soft, hairy

moschata - musk-scented

multiflora - many flowers

nana - dwarf

nigra - black

nivalis - growing near snow, white

nutans - nodding

occidentalis - western

officinalis - medicinal

orientalis - from the Orient

parviflora - small-leaved

patens - spreading

pendula - weeping, hanging

pilosa - shaggy

pinnata - feather-shaped

plena - fully double

plumosa - feathery

procumbens - trailing

prostrata - prostrate

pumila - small, dwarf

puctata - dotted

purpurea - purple

quinquefolia - five leaflets

regalis - stately, regal

reptans - creeping

rotundifolia - round-leaved

rugosa - wrinkled

saguinea - red

sempervirens - ever living or evergreen

simplex - undivided

speciosa - showy

spicata - spiked

tenua - thin

tomentosa - hairy

uliginosa - from marshy places

viscaria - sticky stems

The story doesn't end with genus and species. When two species are bred together, the result is a hybrid.  Plants also change gradually through genetic mutations. If a small change is found in a plant under cultivation instead of in the wild and is preserved by plant breeders, it is called a cultivar, short for 'cultivated variety'. The cultivar name is given in single quotation marks.  Hosta 'Sharmon' may be a unique individual, but if it could look up its genealogy it might be comforted to know how it is related, closely or distantly, to every other plant in your garden.

Contact us for any questions or concerns at