Dreaming of a Red Hosta

Dreaming of a Red Hosta

Have you ever dreamt of a red hosta? Neither have I, but the folks of the Delaware Valley Hosta Society have. They have envisioned yellow hostas striped with red veins or green hostas with a striking red edge along the leaves. As they elaborated on these descriptive visions, I found I wouldn??t mind having a hosta like that in my garden. To explore the possibility of these dreams coming true, they invited hosta breeder and nurserymen Bob Solberg to their annual meeting at the Scott Arboretum.

Having introduced over 50 hostas and striven to create the elusive red hosta for several years, Bob explained his inspiration for the idea of having a red hosta that can be seen in your garden right now. As they begin to emerge from their winter slumber, many hostas produce red or purple bud sheaths and others have red or purple leaf tips as they emerge. These colorations are lost as the plant matures, but their existence gives hope to the idea of a red hosta.

These red pigments are called anthocyanins, the same pigment found in leaves in the fall. There is much debate among scientists about the purpose of this pigment, but Bob believes hostas use this pigment as a sunscreen. Hosta leaves begin to emerge before trees have fully leafed out, thus they are exposed to high light conditions until the tree??s shading or other vegetation emerges.

There are many genes involved in the development of a red hosta from locator genes to the ablity to develop anthocyanins, but Bob is confident that some day breeders (if not himself) will develop a red hosta. He has seen a hosta with purple pigment in the leaf blade, not just along the veins. Unfortunately, you will not find this plant on the market, because on the first warm day the leaves curl up and turn brown. Not a great addition to any garden.

To date, Bob has introduced some selections with red coloration on the plant during the spring. The coloration fades in summer, as all hostas ??green-up?? in the summer months. If you would like to add a little red-colored hosta to your garden try Hosta ??Whiskey Sour??. This hosta has very bright yellow leaves with red petioles and some red on the leaf tip. It also remains gold throughout the season.

Another hosta with a touch of red is Hosta ??Sun Worshipper??. This spring shocker is bright yellow with red, not purple, petioles. The yellow color holds well all season and can be bleached to white in sunnier locations.

To begin exploring the diverse world of hostas, visit the Terry Shane Teaching Garden at the Scott Arboretum or join the Delaware Valley Hosta Society. To learn about Bob??s introductions and breeding efforts, visit his nursery, Green Hill Farm, Inc. Let me know what type of red hosta you dream of for your garden.

Becky Robert
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