What Is the Largest Hosta?

Written by bonnie grant
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What Is the Largest Hosta?
There are some "giant" hosta breeds that have exceeded recorded leaf size. (hosta image by cs83 from Fotolia.com)

Hostas are shade-loving perennials, although some varieties can thrive in sunshine. They are easily identified by their large leaves and low, wide growth pattern. They get wonderful flower spires in the summer that come in hues of pink, red, white and lavender. The leaves can have amazing variegation and arise in a variety of green and blue tones, sometimes with white and yellow striping. Hostas need rich organic soil that has a steady moisture supply.

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Empress Wu

The biggest hosta on record is Empress Wu. It is a massive 4-foot tall by 5-foot wide plant. There are bigger spreading hostas at up to 8 feet, but Wu is special due to the size of its leaves. They are 28 inches long by 25 inches wide. The plant originated in a collector's garden in Belgium, and it is now in cultivation via tissue culture for home gardeners to grow.

Parent

Empress Wu's parentage is impressive. The plant's sire was the record holder for the largest leaves. It was a seedling from Big John. Big John is a large plant with nearly 21-inch leaves. Big John is a spectacular blue-leaf hosta that was bred in the United States. It is now in cultivation and a variegated seedling from the plant is one of the largest of that type.

Growing a Big Hosta

The size, shape and colour of a hosta is dependent upon the cultivar. Cultivars are cultivated varieties that have been bred to foster a feature that is desirable. There are things you can do to encourage your hosta to grow big. Proper site selection and water needs are of primary importance. You can't grow a giant if the plant is not healthy and well situated. Nutrition is another important factor. Ohio State University recommends a balanced fertiliser such as 10-10-10 that is applied in spring and again six weeks later. A final fertilising is performed in midsummer. You can also apply a granular time-release formula so you don't have to remember to apply.

Protecting a Giant

Hostas are a favourite food of slugs and snails. Once you've grown a giant, the last thing you want is for the immense leaves to look like Swiss cheese. Iron phosphate is a product that shows promise for controlling the pests, but you can also go the old-fashioned route. Jars of beer buried in the garden will attract slugs and snails and they will fall in and die. Hostas also can have viruses. These generally will attack the leaves and the best thing you can do to prevent them is start with clean soil and buy plants from a reputable grower.

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