Any particular reason a hosta won't flower?

mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)January 28, 2008

I bought some Grandiflora hostas (Hosta plantaginea Grandiflora) two summers ago at Arrowhead, they were blooming when I was there and I almost fell over when I got a whiff of the fragrance - it's fantastic. The flowers were actually very pretty too, large and pristine white (normally I cut off hosta flowers, I don't care for them, but the flowers are definitely a feature of this hosta).

So wouldn't you just know it - no blooms last summer. At all. The plants themselves seemed fine, they looked pretty healthy, so I have no idea why they didn't flower.

Any insight?

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Patience. Plantaginea is slower than most hostas. If it doesn't bloom next year, I'd dig it up and check the roots. If the root growth is insufficient, it won't bloom. Plantaginea tolerate a fair bit of sun. That would help with growth and bloom.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 2:32PM
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gardenbug(Canada zone 5)

Some hostas take years to bloom. I agree with Maureen about patience. With each passing season your hosta will increase in size and eventually give blooms. I think Hosta Aphrodite was the one that took forever to get started in my garden.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 3:17PM
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I bought six of these at Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton MA about 25 years ago. I bought them because they were supposed to have large attractive, fragrant flowers. They never did a thing. After years in the same spot, I tried moving them to various areas of my garden--nothing. These are one of the most disappointing perennials I have ever bought. And I have many hostas, all of which have been wonderful. I wonder if some clones of this particular hosta are better than another. I'd post your question on the Hosta Forum too.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 8:53PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

Well, the reason I'm surprised is they were flowering when I bought they're definitely old enough plants to flower, although not firmly established yet in my border.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 8:35AM
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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

Did they get sufficient water last summer? Also if they were just planted the season before they may not have been well enough established in your garden last summer to bloom.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 8:57AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


there is a hosta forum ..... check it out ....

hosta take 3 to 10 years to mature ..... depending on many variables ....

contrary to what is stated above .... plantiginea is a very vigorous plant ... but with those giant flowers... it may take a few years to get enough root mass down to flower vigorously ....

also .. plantiginea is a nearly full sun hosta ... especially in our zone .... as with all flowering plants.. the further in the shade you put it ... the less vigor there will be ....

when you depotted the plant... you may have set it back a year or two .... but alsas.. it is a hosta.... it will grow on the driveway for years.. pot or not....

as with all hosta.. try to drown it... water.. water..water ....

finally ... understand the following ... HOSTA ARE SHADE TOLERANT .... not shade requiring .... they need light .... and will most likely be most aggressive in full sun .. the only problem being.. that by the heat of summer they start looking bad .... one trick .. is to grow them in full sun [and this advice is not for you southern gardeners] for a year or two ... try to drown them .. grow a massive root mass .. and then move them into shade .... you can cut a year or two off the time to maturity ..

hosta transplant very easily.. at the right time of year [not mid summer .. but you can even do it then, but they will suffer]

if you are near arrowhead... take a trip down 52 to hidden lakes garden in tipton and see their massive collection ...

and come on over to the hosta forum ... though it is dead this time of year ....

here is a flower study regarding plantiginea ... it is the ONLY 6 inch pure white flower .... and it is considered the genetic mother of all fragrant hosta ..... once crossed... you never quite get a white flower and they rarely are bigger than 3 to 4 inches ... many alleged white flowered hosta have traces of purple in them.. the further away from the sun they get ....

and absolutely finally ... many of the double or triple flowered plantiginea fail to perform in MI .... they tend to abort the flowers .... trust me.. i have some of them for 10 years.. and rarely get a flower .... but the further south you go.. the easier it is .. i think it has something to do with late frost and the length of the season, especially if the warm growing season is retarded by a late frost ....


    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 9:42AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

Thanks, all, for the advice. Great pic, Ken - now others can see what I mean when I rave about that flower! An oh the scent!!

I'll make sure to water the heck out of them this season (luckily they're in an area where I have annuals, so I'll just give the hostas a drink each time I hit the annuals with the hose).

    Bookmark   January 31, 2008 at 7:36AM
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terrene(5b MA)

There was a good-sized patch of Hosta plantaginea growing here when I bought the house. It is in partial shade and is very overgrown and crowded. I thinned it out somewhat last Fall, and gave away many pots at the Fall swap. This Spring I plan to dig it all up and spread them out and around, probably give some more away at the next swap and to a neighbor.

There is one smallish clump I transplanted awhile back to total shade under the canopy of a Silver maple and that clump didn't flower until the 2nd year there. Perhaps your plants were recovering from the transplant and getting settled in the new location. Hopefully you'll get blooms next summer!

I don't fertilize or irrigate these. They are slowly spreading. Overall, it seems like a pretty sturdy plant -

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 12:01AM
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I know what you mean about the scent. I am missing my hosta collection sooooo much (sniff, sniff). I didn't have a huge collection (maybe 25-30 different hostas) in my previous small garden, but they were so wonderful and compliment almost all other plants. I have a problem with deer where I now live, so I haven't spent much on hostas yet. I will give it another try this spring with Plantskyyd (a repellent) and if it works I will definitely get H. Aphrodite. The fragrance is intoxicating!

Sorry I can't help with your question but I just had to reminisce about my former hosta collection...


    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 12:09PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


your picture is NOT plantiginea .... those are not 6 inch flowers... and they are not the proper apple green leaf .. nor are they shiny enough ....

they do though.. have the plantiginea gardenia scent.. but not as much as the real thing ....

once you lose the 6 inch flower.. the others are hard to ID from a picture... perhaps it is royal standard or honeybells ....

if you post the picture at the hosta forum.. there are others who can ID it for you

once again .... STAY AWAY from aprhrodite and any other double or triple petaled hosta ... they are unreliable ... and frankly expensive .. as compared to momma plantiginea ...


    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 5:46PM
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I've experimented planting plantaginea in full sun, part sun, part shade, full shade, and dense shade, all in about the same soil conditions without any root competition and they bloomed for me in all cases, just not always the best. The most abundant blooms were in part sun/part shade but they still did bloom in full and dense shade - I think the ones in full sun dried out too fast but they still bloomed, just not the best. Moisture seems to be the key for this plant. In summers with drought they barely bloomed or didn't bloom at all but in summers with tons of rain they bloomed like crazy. Last summer I watered my largest clumps of plantaginea about every other day and they bloomed like crazy. They are in a spot with a high canopy and lots of late afternoon sunlight and love it.

When people report varying results of hostas in sun vs. shade and tell me that the ones in sun grow better because of more light I tell them to go back and check the moisture levels in each area. Plants in sun often don't have to contend with root competition and when it rains they tend to receive all of the rainwater without competing for it. Plants in the shade often have to deal with root competition plus when it rains lets face it, not all of the drops reach the ground because trees can act like umbrellas.

Water the heck out of your plantaginea next summer and I bet you get some good blooms on them.

Oh, and Terrene's plant is Hosta 'Royal Standard'. The key differences are smaller but more abundant flowers, the flower buds are lightly blushed lavender at the tips before they open, the flowers flare out more instead of being a large trumpet, darker green leaves, semi-upright growth, and slight corrugation. Plantaginea will have lighter green leaves, smooth and somewhat shiny, with more of a cascading habit.

Personally I think Royal Standard is a more reliable plant because it has more blooms that are open more during the day when you can enjoy them. Plantaginea opens at night and although the flowers are larger there usually aren't as many.

But I hope you have better luck with your blooms next year!


    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 8:30PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Thanks Ken and Ctopher for the ID!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 10:00PM
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The H plantaginea in our garden only flowers if there is a sufficiently long period of sun and warmth in the season. It definitely sulks in full shade.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 11:58PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

one problem with ANY of the plantiginea clan .. is their susceptibility to late frosts ... often.. up here in my zone ... turning the plant completely to mush ...

most recover from such as far as clump growth ... but it affects the vigor of the flowering ....

i dont know.. or cant recall ... when the buds are set ... and i dont mean when we can see them .. i am sure they are there... microscopic in nature, soon after they begin spring growth ... perhaps the frost .. in killing those initial buds just doesnt give the plants enough time to re-concentrate their flowering effort ... for that years show ...

maybe chris will come back and discuss such ...


PS: and why isnt the best hosta thread in a month on the hosta forum ... go figure.. lol

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 9:06AM
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waynet(5b ONT)

I'm not sure why, but my Plantaginea bloomed much less vigorously this year than last. Compare ...

2007 Plantaginea

2006 Plantaginea

2006 Plantaginea Flowers

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 11:18AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


as i said... any recollection of a late frost.. or extra cool spring?


    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 12:24PM
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waynet(5b ONT)

I don't recollect a late frost but now that you make me think about it, we certainly had a longer, cooler spring here at the western end of Lake Ontario. Fragrant Bouquet and Guacamole (Plantaginea descendants, both about five years old) also had fewer flowers but excellent leaf growth. Hmmmm?


Fragrant Bouquet

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 1:37PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

long and cool weather.. usually comes with extra spring rain .. great for leaf growth ...

but the frost could have.. as they say .. nipped the flowers in the bud ...

a mystery .. who really knows ... unless they kept a garden diary ... ken

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 4:14PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

Oooh, I have the distinction of starting "the best hosta thread in a month" LOL!!!!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 5:56PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

yes you do ... now try doing the same over in the hosta forum ... lol ...


    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 9:14AM
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Your right Ken, good thread...and maybe I can have some Plantaginea flowers this year. My plant is three years old and no flowers to date. It is in a sunnier spot than most of my hosta. The key difference is the location and the amount of drainage. The soil has excellent drainage, perhaps too good...and the hosta is planted on a slope. Usually I only water when mother nature isn't doing her job. I'll give the plant extra attention and water this year. Thanx!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 1:29PM
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