Reverting Hostas

A very common question at Shows is ‘Why do my variegated hostas (insert variety of choice) sometimes come up with plain green (or blue) leaves?  And what should I do about it? Occasionally an anxious customer will tell us that their prized specimen has come up one spring with no variegation at all.  The entire plants has ‘reverted’.

Occasional ‘reversion’ is common to many varieties of hosta and some varieties are more prone to it than others. Most often it will just be one or two eyes (leaf buds) that revert.  In extreme cases the whole plant may lose its variegation.

If the whole plants reverts then there is no cure. You have ‘lost’ the variety you had. However, if just one section of the plant has reverted then the solution is simply to remove the affected part. If you can take the time and effort then trace the leaves back to the base of the plant and cut out the whole section with a sharp knife.  In a large mature plant it may be enough just to take off the affected leaves and stems.  We do this each year with a very large H. ‘June’ which always appears with a few blue leaves (its parent is H ‘Halcyon’.)  It’s a temporary solution but the plant is so dense you don’t notice the missing leaves.

‘Reversion’ suggests the hosta is trying to revert back to its parent or to is ‘natural state’. Virtually all variegated hostas are cultivars and at some point in their ancestry were unvariegated.  Reversion can be seen as a survival trait – a green or blue plant contains more chlorophyll and tends to be more vigorous than a variegated plant. George Schmid says that all variegated cultivars will eventually lose their variegation even if it takes a human lifetime for it to do so!  Others point out that the unexpected change may not be reversion at all, but a ‘sport’ – a mutation, which if cut off with roots and planted, may be a new variety of hosta. So, before you discard the affected part, check your hosta’s parentage!  You may have a new variety in the making!


Collecting ‘Mouse’ hostas.

If you are into miniature hostas you will almost certainly already have H. ‘Blue Mouse Ears’.  This is a wonderful, inexpensive (£6.00 from us) hosta which looks like its name.  The leaves are blue, shaped like a mouse’s ear and wonderfully thick – more than a match for any slug or snail.

H. ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ has been used to breed many other equally desirable ‘Mouse’ hostas, though, like most children, they are relatively expensive to keep!  However, despite their price usually being at least double that of their parent they are amongst the most popular minis we sell. In fact, they are so desirable, collecting ‘Mice’ can become a compulsion.  You have been warned!

Here is a list of all the ‘Mice’ so far (2014).  (NR means not registered). Those in bold we have in stock (March 2014).

‘American Super Mouse’ (V. Wade NR)
Blue Mouse Ears (E. & J. Deckert 2000)
Blue Mouse Ears Supreme (W. Silvers 2007)
Calico Mouse Ears (M. Zilis NR)
Cat and Mouse (H. Hansen 2007)
Church Mouse (Walters Gardens NR)
Crazy Mouse Ears (J. Schwarz NR)
Dancing Mouse (M. Fransen NR) (Few)
Desert Mouse (J. van den Top NR)
Forest Mouse (J. van den Top NR)
Frosted Mouse Ears (M. Zilis, E. & J. Deckert 2006)
Funny Mouse (Fransen NR)
Giantland Mouse Cheese  (Zilis/Miller/Meyer 2011)
Giantland Sunny Mouse Ears (Zilis/Miller/Meyer 2011)
Green Mouse Ears (E. & J. Deckert 2004) 
Itty Bitty (M. Zilis 2010) 
Jumbo Mouse Ears (H. Philips 2011)
Little Ice Mouse (J. van den Top NR)
Lucky Mouse (J. van den Top NR) 
Mighty Moe (W. Silvers 2009)
Mighty Mouse (Walters Gardens 2006)
Mouse Tracks (Walters Gardens & A. Bergeron 2009)
Mouse Trap (Shady Oaks Nursery NR) (Very few)
Mrs. Mouse Ears (M. Testart NR)
Mystic Mouse (D. Van Eechaute NR)
One Iota (J. Anderson NR)
One Iota Supreme (J. Schwarz NR)
Pure Heart (Walters Gardens & J. Westendorp 2009)
Royal Mouse Ears (E. & J. Deckert 2004)
Ruffled Mouse Ears (C. Wilson NR) 
Snow Mouse (M. Fransen NR) (Few)

Why don’t we stock more?  Well, the sad fact is that some ‘Mice’ don’t take to tissue culture (the usual way hostas are produced for the retail market these days). H ‘Desert Mouse’ for example, (available from us £17.00) the first time it was tissue cultured, produced less than 500 sellable plants from 5000 put into culture.  Others are unstable (Cat and Mouse, Royal Mouse Ears for example).  This means that they are so prone to revert to their parent plant (Blue Mouse Ears.) that it is not economic for breeders to produce them for the retail market, Or if they do, their price is beyond the pockets of most hosta buyers. We could import H. ‘Royal Mouse Ears’ from its breeder in the States, but with a retail price of £80 per plant, who would buy it?  It’s also true that once a breeder has put his or her new plant into tissue culture and sold the resulting plants, it may not be economic to repeat the process the following year. (Most collectors bought it first time round). So, it disappears from the breeders’ catalogues, and we are left with the few we didn’t manage to sell the year before (e.g. H. Dancing Mouse’).

Some collectors may be confused because not all ‘Mice’ hostas have ‘Mouse’ names.  Sometimes this can be explained. ‘Pure Heart’ for example, in the ‘Mighty Mouse’ cartoon, is Mighty Mouse’s girl friend! ‘Itty Bitty’ is probably a reference to this hosta’s diminutive size.

There are two pitfalls for the unwary ‘Mouse’ collector.  First, breeders in Europe and the US can breed the same ‘Mouse’ and call it by different names. So-

European bred                        US bred

H. ‘Lucky Mouse’     =         H. ‘Mighty Mouse’

H. ‘Snow Mouse’     =          H. ‘Mouse Trap

H. ‘Desert Mouse’    =          H. ‘Pure Heart’

H. ‘Dancing Mouse’  =          H. ‘Ruffled Mouse Ears’

If you are an avid collector, don’t let this put you off buying both versions! It’s quite exciting trying to spot a difference! Does ‘H. Mouse Trap’ have a clearer centre than H. ‘Snow Mouse’?  Are its flowers identical in looks or later flowering….?

The second pitfall is that there are miniature hostas masquerading as true ‘Mice’ i.e. offspring or grandchildren of H. ‘Blue Mouse Ears’. H. Country Mouse’ (£9.00) is one of these. But a close look at the plant will tell you that it doesn’t have the same traits as true ‘Mice’, i.e. thick rounded leaves. H. ‘Country Mouse’ is in fact a sport of H. ‘Bill Dress’s Blue’ and some find it a challenge to grow well.

If you want to push the boat out and begin collecting ‘Mice’ then H. Frosted Mouse Ears (£12.00), H. Holy Mouse Ears’ (£12.00), and H. Lucky Mouse’ (£13.00) make a good initial collection.  They are all as tough as old boots and grow well. If, after this, you find you have an irresistible craving for yet more ‘Mice’ then don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Hello everyone

Welcome to our new blog. We’ll try to keep posting articles, snippets of hosta trivia etc. as often as we can.  We are learning as we go so do forgive us for the odd glitch!  Our first post is a short piece about collecting ‘Mouse’ miniature hostas.  Watch this space for Websites we’ve found useful and a piece on reverting hostas.