(2-8-19) The recent trend in the development of new hostas has been with intense hybrid work with crosses to create many exciting new opportunities, reds and purples being two that have gained a lot of interest.

This has also led to newbies who are growing hostas from seeds searching for that  ‘special‘ seedling. Acquiring quality seed crosses from top hybridizers and enjoying the winter sport of ‘seed auctions‘ that keeps many of us busy during the cold winter months waiting for spring.

2018 Hosta Seed Growers‘ Auction

tc seeds

This past AHS Online Auction saw eight unnamed quality seedlings from Jeff White (Start Up Seedling Hybridizing Kit) go for $313 ($39 avg per seedling). That shows the desire of breeders to buy those special and unique selections not often found for sale.

Collectors and newbies love acquiring special and very unique hostas, but when was the last time you saw an unnamed tissue cultured sport from a recent TC program offered up for sale?

Would you buy it? Those who have large amounts of a hosta tissue culture produced might be a little leery of selling one to you. Feeling they aren’t garden worthy yet.

Take a look below at some TC sports that were later tissue culture produced for sale.

From the eBook Rookie’s Guide to Hostas, Hostas, HostasHosta Propagation by Tissue Culture

Tissue Culture Sports – Hostas tend to be a plant that frequently mutates or “sports” on their own compared to other plant genera. Because various levels of growth hormones are routinely used in TC and since huge numbers of plants are produced in a short period of time, this tendency is enhanced.

Mr. PGC Comment: In a population of say, ten thousand plants of a particular hosta cultivar, there may occur dozens of sports. Imagine how many gardens you would have to visit to observe this phenomenon in the home landscape environment. With TC, however, you might have ten thousand plants of the same cultivar produced by the same lab in one year. During the quality control inspections of the plants, you are bound to find…guess what…dozens of sports. Of course, only a small number of these variations will be worthy of naming but TC has become a major source of new hosta cultivars in recent years.

Lemon Frost 10″ Tissue Culture Sport of Lemon Lime

lemon frost

Below you can see that the development of new hostas is nothing new. Below shows that from 2002 there were plenty od TC sports on the market.

From Bob Solberg’s Green Hills Hostas 2002 Retail Hosta Catalog retail page

New Sports from the Labs

Hostas are chameleons and change their colors at a fairly frequent rate. Hostas can sport in the garden. Hostas can sport in a nursery but hostas can really sport in a tissue culture lab. Produce very large numbers of hostas and even the rarest of probabilities becomes common place. A mutation that occurs at a rate of one in ten thousand is bound to show up in the first couple of hundred thousand plants propagated.

Many mutations are bad. Not all sports are better hostas that perform well in the garden. Selection is as important with sports as it is with seedlings. Here are some of the newest available from the tissue culture labs. When making your selections remember, “if you know the parent then, you know a lot about the sport.”(For one thing, you know that the flowers are the same unless mentioned.) If the parent grows well for you then the sport probably will too. Also, if you wonder what color the sport is don’t look farther than the parent. The color of ‘English Sunrise’ is the same as the center of the leaf of ‘June’. It will change throughout the season the same way for both hostas.

‘Dust Devil’ (Zilis 1999, sport of ‘Whirlwind’) – Medium, dark green leaf with a bright white margin that greens up some with summer heat; good substance.

‘English Sunrise’ (Zilis, sport of ‘June’) – Medium, bright gold leaves in spring that fade to chartreuse in summer; good substance; a gold “Tardiana”.

‘Garden Treasure’ (Schwartz 1997, sport of ‘Treasure’) – Large, dark green centered “Tokudama” leaves with a gold margin; makes an elegant clump.

‘Parhelion’ (Walters Gardens 1997, sport of ‘Sum and Substance’) – Huge, narrowly white margined round chartreuse leaves that may cup some.

‘Prairie Magic’ (Zilis, sport of ‘Midwest Magic’) – Large, dark green leaves with a bright gold margin, very good color combination, grows fast.

‘Sum of All’ (Zilis 1999, sport of ‘Sum and Substance) – The one that you have been waiting for, a green centered ‘Sum and Substance’ with a wide gold margin. Possibly larger than its parent it has better color and a wider gold margin than the other sports in this class; give a couple hours of strong light.

‘Summer Breeze’ (Zilis 1999, sport of ‘Summer Music’) – Large spreading mound of dark green leaves with a very wide yellow-gold margin; very showy throughout the summer; much better grower than its parent.

‘Sweet Home Chicago’ (Zilis, sport of ‘Birchwood Parky’s Gold’) – Large, flat mound of heart shaped chartreuse leaves with a wide darker green border. Has become an excellent garden specimen, better than anticipated.

‘Vim and Vigor’ (Walters Gardens 2000, sport of ‘Sum and Substance’) – Huge, all green round leaves; should have good sun tolerance and fast growth rate.

‘Zippidy Do Dah’ (Walters Gardens 2000, sport of ‘Sun Power’) – Medium to large upright clump of green leaves with a clean white wavy edge; a favorite.

The above hostas show why tissue culture sports are just another reason why hostas are so fascinating to many of us from newbies to those who do this as a living.