With thousands of varieties now available on the market it is hard to believe that hostas started as just a handful of varieties. In recent time more weird and wonderful varieties have been introduced, most notably by growers in the United States, Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom. Despite this hostas originated from Asia, growing wild in Japan, China and Korea. In the 18th century the first hostas came to Europe from China as seeds first being grown in Paris and London.
Several years later they were officially named Hostas after Nicholas Thomas Host who was an Austrian botanist. Hostas have gone by other names such as Hemerocallis plantaginea and Funkia, the latter of which is still a commonly used name in Europe although not generally considered a valid name.
Around this time there were very few varieties available, especially in Europe with around 40 known at the time. This number is thought to be around 10,000 now.
Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans'
Hosta variety numbers started to grow dramatically in the 60s when US hosta lovers began finding new sports and breeding new varieties through cross pollinating seeds. From the 60s to date the US has produced some of the best varieties from 'Raspberry Sundae' to 'Patriot'. There are still many beautiful being introduced from US growers.
In the United States hostas are the number 1 perennials and for that reason there are many nurseries supplying hundreds of different varieties and introducing many of their own.
Hosta 'Raspberry Sundae'
Modern Hosta History
The introduction of new varieties in modern times has certainly not slowed, quite the opposite in many areas. Today the varieties introduce are getting even more exciting and interesting. Sports and hybrids of varieties that are still considered relatively new themselves.
Some of the most interesting new varieties in the last few years include 'Amalia', 'Wheee!' and 'Mini Skirt'. There are still many varieties coming from the US and a lot from Europe from Belgium and Holland.
In modern growing new techniques are used that can help discover new varieties. Tissue culture propagation has been around for some years now but has led to the introduction of some of the best varieties such as 'Dinner Jacket' and 'June'. As tissue culture is on a much bigger scale the chances of having a new variety are much higher.