Riddle me this – when is a Hosta not a Hosta?

When is a Hosta not a Hosta?  A Hosta is not a Hosta when it is an African False Hosta!  Also called just plain African Hosta, this little plant can make an amazing specimen in your landscape.  A few years ago a UF/IFAS Specialist was sharing some plants that he had dug up and divided.  He said that they were called African False Hosta and I was intrigued!  I took a few small divisions of the plant and potted them up to see if I liked them or not.  I had never seen these plants and had to look up some information about them before I could begin to either appreciate or neglect them – or both!

The False African Hosta is a bulbous plant with oval, green waxy leaves somewhat reminiscent of Hosta, but generally only four to six inches long with wavy edges and dark purple spots or blotches giving the leaf an interesting appearance.  These spots tend to fade with age and by summer the leaves are completely green.  The plant is generally leafless during the dormant winter season.  To complement the rosette of leaves that emerge in late winter, a series of white flower stalks, about one foot tall, emerge in the spring.  The flower stalk is comprised of many bell-like flowers held at the top part of the green and reddish stalk.  Another name for this plant is accordingly, Little White Soldiers.

This plant is ideal for shade to part-shade sites in all types of soil situations.  The False African Hosta is also very tolerant of drought once established and takes our warm weather quite well.  Good for rock gardens, along pathways and even in contianers, the False African Hosta is slow-growing, but will benefit from division every few years.  I divided mine up and separated the numerous small bulbs in the fall of 2017, and now have several containers of speckled plants.  The bulbs barely get up to two-inches in diameter at best.

While the False African Hosta is eye-catching in season, it is rarely locally available except at family-run and specialty garden centers.  A quick Internet search did yield several venders of this plant.  This is a real specialty plant that may be of interest to collectors or curators of “plant zoos” .  I appreciate this plant, but do plan to neglect it as it is carefree.  This slow-growing, mini-Hosta impersonator  may be something of interest to you and a potential addition to your plant collection!  For more information on all types of flowering bulbous plants suitable for our area, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area.  Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/charlotteco/files/2018/01/Plant-Clinics-Schedule.pdf .

Resources:
Manning, J, C,, Goldblatt, P. & Fay, M. F. (2004) Ledebouria petiolate – African Hosta.  https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/syllabi/308/Lists/Fourth%20Edition/Ledebouriapetiolata.pdf.
Harrison, M. (2013) African Hosta (Little White Soldiers) .  https://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/4255/.
Park Brown, S. (2015) Landscaping in Florida Shade.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.

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