May 17, 2005

Mutants Gone Wild

In my garden I have lots of hostas. I'm a sucker for low maintenance plants, especially when they look nice too. We mostly have plain green ones, since those were already here, but I've been adding a lot of my favorite blue varieties and a few variegated ones.

Last year I planted a ring of blue hostas around the magnolia sapling we also planted last year. As I recall they all looked like regular hostas at the time. This year most of them look like this:

But I have one mutant. Instead of having a bunch of leaves around the base and eventually shooting up a thin stalk of flowers like the hosta above and every hosta I've seen, my mutant has a tall stalk with leaves alternating with flowers.

I know I have a lot of people who read this blog who are far more expert and experienced gardeners than I. Have you ever seen this before? Should I be checking for crop circles in my creeping phlox?


I have one of these strange things, too. I planted five last year, and all but one were swallowed into the ground (eaten by moles, I guess). One had enough tuber left to emerge full-fledged this spring, but one is just a little sprig of a hosta, with a thin stalk similar to yours.

Posted by: Meredith at May 18, 2005 08:00 AM

I don't know anything about gardening, but you should definitely always be checking for crop circles. In fact, teach Hobbes to do a crop circle search when he's running through your flower beds.

Posted by: Frazier at May 18, 2005 11:37 AM

I have two ideas, neither based on research as when I respond to calls at the extension office. First, often plants that are stressed put all their energy into setting seeds. This may be the last gasp of a dying plant to flower and to seed. The second guess is to confirm your mutant theory, which are called "sports" in horticulture and are the basis for many plant refinements. If my first guess is accurate, then I would pinch out the flower stalk and let the plant put its energy into foliage this first season. It looks like it has some basal foliage already.

Posted by: Earth Girl at May 19, 2005 01:56 PM

Just got the word from the expert - it is a mutant. Hostas mutate easily, which is why there are so many varieties available. If this is an attractive mutation, see if it comes true year after year and see if it propagates true to the mutation. If it does, then you can make millions selling it! Of course, a thin stalk of early flowers may not be in that much demand. You can cause mutations through tissue cultures, which is how it is normally done. Hostas can revert to its original form, which is the down side of the extra copies of chromosones they have.

Posted by: earth girl at May 23, 2005 09:56 AM

How cool. Thanks for checking up on this for me, Martha!

Posted by: Jordana at May 23, 2005 12:02 PM

Hostas, I have about 25, all different. I need to take a photo of my Grandaddy of them all...he is gorgeous. I too, have some that just don't get it. I would reccomend trimming the flowers off, so some of the plants energy can go to the leaves. Unless you like the flowers. You can't really kill one of these things. When the get huge you can cut them in half, etc.

My phlox are already finished blooming.....

Posted by: ArmyWifeToddlerMom at May 24, 2005 10:49 AM