Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

The Plantain Lily: More Than Just a Hosta!

20150909AThe first time I saw a plantain lily (Hosta plantaginea), I thought someone was playing a prank, that they had stuck stems of fragrant lilies among a hosta plant’s foliage. I never would have believed that a hosta could have flowers so big and so fragrant! The pure white trumpets measure 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in length and their intense orange-blossom scent will seduce you from quite a distance. And it’s the only species of hosta with fragrant flowers. All scented hosta cultivars (and there are now quite a few of them) are either mutations of the H. plantaginea or hybrids with it as at least a distant parent.

20150909BH. plantaginea forms a dome of shiny, medium green, shiny, deeply grooved leaves about 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter on a plant some 18 inches (45 cm) high. The flower stalk is about 30 inches (75 cm) high. It is the latest blooming hosta, starting in August in most regions or even in early September, and the flowers last nearly a month. In many areas, its late-blooming habit has given it the nickname August lily (note the word lily: I’m obviously not the only person to see the resemblance!). Flowers open late in the day as well, at the end of the afternoon, then stay open all night. It is definitely worthwhile placing this hosta in spot you frequent in the evening!

H. plantaginea is the most southernly species of hosta, found in mild climates in China, and although very hardy (USDA zone 3, AgCan zone 4), it has certain habits that are different from the typical hosta most gardeners know.

The most obvious difference is that it produces new leaves in flushes throughout the summer, not only all at once in the spring like other hostas. That means any damaged or tired leaves are eventually covered up by fresh new ones.

Also, it sprouts earlier in the spring than other hostas, which can put at at risk of frost damage in areas where the snow melts quickly. If you cover its root area with good thick mulch about 3 to 4 inches (7-10 cm) thick, that will keep the ground cooler in the spring, thus slowing its growth and keeping it safer from frost. But if it does get frosted… well, at least it will soon produce fresh leaves to hide the damage, unlike other hostas whose frost-damaged leaves remain visible all summer.

Finally, unlike other hostas, the plantain lily prefers full sun or only part shade, although it will tolerate full shade.

Otherwise, H. plantaginea is a classic hosta that will tolerate almost any kind of soil as long as it is well-drained. Like most hostas, it will do best in rich, cool, somewhat moist soil. Do think to water it during periods of drought, especially while it is in bloom.

It is best multiplied by division in spring or fall. It rarely produces fertile seed in cooler climates, but where it does, you can grow new plants from seed as well.

Although H. plantataginea rarely suffers from that bane of hosta growers, slugs, deer love it, more than other hostas in fact! If you have deer, this is not the hosta for you.

A Cultivar to Avoid

20150909C
Hosta plantaginea ‘Aphrodite’: beautiful double flowers, but it flops unless you provide staking!

Most cultivars and hybrids of H. plantaginea  are good garden plants and many  in fact are very popular. That includes ‘Fragrant Bouquet’, ‘Guacamole’, ‘Invincible’, etc. One cultivar I don’t recommend however is H. plantaginea ‘Aphrodite’. This is a double-flowered mutation of the species with flowers just as big and as fragrant, so it would seem like an excellent choice on paper. Unfortunately, the extra weight of the double flowers means they tend hang down so you can barely even see they are double. Worse yet, often the entire flower stalk simply flops, especially if it rains. This is a rare example of a plant where the species is more interesting to gardeners than its selection.

Where to Find It

This is one hosta more often found in people’s gardens than in garden centers, so if you don’t have it, trying begging a friend or neighbor for a slip! If you can’t find a free division, you ought to be able to find it in a larger nursery. If not, it is readily available by mail order.

The plantain lily: much more than just a hosta!

42 comments on “The Plantain Lily: More Than Just a Hosta!

  1. Pingback: Top Compilation 10 plaintain lily most viewed » Review hay nh?t

  2. Pingback: ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre hosta y lirio de plátano? - Gardenun

  3. Pingback: Lirio de plátano Abba Dabba Do - Gardenun

  4. Pingback: Plátano Lily Allegan Niebla - Gardenun

  5. Pingback: ¿Qué tan grande se vuelve una hosta de lirio de plátano? - Gardenun

  6. Pingback: ¿Qué tan rápido crece el lirio de plátano? - Gardenun

  7. Pingback: ¿Los lirios de plátano necesitan sol? - Gardenun

  8. Pingback: ¿Qué es la Copa Brim? - Gardenun

  9. Pingback: Lirio de plátano a prueba de balasNombre botánico - Gardenun

  10. Pingback: Primer rubor de lirio de plátano - Gardenun

  11. Pingback: Primera helada de lirio de plátano - Gardenun

  12. Pingback: plátano lirio manos arriba - Gardenun

  13. Pingback: ¿Cuánto sol necesitan los lirios de plátano? - Gardenun

  14. Pingback: Llantén Lirio Joya Del Nilo - Gardenun

  15. Pingback: Plátano Lily Kiwi Full Monty - Gardenun

  16. Pingback: Lirio de plátano junto al lago Premierbotanical Nombre - Gardenun

  17. Pingback: ¿Es un lirio de plátano una hosta? - Gardenun

  18. Pingback: Luz de la mañana de lirio de plátano - Gardenun

  19. Pingback: ¿Es la mermelada de naranja una planta perenne? - Gardenun

  20. Pingback: Patriota de lirio de plátano - Gardenun

  21. Pingback: ¿Qué altura tienen los lirios de plátano? - Gardenun

  22. Pingback: Plátano Lirio Púrpura Glorybotanical Nombre - Gardenun

  23. Pingback: Lirio de plátano Sagae - Gardenun

  24. Pingback: plátano lirio septiembre sol - Gardenun

  25. Pingback: lirio de plátano tan dulce - Gardenun

  26. Pingback: ¿Qué hosta es más fragante? - Gardenun

  27. Pingback: Ranuras de puesta de sol de lirio de plátano - Gardenun

  28. Pingback: lirio de plátano sorprendido por la alegría - Gardenun

  29. Pingback: plátano lirio invierno nieve - Gardenun

  30. Pingback: Plátano lirio río amarillo - Gardenun

  31. Pingback: ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre una hosta y un lirio de plátano? - Gardenun

  32. Pingback: ¿Recorta el lirio de plátano? - Gardenun

  33. Pingback: Hosta Mama Mía - Gardenun

  34. Pingback: ¿Se propagan los lirios de plátano? - Gardenun

  35. Katy Johnson

    I have a few clumps of this hosta and just love it. It bloomed spectacularly this year and the fragrance is heavenly. DOES ANYONE KNOW IF THERE IS A PERFUME OUT THERE THAT SMELLS LIKE THESE FLIWERS.?

  36. Hello! I have been gifted some seed pods from my uncles garden in Western New York of this amazing Hosta! I am in Southwest Florida…. and trying to decide the best way to “plant” them. I have sacrificed one pod and “disected” it. I have 4 “seeds” that I can feel that are wrapped in a black casing of sorts. Should I plant this seed in dirt, or should I plant the entire pod? Any suggestions are appreciated!

  37. Anne Hardy

    I have several of these in my garden and love them. I just separated one of them in the spring and now it seems like the main plant only has purple non fragrant flowers. Is this a possibility or am I imagining things???

  38. Pingback: Eat Your Hostas – Laidback Gardener

  39. I have a lot of Hosta but sure don’t have any with a beautiful fragrant bloom like that. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!

%d bloggers like this: