Every year, dozens of new hostas are introduced, adding to the thousands of varieties already on the market. The choice can be bewildering for the average gardener. They can’t all be equally good! Some are necessarily better garden plants than the others, but how to choose?
The American Hosta Growers Association came up with a partial solution to this problem starting in 1996. That’s when it began to name a Hosta of the Year.
To win this recompense, probably the most illustrious award in the hosta world, the plant has to not only have exceptional qualities, but be a good garden plant in all regions of North America, be widely available in sufficient supply and retail for no more than $15.00 in the year of selection. Therefore, the hosta of the year is never a new introduction (new varieties often sell at $300 a plant!), but one tested by time, on the market long enough to be offered in great numbers at reasonable prices.
And this year’s winner is:
Hosta ‘World Cup’
The first thing that will strike you about ‘World Cup’—other than its bright chartreuse-yellow coloration noticeable from 100 paces!—are the curious leaves. As the name ‘World Cup’ suggests (wink wink nudge nudge), they’re cupped, reaching partly upward like a scoop as if wanting to catch the rain, much like ‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd’, a better-known hosta (and a former Hosta of the Year, by the way). They’re also attractively corrugated and moderately wavy. Plus the powdery white underside of the leaf is quite visible, adding to the plant’s beauty.
Are they slug resistant? Of course! It’s unimaginable that a slug-susceptible hosta would ever be named at Hosta of the Year. Having your hosta leaves eaten by slugs is just sooo not in style anymore!
This is a large hosta. In fact, a very large one: officially 43 inches (109 cm) wide by 23 inches (58 cm) tall … and it will reach even bigger sizes under the right conditions!
As for the blooms … well, you can’t have everything! As with most hostas, there’s nothing remarkable about the pale purple flowers that appear, according to your climate, in late June or early July.
‘World Cup’ comes from a cross between ‘Komodo Dragon’ and ‘Superbowl’ that was carried out by hybridizer Doug Beilstein. It was selected by Mark Zilis who, at auction, had won the right to choose 20 seedlings from Beilstein’s collection … and Zilis has the eye for picking out the best hostas. ‘World Cup’ was launched in 2006 and is now widely available, hopefully in a nursery near you. If not, there are dozens of mail order sources.
Here are the previous winners of the Hosta of the Year award. If you know anything about hostas, you’ll recognize many if not most of the names. They are already classics!
1996 ‘So Sweet’
1998 ‘Fragrant Bouquet’
1999 ‘Paul’s Glory’
2003 ‘Regal Splendor’
2004 ‘Sum and Substance’
2006 ‘Stained Glass’
2008 ‘Blue Mouse Ears’
2009 ‘Earth Angel’
2010 ‘First Frost’
2011 ‘Praying Hands’
2013 ‘Rainforest Sunrise’
2014 ‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd’
2016 ‘Curly Fries’
2017 ‘Brother Stefan’
Basic Hosta Care
For beginner gardeners reading this, hostas are classic garden plants for the shade and partial shade (although they’ll take full, blazing sun in cool climates), growing and thriving in zones 3 to 8. They like rich soil (but will tolerate poorer ones) and even moisture: they do not thrive under drought conditions. That said, they adapt perfectly well to “dry shade” (shade combined with tree root competition). Mature plants can be divided to produce many more. Their dense foliage smothers weeds, making them very low-maintenance plants indeed! On the negative side, they can be very slow growing and some old-fashioned varieties are subject to serious slug damage. From a laidback gardener’s point of view, the latter are losers: just pull them out and destroy them.
Enjoy growing 2018’s Hosta of the Year!