Like most first loves, 'Frances Williams' holds a special place in the hearts of many hosta lovers because she was among the first variegated forms introduced. Named for the breeder (who has 17 named hostas to her credit), this variety was registered in 1986. Ten years later, 'Frances Williams' was the fifth most popular hosta cultivar as rated by members of the American Hosta Society. Twenty five years on, she is still as popular as ever.
'Frances Williams' is a beautiful large variety, growing to around 50 to 60cm (24 to 28in) tall by 1 metre (39in) wide, the large blue-green leaves each with wide yellow margins can easily reach dinner-plate proportions. The leaves are thick and quilted and are heart-shaped, the flowers which are pale lilac-white follow on tall spires in summer.
Hostas are creatures of the shade, variegated selections such as Frances Williams will brighten up the darkest corner in the shady garden but it can tolerate some sun if the soil is kept moist.
They perform best in a fertile, reasonably moist site, but if they are not so lucky as to receive the best planting location, they usually do very well anyway. Depending on the size of the plant when mature, hostas should be planted 2 to 3 feet apart. They make excellent groundcover for shady areas even though they do die to the ground in the winter.
The RHS has recognised its outstanding excellence by giving it their prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM). It is also a winner of The American Hosta Society Distinguished Merit Award.
Where to use Hostas:
- In Japan hostas are grown as pot plants for both indoor and our door use.
- They can be planted on the edge of a gravel path under the shade of a hedge.
- Small hostas can be used in the wet areas of a rock garden or rockery.
- A woodland setting is often best with key elements of shade and moisture being available.
Sowing: Sow in late winter/late spring and late summer/autumn.
Seed is best sown in spring or late summer, they need 20°C (68°F) to germinate and 10°C (50°F) at night air temperature. You can also winter sow indoors and provide extra light by fluorescent lamps at a height of 1 metre (36in) over the seedlings for 16 hours per day.
Use fresh seed compost, and, if you wish add 10% fine vermiculite and mix well. Add water to make the mix moist lift a handful of compost in your hand and squeeze, no water should come out. Use well sterilised seed trays make sure the container is dry before filling with the moistened compost. Overfill the seed tray, tap the tray once on the bench to settle the compost, level the compost and firm the compost down.
Sow the hosta seed evenly over the tray and sieve compost over the seed just enough to cover the seed. Water the tray in with luke warm water using a fine rose on your watering can. Place a seed tray cover over the tray or use newspaper. This will help keep the heat and moisture in the compost.
The compost should be kept slightly moist, but not wet at all times. Germination may begin after only two weeks but is often slow and irregular, between 30 and 90 days. Remove the newspaper and water well each day during warm spells.
Prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out in the early summer. Space 30cm (12in) apart.
Juvenile leaves will have different shaped leaves, usually pointed, and will not display the intricate colour patterns that you can expect of the larger leaf hostas. They take one to two years to mature and reach their full size and colouration.
Grow in fertile, moist but well-drained soil with shelter from cold, dry winds. Best in slightly acid or neutral soils; it will grow in alkaline soils if enriched but shallow, chalky soils can cause leaves to yellow. A good loamy soil about pH6 is best make sure to prepare your soil well before planting as they are shallow rooted the surrounding area where you plant the hosta needs to be cultivated before planting.
Hostas are shade tolerant plants and many will thrive and multiply rapidly in full sun if they are given enough moisture. If the soil is not well endowed with organic matter or is sandy, the hosta leaves will usually scorch in full sun. However, put plenty of compost, leaf mold or other organic material in the soil before planting and water them regularly and they will thrive. Mulch the plants in spring.
For hostas in containers you will need to be careful they don’t dry out. If they are in the shade, they are less likely to dry out, but, it may still be worth adding a few water retaining capsules.
Hostas respond very favourably to fertilisation, but like most perennials, over doing it will lead to weak growth. Fertilise in a ring around the plant just as the leaves are emerging in the spring.
Hostas require a dormancy period over winter of below freezing for six weeks or so to allow the plant to get prepared for the upcoming spring.
Hostas are not prone to many diseases; their worst enemies are slugs and snails which proliferate in dark corners, shady areas and moist soil conditions. There are many organic proprietary brands of slug and snail repellent on the market and a watchful eye should be kept on emerging plants as damaged leaves will ruin the appearance of the plant for the whole growing season.
Hostas in Sun:
Hostas are shade loving plants mostly so it is important to place your plants out of hot mid-day sun.
You are better off choosing different plants for a hot sunny position. If you really want hostas, generally yellow / golden varieties will do better and most variegated hostas look best with some sun, preferably early in the day.
Blue hostas need early-season sun but are the most vulnerable to full sun. You will find that exposed to full sun, they are liable to lose their blue coloured leaves.
If your hostas show signs of browning leaves or drying out, this is an indication that they are exposed to too much sun
Hostas in Containers:
Hostas can easily be grown in containers but you will need to be careful they don’t dry out. If they are in the shade, they are less likely to dry out, but, it may still be worth adding a few water retaining capsules.
The fundamental problem of hostas is the old enemy the slug. The advantage of growing in pots is that it is much easier to protect them from slugs. If slugs and snails are prevalent in your area you may consider using copper tape to wrap around the container to deter the blighters.
Soak the hosta for a minute before potting up to allow the roots get adjusted to shock of moving. Place your compost straight into the container if the container is less than 20cm (8in) wide over this add broken crocks or packaging chips at the base then a couple sheets of newspaper over this and some compost. Add water storing crystals to the compost before planting.
Hold the hosta division by the eye(s) and fill in the compost around the plant overfilling the pot then gently with your index fingers push the compost down lightly and give the container a gentle tap this will settle the compost enough without over compacting it. Fill the compost up to about 2.5cm (1in) from the rim with the eye(s) of the division level with the top of the pot then fill with 10mm (½in) size or bigger grit to mulch the container. The stones on the top of the pot help to keep moisture in the container and stop moss growing on the surface of the pot. Water your pots and leave to drain.
How to Divide Hostas:
Hostas usually should not be divided too often as it takes a few years growth before plants attain their full size and form. Early spring is the best time of year to dig your hostas up and divide them. Use a garden fork and loosen the soil gently right around the hosta clump then gently place your fork in below the clump and lift it up give it a shake with the fork to loosen the soil. Wash the clump as this serves to make it easier to see the main eyes (growing points) of the hosta plus it also cleans the roots from weed seed and any slug eggs that might be tucked in around the eyes.
If you clump is large say 60cm (24in) in width the best method to split the clump is two forks placed back to back in the centre of the clump and pull apart. If the clump is smaller, use an old putty knife, it is ideal for placing in between the eyes and cutting down through the side of the crown then pull the division apart. Make sure to clean and sterilise your tools before each division to stop the spread of any disease. Once you have divided the clump soak the divisions in water with a weak solution of a garden fungicide for a few seconds this helps stop root rot.
Plant your division right away do not let the roots dry out. You can also pot the extra divisions up until you have time and room to replant in the garden or grow on in containers. Do not feed at this stage with a high nitrogen fertiliser you want to encourage root growth first so a good organic slow release fertiliser is ideal at a low rate. Prepare your ground well by double digging and allow at least twice the size of your clump you are going to plant as the size of hole to make to plant the division in.
City/Courtyard Gardens, Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds, Ground Cover, Patio/Container Plants or Under-planting shrubs and trees.
Combine variegated Hostas with Arum italicum Pictum or other variegated leaved plants. Other companion plants include Epimedium, Acorus, Astilibes, Berginia, Brunnera, Primula, Pulmonaria and, of course, Ferns
Hostas are native to northeast Asia, mainly Japan, China and Korea. The species of which there is about 70 are so far subdivided in more than 3500 to 4000 different, registered varieties. These mostly clump forming perennial plants with lily-like flowers grow on forest margins or in woodland settings.
Hostas first appeared in Western Europe around the late 1700's to early 1800's then soon after in USA. The first hostas that were brought to Europe were H. plantaginea, H. lancifolia,H. sieboldiana and H. ventricosa. They have been known in Japan as garden plants for centuries and are now collected by enthusiasts intensively.
The name Hosta is in honour of the Austrian botanist Nicholas Thomas Host.
The species sieboldiana is named for the German physician and botanist Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796‚1866) who sparked general interest in hostals in the early 1800s after he returned to the Netherlands with several specimens he had collected over time during his long stint as a physician in Nagasaki for the Dutch East India Company.
Common names that they used to be known by include Funkia, Corfu Lily, Day Lily or Plantain Lily but today they are called Hosta.
Frances Williams (1883-1969) from Winchester, Massachusetts was one of the first landscape architect graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She wrote several articles about hostas for major magazines in the 1960s including The New York Botanic Garden Journal, Horticulture Magazine and Popular Gardening. Her letters about hostas are archived at the Anderson Horticultural Library at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
Mrs. Williams was a devoted hosta enthusiast and founding member of the American Hosta Society; she bred and named many introductions developed in her private garden. Her yard was a scant third of an acre shaded by large nearby trees and the ground was rather damp. When she discovered how well hostas thrived where sun-loving perennials would not, she went a bit, well, overboard, so that her third-acre plot lent her an international reputation.
The cultivar Hosta 'Frances Williams' is named for Mrs Frances Ropes Williams who spotted and quickly obtained the first known specimen, when it appeared in a field of H. sieboldiana at Bristol Nurseries in Connecticut, in 1936. This sport of Hosta sieboldiana had a yellow margin variegation and the combination of the blue base colour and the yellow margin formed a striking plant.
She named the variety 'Yellow Edge,' being not vain enough to name it for herself, while a Des Moines Iowa nurseryman turned her name for it into Latin as 'aureus marginata' which was soon amended to aureo-marginata.
Her hybridising efforts resulted in several other cultivars including H. 'Beatrice', H. 'Dorothy', H. 'Green Piecrust', H. 'Sentinels' and H. 'Sweet Susan'.
In the very early 1960s, Mrs. Williams sent a root to George R. Robinson of the Oxford University Botanic Garden. He not long after displayed the plant during a botanical lecture, and having forgotten it had been named 'Yellow Edge,' named it in honour of the woman who discovered and cultivated the first one. He published his lecture in 1963, and slowly the name he selected came to be preferred, being as it was an honour richly deserved by a tireless promoter of hostas.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 25 Seeds Family Asparagaceae Genus Hosta Species sieboldiana Cultivar Francis Williams Common Name Plantain Lily Other Common Names Funkia, Corfu Lily or Day Lily Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Pale Lilac / White Natural Flower Time Summer Foliage Large blue-green leaves with wide yellow margins Height 50 to 60cm (24 to 28in) Spread to 1m (39in) in 2 to 5 years Position Partial Shade / Shade Aspect East, West or North facing. Sheltered Time to Sow Sow in late winter/late spring and late summer/autumn. Germination Slow and irregular, between 30 and 90 days