The usual advice is to let the seed pods dry on the stalk in the garden until the pod is somewhat dry and about to open. I’m sure that works well in a warmer climate, but here in the northeast, the seed pods never reach that stage before the first frost. It is still possible, though, to collect the seed, because as long as the seeds in the pods are well-developed and have turned black, they will probably produce seedlings.
A mature Northern Exposure is a very large hosta… measuring around three feet high and five or six feet across, or more. The flowers are a light lavender and the leaves are thick with a puckered texture… very large (12 inches) and broad and heart-shaped. In early spring the leaves are a lovely shade of pale greenish blue with a wide irregular creamy yellow border.
Reader question… “Last year was the first time I have ever grown hostas and I’m afraid they might have died over the winter. I haven’t been able to find any of the three plants I had. My question — what should I be looking for? What do hostas look like when they first start to grow the second year?” –Karlie
Reader question… “I have what I think is a hosta seedling growing in my garden, but it is not near my other two hostas. I have not planted any seeds. Is there any way that one of my hostas seeded itself? Can you tell me how I could positively identify whatever this is? I have never actually seen a hosta seedling, but this does look like a baby hosta (I think). My other question is, is this seedling worth saving?” –Laurie P.
Here is some pictorial proof that you don’t always have to have seeds from streaked hostas to end up with streaky seedlings. These little streaked beauties grew from seeds I had collected from a number of hostas… but none of those hostas were visibly streaked. I have also had many seedlings with variegated edges and some center variegation… again from seeds from solid color hostas. I wonder if it’s possible that each hosta has many more possibilities in its genes than the readily accepted ones and that when seedlings are culled early, many of these possibilities are never realized.
Hosta ‘Tattoo’ is supposedly a very difficult hosta to grow, and many never make it through their first winter. When I bought mine several years ago, it was one of the most pitiful-looking hostas I have ever seen, but I bought it anyway because I had never been able to find one locally before. Despite the slug-eaten leaves and stunted growth, I actually paid more for this Tattoo than I have ever paid for any other hosta, because each of its leaves had a very distinct and dark maple leaf outline. That tiny, sick-looking Tattoo is now one of the most beautiful hostas in my gardens and has grown to form a twenty-four-inch mound, which is larger than the standard. It flowers profusely every year but does not produce seeds. I have not been able to find out if this hosta is sterile.
Reader question… “I have a hosta that has gotten very big and is developing an empty area in the center. My neighbor told me it needs dividing, but I don’t know how to do it. Can you share how you divide your hostas? I am new to growing hostas and don’t want to kill it with my inexperience.” –Sheila T.
My June hosta has produced only one seed so far that had what looked like a viable bump. The seed germinated quickly and the little seedling thrived, but it was obvious from the beginning that this seedling was going to become a miniature hosta. Even now that it is two and a half years old, this little hosta is only about three and a quarter inches across, but it looks very sturdy and has a lot of leaves for its size. Although this photograph does not show it, the leaves have just a hint of a narrow dark blue edge.
Not every hosta produces seed pods. Some hostas produce huge numbers of pods and seeds… others produce pods but very few seeds, and sometimes seeds are not viable and will not germinate. I have found that germination is often poor with purchased seeds, but the germination rate for seeds I collect from my own hostas is astonishingly high. Hosta seeds are ready to be harvested when the seeds have turned black, and for me, the best time to start seedlings is sometime in January. By the time I transplant them outside in late May, the seedlings will have a large, well-developed root system. Many will have already produced blossoms.
One of the things I like best about hostas is how easy it is to grow more hostas from seed. For the past several years I have been collecting seed each fall and growing seedlings under lights through the winter. By spring I have good-sized hostas that are as beautiful as any hostas I could buy, and each has amazingly different characteristics. It is commonly said that the only hostas you get from seed are the “plain green” variety, but this is just not true. No two seedlings will look exactly alike… a hosta seedling will not be a copy of the parent hosta… and seeds from the same hosta can produce very different looking plants. Often seedlings will show characteristics that seem to come out of nowhere, like twisted tips and scalloped edges on seedlings when I have no adult hostas with either. Many of my seedlings have developed into hostas that closely resemble many of the “named” varieties.
Here are some of my seedlings grown from seeds collected from my own hostas… as you can see, they have some very different looks.