Hosta ‘Double Up’
Finally – An H. plantaginea That Works for Me!
by Harold McDonell

hosta 'double up'First, I must confess that I have never before this year had much success with getting Hosta plantaginea to bloom. Over the years, I have purchased the species from several different sources but none would bloom for me. Yes, the plants always looked good and scaped up well. However, the big beautiful buds that were produced would hardly ever open. Not to be deterred, I also added the double versions of H. plantaginea, H. ‘Venus’ and H. ‘Aphrodite’, to my collection. Again, plenty of buds but no open flowers resulted.
Now I know that the H. plantaginea bloom development and opening can be a problem when temperatures are cool, when the plant is grown in too much shade, or when moisture is uneven. However, I watered all my plants well and often, and I tried several different areas in my yard that gave plenty of light. Of course, low temperatures are never a problem in Georgia in August when the “August Lily”, as it is known, blooms.
Then last year at the National Convention in Nashville, I happened upon a little plant of Bob Solberg’s new hosta ‘Double Up’ for sale in the vendors’ area (my favorite place at a convention!). It was advertised as a tetraploid version of H. plantaginea that was distinguished by more compact plants and scapes, and larger flowers than found in the species. Bob stated that it made a great potted plant for the patio with its smaller plants, shorter scapes, and huge wonderfully fragrant flowers. With all that hype, I just had to try it, regardless of my past failures.
hosta 'double up' bloomThis spring, I transferred my little plant of ‘Double Up’ into a large plastic pot that I then placed into an even larger decorative ceramic pot with a nice deep saucer to hold water. I then surrounded the area around the sides of the first pot with bark chips (orchid bark mix) to act as an insulator and I also used the bark chips as a decorative mulch on top of the pot. I placed the pot on my deck where the plant would receive both strong early morning direct sunlight and even stronger sunlight in the latter part of the afternoon. I fertilized heavily with Osmocote® at planting time and I supplemented along the way with Schultz Plus® liquid plant food with micronutrients.
The results, as you can see in the photos, are spectacular. The single division plant grew quickly into a strong, much more compact plant than H. plantaginea with many nice thick shiny leaves. It proved to be a plant worthy of its place on the deck as it has been very bold and attractive all summer long. Finally it sent up a nice fat scape that was only about 24” high at the time of the first bloom on August 9. The bloom began opening that evening and the bud developed into a fully opened beautiful pristine white flower that was every bit the six inches in length that Bob had claimed it would be. The strong wonderful fragrance was easily detected a good six feet from the plant.
Since that first bloom, many more have come, all opening quite well. Maybe it was this year’s plentiful rainfall or maybe I just finally got all the conditions right. Or, maybe I just got lucky! All I know for sure is that H. ‘Double Up’ is the H. planteginea I have always longed for. I can barely wait until it becomes a big multi-division plant with several bloom scapes and flowers all at once. If you haven’t had much success with this species before, try H. ‘Double Up’. It is still a little pricey but well worth it. And oh yes, be sure to place it where you can see the blooms and enjoy the heady fragrance in the evening when the new flowers begin opening.