Technically, plant taxonomy lists this hosta as H. longipes f. hypoglauca X H. 'Crested Surf,' a designation that relates the plant's parentage. But you will usually see it referred to by the much catchier name, Hosta 'Fire Island.'
Plant Attributes of Fire Island Hosta
One grows this plant primarily for its foliage color. In spring it is a bright yellow-gold (see picture above). Leaf color darkens somewhat to a chartreuse during the summer, so make it a focal point in your spring garden while it's at its peak, then let it recede into the background in summer if it's only the golden leaves that you're interested in. You can easily accomplish this if you grow it in a container (meaning you can move it around at will).
But it doesn't have to be all about "striking gold." Many growers appreciate the summertime chartreuse color, as well. Moreover, the reddish-purple stems supporting the leaves are attractive in their own right. Adding further interest are the waviness of the leaf margins and the seersucker in the middle of the leaf. Finally, the lavender flowers attract hummingbirds.
Fire Island hosta reaches a foot or more high at maturity, with a spread of about 28 inches.
Sun, Soil, and Zone Requirements
As we mention in our main article on hosta plants, some of the golden-leafed types want more sun (in order to achieve optimal color) than do other kinds of hostas. Most growers of 'Fire Island,' however, report having success growing it in locations with significant amounts of shade. We grow our own in a pot during the spring here in New England in a location that is mainly sunny. It's a central spot in our yard, where we're able to appreciate the display fully. Before summer's heat arrives, we transplant it into a large window box located in an area that's mainly shady.
Fire Island hosta likes a moist, well-drained soil into which humus has been incorporated. It is best grown in planting zones 3-9.
Plant Care Tips
Those of you who have grown hostas before know that slug control will be near the top of the list of care measures to take in order to enjoy success with this plant. We discuss several control measures you can take to minimize the damage from this garden pest in our review of a book on how to kill slugs.
Cosmetic plant care includes removing flower stems after blooming is over. Some gardeners remove them even before that, simply because they don't feel the flowers are all that exceptional and don't like them getting in the way of viewing the foliage. Either way, this little bit of housekeeping helps keep the display looking good throughout the summer.
Uses for Fire Island Hosta in Landscaping
This plant could serve as an effective ground cover along shaded or partially shaded walkways, thereby functioning as a border plant. If you're not crazy about the chartreuse color it has during the summertime, stagger your planting with another shade-tolerant perennial (be it another type of hosta or something else) or leave gaps between your Fire Island hosta where you can insert shade-tolerant annuals every year, such as impatiens plants.
Hostas will also grow under evergreen trees with a little help from you (namely, amending the soil and irrigating). And if you're staying away from using shrubbery in foundation plantings, why not consider hosta as an alternative? If you live in the North, an east-facing wall that gets a bit of morning sun could be just right for Fire Island hosta. As you get closer to its southerly limit zone-wise, installation along a north-facing wall might be preferable.
About the Name
We assume the first part of the cultivar name to be an allusion to the bright color of the springtime leaves (although We suppose it could also refer to the reddish color of their stems). But there's another allusion being made here, as well. Fire Island is a barrier island on the southern side of Long Island, New York. It is famous for its beaches and its lighthouse. It is also known as one of the "Gay Meccas" in the U.S. We don't know how (if at all) this geographical reference connects to the hosta, but many such references in plant names are simply gratuitous.
Other Types of Golden-Leafed Hostas
Although it's variegated, another kind of hosta we grow that we'll count as being golden-leafed is 'Remember Me,' which, coincidentally, we have growing right next to some forget-me-nots (Myosotis). We love its irregular color pattern. Some variegated plants have predictable patterns; not this one. That keeps things interesting. The interior of Remember Me's leaf is mainly golden, the margin mainly green. But the widths and lengths of the green bands is random. Moreover, there are two shades of green, one markedly lighter than other, making it a tricolored leaf. The overall effect is quite striking. Another golden-leafed hosta with variegation that we grow is 'Golden Tiara,' but it's not nearly as memorable as 'Remember Me.'
If you seek only "pure gold" (that is, other golden-leafed hostas without variegation), possibilities range from small kinds like 'Golden Teacup' to much larger plants like 'Sea Gold Star.' Another giant is the very popular 'Sum and Substance.' Here are a few other golden-leafed types; we've chosen the ones with the most colorful names (it's amazing how creative the marketers have been in finding names that indicate goldenness):
- 'August Moon'
- 'Sun Power'
- 'Fort Knox'
- 'Good as Gold'
- 'Midas Touch'
- 'Jimmy Crack Corn'
More Hostas to Read About
Not interested in golden-leafed hostas? Here are a few other popular kinds to read about that come in other colors: