Frances Williams Hosta

Landscaping Uses, Care

My Frances Williams hosta photo shows what this shade garden favorite looks like.
Frances Williams hosta has long been a favorite for the shade garden. David Beaulieu

Botanical Name for Frances Williams Hosta

The plant is called Hosta sieboldiana 'Frances Williams' in the lingo of plant taxonomy. The portion of the name in single quotes is the cultivar.

Botanical Classification

Frances Williams hosta is an herbaceous perennial.

What Frances Williams Hosta Looks Like

The plant blooms in early summer. The members of this genus are valued primarily as foliage plants, but some growers enjoy the trumpet-shaped flowers of Frances Williams. The white blooms have a hint of lilac in them.

Personally, I'm more interested in the thick, variegated leaf of the plant. It's oval-shaped and can grow to a length of a foot under ideal conditions. As you can tell from my picture above, the bluish-green center is hemmed in by a jagged, greenish-gold margin. The leaf is cupped and seersuckered, with prominent lines as well.

The clump reaches 1 1/2 feet to 2 feet in height with a spread about twice that.

USDA Zones, Where It's Native

Indigenous to Japan, Hosta sieboldiana is most suited to growing zones 3 to 8 in North America.

Optimal Growing Conditions

Locate Frances Williams hosta in partial to full shade. Mix humus into the planting bed to create a fertile, well-drained loam.

Care for Frances Williams Hosta

This is a fine plant choice for low-maintenance landscaping. Frances Williams hosta shouldn't give you too much trouble if you keep three care tips in mind:

  1. This plant doesn't simply tolerate shade, it positively needs it (see below).
  2. Be sure to furnish with adequate water during periods of drought.
  3. Be on guard for pest problems.

Regarding the shade requirement, note that this is a classic hosta in that it truly is a shade plant, as is generally the case with green-leaved kinds, as well as those beautiful blues such as H. 'Halcyon'. But as I point out elsewhere, there are types of hosta that want a little more sunlight in order to achieve optimal color: most notably, the golden-leaved kinds. Not Frances Williams, though: its color suffers from excessive sunlight.

Remove flower stalks after blooming, as there's no sense in the plant's using up energy on seed production. The Iowa State Extension advises that any mulch applied (whether for winter protection or to retain moisture, etc. during the growing season) should be kept away from the crown to minimize the chance of crown rot. Divide in spring if growth seems to be petering out.

In the next section we'll look into the aforementioned pest problems. As a preliminary tip on that subject, let me note that disciplined cleaning habits in the garden will eliminate some of the hiding spots for slugs. For example, it's not a bad idea to cut and remove spent foliage in autumn.

Frances Williams Hosta and Animals

On the plus side, this is a plant that brings hummingbirds to your landscaping. But that benefit is more than offset by its downside vis-a-vis the animal kingdom.

Both slugs and deer love to eat this plant! To learn how to control the former, I advise you to read my review on a book about killing slugs. To deal with the latter, there are options ranging from deer repellents to deer fencing.

As if these pest problems weren't bad enough, hosta, according to the ASPCA, is toxic to cats, dogs and horses.

Origin of the Name

First of all, don't confuse it with the similar-sounding . 'Francee,' a relative of the equally popular H. 'Patriot'.

Some of the members of this genus have some pretty funky names. That figures, since an alternate name for the plant is "Funkia"! Seriously, though, with thousands of cultivars available, it's understandable that those who name the new introductions would sometimes throw an odd-ball name against the wall and see if it sticks. After all, they say there's no such thing as bad publicity, so if buyers are more likely to take notice of a funky name, the funkier the better, right?

Here are some examples of cultivars with monikers that leave you scratching your head (as in, How did they ever arrive at such a name for a hosta?):

  • H. 'Elvis Lives'
  • H. 'Bette Davis Eyes'
  • H. 'Devil's Advocate'

The naming of the plant considered here, however, is very straightforward: it was named after the person who brought it into this world, plant developer, Frances Williams.

Uses in Landscaping

Broadly speaking, growers use this plant as a ground cover for shade. More specifically, consider using it as an edging plant in a shady area or as part of a woodland garden. Some homeowners grow the plant en masse in foundation plantings on the north side of a house.

A clever way to use hosta is as a companion plant for spring bulbs. The latter, while they furnish your landscaping with marvelous color in springtime, are notorious for looking ratty later. A judiciously placed hosta can hide that unsightly foliage, without interrupting the spring progress of those precocious flowering bulbs (since the latter "do their thing" before the tardy hosta puts on much growth).