Hosta Halcyon: Blue Hosta With Textured Leaves

Hostra Halcyon
A Hosta 'Halcyon' as a young plant. David Beaulieu

Botanists have struggled over the years to come to a consensus regarding the plant family into which hostas should be placed. Thus, in your reading, you may see them classed variously as Liliaceae, Agavaceae, Hostaceae, etc. Their association with the lily family is the origin of one of their common names: plantain lily (not to be confused with common plantain).

Plant Type

This is an herbaceous perennial. There are so many different types of hostas that they have been categorized into groups for convenience. Halcyon falls into the Tardiana Group.

Characteristics of Halcyon Hosta

Hosta 'Halcyon' blooms in late summer, bearing lavender flowers. The flower scapes may attain a height of 2 feet. But these are, first and foremost, foliage plants. They are grown for their blue leaves.

In addition to their color, these leaves are moderately "textured" (for the meaning of that term, see below); specifically, aficionados may refer to the leaves as being "ribbed" or "furrowed" (the average person might simply say that they have "deep lines" in them). Leaves on young hostas can be different from those on older ones, so be patient if your new purchase doesn't live up to its description. In the case of Halcyon, new plants will have lance-shaped leaves, but, over time, they become oval-shaped. Slow-growers, the plants at maturity can grow to be 14 inches tall, with a spread of approximately 2 feet.

Origin, Planting Zones, Sun and Soil Requirements

Hostas are indigenous to China, Korea and Japan.

You can grow Halcyon in planting zones 3-8.

Although not overly fussy about soil, it is best to grow these plants in well-drained ground that is slightly acidic or neutral in soil pH. The location should be in partial shade or full shade. The more sun the plants receive, the more water they'll need.

Uses in Landscaping

Halcyon is a great plant for shady areas and for woodland gardens. It is often used as an edging plant. Mass them together as a ground cover to choke out weeds.

Reputedly, Halcyon will attract hummingbirds.

A good companion would be spotted dead nettles, as the silver leaves of the latter look good next to blue hostas.

Many homeowners have struggled with the problem of how to plant under trees. Hosta comes in handy in these situations, but do supply additional water to make up for the water being stolen by the tree roots.

Outstanding Features of Halcyon Hosta

The leaf colors on hostas sometimes change as the seasons progress. Consequently, the "ideal" leaf color achieved at a point earlier in the year may, at a later time in that same year, morph into a less desirable color. One reason why Halcyon is regarded as one of the best blue hostas is that it tends to retain its blue color for a relatively long time.

Naming Names

Besides "plantain lily," alternate common names include "giboshi" and "funkia."

"Giboshi" is the Japanese name for the plant. Hostas are sometimes associated with Japanese gardens. The plant is also eaten in Japan.

Funkia is also sometimes written as "funckia," a name derived from a German botanist named Heinrich Christian Funck.

The significance of the word chosen for the cultivar name of this blue hosta, 'Halcyon,' may not be readily apparent to all, as it is not a term used in everyday English. Its meaning is "calm," "peaceful." Thus a halcyon sky is a tranquil sky, as opposed to a stormy one. Furthermore, there's a mythical bird, associated with kingfishers, that was supposed to possess the power to calm the sea. Perhaps the most famous use of the term is in Walt Whitman's "Halcyon Days".

The name "hosta" comes from Nicolaus Thomas Host, an Austrian botanist, according to Dr. Leonard Perry.

Hosta Care

Often, when we deadhead the flowers on a plant, it is because we wish to promote additional flowering. But we deadhead hostas for different reasons:

  • Since they are primarily foliage plants, we may feel that the flowers detract from the plants' appearance.
  • It costs a plant energy to produce seed (which it will do if the blooms are left on). In the case of hostas, most people would prefer that this energy be directed to the overall health of the plants, instead.

Divide these plants in spring.

Deer, snails and slugs pose a major threat to hostas, generally speaking, making control measures against such pests a big part of the care for hosta. Luckily, because of its thick leaves, Halcyon is relatively resistant to slugs and snails.

"Textured" Leaves: What Does That Mean, Exactly?

When we say that such and such a type of hosta plant has "textured" leaves, understand that we are not using the term as it is usually used by landscape designers, namely, in reference to leaf size. In this latter sense, the texture of the leaves on a plant is said to be coarser or finer than that of the leaves on surrounding plants. But when it comes to hosta leaves, we often use "textured" in a sense that is much more in line with the way the term is employed in everyday life.

Some hosta leaves are smooth. Even though "smooth" is, technically, a type of texture, we do not refer to smooth leaves as being textured. That designation is reserved for leaves that bear any of a variety of marks on them that render them not smooth. It is with the names that folks have for these marks that the confusion begins. One practically needs a vocabulary lesson to make sense of them all.

In the PDF document collection at hostalibrary.org written by W. George Schmid, Part 4C is helpful in this regard (although you may still come away a bit confused). Technically, the subject falls under the heading of "topography." In speaking of how hosta leaf surfaces are characterized, Schmid writes, "Botanists have specific terms which can be applied, such as rugose...and furrowed.... Horticulturists and gardeners use terms such as dimpled, puckered, pursed, ruffled, pleated, embossed, wrinkled, crinkled, and, of course, smooth." Schmid supplies photos that help explain some of these concepts. Don't get too caught up in the lingo, though: some of these words are synonyms.

One adjective that you perhaps expected to see in that group of terms and didn't is "seersuckered." But according to the dictionary offered by the American Hosta Society (yes, hosta descriptions are so complex that a dictionary is required!), seersuckering is essentially synonymous with puckering. Both mean a "gathering of a leaf between the veins giving the leaf the bubbled effect as if thread had been pulled out of a piece of material."