Funkien (Hosta), also known as heart lilies, are among the most beautiful leaf ornamental perennials along with the purple bell. Most of the approximately 40 game species originate from Japan, some are also native to China and Korea. They belong to the asparagus family (Asparagaceae) and live predominantly in cool, moist mountain forests on humus-rich, evenly moist soils. In Japan, the perennials are highly valued for their clear shape with the almost graphic veins and have been cultivated as ornamental plants for centuries.
In 2009 the Funkie was voted Perennial of the Year by the Bund deutscher Staudengärtner. There are plenty of reasons for this: with its large, decorative leaves, the attractive hardy perennial brings variety to any shady bed, but is also suitable for the pot garden. It was also the wish of the organisation to make the distinctive and at the same time easy-care perennial even better known with this campaign and thus to promote the diversity of plants in our home gardens.
Appearance and growth
Functions are available in both miniature and XXL format. Depending on type and variety, the heart-shaped to spatula-shaped or lanceolate leaves of the Funkias are creamy white, yellow-green, steel blue or dark green, often multi-coloured and with a decorative pattern. Some varieties have a beautiful golden yellow leaf colour in autumn.
All functions grow relatively slowly. They form thick, fleshy rootstocks (rhizomes) and sometimes additional runners over which they spread in the bed. The mostly hanging, white to purple bellflowers are found in spike-like inflorescences on long, slightly leafy to bare stems.
Location and soil
With their large leaves, the shrubs have adapted to semi-shady to shady locations, which should be cool and evenly humid. The soil should be rich in humus, sandy to loamy and fresh to moderately moist.
Hosta plantaginea, in contrast to all other Funkien species, also tolerates a sunny and warm location – only then does this species flower with lush white flowers that smell strongly. With its flowering period from August to September it is also the latest Funkie, all others flower in June and July. These should only be placed in the full sun if the soil is sufficiently moist. In very windy locations, the shrubs are somewhat sensitive to late frost.
Funkies can be planted from spring to autumn. In May, wait until the ice saints have survived so that the young plants are not surprised by late frosts. The planting distance varies greatly depending on the species and variety: please refer to the plant label for more information.
Funkias are naturally long-lived and become more beautiful over the years if you let them grow undisturbed. A division is only necessary if the nests become too large or if the plant is to be propagated.
To propagate, the rootstocks are divided in spring or autumn with a knife or sharp spade. In this video we show you how to do it best. Credit: our store/ALEXANDRA TISTOUNET / ALEXANDER BUGGISCH
The leaves of the Funkien turn yellow in autumn and usually rot by themselves in winter because they are very soft. Funkias are not despisers of food: young plants should be fertilized with a little ripe compost in spring when they are budding, so that they can quickly develop into stately specimens. Important for the care of functions cultivated in pots: The plants must be watered regularly and abundantly because they evaporate a lot of water through the large leaves. If the drying phase does not take too long, this is usually no problem for the robust perennials either.
Wintering or winter protection
Funkias are very hardy and do not need any help during the winter. This is especially true for outdoor functions. However, in very cold regions it is not harmful to move the plants to a sheltered place near the house wall when they are in the pot. In case of strong frost a light protection of jute or brushwood is recommended. To protect the pots from ground frost, they are placed on polystyrene or wooden boards. Funkien are wintered however in any case in the free one.
Funkias are indispensable for semi-shady to shady beds on humus-rich soils in forest and shadow gardens and, with their enormous variety, invite you to collect them. Also in the Japan garden one should reserve some places for them in half-shady situation absolutely. They go well with rhododendrons and other forest plants and can also be associated with weaker perennials and shrubs without getting too close to them. You can achieve beautiful optical effects by combining functions with shadow grasses such as Japanese mountain grass (Hakonechloa), various ferns, Rodgersias and other leaf ornamental shrubs. Funkies are also ideal as hardy pot plants and are surprisingly resistant to temporary drought in pot gardens, as long as they are not in the full sun. The flower shoots look very elegant as cut flowers in the vase.
Functions in the our store-Shop
Important species and varieties
The garden hybrids of the Funkie vary greatly in size: Small-leaved dwarf forms such as ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ barely reach 20 centimeters in height, the stately blue-leaf sparks (Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’) reach 80 centimeters in height with their inflorescences and can easily occupy a square metre of space in the bed after a few years. In any case, the later location and the personal taste are decisive for the purchase: In view of the great variety of species and varieties of Funkien, the right specimen can be found for every garden.
To propagate, the rootstocks are divided in spring or autumn with a sharp spade. Since the perennials grow quite slowly, the yield of daughter plants is not particularly high. This is also the reason why functions in the nursery are relatively expensive.
Diseases and pests
The main enemies of the Funkien are the nudibranchs – there is hardly a plant in the garden that tastes better to them than the young shoots of the Funkien in spring. If there are many snails in your garden, you should protect the plants with slug pellets in early spring. Another protective measure against annoying snails: Place the leaf beauties in an elevated container. An Etagere with a collection of different types of functions is an enrichment for a half-shady seat. You can also use large containers to create interesting design effects in the bed. A very special pathogen is the Hosta virus X (HVX), which has been spreading in the United States since the turn of the millennium. Infected functions can be recognized by unusually drawn to speckled leaves with sunken tissue and worried growth. Infested plants should be immediately removed from the bed and disposed of in the household waste to prevent spreading to the healthy functions.