Sum and Substance Hosta

Hosta hybrid ‘Sum and Substance’

Sum and Substance Hosta

Hosta hybrid ‘Sum and Substance’


How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me


The Sum and Substance Hosta is a spectacular mound of large ribbed leaves, each one almost 2 feet long, forming a clump that will be 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide within 5 or 6 years. The leaves are golden yellow when grown in sun, turning more chartreuse-yellow to lime-green when growing in shader spots. In summer 4-foot stems of pale-lavender flowers rise up, adding to the display. Grow this plant as a magnificent shade specimen, by water or beneath trees, anywhere in your garden, including areas of full shade. It can also be grown in large pots and tubs.

  • Magnificent leaf coloring from gold to chartreuse-green
  • Spectacular vase-shaped clumps of large leaves
  • Forms a plant 5 feet across within as many years
  • Flower stems rise almost 4 feet into the air
  • One of the most slug-resistant varieties of Hosta

Full sun brings out the yellow coloring of the ‘Sum and Substance’ Hosta, but it grows perfectly well in all levels of shade, and benefits from afternoon shade in all but the coolest zones. It is hardy even in zone 3, and grows into zone 8. Grow it in rich, moist, but well-drained soil, and mulch every year or two. It is very resistant to slug damage, and other pests and diseases have no significance. Incredibly easy to grow, even cleaning up the dead leaves is optional. Simply cut down the old flowering stems once they become unsightly.

Plant Hardiness Zones 3-8
Mature Width 5-6
Mature Height 2-4
Zones 3-8

The use of Hosta plants in our shade gardens has revolutionized our attitudes to shade. Once to be feared – a bare and barren place – shade is now desirable for all the amazing shade plants we have today. Top of the pile and king of the heap has to be the Sum and Substance Hosta, a plant that truly changed everything in our gardens. It was its arrival in our gardens in the 1980s that brought Hosta plants to the front as the top, unrivalled shade plant of choice. Why? Because no one had seen anything like it before. The drab, plain-green Hosta that barely rated even a mention in gardening books at the beginning of the last century was suddenly transformed into a spectacular and essential specimen plant. Its huge ribbed leaves of glowing chartreuse yellow, forming a clump up to 6 feet across, bring light and beauty to any area of dull and dark shade. Sum and Substance really is the most significant Hosta you can have in your garden, and one that no shade garden should be without.

Growing the Sum and Substance Hosta

Size and Appearance

The Sum and Substance Hosta is a hardy herbaceous perennial plant that grows from a sturdy root system, developing numerous large buds over winter. From early spring these produce vase-shaped whorls of large leaves, which can be almost 2 feet long. They are broad and heart-shaped, tapering to a graceful point, and deeply grooved with a series of curving veins. The glossy and waxy surface is very attractive, as well as being slug resistant. The color varies depending on light levels, but it is always bright and attractive. In full sun and bright locations the color can be almost pure gold, and the more shade your plant receives the more chartreuse the color becomes, moving closer to a bright lime green in deep shade. The leaves overlap, forming a dense covering over the ground, and making a handsome mound that can be as much as 6 feet across within 7 years, and as much as 4 feet tall. Around mid-summer strong stems rise up, approaching 4 feet in height. Each one carries numerous large, bell-shaped flowers of a soft lavender color. It depends on your climate when the leaves die for the winter. In warm zones they can last well through the season, as it usually takes a strong frost to kill them.

Using the Sum and Substance Hosta in Your Garden

The amazing Sum and Substance Hosta is perfect for making a spectacular statement in the more shady parts of your garden. Plant it in beds, beneath trees, along paths and beside water. Grow it with other Hosta varieties for contrast, or behind other shade-loving shrubs and perennials such as Astilbe, Azaleas, Coral Bells and Sedges.


The Sum and Substance Hosta is extremely hardy, growing even in zone 3 and thriving in all but the hottest areas. Most Hosta will not grow well in zone 9 because the winters are not cold enough, rather than the summers being too hot.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

If the soil is damp enough, the Sum and Substance Hosta will grow in full sun, especially in cooler zones, but it grows best in partial shade. It enjoys a little morning sun, and it also grows well in light full shade, such as beneath large trees and in areas of dappled light.

Maintenance and Pruning

Not only is the Sum and Substance Hosta spectacular, it is incredibly easy to grow, needing almost no care. Water new plants frequently, but once established it has some resistance to dry periods. It is well-known as one of the most slug-resistant Hosta, and those are about the only pest problems these plants have. It normally has no significant diseases if the soil is not too dry or too wet, and it needs very little attention. You can cut off the flowering stems once the last flowers fade, or leave them until later. When the leaves die for the winter they can be removed, but even that isn’t really necessary – they are quickly hidden by the new leaves growing in spring. An annual mulch with some compost or other rich organic materials is valuable, to conserve moisture and feed your plants. Do this at any time between the leaves dying and the buds expanding.

History and Origin of the ‘Sum and Substance’ Hosta

The plant genus Hosta contains only a few species, all coming from Japan, China or Korea, but there are literally thousands of garden hybrids and varieties. The ‘Tokudama’ Hosta was once a species (H. tokudama) but today it is just a variety. It was one of the first Hosta plants grown in gardens, collected around 1850 by the plant explorer Robert Fortune. In the 1960s Dr. Jamison Harrison of Massachusetts found a seedling of it with ribbed, chartreuse-green leaves, and called it ‘Bengee’. We don’t know for certain, but it seems likely that the prolific Hosta breeder Florence Shaw used pollen from ‘Bengee’ on a plant of Hosta nigrescens, a large Hosta with blue leaves. Several other possible origins have been suggested. We do know that the plant was officially registered as ‘Sum and Substance’ in 1980 by another breeder, Paul Aden. It was then distributed through Charles Klehm and Son Nursery, at that time situated in Illinois. The rest is history, as they say.

Buying the Sum and Substance Hosta at the Tree Center

This Hosta has received so many awards it is hard to know where to start. In 1993 it was given the Award of Garden Merit by Great Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society. In 2004 it was Hosta of the Year at the American Hosta Society, having won numerous lesser awards from that society since 1984. One of the most outstanding Hosta plants available, no garden should be without this amazing plant – it will transform any area it is planted in. Order now, because this top-selling never stays in stock for long.

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Sum and Substance Hosta

Hosta hybrid ‘Sum and Substance’