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Friday, March 28, 2008

It reverted?

The first time somebody pointed to one of my plants and said "oh, it reverted", I had no idea what they were talking about. Every now and then a visitor would make this comment, usually when looking at one of my Hosta but it happened with a few other plants too.

Finally I figured out what they were saying. The plant in question had been chosen for it's unusual form, possibly a color breakthrough or a foliage variation. In the above photo of Hosta 'Janet' you can see the solid green leaves scattered about. They come from a part of the plant that "reverted" back to the original form.

It's still a bit confusing. You see, originally there was a solid green Hosta. It had a mutation, one part of it had a lovely variegated leaf. An observant grower isolated that variegated section, multiplied it, introduced it and now you had a variegated Hosta named 'Janet'. The problem is that sometimes these new introductions will revert, that is, go back to their original color or form.

This is Sedum 'Frosty Morn'. I'm absolutely crazy about this Sedum, with good reason. It looks stunning in the garden.

See this photo of a newly weeded perennial border (taken in 07). It's easy to find Sedum 'Frosty Morn', she just stands out wonderfully. The best thing is I got this plant for free. I was walking through the perennial farm down the road when it was in business a few years ago. There were weeding buckets scattered around and one of them was filled with wilted Sedum cuttings. I asked if I could take those cuttings home and try to grow them on. The answer was "yes" and just about every cutting grew for me.

Yesterday as I was out in the garden I checked over my newly emerging Sedum. From past experience I've learned that some varieties will revert. As you can see in this photo, Sedum 'Frosty Morn' is one of those.

So what am I to do? Many times the reverted portion can be a stronger grower than the variegated portion so you really need to remove it. In the case of Sedum, it's easy, just slip your fingers down to the base, wiggle a bit and pull that piece out.

Hosta are much harder, you need to cut out the reverted portion. Hosta 'Janet' has been lifted three times and cut three times. I don't know if it's just prone to reverting or if I'm always leaving a small piece of the solid portion behind. The hard part is you can't lift it now in March and cut, you have to wait until it's leafed out to see the different parts. At that point I'm pretty loathe to lift and cut that beautiful plant.

This lovely yellow/blue variegated Sedum is another one that reverts every year. You can see here that I left it along for a year or two before splitting it up. This is an older photo and I didn't know at the time how easy it was to separate Sedum.

So what do you do with the piece you cut out? Is there something wrong with it? Nope, it's just not what you originally thought you planted.

This photo shows you two Sedum. The dark one in the foreground is Sedum 'Lynda Windsor'. Behind it with the light foliage is a Sedum that grew from one of the reverted pieces I stuck in the ground. I don't remember which plant this reverted piece came from but it's so beautiful that I'm propagating it now.

I have no idea if the "reverted" piece is actually now the same as the grandparent plant or if it is a totally new thing. It really doesn't matter much to me, I'm having so much fun with it!

As for the solid colored Hosta pieces? I've found homes for all of them, either with other gardeners or here at my own place, where I've put them along the border of our little woods.

Do you have plants that revert? What do you do with them?


kjohnson said...

I approach reverted plants two ways. One is to vigorously prune out the offending shoots or two, do what you did and leave it alone and see what happens. For that hosta, I would dig it up (even in season) pull out the differing shoots, replant the mother and grow the off shoots on their own to see what they do. Often the reverted shoots are on the outside of the clump and easy to get to.

I have a dwarf variagated kerria K. japonica 'Picta' that reverts regularly. Pruning out the species shoots works best.

Reverting also occurs on cultivars that are "witches brooms". There may be nothing you can do once the reverting starts other than get used to the change.

Thanks for the informative pictures.


WiseAcre said...

I'm too lazy to fight nature and just let it take it's course. In some ways I like to see it happens and only get a bit upset if I paid a permium for something I thought was special.

I'm headed to the Island tomorrow. I'll be available if you want to take me up on the offer to go to the Plantage. I expect to be down there for at least 5 days. I plan on going and returning home with something even if I have to heel in the pots with snow.

I don't know if Blogger provides my e-mail when I comment. Let me know and I'll get back to you with my phone # if you're interested.

Di said...

Sometimes seeds fall into the crown of the original plant and germinate. These are usually less exciting than the more expensive cultivars.

garden girl said...

I have two varieties of hosta that do that. I've never had the reverted portion take over the clumps on these varieties in the many years I've had them,(from divisions from a couple of houses ago,) so I leave them alone and enjoy the oddity.

Frances, said...

Thanks for the info. I have frosty morn and it is the worst about reverting, but after doing nothing for a couple of years, it seems it changes its mind about reverting, one year having the white edge, one year not. My clumps have been spread so thinly, that it is better to just wait a while for them to get larger, so they won't suffer from the loss of their most vigorous parts. Good post of how to spot this and what to do about it, if anything. Thanks.
Frances at Faire Garden

Janice said...


Thankyou for your comment.

I didn't know that hosta reverted, I havn't seen this happen to any of mine yet, but now I think I will take a closer look at all my clumps this year to make sure.

I actually only have one kind of sedum and it has been in giant pots at the end of my driveway for years. I didn't know there were variagated varieties. I have a lot to learn, lol.

I am not 100% sure what I am looking for in daylily crosses as of yet. I tend to love almost all the daylilies I see but my newest additions have mostly been Tets, with very ruffled edges and I am a fan of blues (although I know they are not actually blue.)The current seed crosses that I have now are diploids and I was hoping to make a more beautiful version of Fairytale Pink which is probably my all time favorite daylily growing in my garden.

Nancy J. Bond said...

'Frosty Morn' is beautiful!

Gail said...

This is a very interesting phenomena
reverting...people do this too!

I love 'free' plants, that's a good 'frosty morn' story....wonder if the local nursery will be carrying this pretty plant.


Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

The only reversion prone plant I have currently is Sedum/Hylotelphium 'Black Jack.' As it is easy to root off a broken piece of Sedum, I now have several 'Matrona.' I think I might start giving some Matrona away this year, as reversion is such a problem with Black Jack.

shirl said...

Hi there Melanie, I have enjoyed this post :-)

Okay first to the hosta... I have grown many hostas over the years and have never come across this. I love that you have a hosta 'Janet' - I have hosta 'June'! I will now keep a closer eye on the leaves.

Ah... to the sedum! I cannot remember ever growing a variegated one but perhaps I have. I love the look of Sedum 'Frosty Morn'. I will look out for that one now :-D

I am sure I have had more than one plant that has reverted but at present I have an arabis. It has flowered for almost a year now so I haven't the heart to start pulling bits out :-D

Zoƫ said...

If I have trees/shrubs that revert, I cut the effected parts out back to a leaf joint. I have a rose that is reverting too, Rosa gallica 'Versicolour' aka Rosa Mundi, but it always was an unstable sport, so when the solid pink blooms appear, I just leave them; they make good contrast with the stripped ones. As for other reversions, so long as they don't wreck a colour scheme, I leave them be, nature will always win, no matter what I do!

Amy said...

Lucky you to get so many sedums for free. I'm falling pretty hard for sedums. They are perfect for my growing conditions and good looking to boot.

Cinj said...

Neat post, I guess I usually let nature take it's course. I'm a bit of an amatuer though so I don't usually feel real comfortable messing with things. I don't know, maybe I'll never really feel like I know what I'm doing. I think I expect too much of myself sometimes!

Brenda Kula said...

Well, that's very interesting information. I don't think I've heard mention of that word before. Love to learn new stuff.

Rosie said...

Hi , I'm new to blotanical,found your post interesting. I farm in NS and also work for another large local farm who produce bareroot perennials for greenhouses and nurseries in the US ( some in New York state) we grow many types of sedum and hosta. 2 of my favorite sedums are Autumn Joy and Dragon's Blood , For hostas 2 I have chosen are Paul's Glory and Blue Jay. Will check in with you again soon. - Rosie-

Melanie said...

kjohnson, I've removed reverted pieces from other Hosta and like you said, they are usually on the outside. This hosta Janet though keep beating me at the game.

wiseacre, wish I had seen this early enough to answer you. This is a bad weekend for us. My husband lost a highschool buddy last week, the first of his tight knit crowd and Sunday is the memorial. We're going to be doing things tomorrow to get ready for that. Please keep me in mind for a future trip though!

Di, that's happened to lots of daylily gardeners that I know of.

Linda, I think Hosta are tough enough that both halves can grow but I know first hand that the solid colored Sedum grow thicker and taller than the variegated part and then shade them out.

Frances, my Sedum clumps rarely are thin. I pinch them two to three times early in the season and add each pinch to the ground around the mother plant (unless I'm growing them for sale). I can start with a single pot in the beginning of the season and have a huge clump by the end of summer.

Janice, let me know if you want to try some Sedum. I'll be glad to share some pinches with you :-)

Nancy, I have several favorite Sedums but 'Frosty Morn' has to be in the top 5.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter, I got 'Black Jack' last year. Right now the new growth is green on each and every piece and I'm getting worried. I'll be annoyed if the whole thing reverted. In the mean time I also got 'Postman's Pride' and that one is still the darkest purple of them all.

Shirl, I have June too! That's one beautiful Hosta. Another great one is Queen Josaphine, one of the best here.

Zoe, that's happened to me with a Viburnum this year. I hope I cut the piece off the right way as the limb was pretty large.

Amy, if you ever visit a garden with Sedum, ask for a cutting or two. It's that simple. I've had tour groups here where I hand out plastic baggies to everybody and let them cut what ever sedum variety they want.

Cinj, I know what you mean. I've been gardening 20 years and it's just the last few that I've felt comfortable to really attack things.

Brenda, I wasn't even sure if it was a word! I had to check google before I sent this post out so I'm still learning things too :-)

Cinj said...

Well, it's good to know I'm not alone. I've "only" been gardening about 10 years. I'm okay with hostas and creeping phlox so you'd think I wouldn't be so uptight about things. Oh well. Live and learn, right?

Phillip said...

I've noticed this happening to several of my plants this year.

Anna of RavenCroft said...

Melanie! h. Paul's Glory reverted on me last year. Prior to that, I'd never had it happen. Must be some are more prone to others. Now, about those reverted sedum of yours: That bight green one is to die for! Can you save me a chunk? I've got the perfect place for a sedum garden here t RavenCroft. It's going to be B-U-T-Ful!

ravikumar said...

hello melanie

nice to see your blog on a natural subject. I and my son who is studying bio technology liked those photos and description. We are new to blogs and happy to see a nice subjected blog like yours. We too have started a new blog and you can see the same at

keep writing on the subject

Ravi and Sai