Hosta ‘Empress Wu’
I have wanted a Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ for many years and I was very glad I found them at a couple of local sources. I was at a garden center in a nearby town and theirs were $22.00 for a 1-gallon pot. I could afford it at the time, but I decided $20.00 would be better spent on more than one plant. My sister came down from the city to go plant shopping, since there are four greenhouses in town, so we went. Luckily I found a Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ for half the price so I also bought my Hosta ‘Dancing Queen’. Sure, they were in smaller pots, but they will grow.
THERE ARE A FEW LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING.
The reason I wanted a Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ is because I like HUGE plants. Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ is reportedly now the world’s biggest Hosta. It is a seedling of the giant Hosta ‘Big John’ introduced by Brian and Virginia Skaggs in 2008.
I don’t know the details, but A patent was issued for H. ‘Empress Wu’ to Proven Winners or Walters Gardens in 2010 (PP20774). It is a part of the SHADOWLAND® Collection which is a registered trademark of Walters Gardens. Proven Winners is a division of Walter’s Gardens.
Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ was named for the only female emperor of China. It can grow 4-5 feet tall x 6-8’ wide, although it can take around 5 years to get that size. The leaves can grow around 1 1/2 feet wide!
Family: Asparagaceae (formerly in Liliaceae).
Origin: Seedling of Hosta ‘Big John’.
Zones: USDA Zones 3a-8b (-40 to 15° F).
Size: 4-5’ tall x 6-8’ wide.
Spacing: 5-6’ feet apart.
Flowers: Pale lavender flowers in July-August on 4’ + stems.
Leaves: Dark green leaves up to 1 1/2’ across.
Light: Light to full shade.
Soil: Prefers moist, well-drained soil.
Water: Average water needs once established.
Propagation: Division every 3-5 years.
Uses: Attracts hummingbirds, shade garden, containers, etc.
Tolerates: Dry shade and high humidity.
Resistant: Slugs and snails.
I planted my Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ in the corner by the side porch on the north side of the house. All my other Hosta are in another place, but I have had my eye on this spot for an ‘Empress Wu’ for a long time. The problem was, I had been planting my larger Colocasia esculenta in this area. In the spring of 2017, I found a Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’ I put next to the porch. Then, after that, I found the Hosta ‘Empress Wu’. So, since the Hosta was still smaller, I put it behind the Colocasia in the corner. I realize that in time, things will definitely need to change. The Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’ will continue to be larger, hopefully, as the size of the bulb or tuber) grows. At least I hope. With that in mind, I will have to move the Colocasia over this spring.
I found this great article on a website called Fraternal Order of the Seedy Fellows that was written by Rob Mortko. The article, “HOT HOSTAS: Hosta ‘Empress Wu’, The New Benchmark in Big“, was published in the Hosta Journal. Too bad, but this website hasn’t been updated for a while. It says 2009. It highlights several AMAZING Hosta hybridizers.
I am running out of words, so you’ll just have to enjoy the photos…
Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ did very well all summer. Soon we will get a good zap and it will go dormant. Then, we will have to patiently wait all winter to see if it will return in the spring.
We had a very cold January with several days below zero during the first week. A few times it was -10 degrees F. It was good to see a few of the Hosta barely peeking through on March 3 including the Hosta ‘Empress Wu’. I kept it covered because winter was certainly not over.
The temperatures would warm up a little then get cold again. Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ was ready to start growing, but she was still somewhat reluctant.
The leaves are trying to unfurl, but the cold temperatures wanted to hang around. It made growing a little difficult.
Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ was looking very good by May and anxious to begin another summer.
I moved Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ away from the corner so it could have more room. Since this plant has the potential to get quite large, I knew it would eventually need more room.
This is the first Hosta I have grown in the bed on the north side of the house. This would make a great location for all the Hosta, but I have been noticing something is finding Hosta ‘Empress Wu’s’ leaves to be a little tasty. I have not noticed any slugs, but I did see a snail… Even though its leaves are fairly thick and information online says it is supposed to be slug and snail resistant.
I am running out of words again…
I measured the largest leaf on June 3, and it measured 7 1/2″ wide x 11 1/2″ long. They will get even bigger… It also has a flower stem starting to grow.
The Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ measured 18″ tall x 32″ wide on June 21…
The flower stem was 32″ tall…
The Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ did very well in 2018. The above photo was the last one I took in 2018 and I am looking forward to 2019 to see how much bigger it gets.
When I first checked on the Hosta on March 7 and again on the 10, the Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ hadn’t come up yet. It is by the porch on the north side of the house so I could keep an eye on it. Finally, on March 17, I noticed a few sprouts.
By April 7, the Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ was growing pretty fast. Probably the fastest growing of the Hosta in my collection. Its leaves are pretty good-sized so it takes a while for them to unfurl.
The Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ is on the north side of the house where I come and go from the house so I naturally notice it often. The other Hosta are in the “other yard” where they don’t get as much attention.
The leaves are already getting big. Information online says mature specimens can have leaves up to 1 1/2′ wide!
It was just the last part of April and the Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ was already 30″ wide!
All the Hosta were beginning to strut their stuff by May 1 in 2019.
The Astilbe ‘Fanal’ was also looking great!
The Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ is next to the porch on the north side of the house where I go in and out most of the time. It is easy to notice how it is doing. Being among a few other perennials I also take photos off and on, it also gets its photo taken more often than the Hosta in the shade beds in “the other yard” which is much farther away.
Spring is a great time of the year, but there is A LOT of Chickweed in the bed on the north side of the house. There is also some nice Red Clover in the mix…
I did make a bit of a miscalculation when I planted the Astilbe x arendsii ‘Fanal’ next to the Hosta ‘Empress Wu’…
Looking GREAT and starting to flower on June 1.
I am running out of words again…
Flowers of the Hosta ‘Empress Wu’, Astilbe x arendsii ‘Fanal’, and Achillea millefolium.
AMAZING! Well, I had to say something…
August 11 was the last date I took many plant photos in 2019. Everything did pretty well over 2019.
All the Hosta were peeking through, some more than others, by March 21 in 2020.
Spring was in the air when the above photo was taken on Marchl 30 and the Hosta have been “working on it”. Most of them have been poking out of the ground for a while and now are beginning to turn green. They are a bit slow sometimes when cool temps linger, but as soon as it gets warm enough they will start growing better. It seems like they are waiting for the perfect opportunity.
Its leaves were unfurling very well by April 11.
The Hosta and other perennials did very well over the summer of 2020. I was fairly busy over the summer and was working a lotion in the garden so I didn’t take many plant photos in 2020. Maybe I can take more in 2021.
2021 Wasn’t a good year for the Hosta in the shade bed. Normally, the deer only nibble on the H. ‘Potomac Pride’ when the Hosta start growing in the spring then leave them alone. In 2021, they kept eating their leaves and wouldn’t let several of them grow. The Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ is not with the other Hosta, but I was fairly busy over the summer and didn’t take many photos. HOPEFULLY, the deer won’t be a problem in 2022 and I will take more photos.
I took a peek where the Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ is and noticed a little green. It is always great to see signs of life.
Most of the Hosta in the shade bed were beginning to come up on April 14 in 2022. Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ is always a little ahead of the others. The deer weren’t a problem in 2022 but I was fairly busy and didn’t get many photos taken around the house. Hopefully, I will do better in 2023.
If you haven’t tried the Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ and have the space for it, I suggest you give it a try. You certainly won’t be disappointed.
I will continue adding more photos as time goes by…
If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on the “Like” below if you have visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 Click here for my page about the Hosta genus, growing information and sources. The links below are specifically for this cultivar. There are several good sources of Hosta somewhere toward the bottom on the right side of the page.
Love your hosta posts! Looking forward to an update. Long live Empress Wu! 🙂
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Hello CC! She is definitely a beauty! More to come! Thanks for the comment!
So exciting for you! We just dont have the climate for Empress Wu, or any hostas for that matter anymore. So I make do with the equally magnificent “Proiphys amboinensis” which gets every bit as giant as Empress Wu if well grown. I have their bulbs twelve each in giant pots in bright light where they make me dream of more temperate climes, where i dont sweat all the time……good luck with it I hope to see it woosh, which it does appear to be doing every year, getting bigger and bigger. Wonderful. Do you have runner ducks?
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Hello Anton! H. ‘Empress Wu’ is truly AWESOME! Hosta didn’t to that well when I lived in Mississippi so I was glad to be back here where they do much better. I looked up Proiphys amboinensis and it looks like a great plant. I will have to scout around to see if I can find at least one. I grew Fawn and White Indian Runner ducks in the early 1980’s and really enjoyed their character. I had a lot of poultry back then and would like to get back into it again. Thanks for the comment!
Thanks for your reply Rooster! The reason I asked about runner ducks is because with hostas and slugs and snails you need a few. Best way to keep these pests at bay. If you do get back into poultry enjoy! We always kept geese growing up, huge noisy flock of them, best watch dogs around.
Proiphys are very nice tropical bulbs, amboinensis is the nicest, interestingly they don’t get any snail or slug damage at all. Which might imply they have some chemical or physical barrier slugs don’t like. The leaves are about the same texure as Hostas maybe less leathery as some hostas but more durable as they take a fair bit of sun if your rainfall and humidity is good, this also encourages flowering.
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I don’t have an issue with slugs or snails here. I have the Proiphys amboinensis on my wish list. I raised chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and guineas in the early 1980’s. My grandparents raised them so I just continued after grandpa passed and I moved to the farm. I was also working at a hatchery that I became co-owner of. So, gardening, raising poultry, cattle, etc. is in my bloodline. From both sides, actually.