Hosta are the undisputed queens of the shade garden. The full range of foliage color from careens to blues to golds and all combinations of those colors along with either spring, early summer, or fall blooms make this a plant for every shade garden.
This plant is a shade lover. Some varieties, particularly the thinner–lead varieties, will tolerate more sunshine than others. You’ll know your variety isn’t suited for the sunshine if you see the colors starting to fade after early spring.
This is also a plant that does best with adequate and regular moisture. It will tolerate drought periods, but you will find it drooping and becoming more, the only way to describe it is ugly.
The hosta survives on almost any soil from a Sandy to play soil, but do understand that a winter–wet soil will reduce survival rates. As I said above, regular moisture is critical for the maximum performance of this plant.
Winter hardiness is not an issue with this plant right up into USDA zone 4.
Note that hosta are unlike other perennials – if you cut a leaf back for any reason, it will not grow a new one in that season. So do not remove slug damaged leaves.
Speaking of Slugs
Slugs love hosta leaves and it’s not unusual to see them riddled with holes by the fall.
Note the thicker leaved varieties resist slugs better than thinner leaved ones (dark green sieboldiana types rather than the thinner leafed golds)
Control slugs with iron-based pellets rather than poisons.
Some varieties will “grow” in the full sun better than others (green/white variegated ones with thick leaves hold up the best) Gold leaved hosta will fade in the sun and bleach out – unattractive. No hosta will thrive in the full sun garden but some survive better than others.
This plant self sows quite nicely in the garden although the seedlings may not resemble the parent plants.
Divide in the early spring when the shoots are just coming through the ground for best results.
It is almost impossible to list all 30,000 varieties of this plant that are available in the trade. Here are some of the better ones that I have grown and can recommend to you.
H. sieboldiana ‘Elegans’. The large ribbed leaves have a good blue tone to them. It is a slower grower than the common form but after a few years, it has an unmistakable presence in the garden.
Other good blue leaved Hosta would include ‘Big Mama’, ‘Blue Angel’ , ‘Blue Cadet’, ‘Blue Cadet’, ‘Blue Mammoth’ and even something like ‘Halcyon’.
Good gold leaved forms include ‘Golden Tiara’, ‘June’ ‘Paul’s Glory’, ‘Janet’, ‘Gold Edger’ (a dwarf), and ‘Gold Standard’.
Some of you might want to combine the green, gold and blue in the same plant. In that case, look for H. ventricosa ‘Aureo-marginata, ‘Wide Brim’, or ‘Todudama Aureo-nebulosa’ (one of my all time favourites) as well as the incomparable ‘Frances Williams’.
Two others that visitors to my garden always admire are the monster leaved ‘Sum and Substance’ and the more ground cover like gold leaved form ‘August Moon’.
Do plan on planting individual varieties that are different in both leaf color and variegation in the same area so there leaves overlap. The contrast between varieties that are predominantly blue and predominantly gold will give you some amazing contrasting displays of color all summer long.
Deeper shade areas benefit from using golden leaf or golden–variegation leaves to brighten up and draw attention to the shadier areas.
Any or all of these plants (I’ve got them all and more in my own garden.) make a wonderful show of foliage all summer long. The golds highlight the shade better than any other color and lighten up the garden.
You can use Hosta for showy specimens, ground covers, edging and fragrance. Pick the cultivars to complement your objectives.
Hosta are also tremendous container plants providing a season–long leafy color for flowering plants to work against. The contrast of the leaves is steady and allows other plants to shine. Winter hosta by removing from the container and planting in the garden. The following spring, they can be dug and replanted in the container.