When we hear the name Hostas we likely think of shade gardens, after all Hostas are one of the most common shade garden plants! The rich foliage, the arching leaves, the vivid blooms all make this an excellent choice for any garden! Not to mention it is very easy to grow! Hostas are loved by pretty much all gardeners, landscape designers, landscape contractors and perhaps even a few of those with a black thumb too!
The Hosta plant is native to to Northeast Asia, but is grown all throughout the world. The Hosta was named in honor of Nicholaus Host, an Australian Botanist who worked at the Belvedere Botanical Gardens.
While Hostas as a whole are considered shade tolerant plant, there are however some exceptions to this rule. Hostas do not like deep shade, nor do they like full afternoon sun (leads to sun scorching) – as a general rule they prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. Blue Hostas prefer more shade, while the golden and white varieties can tolerate more sun. Varieties particularity tolerant of the sun include: “Guacamole”, “Fragrant Bouquet” and “Sum and Substance”.
Hostas have foliage that comes in a wide range of colors; blue, white, green, gold and many variegated combinations . Hosta foliage takes on a golden tone in the fall and in areas where there is frost, can become almost transparent, making it an interesting feature in the fall/early winter garden. The foliage can take on many shapes from heart shaped to oval to round. It is interesting to note that when propagating Hostas from seed that the seeds taken from one plant do not necessarily dictate what color the leaves will be of the plant that is sown. Some Blue Hostas will produce green, even gold Hostas and vice versa when propagated by seed.
Hostas are classified into different size groups – Miniatures (3 to 6 inch), Small (6 to 12 inch), Medium (12 to 24”) and Large (24 inch and up). Some examples of my favorite varieties include: from the miniature category “Blue Mouse Ears“, which has leaves no larger than that of a man’s thumb and in the large category “Empress Wu“, which with is large striking leaves can become taller than an average sized man! With literally thousands of varieties to choose from, there is a Hosta in every size to suit every garden space!
Hostas bloom during the summer months, with the bloom time varies depending on the variety. The bell shaped blooms vary in color from purple to lavender to white. While most blooms do not produce any noticeable fragrance, there are fragrant Hostas including “August Lily” who produces blooms up to four inches long and open in the evening and close again in the morning making it the perfect night garden plant.
Hostas are excellent companions to other shade plants including Astilbe, Bleeding Hearts, Ferns and Hydrangeas. They make as much an excellent choice as a background plant as they do a specimen plant. Hostas can be used in container plantings as well, mixing well with annuals to provide rich foliage and texture amongst the vibrant colors of the annuals. Hostas also work well with spring bulbs as the foliage of the Hostas will camouflage the foliage of the bulbs after they are done blooming.
Slugs, snails and deer can be particularly problematic for the Hosta garden. There are varieties of Hosta that are more resilient to slugs than others including “Praying Hands”, “Sum and Substance” and “Dorset Blue”. When looking for Hostas that may be a bit more “slug proof”, I suggest looking at the blue varieties and ones with a more puckered leaf. Commercial powders and traps are available for slugs and snails which prove to be effective however can be toxic to other organisms in the garden. The most tried-and-true way to get rid of slugs in the garden is using a “beer trap”. Keeping deer from destroying the leaves of the Hostas in your garden often means resorting to fencing the garden; however even then the deer eventually tend to adapt to these tactics.
Hostas prefer a rich soil high in organic matter. Soil should be well drained and slightly acidic. It is essential to keep Hostas well watered with a minimum of one inch of water or natural rainfall per week (more in sandy soils). Daily watering is ideal, this will lead to overall better growth of the plant, both in foliage and roots.
Hostas can be propagated in many ways. Perhaps the most common way is by division in early spring. Excellent instructions on splitting Hostas can be found here.
All in all, Hostas are an excellent choice for almost any garden, and can be highly addictive for both the beginner and even the most experience gardener. From their ease of growing and care to the wonderful range of varieties and color combinations, you can have a lot of fun growing Hostas in your garden!