Hosta are generally grown more for their foliage interest than their blooms. Available in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, there's a hosta for almost every situation or preference. There are dwarf cultivars suitable for a bonsai garden as well as selections that tolerate sun. Leaves are generally heart-shaped but can also be straplike. Flower spikes appear in summer and are white or lavender-purple in color; some cultivars have been bred for fragrance or double flowers. Hosta generally has a mounding habit, although some selections can be upright and vase-shaped. Plant size ranges from three to 60 inches tall and about as wide, depending on selection.
Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 9
How to use it: In masses, in containers, along a border or as a specimen plant in a shade or woodland garden. Combine with other shade-loving plants, such as ferns, bleeding heart or epimedium, or use it as an accent by itself.
Culture: Prefers partial to full shade; sun-tolerant cultivars are available. Morning sun is better than hot, afternoon sun. Avoid planting in deep shade for maximum performance. Grows best in a rich, moist, well-draining soil. Propagated by division. Depending on size of clump, divide every three to five years in early spring before new leaf growth unfurls or in summer. Hosta can remained undisturbed for several years before needing division. May have problems with deer, slugs, snails, voles and other rodents chewing on plants. Black vine weevil and foliar nematodes also cause problems on hosta.
Special Notes: Valued for its variety of foliage color and texture in the shade garden.
Selected Species and Cultivars
- H. sieboldiana. Large-sized hosta that reaches up to four to five feet tall and about as wide.
- H. lancifolia. This upright, medium-sized hosta has a vase-like growth habit and is valued for its lance-shaped leaf texture.
- H. plantaginea. A medium-sized hosta whose incredibly fragrant blooms are the draw.
- H. undulata. The leaf margins of this medium-sized hosta species are wavy and ruffled.
- H. venusta. Dwarf species reaching only about six inches tall and about as wide.
- Blue-leafed selections, include 'Halcyon' and 'Blue Angel'.
- Yellow-leafed selections, include 'Sum and Substance' and 'Sunpower'.
- Green- and white-variegated selections, include 'Patriot' and 'Francee'.
- Sun-tolerant selections, include 'Guacamole' and 'Fragrant Bouquet'.