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Hostas are considered the queen of the shade garden plants. Native to China, Japan, and Korea, hostas came to America via Europe in the 1800s and have become a mainstay in the flower garden ever since.
The common name for hosta is Plantain Lily, for its large decorative leaves. Hosta is widely popular, not only for its beauty and ability to thrive in shade but also because it is easy to propagate.
There are more than 3000 varieties of Hostas covering 45 species according to the American Hosta Society. They used to be propagated solely by division and seed collection, but now commercial tissue culture has made the availability of unusual hostas soar. All these varieties give any gardener a broad range of options and expanded places to grow hosta. To give you a little sense of the diversity of plant types, shapes and sizes, here are some of the more popular varieties of hosta available.
A unique Hosta for your shade garden, 'Fire Island' is unmatched with bright-yellow leaves on reddish-purple stems. Leaves evolve to light green as the season progresses and are join...
'Blue Angel' Hosta grows up to 4' tall and wide with dramatically veined, blue-green leaves and pale blooms that appear in mid to late summer. The large, heart-shaped leaves give thi...
The medium green leaves have wide, irregular pale green to white margins and interesting puckering that adds texture to the shade garden....
The Variegated Hosta Mix combines color-coordinated shades of green, yellow and white, making an attractive, tapestry-like groundcover for shady areas. Known for their tough, easygoi...
'Patriot' Hosta is a long-time favorite, noted for the dramatic color contrast it lends to the landscape. Deep green leaves are flanked by broad, white margins throughout the season ...
Fire and Ice is a variegated Hosta, with pure white leaves with dark green edging. This hosta produces long lasting lavender blooms and is perfect for shade gardens. Plant as a bord...
A sturdy and compact hosta, 'Halcyon' has blue, heart-shaped leaves with heavy ribbing and towers of lavender flowers. A handsome choice for the shade garden, 'Halcyon' is an excepti...
In the garden, hostas are a versatile plant. They are a low-maintenance solution to many shade garden problems. On the north side of houses, they will thrive as long as they get some dappled light. In heavy shade areas, such as under evergreens or large deciduous trees, hosta will grow slowly and not as fully.
Plant a mix of varieties to create a pallet of leaf colors, shapes and textures. Pay particular attention to the ultimate plant sizes and, of course, plant taller varieties towards the back and smaller varieties in front. Some gardeners like to stay with all one types of hosta, such as varieties with yellow and green leaves, to have a stronger visual impact.
Some hosta varieties look better together than others.
If you plant too many variegated varieties together with dissimilar colors, it can be distracting to the eye. Use golden and yellow colored varieties to brighten up a dark area. Since they grow well in part sun, they can be included in other flower gardens to provide bursts of bright hues. This will help keep a perennial garden attractive during times when other flowers are fading.
When planting bright-colored varieties such as those with large splashes of yellow or golden on the leaves, partner with solid colored varieties that are all green or blue for a better look.
Hostas do play well with other shade-loving perennials, too. Mix and match hosta varieties with similar sized astilbe, Solomon's seal, ferns, bleeding hearts, lungwort, coral bells, and meadow rue. Consider planting Allium bulbs and Siberian iris in between plants. These will grow up and flower above the hosta foliage adding a nice visual surprise. Use tall perennials with dark foliage, such as bugbane, in the back of flower garden to add a nice color contrast.
Hostas also can be grown on shady slopes or be used to create an edge in front of a garden flower border. Varieties that tolerate more sun can be grown along pond edges, since hosta like the moist soil.
In small space gardens, plant diminutive varieties near a bench for sitting, in containers or along a garden path. Focus on varieties with stunning leaf colors such as blue, golden and variegated and those with heady fragrant flowers. Also, look for those varieties with narrow or curled leaves for a different approach. Enjoy the flowers in the garden, or cut the scapes when the bottom flowers start to open, to use as a cut flower indoors.
About the Author: Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden speaker, author, consultant, radio and TV show host. He delights in making gardening information simple, easy, fun and accessible to everyone. Visit his website, GardeningwithCharlie.com for how-to gardening information, and for more about Charlie.
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