All About Hostas

closeup of hostascloseup of hostas

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.

Hosta Varieties

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.

  1. Hosta Halcyon, Hosta, Plantain Lily

    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...

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    Halcyon Hosta Plantain Lily Halcyon Hosta Halcyon
    As low as $9.98 Sale $6.49
    Per Bag of 1
    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 exceptional way to add texture and dimension to plant groupings. A first-rate perfomer in containers. (Hosta)
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  2. Hosta Variegated Mix, Plantain Lily

    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...

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    Variegated Hosta Mix Variegated Plantain Lily Mix Hosta Variegated Mix
    $17.98 Sale $11.69
    Per Bag of 3
    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, easygoing ways, hostas are an ideal choice for poor soils and weather-prone areas and will spread and multiply if you let them. One of the most low-maintenance perennials you can choose! (Hosta)
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  3. Hosta Patriot, Hosta, Plantain Lily

    '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 ...

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    Patriot Hosta Plantain Lily Patriot Hosta Patriot
    $11.98 Sale $7.79
    Per Bag of 1
    '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 and lavender flowers shoot up from tall scapes in late summer. Incredibly easy to care for, this is a tough, forgiving plant that really brightens the shade garden. (Hosta)
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  4. Hosta Fire and Ice, Plantain Lily

    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...

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    Fire and Ice Hosta Fire and Ice Plantain Lily Hosta Fire and Ice
    $16.98 Sale $11.04
    Per Bag of 1
    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 border and or in containers for continuous color and texture. (Hosta)
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Planting Tips

hosta 'first frost'hosta 'first frost'
The foliage of <a href="/perennials/hosta/hosta-first-frost">Hosta 'First Frost'</a> makes this easily a customer favorite.
hosta 'earth angel'hosta 'earth angel'
<a href="/perennials/hosta/hosta-earth-angel">Hosta 'Earth Angel'</a> adds charm to any garden with both their blooms, and verigated foliage.

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.

hosta in gardenhosta in garden
Amazing examples of <a href="/perennials/hosta">Hosta</a> pairings.
hosta in gardenhosta in garden
(Customer Photos by Don P.)

Companion Plants

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 astilbeSolomon's sealfernsbleeding heartslungwortcoral 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.

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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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