Hostas – The Perfect Shade Perennials

Hostas (or Plantain Lilies) are a beautiful and very diverse group of hardy perennials that are perfect for shady areas. There are about 40 species and thousands of cultivars. You won’t choose hostas for their flowers. It’s the stunning and diverse foliage that is the attraction with these plants. With a vast selection of cultivars to choose from, you may have difficult choices to make!

Hostas are best loved for their stunning foliage.

Hostas can range in size from a mere 2 inches high to well over 3 feet high. A few supersized ones even eventually top out around 5 feet!

Which Hosta Foliage is For You?

With leaves that cover a huge range of sizes, shapes and colors, you have a lot to choose from. Leaves can be lanceolate, round or oval shaped. Some leaves are smooth, others cupped or rolled at the edges. Some are about the size of a teaspoon, while others are over a foot across.

But the most stunning feature of hostas is the colorful foliage. Almost every color can be present, with the exception of red. They show many shades of green, from yellow-green to chartreuse to blue green and dark green. Others have bright gold colored leaves or blue leaves. Many hosta varieties have leaves in combinations of patterns and colors, including white.

Where to Plant Your Hostas

Because they come in such a wide range of heights and habits, these perfect shade perennials can be placed in many spots in the yard. The low-growing ones make great easy-care edgings for borders or along pathways. Tuck the mid-sized ones into spaces between your flowering perennials where they will add a lot of foliage interest. Choose the largest ones as a backdrop for flowering perennials, or plant a clump of hostas around the base of a tree where the shade prevents other plants from thriving.

Hosta Cultivation

Hostas are hardy perennials, dying back in fall and coming up each year with fresh foliage. The new buds poke through the soil in early spring, and the plants will continue to grow new leaves throughout summer and into fall, dying back as winter sets in. Each season, the clumps get larger and the leaves showier.

They need no special cultivation, but will love to have good compost added when first planted and balanced fertilizer every spring. Hostas will reach their full maturity in 3 to 5 years. By this time, they may need to be divided – an easy chore. Simply dig up the whole plant in spring just as the buds show. Divide the mass with your flat spade, and replant the sections. Just remember to give your hostas enough room when you replant them. They will spread up and out quickly.

Where to Plant Hostas

Hostas grow best in a spot that receives filtered shade throughout the day. Some varieties of hostas can tolerate morning sun as long as they are grown in constantly moist soil. Green or gold foliaged hostas seem to do the best in partly sunny spots. Check catalogs or your local nursery for ones labelled as sun-resistant or sun-tolerant.

Some of these also have fragrant flowers rising above the foliage in spikes. The flowering varieties thrive in warmer climates, and love long hot summers. The white or lavender flowers have a perfume that intensifies in the evening, so plant these varieties in an area where you like to relax at day’s end.

With their lush clumps of exotic and bold leaves, you have over 1000 hosta varieties to choose from. More are being developed each year. Isn’t it time you investigated these perfect shade perennials?

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