Why You Should Grow Hostas

March 18, 2011 at 8:25 pm 2 comments


If the banner here on Petiole Junction isn’t a clear indication, let me state this for the record–I’m a hostaholic. There is no cure…no 12 Step group. There are plenty of casual gardeners in the world who’ll say things like, “Oh, I have both kinds of hosta in my garden!” and those people haven’t yet awakened to the reality–there are thousands of hosta species, and of them there are hundreds that are absolutely worth growing in any shady garden.

I’ll try to give you a little visual peek at some of the great shapes, colors and textures hostas have to offer. The images I’m using are from Hallson Gardens, a well-known and respected grower whose tremendous selection of hostas serve as a gateway drug for budding hostaholics. Treat yourself to a visit to Hallson’s site, where you’ll find hostas organized by size, color and more. You’ll also learn lots about hostas visiting the Hallson forums.

If you think the plain green or green and white hostas you’ve seen planted along shady foundations are the only types of hostas there are, you’re in for a surprise. Many are, of course, green or green and white. But many are also golden, chartreuse, lime, and blue.

Hosta 'Blaze of Glory'

Hosta 'Abiqua Drinking Gourd'

Hosta 'Kiwi Gold Rush'

There are also hundreds of wonderful hostas that come in variegated forms in combinations of green, blue, gold, lime, cream, yellow, white and every subtle shade in between.

Hosta 'Blue Ivory' (author's photo)

Hosta 'Cathedral Windows'

Hosta 'Twilight' (author's photo)

Not only are there myriad leaf color combinations, but hostas come in many shapes and textures. Leaves can be round or heart-or lance-shaped.  They can be flat and smooth or shiny or corrugated or cupped or even wavy-edged. Some have colored petioles (leaf stems).

Hosta 'Red October' shows off flashy red petioles.

Hosta tokudama 'Aureonebulosa' has heavily corrugated leaves.

Hosta 'Maui Buttercups' has both corrugated and cupped leaves. (author's photo)

Hostas come in a variety of sizes as well. If you’re not a hosta lover (yet), you’re probably accustomed to the medium-sized hostas you see growing along shady foundations and under trees in older landscape plantings, but you may not have encountered the commanding garden presence of a giant hosta or smiled at the charm of the diminutive minis.

Hosta 'Sagae' is a very large hosta that makes an impact. (Author's photo.)

From left to right, small and miniature hostas 'Mighty Mouse,' 'Blue Mouse Ears' and 'Cat's Eyes.' (Author's photo.)

Hostas are simple to grow. Like any plant, they have ideal growing conditions and thrive if you give them exactly what they like, but they aren’t particularly fussy and many will even grow under fairly dire circumstances. I dug out a plain green species (hosta lancifolia) last year with the intent of sharing it with a friend. I was interrupted and ended up laying the hosta down on a clump of rocks and dirt–a very inhospitable location. I got distracted and somehow just never got back to that poor little hosta. It lay there with its roots exposed for weeks. Come July, it was not only still alive but blooming. Although I don’t recommend this kind of treatment, you’ve got to admire the tenacity of a plant like that.

One of the few things hostas don’t like is excessive heat, so a location with some shade is a must (although some hostas can tolerate a fair amount of sun.) And, although hostas are fairly tolerant of dry conditions, providing adequate moisture will aid growth, particularly in the first year after the hosta is planted. Very wet locations, however, don’t provide a great environment for hostas because excessive wet conditions can lead to rot.

My personal hosta collection is still small at about 40 cultivars (I know many hosta people who have several hundred varieties in their personal gardens and growers/hybridizers who have at least 1000 or more), but I have no doubt it will continue to grow (pun intended) as I run around collecting hostas like Pokemon–gotta have ’em all!

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Entry filed under: Garden Photos, Gardening Life, Hostas. Tags: , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Inger Wilkerson  |  March 29, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Our yard is shady so I have many hostas but I never knew there were little ones for pots. How cute!

    Reply
  • 2. petiolejunction  |  March 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    The minis do fine in the garden, too (except for the really tiny ones, which tend to get lost.) I like to plant them at the “feet” of large, upright hostas.

    I should probably do a blog all about the small and mini hostas. They’re a lot of fun, and great for gardeners short on space. 🙂

    Reply

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