Best Hostas to Grow: Part 1 – The Classics

April 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm Leave a comment

Let me preface something: for a hosta collector, picking the “best hostas” is like picking your favorite child–impossible. And yet, here I am trying to do the impossible and provide lists of some can’t-miss hostas that every garden with at least part shade needs. For part one of this article series, I’m focusing on a few classic varieties that have been gracing hosta gardens for a decade or more and have established themselves as winners.

My list is by no means the definitive list and, of course, it’s all subjective. But I’ve based my picks on hostas that I grow myself, as well as recommendations from many a hosta grower. If you want to know what the majority of hosta lovers view as some of the best around, the American Hosta Society publishes an annual list of the most popular hostas based on member votes. Some of my picks match those on the current AHS list of favorites. (You’ll note that the AHS vote always tends to swing toward the flashy variegated hostas we all love, but there are some great solid-colored classics, too.) All of these, in my opinion, are garden rock stars.

Five Great Classic Hostas

H. ‘June’

Try this. Seriously. Walk up to any hosta grower and ask them to name some of their favorite hostas off the top of their head. I’d be surprised if ‘June’ didn’t make every single list. This hosta is a medium-sized sport of another fantastic hosta, ‘Halcyon.’ Its leaves have great substance, which means they’re slug-resistant–always a plus! ‘June’ can look very different depending on how much sun or heat it gets. In shade, ‘June’ is a variegated kaleidoscope of chartreuse and blue tones.  Grown in more sun, it will lighten up to shades of green and pale yellow to near-white. Whatever its appearance, every shade garden needs ‘June.’

H. ‘June’ grown in a shady spot. Lovely!

H. ‘Regal Splendor’

I bought ‘Regal Splendor’ three years ago when I saw it sitting on a clearance shelf at a local nursery. It wasn’t overly impressive when I first planted it, but most hostas take two or three seasons (or more for the bigger varieties) to really start showing off. The following season, ‘Regal Splendor’ doubled its size, and then I was impressed. The season after that, it doubled its (already doubled) size yet again, and I was blown away. This large vase-shaped steely-blue-green beauty with yellow edge variegation and slightly wavy leaves won me over in a big way.  Make sure to give this large hosta plenty of room to spread out.

Here’s H. ‘Regal Splendor’ the year I planted it.

And here’s ‘Regal Splendor’ emerging in the spring one year later, and double its size.

H. ‘Halcyon’

As I mentioned above, ‘Halcyon’ is the parent plant that produced ‘June,’ its popular offshoot (or sport.) But ‘Halcyon’ stands on its own merit as a beautiful medium-sized blue hosta with great form and substance. Every hosta garden needs attractive, solid-colored plants to serve as a calming backdrop, and ‘Halcyon’ fills that role perfectly.

H. ‘Halcyon’ has great form and substance. Give it a good bit of shade to help maintain its pretty blue color.

H. ‘Sagae’

This hosta tops the 2011 American Hosta Society popularity poll for a reason. I won a giant division at a local hosta society auction a few years ago, and it’s been the standout in my garden that everybody comments on. ‘Sagae’ is a very large hosta, and anyone purchasing a young plant should understand that it’s going to take some time for this beauty to reach maturity.

Hosta ‘Sagae’ in my garden as a newly-planted auction win. Most large hostas will take several years to reach this size, but they’re worth the wait.

H. ‘Sum and Substance’

The name of this variety says it all, doesn’t it? ‘Sum and Substance’ is another big boy–in the Very Large category, like ‘Sagae.’ And like other giant hostas, it takes some time to come to size, but when it does it’s definitely got a wow factor with its gigantic chartreuse leaves. This variety is fairly sun tolerant (given enough moisture), and the color will brighten up the more light you give it.

‘Sum and Substance’ is a big guy!

It’s a Start!

As I was creating this list of classics, it occurred to me just how enormous the task of recommending some great hostas is. This list is only the beginning, but I think it’s a great start. Not only would any of these hostas make a great addition to your shade garden, but most, if not all, of these gorgeous varieties should be readily available in local nurseries. (Just avoid purchasing them from big box stores like Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes and Menards. More on that in a future article.)

Are there any classic hostas (introduced a decade or more ago) that you’d like to recommend? Post them in the comments. And stay tuned for more lists of must-have hostas in future articles!


Entry filed under: Hostas.

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