by Marilyn Odneal
Hostas are definitely made for shade. They are popular, cold hardy herbaceous perennials that brighten up the less sunny areas in your landscape with their beautiful foliage. Hosta leaves come in many shapes, colors, sizes, and textures. They can be solid in color or mixed-variegated in shades of blue, green, white and gold. There are more than 2,500 different cultivars of these low-maintenance, easy-to-grow plants available.
With so many hostas to choose from, it is good to know that the American Hosta Society keeps an updated list of the most popular hostas in the country. The 2009 list of favorites include Sagae, June, Liberty, Sum and Substance, Blue Angel, Paradigm, Regal Splendor, Krosse Regal, Paul’s Glory and Guacamole. Some favorites in the miniature category are Blue Mouse Ears, Pandora’s Box, Baby Bunting, Cameo and Cracker Crumbs. For a complete list go to the American Hosta Society Website at http://www.americanhostasociety.org/
Hostas originally came from Japan, China and Korea. They made their way to Europe in the late 1700s and to the United States in the middle 1800s. The cultivars have been developed from plants with improved features such as plant form, size, bloom or color and then are named and propagated for sale.
A hosta plant generally reaches full maturity in 4-8 years. Miniature hostas may grow only a few inches wide, while other cultivars may reach 8 feet in diameter. Hostas have either a rounded or vase shape. A few hosta cultivars are rhizomatous and can spread by underground rhizomes or runners, but most grow as a clump.
Some hostas change color with the seasons. Some exhibit viridiscence, changing from a lighter color early on to darker green leaves later in the season. Lutescent leaves change from green to yellow, and albescent leaves change from yellow to white.
Hostas are shade-tolerant plants but grow best in a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade. In general, the blue-leafed hostas require more shade since the blue color is actually a green leaf coated with a wax that makes it appear blue. The wax “melts” from the leaf in the sun and heat of summer. Gold, yellow, and white-leafed hostas tolerate more sun than the blues.
All hostas bloom in summer with spikes of drooping flowers in lavender to white. Fragrant hosta cultivars have been derived from the species – Hosta plantaginea, which has fragrant, white flowers. Fragrant hostas grow best with 5-6 hours of daily sun and include the cultivars August Moon, Fragrant Bouquet, Guacamole, Fried Green Tomatoes and Sum and Substance.
Incidentally, my late friend Faye Coble was a hosta enthusiast and has a hosta named after her. Hosta Faye Coble is a sport of Lemonade and was discovered and registered by Faye and C. Helsley in 1999.
Whichever hostas you choose, find a shady spot with moist rich soil for planting. Then all you will have to do is keep cool and enjoy.
HOSTA PREFERS SHADE – Hosta ‘June’ features mid-sized leaves with blue-green edges and golden centers that change to chartreuse. This 2001 Hosta of the Year has light purple flowers in summer and is on the top 20 list of the American Hosta Society.