Hosta

This perennial is a shade garden favorite for its fabulous foliage as well as its elegant and sometimes fragrant flowers.

Colorful Combinations

Hosta was once just a plain green leafy plant but has evolved, and now comes in a rich palette of colors. Hosta acts as a dynamic filler in many shade gardens. Hostas have been hybridized, divided, shared, and mutated many times to create the vast assortment of leaf sizes, textures, and colors we see today. How big hostas get can vary widely from plant to plant as well.

As a whole, hostas are genetically unstable plants. This causes them to mutate regularly or "sport." A sport occurs when a hosta that may be typically all green sends up a new leaf that looks different—for example, variegated. If this variegated sport is stable (meaning it doesn't turn back to green after a while), it can be divided and treated as a new variety.

You may occasionally see some blooms above the foliage of hostas. While some are small and not the showiest in the garden, others are worth keeping. Some hostas boast exceptionally long, tubular white blooms with an intoxicating fragrance similar to jasmine or gardenia. On a warm night, these plants can richly perfume any garden space. It's your choice to cut the sometimes visibly unappealing blooms or let them remain to add fragrance to your garden (they'll also draw pollinators like bumblebees).

Hosta Care Must-Knows

With well over 3,000 different ones to choose from, you're bound to find at least a few hosta varieties that appeal to you. You'll want to consider how big the hosta plant gets you'll plant before making your choice. Luckily, hostas are generally easy plants to grow; with a few general rules of thumb, you can help them thrive in your garden.

While drought-tolerant, hostas don't like being left too dry. These plants prefer to be in rich, well-drained soil with a constant moisture supply. They can stand up to drought but not for too long.

Consider light when choosing a place to plant your hostas. While almost all hostas can handle full shade, some thrive in full sun. Varieties with variegated leaves will show the best color in at least part sun. However, these varieties may turn back to an all-green color in too much shade. Blue-leaf hostas prefer some shade and do better in cooler climates. Ideal sunny-spot hostas include deep green varieties. Be careful about placing these plants in full sun if the leaves have white coloring.

Because these plants are such quick growers, they can easily be divided and shared with friends. The best time for dividing is in the spring when the foliage emerges, so you have a better idea of where to cut. However, because hostas are pretty tough plants, you can successfully divide them in any season (except winter when the ground is frozen). Just give them plenty of water if you divide in the summer heat.

Common Hosta Pests to Watch For

The downside to these versatile perennials is that they are preyed on by several pests. Deer and rabbits love to make a meal out of tender hosta plants. If you have a particularly special plant, cage it early in the spring so its new growth doesn't become a salad snack for these critters. Slugs and snails also can leave your hostas in tatters, so keep an eye out for any holes in the leaves, then seek out and destroy the slimy culprits.

Hostas are prone to a few less noticeable fiends along with visible pests. Foliar nematodes have become a recent problem for hostas. Most common in the summer, these microscopic worms eat through leaf veins, which causes the foliage to yellow and eventually brown. Unfortunately, there is no known fix for foliar nematodes, and infected plants should be tossed to prevent spreading.

Another newer pest problem is Hosta Virus X. This tricky virus causes a mottling of the foliage that sometimes almost looks ornamental. In fact, before Hosta X was identified correctly, some varieties were introduced into the plant trade as having novel foliage, which was actually due to the virus. Send samples to your local extension office for testing if you see mottled leaves. If positive, discard the infected plants to prevent the virus from spreading to other hostas.

More Varieties of Hosta

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Hosta Overview

Description Also called plantain lily, hostas come in a diverse range of foliage shapes, colors, textures, and sizes. There is truly a hosta for everyone, whether it be an adorable miniature hosta for a trough garden or a mammoth monster of a plant to fill up a big space under a shade tree. 
Genus Name Hosta
Common Name Hosta
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Shade, Sun
Height 6 to 6 inches
Width null to 8 feet
Flower Color Purple, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Chartreuse/Gold
Season Features Summer Bloom
Special Features Fragrance, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Drought Tolerant, Good For Privacy, Groundcover, Slope/Erosion Control
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'Aureomarginata' Hosta

Aureomarginata Hosta with green leaves and yellow edges
Greg Ryan

Hosta montana 'Aureomarginata' develops wide clumps of glossy, tapering leaves with wavy, irregular yellow edges. Mauve flowers bloom in early summer. Zones 3-9

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'Aztec Treasure' Hosta

Aztec Treasure Hosta
Peter Krumhardt

Hosta 'Aztec Treasure' has 1-foot mounds of heart-shaped chartreuse leaves and bell-shaped purple flowers in summer. Zones 3-8

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'Blue Mouse Ears' Hosta

Hosta Blue Mouse Ears
Kritsada Panichgul

Hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears' is a charming dwarf selection with rounded blue leaves. It grows 5 inches tall and 12 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Chartreuse Wiggles' Hosta

Hosta 'Chartreuse Wiggles'
Kritsada Panichgul

Hosta 'Chartreuse Wiggles' bears thin golden-green leaves with wavy edges. It grows 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Daybreak' Hosta

Daybreak Hosta with gold leaves
Peter Krumhardt

Hosta 'Daybreak' bears deep gold leaves with a corrugated texture. It has lavender flowers and grows 3 feet wide. Zones 3-8

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'Deja Blu' Hosta

Deja Blu Hosta
David Nevala

Hosta 'Deja Blu' offers blue-green leaves that bear a golden-green edge. It grows 14 inches tall and 20 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Formal Attire' Hosta

Formal Attire Hosta
Denny Schrock

Hosta 'Formal Attire' has large blue-green leaves edged in creamy white. The foliage has a distinctive puckered texture. It grows 30 inches tall and wide. Zones 3-9

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'Francee' Hosta

Francee Hosta with purple flowers
Julie Maris Semarco

Hosta 'Francee' develops wide mounds of large oval leaves rimmed with cream. Funnel-shape lavender flowers bloom in summer on 30-inch stems. Zones 3-9

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'Golden Prayers' Hosta

Golden Prayers Hosta
Blaine Moats

Hosta 'Golden Prayers' shows off cupped golden-yellow leaves. It's a compact selection that grows 10 inches tall and 16 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Great American Expectations' Hosta

Great American Expectations Hosta
Blaine Moats

Hosta 'Great American Expectations' features large chartreuse leaves edged in blue. It grows 26 inches tall and wide. Zones 3-9

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'Great Expectations' Hosta

Great Expectations Hosta
Kindra Clineff

Hosta 'Great Expectations' has puckered chartreuse leaves irregularly edged in blue. It grows 22 inches tall and 40 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Heavenly Tiara' Hosta

Hosta 'Heavenly Tiara'
Kritsada Panichgul

Hosta 'Heavenly Tiara' bears light green foliage edged in gold. It grows 12 inches tall and 36 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'June' Hosta

Close up of June Hosta
David McDonald

Hosta 'June' is an award-winning selection that features golden-yellow leaves broadly edged in blue. It grows 15 inches tall and 20 inches wide. It's somewhat sun-tolerant. Zones 3-9

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'Krossa Regal' Hosta

Krossa Regal Hosta
Peter Krumhardt

Hosta 'Krossa Regal' is an elegant selection that offers blue-green foliage and a unique vase-shaped habit. It grows 36 inches tall and 60 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Pandora's Box' Hosta

Hosta Pandora's Box
Kritsada Panichgul

Hosta 'Pandora's Box' shows off creamy-white foliage edged in dark green. This miniature variety grows only 2 inches tall and 5 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Paradigm' Hosta

Paradigm Hosta with golden leaves and green edges
Denny Schrock

Hosta 'Paradigm' is an award-winning selection with thick, golden leaves narrowly edged in blue-green. It's a large variety that grows to 46 inches tall and 48 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Pathfinder' Hosta

pathfinder hosta
Kritsada Panichgul

Hosta 'Pathfinder' is a compact variety with thick, slug-resistant, creamy-white foliage edged in dark green. It grows 12 inches tall and 24 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Patriot' Hosta

Patriot Hosta with dark green leaves and white edges
Greg Scheidemann

Hosta 'Patriot' is an award-winning variety with dark green leaves boldly edged in white. It grows 12 inches tall and 30 inches wide. Zones 3-8

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'Silver Threads and Golden Needles' Hosta

Silver Threads and Golden Needles Hosta
Kritsada Panichgul

Hosta 'Silver Threads and Golden Needles' is a miniature variety bearing green leaves edged and streaked in gold and silver. It grows 6 inches tall and 8 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Stitch in Time' Hosta

Hosta Stitch in Time
Kritsada Panichgul

Hosta 'Stitch in Time' is a compact selection with green leaves edged in cream. The foliage has a unique quilted look. It grows 14 inches tall and 24 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Striptease' Hosta

Striptease Hosta with golden centers and green edges
Matthew Benson

Hosta 'Striptease' features golden leaves with wide green edges. A thin white sliver separates the green and yellow colors. It grows 20 inches tall and 36 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Sum and Substance' Hosta

Sum and Substance Hosta
Matthew Benson

Hosta 'Sum and Substance' is one of the largest and most popular hostas around. It has huge chartreuse leaves that can reach 24 inches long. The plant grows 24 inches tall and 60 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Sun Power' Hosta

Sun Power Hosta
Allison Barnes

Hosta 'Sun Power' is a sun-tolerant variety with yellow-green leaves. It shows brightest color when it gets direct sun in the morning. 'Sun Power' grows 24 inches tall and 48 inches wide.

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'Touch of Class' Hosta

Touch of Class Hosta
Peter Krumhardt

Hosta 'Touch of Class' is a stunning selection bearing chartreuse leaves widely edged in blue. It grows 7 inches tall and 24 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Whirlwind' Hosta

Whirlwind Hosta with white centers and green edges
Greg Ryan

Hosta 'Whirlwind' bears upright leaves that start out creamy white, edged in green but become all green as the summer passes. It grows 5 inches tall and 40 inches wide. Zones 3-9

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'Wolverine' Hosta

Wolverine Hosta with green leaves and white edges
Blaine Moats

Hosta 'Wolverine' bears long, narrow blue-green leaves edged crisply in gold. It grows 15 inches tall and 40 inches wide. Zones 3-9

Hosta Companion Plants

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Astilbe

Purple Astilbe with green leaves
Karlis Grants

Astilbe brings a graceful feathering note to moist, shady landscapes. In cooler climates in the northern third of the country, it can tolerate full sun provided it has a constant moisture supply. In drier sites, however, the leaves will scorch in full sun. Feathery plumes of white, pink, lavender, or red flowers rise above the finely divided foliage from early to late summer, depending on the variety. It will spread slowly over time where well-situated. Most commercially available types are complex hybrids.

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Columbine

Close up of purple and white Columbine
Mike Jensen

Perfect for cottage and woodland gardens, old-fashioned columbines are available in almost all colors of the rainbow. Their intricate little flowers are usually a combination of red and peach. They also come in yellows, blues, whites, and pinks. Columbine resemble folded paper lanterns. Columbine thrives in sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. Plants are short-lived but self-seed readily, often creating natural hybrids with other nearby columbines. If you want to prevent self-seeding, deadhead plants after bloom.

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Holly Fern

Green Holly Fern
David McDonald

For that shady spot, you can't go wrong with holly ferns. Their evergreen fronds always look good and mix well with other shade lovers without taking over. They can be planted close and massed as a groundcover or used as accent plants where the soil is rich and well-drained.

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