Plant Type
Sunlight Amount
Francee Hosta with purple flowers
Credit: Julie Maris Semarco
Francee Hosta with purple flowers

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
  • Part Sun
  • Shade
  • Sun
plant type
  • Under 6 inches
  • 6 to 12 inches
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • Up to 8 feet
flower color
foliage color
season features
problem solvers
special features
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9

Colorful Combinations

What was once just a plain green leafy plant has now evolved into a rich palette of colors that acts as a dynamic filler in many shade gardens. Hostas have been hybridized, divided, shared, and mutated many times to create the huge variety of leaf sizes, textures, and colors that we see today.

As a whole, hostas are genetically unstable plants. This causes them to mutate fairly regularly, or "sport." A sport occurs when a hosta that may be typically all green sends up a new leaf that looks different, say variegated, for example. If this variegated sport is fairly 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 blooms are small and not the showiest in the garden, others are worth keeping. Some hostas boast exceptionally long, tubular white blooms that have an intoxicating fragrance similar to jasmine or gardenia. On a warm night, these plants can richly perfume any garden space . The decision is up to you: Cut the sometimes visibly unappealing blooms or let them remain to grace your garden (they will draw pollinators like bumblebees, too).

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. Luckily, hostas are generally easy plants to grow; with a few general rules of thumb, you can help them thrive in your own garden.

While drought-tolerant, hostas do not like being left too dry. These plants prefer to be in rich, well-drained soil with a constant supply of moisture. 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 best color in at least part sun. In too much shade, these varieties may turn back to an all-green color. Blue-leaf varieties prefer some shade and do better in cooler climates. Ideal sunny-spot hostas include deep green varieties. Just be careful about placing in full sun if the leaves have any white coloring.

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

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.

Along with visible pests, hostas are also prone to a few less noticeable fiends. 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 mottling of the foliage that almost looks ornamental in some cases. In fact, before this virus was properly identified, some varieties were introduced into the plant trade as having novel foliage, which was actually due to the virus. If you see mottled leaves, send samples to your local extension office for testing. If positive, discard the infected plants to prevent the virus from spreading to other hostas.

More Varieties of Hosta

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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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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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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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