Hosta spp. — Plantain Lilies


The genus Hosta is the king of shade plants; the most popular perennial in the U.S. They are tough plants, hardy in zones 3 - 8. There are numerous cultivars and are grown primarily for their handsome foliage in terms of color, form, shape, and substance. They come in leaf colors from blue to green to chartreuse to yellow to many variegated types within these basic colors. They have white, blue, or lilac flowers; some are fragrant. Hosta range in height from the dwarf (less than 10"), small (10 to 15"), medium (15 to 22"), and large (over 22"). Width can vary from 12" to 3-4' or more. Size is also determined by soil, moisture, climate, and other environmental conditions.

How to Grow:

Hosta prosper in partial to full shade. As a general rule: blue hosta need full shade (they scorch and lose their color if they receive sun); the lighter colored varieties — the yellow and chartreuse — will better tolerate sun. The variegated types, in fact, prefer some morning sun to bring out the colors. Hosta do best in moist soil that is well-drained (especially in the winter). Also, they require good air circulation. Plants are long-lived. They may be planted in the spring or fall but are also one of the better perennials for summer planting if adequate moisture will be provided. They are easy to transplant and divide. Division is best in the spring and fall. In the fall, remove and discard the dead foliage to prevent the potential spread of any disease.


Slugs and snails may be a problem:, those hosta with thick and/or corrugated leaves are more resistant to these pests. Diatomaceous Earth is a good control for them. Hostas are not particularly deer resistant and sometimes are subject to root-eating voles (meadow mice).


Hosta are versatile plants. They can be used as a striking specimen, for massing, groundcover, or as an accent. The smaller ones make excellent rock garden plants. Combined with astilbe and ferns, they make great companion plants for shade loving perennials and shrubs.

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