By: Liz Baessler
How many types of hosta are there? The short answer is: a whole lot. Hostas are extremely popular in gardening and landscaping due to their ability to thrive even in deep shade. Maybe because of their popularity, a different hosta variety can be found for pretty much any situation. But what are the different types of hosta? Keep reading to learn more about the types of hosta plants.
Different varieties of hosta can be split into some basic categories. Some are bred not just for their foliage and shade tolerance, but also for their fragrance. Hostas produce stalks of delicate, trumpet shaped flowers in shades of white and purple, and certain varieties of hosta are known especially for their scent.
Types of hosta noted for their excellent, fragrant blossoms include:
Hostas also vary greatly in size. If you’re planting hostas to fill out a large shady space, you may want the biggest hosta you can find.
Some varieties of hosta come in at the other end of the spectrum.
Of course, there are innumerable varieties in between the largest and the smallest, meaning you should be able to find just the right one for the spot you have picked out.
Hosta colors are usually some shade of green, though there is a lot of variety here too. Some, like “Aztec Treasure,” are much more gold than green, making for a sunny splash in the shade. Others are green, like the “Humpback Whale,” and blue, like the “Silver Bay,” and many are variegated, like “Ivory Queen.”
Options are nearly endless when choosing hosta plants for the garden.
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When you don’t get much sunlight in your garden, it can be hard to find plants that will grow in your garden. Maybe your backyard is surrounded by houses that throw shade on your garden most of the day, maybe there are just too many trees in your neighborhood.
In any case, gardening in shade can be quite challenging. Luckily, there are plants that actually prefer growing in shade. Hosta is probably the most well-known among these plants.
This shade-loving plant comes in a head-spinning array of hues and sizes.
The 'Gold Standard' boasts medium to large, oval leaves that are light green with dark green edges. As the name suggests, this hosta's leaf centers typically fade to a golden yellow during the summer.
Hosta Sieboldiana is a common hosta that’s found in many gardens. It’s produced a host of varieties, including Hosta Sieboldiana ‘Elegans,’ which also goes by the name of Hosta ‘Elegans.’ Hosta Sieboldiana is behind many of the common hostas. Chances are, if your garden has a bluish-green, mounding hosta that grows to an impressive size of 24" high to over 60" wide, it has some Sieboldiana genes in its heritage.
Strong white centers surrounded by green edges make hosta 'Vulcan' leaves shine in the garden. Tuck plants into partial shade for best growth. Morning sun with afternoon shade or high-dappled shade is ideal. Lavender-colored blooms arrive in mid- to late summer to lure hummingbirds. Divide plants when they’re fully established — wait at least three years after planting if you are dividing to multiply plants. Otherwise, wait until five to eight years before dividing.
'Golden Tiara' is a small hosta variety featuring heart-shaped leaves that are medium green with chartreuse margins that turn gold in the sun. Its flowers are lavender on 24" scapes. Try growing this compact variety in mass as a border plant that will keep coming back year after year.
Known botanically as Hosta ‘Halcyon,’ this leafy perennial brings blue tones to shade gardens. Like all blue hostas, Hosta ‘Halcyon’ leaves get their blue hue from a waxy layer that reflects light in a way that makes the leaf appear blue. As the leaves age, the color may fade. Overhead watering and rain dilute blue tones, as can direct sunlight and high temperatures. As summer wears on, many blue hostas lose their blue sparkle simply because the blue leaf coating is wax-based and wax tends to melt in high heat. Hosta ‘Halcyon’ grow in neat, compact mounds that are typically 24" to 36" across and 12" to 18" tall.
Want to grow a plant that will make people talk? Then try ‘Empress Wu’ hosta. This oversize hosta grows to an impressive 4' to 5' tall and 6' to 8' wide. One individual leaf can measure up to 28" long and 25" across. ‘Empress Wu’ prefers full shade unless in a far northern climate where it can take a few hours of direct morning sun. Like all giant hostas, ‘Empress Wu’ needs a steady water supply. Keep the soil around plants moist to prevent leaves from wilting. A mulch layer over the soil helps with adequate moisture.
Thick leaves that look velvety at first glance make hosta 'Hadspen Blue' a great plant if you're looking to add texture to your garden. Try pairing it with purple, blue and white flowers to bring out the silvers and blues in this compact hosta.
'Sun Power' shows off a bright, slightly-twisted mound of golden leaves. For best color, give this hosta morning sun in warmer climates and full sun in cooler climates.
Not your average hosta, 'Kabitan' features long, narrow, light green leaves with dark green margin.
'Guacamole' is a medium-sized hosta with wide, oval leaves the color of — yep, you guessed it — guacamole. The avocado-colored leaves also feature darker green veins and margins. Its white flowers that appear in midsummer are extremely fragrant. Expect a mature clump to measure up to 4' across and 2' high. In late summer, large white flowers open on stalks that tower above mounding leaves.
Hosta ‘France Williams’ is named for Frances Ropes Williams, who graduated as one of the first landscape architects from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1936 at Bristol Nursery in Connecticut, she discovered a hosta with blue-green leaves edged in gold. That hosta eventually became her namesake. ‘Frances Williams’ hosta brings together many highly valued attributes of hosta varieties. It grows to a large size, forming clumps up to 5' across with leaves standing atop 2' tall stems. The leaves are rugose and crinkled, almost corrugated. This striking leaf texture also makes Hosta ‘Frances Williams’ slug resistant.
This large hosta can reach a height of 3' and a spread of 5' wide. The leaves of 'August Moon' are a light, yellow-green that turns gold over time if exposed to enough sunlight.
This is a unique, variegated hosta that has deep-green leaves with creamy white margins. It's said to stand up to heat better than other hosta varieties.
Hosta 'Lemon Lime' features a small mound of bright green, lance-shaped leaves with purple-striped flowers that appear in early to midsummer.
'Francee’ hosta’s popularity stems from its carefree beauty. This is one perennial you can plant and forget about. Leaves boast a strong green color that’s steady throughout the entire growing season. An eye-catching white stripe rings leaf margins, and the variegation is constant, no matter how high summer temperatures rise. Lavender-colored flowers appear in midsummer. The flowers form along a spike that stands 30" tall.
Discover a blue-green hosta with thick, seersucker leaves known as ‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd.’ Leaves on this hosta feature an unusual cupped shape, with leaf cups up to 3" deep. Heavy, seersuckered leaves offer strong slug resistance. White flowers appear in early summer. Plants grow 18" tall by 36" wide.
A great addition to any hosta collection, this specimen features pale white foliage. Growing ‘White Feather’ hosta requires a trip back to biology class. Remember learning about chlorophyll? It’s the green stuff that makes plants grow. ‘White Feather’ hosta doesn’t have any — that’s why the leaves are white. As a result, this is a slow-growing plant. It's light color also means it can't take direct sunlight keep it well shaded with rich soil and plenty of mulch to help it retain moisture.
Step up the wow factor in your yard by adding Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ — one of the original biggies in the world of hostas. A true overachiever, this hosta grows 3' to 4' high and an easy 6' across. The record-holding ‘Sum and Substance’ hosta plant measures a whopping 114" (almost 10') across and stands 4' high.
Miniature hostas can squeeze into even the tiniest spaces. These diminutive perennials offer all the benefits of their larger size cousins, but in a package that’s under a foot tall and wide. You can find blue miniature hostas, like Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears,’ and variegated hostas, like Hosta ‘Mini Skirt.’
I don’t know about you, but I have plenty of time for hostas.
If you live in a growing zone that they like to call home, don’t you think it’s about time that you pick out the perfect shaded spot and plant a few?
Whether you’re looking for a smaller addition to the garden beds to add a pop of unexpected color and texture, or a large friend to provide cover for the sprites and elven folk, there’s a cultivar for you.
They carry plenty of historical significance with them as well, in name at least! And I’m sure you can imagine all the fun you’ll have sharing stories with the neighbors about the piece of history that you have planted in the backyard.
Even if you don’t believe in fairies (gasp!) I would love nothing more than for you to experience the peaceful woodland magic that hostas can bring to the garden. They might not have the showiest flowers, but there’s something so special about them nonetheless.
Which hosta cultivar is your favorite? Share your photos and stories in the comments below, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions!
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on February 19, 2020. Last updated: March 25, 2021 at 0:05 am. Product photos via Burpee, Eden Brothers, and Nature Hills Nursery. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
Allison M. Sidhu grew up with her hands in the dirt in southeastern Pennsylvania, and she is now based in sunny LA. She holds a BA in English literature from Swarthmore College as well as an MA in gastronomy from Boston University. When she’s not in the kitchen making a fresh green juice or whipping up something tasty for dinner, Allison enjoys perusing the latest seed catalogs, tending her patio garden, and reading up on the latest in food and agriculture policy.
The only real gauge for how well your plant is handling the sun is to see how it is performing. There are two clear signs that will tell you your if your hosta is getting too much sun:
If your hosta is not doing as well as you would like, do not be afraid to move it. Hostas are strong plants and can withstand digging and replanting.
The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova
Part of the Asparagaceae family, Hosta is a large genus comprising more than 70 species as well as hundreds of hybrids and cultivars. With rare exception, these herbaceous shade-loving perennials are grown for their foliage, not their flowers, yet hostas still offer surprisingly diverse color. The leaves can be blue, yellow, or green. Sometimes, one will find a pleasing blend, such as when there's just enough yellow and green to form chartreuse. In addition to all this variety in color, these stars of the foliage world are often variegated.
Most people know hostas as shade-loving plants, and, indeed, they serve this purpose admirably. Hostas can be excellent ground-cover plants for large expanses of shady garden territory, blanketing the earth with soft color while blocking out weeds. Few plants are easier to care for, though they can be susceptible to leaf damage from snails and slugs. Once established, hostas are incredibly easy to propagate by dividing the root clumps in spring or fall.
Here are 12 excellent hosta types that run the gamut of foliage color.
Hostas are renowned for being easy to grow, but they live up to that reputation only if they get enough water and are planted in well-drained soil. Plus, they require more feeding than you might expect for a plant that isn't grown for its flowers. The American Hosta Society recommends a 10-10-10 (NPK) fertilizer, applied three or four times a year.