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Shady spots can create gardening challenges, so many gardeners rely on hostas for those locations. This longtime, shady garden favorite is very adaptable and hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. Although only 40 hosta species exist, more than 3,000 hybrids have been created. With so many to choose from, finding one to brighten a shady spot is simple.
2016 Hosta of the Year
The “Curly Fries” hosta has been named 2016 Hosta of the Year by the American Hosta Growers Association. This small, 11 x 20 inch plant has highly ruffled, narrow leaves that are yellow to near white on the ends. During mid-to-late summer, this vigorous plant is topped with lavender flowers.
Give your shady spot a sunny feel with any of the gold variety hostas. The 20 x 40 inches Bright Feather hosta with wavy gold leaves makes a nice addition to large shady areas. Lavender-striped nearly white tubular flowers appear in early summer on top of the 2-3 feet tall scapes.
For smaller areas, consider the Dinky Donna variety. The leaves of this 8 x 14 inches slow-growing hosta contain stunning gold streaks. The streaks contrast well against the green margins of the small flat leaves. Lavender blooms appear in late summer on 12-inch tall green scapes.
If you want a more textured look, select hostas with ruffled leaves. At 6 x 14 inches, the Ruffled Mouse Ears hosta has heavily rippled margins on nearly round leaves. The slightly wavy, lightly cupped leaves have medium blue-green centers that become dark green by late July. In June, medium lavender flowers adorn the top of 8-10 inch scapes.
The Crows Landing Rippled Truffles is a medium growing hosta with long green twisted leaves. The 14 x 30 inches plant has leaves that are accented with greenish yellow slightly rippled margins.
Introduced in 2011, the 'Wheee!' hosta hybrid has leaves that are ruffled with cream-colored margins. The ruffles extend from the tip of the leaf all the way down to the petiole. The plant is 11-18 inches tall x 30 inches wide and is slug-resistant. Light lavender flowers appear on 24-inch tall purple scapes in midsummer. This flower thrives in part- to full-shade.
Red Petiole Hostas
With red stems and contrasting green leaves, red petiole hostas infuse a garden with vibrant colors. At 30 x 20 inches, the Red Stilts hosta has intensely red petioles with slightly wavy leaves. The medium green-colored, 3-inch wide leaves reach 10 inches in length. In mid-summer, pale lavender flowers top the 30- to 40-inch tall red scapes.
Introduced in 2012, the "Peach Salsa" hosta is a very interesting variety with soft lightly puckered yellow leaves on bright red petioles. However, the leaves will turn white if exposed to too much sun. The plant is 10-12 inches tall and 20 inches wide. In July, the bright red scapes are topped with purple flowers.
Another new variety, the Rocket’s Red Glare hosta has glossy green leaves with rippled edges. The red from the petioles surges into the midrib on both sides of the leaves. The shiny, green leaves have attractive wavy margins. In late summer, horizontally arched, deep red scapes carry lavender striped flowers. Hosta is 12 inches tall and 30 inches wide.
For additional options, consider two red petiole hostas registered in 2010. The Red Bull and Reddy Eddy are large hostas with dark red petioles. The Red Bull has slightly wavy medium green shiny leaves while the Reddy Eddy has dark green and slightly rippled leaves.
Past Hosta of the Year Winners
Each year, the American Hosta Growers Association names their choice for the Hosta of the Year. The award winners are plants that do well in all regions of the country, are widely available, and retail for about $15 in the year of selection. The past five winners are Victory, Abiqua Drinking Gourd, Rainforest Sunrise, Liberty and Praying Hands.
- Named the 2015 winner, the Victory hosta is a large plant, 30 x 70 inches. It has a shiny green center with a margin that changes from greenish yellow to creamy white by early summer. It has thick, smooth leaves and works well as a specimen or background plant.
- The Abiqua Drinking Gourd is a slug-resistant 18-inch tall cultivar, with white blooms in early summer. It has very large blue-green, heavily-textured leaves that cup and twist is an unusual and unique way - creating a beautiful display.
- The Rainforest Sunrise has gold variegated leaves with dark green borders. This hosta does best in light shade. The plant reaches 10 x 25 inches and has large, cupped leaves. It blooms in early summer with lavender to purple flower.
- The 2012 winner Liberty is a large hosta at 26 x 30 inches. It has blue-green centers with very wide white-yellow margins. This plant thrives in partial- to full-shade in moist, but well-drained soil.
- Praying Hands is one of the most unique of all the hostas. This variety has upright narrow green leaves with a thin creamy white margin. Each leaf is rolled and folded into a tube shape displaying its prominent veins on the backside of the leaf. The plant is 16 x 30 inches and has lavender blooms.
What Is a Sport?
When you begin to research hostas, or any plant, you will undoubtedly come across the term "sport." A sport is basically a plant mutation that changes the growth habit or flower color of the parent plant. These new shoots, which display the characteristics that differ from the parent, are known as "sports."
Beside some degree of shade, hostas do best in rich, moist, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. The most common pest issue for hostas is slugs, but that risk can be reduced greatly by raking the flowerbed in early spring or by choosing plants with thick leaves. Hostas do not need to be divided to remain healthy, but it's a simple way to create more plants. In spring, when the growing tips start to emerge, dig up the hostas and divide each one's clump into sections with a sharp shovel or knife.
- American Hosta Society Plant Database
Search database to access very detailed information on all currently registered hostas.
- American Hosta Growers Association
Learn more about The Hosta of the Year program which began in 1996.
Charlie Claywell (author) on August 28, 2014:
I am getting ready to divide the Hostas in my front flower bed and add some of them to the bad yard (I have a lot a shade around my house). One thing I do like about Hostas is they are so easy to plant and replant -- I don't think I've ever lost any in the transplanting process.
Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on August 27, 2014:
With all the gardeners here on HP, where are all the Hosta lovers out there? I put in a Hosta garden last year and moved the plants around my yard this year because I couldn't see them well enough just in the garden area I'd built for them. Thanks for this informative hub, and I'll speak for all the Hosta lovers who have not commented.