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Hosta (Plantain Lily)

Plantain Lily, Funkia

Hosta, Hostas, Plantain Lily, Plantain Lilies, Shade plants, Perennial for shade, Shade Perennials,Funkia

Ridiculously easy to grow and long-lived, Hostas (Plantain Lilies) are shade-loving perennials highly prized by gardeners for their elegance and attractive foliage.

What is Hosta?

Native to eastern Asia, these low-maintenance foliage plants are fabulous for shady areas and combine beautifully with other shade perennials such as Astilbe, Dicentra spectabilis (Bleeding Heart), Ferns, Tiarella (Foam Flower), or Hydrangea.

  • Habit and Size: Hostas generally exhibit a mound-like growth habit, but their size can vary greatly depending on the species or cultivar, from miniature ones barely reaching 2 inches (5 cm) in height to giant varieties that can grow up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall and wide.
  • Foliage: The broad leaves of the Hosta are its main attraction, displaying ribbed or smooth textures and often featuring attractive variegation. The foliage forms a dense, lush mound that works excellently as ground cover. The world of Hostas is incredibly rich in size, color, texture, and leaf shape. Thousands of Hosta cultivars are available, reflecting their immense popularity with gardeners, and new varieties are legion. There is surely a Hosta to suit your garden or landscape situation.

    Foliage colors range from chartreuse to deep emerald green, greenish gold, gray and blue, with many stunning variegated Hostas whose color varies with soil type and climate. Leaves may be puckered, wavy-edged, heart-shaped, lance-shaped, glossy, or dull.

  • Flowers: Flowers of the Hosta are bell or trumpet-shaped, usually appearing in shades of white, lavender, or pale purple in the mid-to-late summer. While the blooms are often overlooked compared to the foliage, they are actually quite attractive, and some varieties are even fragrant.
  • Blooming Season: the attractive foliage is topped in early-mid summer with funnel-shaped or flared flowers.
  • Hardiness: Most Hostas are suitable for USDA zones 3-9, although this can depend on the variety. Hostas prefer a shady spot in the garden, as their leaves can get scorched by the intense midday sun and need well-draining soil.
  • Uses: Hostas are popular in landscape design for their low maintenance and shade tolerance. They are often used in woodland garden settings, in borders, or as specimen plants.
  • Pollinators: Hosta flowers attract pollinators like bees and hummingbirds. However, they are not deer or rabbit-resistant and might require protection from these animals. 

Guide Information

Hardiness 3 - 9
Heat Zones 2 - 8
Climate Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, A1, A2, A3
Plant Type Perennials
Genus Hosta
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
Season of Interest Spring (Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 6" - 3'
(15cm - 90cm)
Spread 1' - 4'
(30cm - 120cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Clay, Loam
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Fragrant, Showy
Tolerance Full Shade, Drought
Attracts Bees, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Patio And Containers, Ground Covers, Beds And Borders, Underplanting Roses And Shrubs
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden
Hosta ‘Alligator Alley’ (Plantain Lily)
Hosta ‘American Halo’ (Plantain Lily)
Hosta ‘Angel Falls’ (Plantain Lily)

Why Should I Grow Hostas?

There are several reasons why you might consider growing Hostas in your garden:

  • Variety and Versatility: Hostas come in an incredible variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, making them extremely versatile in landscape design. You can find the perfect Hosta to fit almost any garden situation, whether it’s a border, container, or a focal point in a shady corner of your garden.
  • Shade Tolerance: One of Hostas’ key strengths is their tolerance for shade. They are perfect for those difficult parts of your garden where many other plants won’t thrive.
  • Low Maintenance: Once established, Hostas require very little care apart from occasional watering and feeding. This makes them perfect for busy gardeners or those looking for a low-maintenance garden.
  • Foliage Interest: Hostas are primarily grown for their attractive foliage, which provides color and interest throughout the growing season. The leaves can range from deep green to bluish or even gold, often with interesting variegated patterns.
  • Flowers: While the foliage is usually the main attraction, many Hostas also produce beautiful, and sometimes fragrant, flowers during the summer months that can attract pollinators to your garden.
  • Disease and Pest Resistance: Although slugs and snails can be a problem, generally, Hostas are resistant to most diseases and pests, making them a good choice for an easy-to-care-for garden.

Remember, though, that Hostas are not deer or rabbit resistant. If these animals are frequent visitors to your garden, you’ll need to take steps to protect your Hostas.

Hosta ‘Silver Bullet’ (Plantain Lily)
Hosta ‘Fragrant Bouquet’ (Plantain Lily)
Hosta ‘Funny Mouse’ (Plantain Lily)

Garden Design With Hostas

Designing a garden with Hostas offers an abundance of possibilities due to the plant’s versatility and variety of species. Here are some ideas:

  • Shade Gardens: As shade-loving plants, Hostas are a go-to choice for those dark corners of your garden. They can be combined with other shade-tolerant plants like ferns, Astilbe, and Bleeding Heart to create an attractive, low-light garden.
  • Ground Cover: Hostas can act as a lush, low-maintenance ground cover, especially the smaller or medium-sized varieties. They can fill in space under trees or between larger shrubs, providing a carpet of varying colors and textures.
  • Borders and Edging: The symmetrical shape of Hosta plants makes them perfect for lining pathways or defining the edges of a garden bed. Smaller varieties are especially suited for this purpose.
  • Containers: Not all Hostas are ground-huggers. Some varieties do well in containers and can bring height and a focal point to your garden or patio. Containers can also help protect the plants from pests like slugs and snails.
  • Mixed with Other Plants: Hostas are known for their beautiful foliage, which can provide a striking contrast to flowering plants. Consider combining Hostas with other perennials like Daylilies, Iris, or Coral Bells for a mix of texture and color.
  • Water Gardens: Some varieties of Hostas can tolerate wet soil, making them a good choice for water gardens or areas with poor drainage.
  • Woodland Gardens: Larger Hostas can blend seamlessly into a woodland garden, pairing well with trees and larger shrubs.
Hosta ‘School Mouse’ (Plantain Lily)
Hosta ‘Wu-La-La’ (Plantain Lily)
Hosta ‘Big Daddy’ (Plantain Lily)

Companion Plants

Hostas are versatile plants that pair well with a variety of other species in a garden. Here are some excellent companion plants for Hostas:

  1. Ferns: Like Hostas, ferns are shade-loving plants that enjoy a similar environment. Their feathery fronds can provide a nice contrast to the broad leaves of Hostas.
  2. Astilbe: Astilbes and their showy plumes in pink, red or white can create a striking contrast with the broad leaves of Hostas. They also share similar shade and moisture requirements.
  3. Bleeding Heart (Dicentra): This plant has arching stems of delicate, heart-shaped flowers in spring that contrast well with the bold foliage of Hostas.
  4. Hellebores: Often blooming when other plants are dormant, Hellebores can provide early spring interest and complement Hostas well with their similar cultural needs.
  5. Heuchera (Coral Bells): With their wide variety of foliage colors and delicate flower spikes, Heuchera can offer interesting contrasts or complements to Hostas.
  6. Hydrangeas: Shade-tolerant hydrangeas and Hostas make for a classic combination. The big, round flowers of Hydrangea provide a beautiful contrast to the leafy Hostas.
  7. Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum): The arching stems and dangling white flowers of Solomon’s Seal can add height and texture contrast in a bed of Hostas.
  8. Pulmonaria (Lungwort): This plant has attractive variegated foliage and spring flowers and makes a great ground cover alongside Hostas.
  9. Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa): The flowing, bright foliage of this grass can provide a lovely contrast to the more robust leaves of Hostas.

Remember, when choosing companion plants for your Hostas, consider their light and soil requirements to ensure they are compatible.

Hosta ‘Island Breeze’ (Plantain Lily)
Hosta ‘Praying Hands’ (Plantain Lily)
Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ (Plantain Lily)

Growing Tips

Growing Hostas successfully involves considering several aspects of their care:

  • Soil: Hostas prefer well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. You can improve your soil by adding compost or other organic material.
  • Light: While Hostas are often known as shade plants, not all varieties require the same amount of shade. Some can tolerate and even thrive in more sun, especially those with yellow or variegated leaves. However, most Hostas will not do well in intense, direct sunlight all day. Generally, Hostas need a few hours of morning sun and afternoon shade for best growth.
  • Water: Hostas need plenty of water, but they don’t like to sit in soggy soil. Make sure the soil is well-drained. A good rule of thumb is to water Hostas about one inch per week, more during hot, dry spells.
  • Fertilizer: Hostas generally don’t require a lot of fertilization. A light application of a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring should be enough.
  • Division: Over time, Hostas can become crowded, which can affect their health and appearance. You can divide Hostas in the spring or fall to help them maintain their vitality.
  • Pruning: Cut off the stems after blooming to encourage the plant’s growth. Discolored leaves should be trimmed back to the ground.
  • Pests: Hostas can be susceptible to slugs and snails, which can cause significant damage to their leaves. Implement control measures if necessary, such as using slug baits or traps.
  • Winter Care: In colder climates, Hostas will die back in the winter. You can leave the dead foliage in place as it will provide some protection to the plant during winter. However, clean up the old foliage in early spring before new growth starts to prevent disease and pests.

By following these tips, you should be able to grow beautiful, healthy Hostas in your garden.

Recommended Companion Plants

Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ (Solomon’s Seal)
Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’ (Lungwort)
Matteuccia struthiopteris (Ostrich Fern)
Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ (Coral Bells)
Astilbe
Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)
Hakonechloa macra (Hakone Grass)
Helleborus (Hellebore)
Hydrangea macrophylla (Bigleaf Hydrangea)

Garden Examples

An Attractive Shady Garden Idea with Ferns, Hostas and Agapanthus
A Colorful Summer Border Idea with Hemerocallis, Hosta and Alchemilla
A Shade Loving Border Idea with Hemerocallis, Hosta and Tiger Lilies
A Pretty Plant Combination for Moist Soils: Water Iris, Spurge and Hosta
A Charming Plant Combination for Shady Gardens: Hydrangea, Japanese Maple and Boxwood
A Hot Summer Border Idea with Dahlias, Helenium and Easy Perennials
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While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 3 - 9
Heat Zones 2 - 8
Climate Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, A1, A2, A3
Plant Type Perennials
Genus Hosta
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
Season of Interest Spring (Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 6" - 3'
(15cm - 90cm)
Spread 1' - 4'
(30cm - 120cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Clay, Loam
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Fragrant, Showy
Tolerance Full Shade, Drought
Attracts Bees, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Patio And Containers, Ground Covers, Beds And Borders, Underplanting Roses And Shrubs
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden
Compare All Hosta
Compare Now
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Hosta
Guides with
Hosta

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