In the words of the famous nineteenth century gardener Getrude Jekyll, ‘the first purpose of a garden is to be a place of quiet beauty, such as give delight to the eye and repose and refreshment to the mind’. Such is the effect of a garden filled with hostas, in all their subtle tones of green.
Hostas have lovely flowers too, but they are adored primarily for the captivating beauty of their leaves. Whether you use them to add depth and dimension to a shady planting scheme, make a statement in a large pot or blend them with other shade dwellers under deciduous trees, they will never fail to go unnoticed. As moisture-loving plants, they thrive alongside ponds and streams.
There are countless different Hosta varieties, so many that it can be hard to identify them by name. Leaf textures range from smooth to heavily textured, corrugated, or puckered. Some leaves are heart-shaped, others lance-shaped, oval, or elongated. Some leaves are quite small, and some very large. Leaf colours range from bright chartreuse through forest greens, cool blues and silver greys, and there are spectacular variegated forms with white, cream or gold highlights. Hostas range from ankle height to shoulder height.
Tubular Hosta flowers held above the leaves on elegant, vase-friendly ‘scapes’ add an extra layer of charm in quiet shades of white or lavender blue. Some are beautifully fragrant and their nectar is popular with pollinators, including bees. Some gardeners cut the flowers off, preferring to look at the leaves and wanting to divert the plants’ energy into producing more of them.
Hostas are deciduous, disappearing from view in winter. But this means they’re cold hardy and able to thrive in a wide range of climates. In the early spring garden there is nothing more delightful than fresh new hosta leaves unfurling from the earth. To prevent hostas leaving the ground too bare over winter, they can be partnered with evergreen shade lovers like heucheras and hellebores.
Hosta in a shady garden setting
Hostas grow well in pots
Hosta Empress Wu
Hosta Shade Fanfare