News release: Hostas

Tim Baker, MU Extension Horticulture Specialist
102 N. Main, Suite 1, Gallatin, MO 64640

Release Date: June 7, 2018
Headline: Hostas

In my last column, I discussed gardening in shady areas, and mentioned what you must consider when choosing a plant that will tolerate low light. Our guide sheet that I mentioned has many good suggestions.  If you have heavy shade, I have always liked hostas, for their ability to tolerate a wide variety of conditions.

Hostas are well known for their beautiful foliage, and some will even reward you with flowers as well.  A few of these even have a light fragrance.  Their remarkable adaptation to shaded areas has made them increasingly popular in recent years.

Although some varieties can take full sunlight, most will not thrive there, and their leaves often scorch, bleach or burn.  They do well in light to medium shade, and most will even grow under heavy shade.  They may not grow as fast in heavy shade, compared to light shade, and they may not flower in heavy shade, but they should grow.  When considering a site to plant, keep in mind that hostas like well-drained soils.  They will not last long in poorly drained soils.

There are many types of hostas available.  Some may have short leaves, only three inches long.  Others may have leaves ranging up to 10 to 15 inches in length.  Common heights may range from eight inches on up to 24 inches.  A few specimen hostas even check in at 48 inches tall.  Plant widths may range from six inches to several feet in some of those specimen varieties.

Leaf patterns vary widely too.  Some are solid green.  Others may be variegated, with color patterns including blue-green, yellow-green, green with yellow margins, green with white margins, and yellow-green with dark green margins.  Leaves may be broad and rounded or long and narrow.  You may see examples of dull, glossy, heavily textured, or ribbed leaves.

The varieties that are known for fragrance were developed from the species plantaginea.  These plants produce large, white, lily-like flowers in late August or early September.

Hostas are relatively hardy, and many will usually tolerate temperatures down to -10 degrees F.  We do occasionally reach temperatures that low in Northwest Missouri, so you may want to mulch them for extra protection.  You may plant them in spring or fall, but fall plantings should be protected by mulch.