First, a warning. Hostas are the potato chips of plants.
Once you buy that first one and watch how it lights up shade, fills the void around large trees and shrubs, softens the edges of lawns and walkways, and sends up pretty blooms when you least expect it, you will be hooked.
After you’ve created your first composition of leafy-fabulousness, you’ll be wishing for more shade. While they’re not for the hottest climates, there are quite a few that do very well in zones 8 and 9. All of you in colder zones? This is the plant for you.
Because you will ask, deer do enjoy this plant almost as much as you. If deer are an issue, consider planting in containers where you can somewhat control access. Many of the smaller Hostas do quite well in window boxes, too.
Designing with Hostas can be fun. Take a look around and see where you could use a bit of drama. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
5 Reasons Why Hostas Belong in Your Garden
Create a mood from cool and calm to happy and sunny.
Short and wider form is ideal for wrapping around curves.
Summertime flowers on tall stalks add vertical interest.
Small leafed ‘Mouse Ears’ to large-leafed ‘Sagae’ they’re just so useful.
They’re just so easy to grow.
1. Massed Hostas Offer Maximum Appeal
It’s so easy to be so dazzled by a nursery display of hostas that you lose sight of how this and that will work when massed. The key is balance. One hosta by the dozen is always an effective choice. If, however, you love the look of a hosta “collection”, with loads of different varieties, here’s a tip: add plenty of solid colors such as blues and greens. It’ll make the more dramatic striped and variegated ones pop even more.
Upper left: Massing one variety of hosta (such as this large leafed Krossa Regal Plantain Lily) and just letting it do its thing can lead to something mighty romantic.
Above: Massing many varieties creates a lively, painterly effect with the added bonus of lots of flowers throughout the summer. It’s the different sizes as well as colors that makes this work.
Left: And then, there’s just the fun of packing in one variety and adding the totally unexpected such as this combo of hosta and allium. Some hostas can take more sun (preferred by alliums) so choose carefully.
Heart-shaped, leaves emerge blue-green with yellow margins, shifting hues to deep green with cream margins in summer. Up to 2′ tall and 4′ wide. Full shade to filtered sun. Zones 3-8.
2. Fill Shady Containers
Hostas are perfect plants for pots. They fill a container in no time, and look sophisticated and elegant. Pots can help where deer are an issue, as you can simply move the containers closer to the house. Here are a few ideas—tucked against the dark foliage of coral bells along an entryway, combined with a fern, in an urn and combined with other shade-loving plants, or in a group of containers with other hostas.
A stunning variety starring lush green and creamy white variegated foliage that nearly shimmers in the shade. Up to 2′ tall and 3′ wide. Full shade to filtered sun. Zones 4–8.
3. Add Lush Foliage to a Mixed Border
We love flowers. Everyone who gardens probably loves flowers. What makes flowers look even more “flowery’? Being surrounded by foliage, especially foliage that amps up the excitement of blooms. This is the promise of hostas—they bring the party to the planting, especially in the shade. Those strappy, often textured or variegated leaves, provide high contrast to all the colors and forms around them.
Upper left: So gorgeous. The trick here–what really makes this sing–is the addition of a dark-leafed coral bell. That one patch of deep red stops this from just being a mass of greens and instead, a composition.
Lower left: When Mother Nature was creating plants, one wonders which came first–the Astilbe or the hosta, both of which shine in the shade. Not just the complimentary foliage, but also the sprightly blooms.
Below: This hosta seems to have just popped up in this natural garden. Hostas have a formality about them. Nice to be reminded that they have a playful side, too.
Lush leaves emerge solid light green, then quickly develop dramatic dark green borders and radiant gold centers. Up to 8″ tall and 16″ wide. Full shade to partial sun. Zones 3-9.
4. Knit Together a Shady Slope
Dry shade is one of those garden challenges that’s well, challenging. Often this condition is found under large trees, but it can also be present on a hillside or slope where the water runs down without truly absorbing into the soil. Hostas, once they’ve had a few years to settle in, are surprisingly resilient, and do just fine on a slope. Their spreading roots knit together to help stop soil erosion. And, they keep down weeds.
Big area, big hosta. Heart-shaped, heavily seersucker leaves in a soft chartreuse that graduates to golden yellow. Up to 2′ tall and 4′ wide. Full shade to filtered sun. Zones 3-8.
5. As a Singular Sensation
Some Hostas are just so spectacular they need nothing but room to grow and a place of honor on your Instagram page (#badboyhosta?). It could be the supersized leaves or the sheer size of the mature plant, but it could also be a quirky leaf form or growth habit. While we’ve organized them in this story into somewhat loose categories, shop all for Hostas that just make you smile.
Left: Look at those huge puckered leaves and the way they stand so upright. Put this ‘Abiqua’ near a gate or a fence post and the sheer architecture of it holds its own.
Right: Gold Standard Hosta adds stunning color to a shaded border and can light the way to a gate or entryway.