Lynne Forbragd, Anoka County Extension Master Gardener
The hosta needs no introduction as the shade perennial of choice in Minnesota gardens. Hostas are valued for their lush, fabulous foliage and their ease of growth. With more than 3,000 varieties now available, there are more reasons than ever to grow this reliable plant. Whether you are new to hostas or a seasoned fanatic, here are some ways to add more hostas to your garden.
Try a new size. If you are growing only medium-sized hostas, you are missing out. Hosta sizes range from dwarf to giant, with every size in between. The tiny hosta blue mouse ears grows to 8 inches tall and 19 inches wide. Empress Wu, said to be the biggest of all hostas, grows to 4 feet high and 6 feet wide. Try planting small hostas to create a new border, or choose a giant hosta for a striking focal point. To reduce the need to move or divide your hostas, plant them in a space allocated for their full-size growth, which typically takes 4-5 years.
Try a new color or shape. Hostas come in an astonishing array of colors and leaf shapes. Colors include many shades of blue, green, yellow and gold that can be solid or variegated. Hosta leaves can be smooth, veined, waxy, cupped, puckered, ruffled, curled, twisted or heart shaped. A shady area can be brightened with gold or variegated hostas. While most hostas prefer shade, be sure to check light requirements for each hosta variety. Some need more sunlight to bring out their vibrant colors.
Try a new location. By strategically planting hostas in the right locations, you can solve garden problems and maximize hosta benefits. Hostas can be planted under trees for easier mowing and weed prevention. Hostas mingle beautifully with other shade-loving perennials such as astilbe, bleeding heart, ferns and coral bells. They are also great companions for spring bulbs, since they fill in vacant spaces as bulbs die back. Hostas with white variegated leaves or white flowers are great additions to moonlight gardens. Some hostas such as guacamole and stained glass have very fragrant flowers that can be best enjoyed in higher traffic areas.
Try potted hostas. Hostas can easily be grown in containers where they look great and are simple to relocate. They can be arranged on steps, entries or decks for dramatic color and impact. Potted hostas can fill in empty spaces in your garden or beneath trees. Small hostas work well in group arrangements, while larger hostas get attention as bold specimen plants. To grow hostas in containers, make sure you use pots and potting soil with good drainage and water frequently. Bring your potted hostas into an unheated garage, shed or protected area for the winter. They’ll be ready to make another grand entrance in the spring.
Hostas are a proven favorite and the incredible varieties available today make them an exciting choice for your garden. Hostas can be planted in the fall as long as they have time to establish their roots before a hard freeze, so go ahead and try something new!