Hosta (Plantain Lily)
A longstanding and familiar favorite, Hosta (HOSS-tuh), or plantain lily, of the Asparagus family, Asaparagaceae, offer an unrivaled variety of appearances fit for almost any garden, with over 6,000 named varieties in cultivation and more developed each year. Hosta are excellent low maintenance, reliable growers, thriving in part to full shade gardens and preferring slightly acidic, well-drained, rich soil. However, Hosta are also very durable plants, tolerating a range of soil conditions including difficult dry shady sites and areas near black walnut trees, as well as sites exposed to winter salt spray.
Native to China, Japan, Korea, and Russia, Hosta are great for adding consistent foliage interest in the garden, while also offering blooming color with upright scapes rising high above the foliage, featuring nodding tubular flowers up to two inches long, usually in shades of purple or white and often accompanied by interesting modifed leaves, blooming throughout the summer.
Hosta’s wide variation spans differences in size, from less than 8" tall and 8-12" wide to well over four feet tall and six feet wide; leaf shape, with both wide and narrow-leaved varieties with and without corrugation; leaf coloration, spanning a range of blues, greens, and yellows; and leaf texture, including those with especially shiny and waxy, or soft and powdery surfaces.
Plantain lily is a tremendously versatile plant, with mini varieties such as ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ with its compact, miniature blue leaves, to smaller varieties of around 18-24” in height, to large and even giant varieties that can exceed four feet tall and six feet wide after maturing over a number of growing seasons. Popular smaller varieties include ‘Francee,’ a classic variety of around 14” in height with waxy, deep green leaves and a white leaf margin, ‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd,’ growing about 24” round with cupped, heavily corrugated deep blue-green leaves, and ‘Guacamole,' growing to about 18” in height and 24” wide with stunning chartreuse leaves and blue-green leaf margins. Larger Hosta varieties include the striking ‘Olive Bailey Langdon,' growing up to five feet wide and boasting wide, blue green leaves with light green margins, as well as the massive wide, corrugated powdery blue leaves of ‘T-Rex,’ growing over six feet wide at maturity.
Mass Hosta as a shady groundcover, vary Hosta size, shape, and texture to create depth and interest, utilize colorful varieties to draw attention to areas of the landscape and contrast deeper foliage colors, or plant large varieties as stunning shady specimens or background plantings for impactful season-long interest.