Shade gardens comes with challenges, as any gardener who has one knows. There are fewer color options and briefer bloom times compared to the sunny garden, so variations in foliage color and texture are important considerations for added interest.

August Moon hosta at Tonkadale Greenhouse

August Moon hosta

Love them or not, hostas are true workhorses in the shade garden. Hosta lovers know that you can’t stop at just one. And for those who haven’t fallen in love with them already – proceed with caution. Their easy-care nature, wide variety of plant and leaf size, leaf shape, and shades of green, gold, blue, and white make them easy to begin collecting but difficult to stop.

How to grow hostas

All hostas need a little sun to truly thrive, and none do well in deep shade. Early morning or dappled light is their favorite.

Hostas favor moist, well-drained sites. Dry soil will require consistent watering and may stunt the plants’ growth. Hostas also prefer slightly acidic soil. Amend with compost and peat moss to maintain favorable soil conditions. Hostas can be heavy feeders, so fertilizing with a basic 10-10-10 or Miracle-Gro Miracid a couple times throughout the summer will make them quite happy.

No hosta loves hot mid-day sun, which can cause leaf burn, melting centers, and washed-out color. There are, however, a very few varieties that will tolerate a little more sun than others. In locations with 6 hours of sunlight try these:

Drinking Gourd hosta at Tonkadale Greenhouse

Drinking Gourd hosta

  • Guacamole
  • August Moon
  • Sum and Substance
  • June
  • Paradigm

Hosta problems
and solutions

It’s a devastating sight to walk out to the shade garden and see holes shot through those beautiful, chunky hosta leaves. There are two possible culprits. Either there has been hail damage or garden slugs have made a buffet of your precious plants. Whichever it is, there in nothing to be done about the current leaf damage.

If slugs are the problem, apply Sluggo to prevent further damage. Sluggo is a granular bait. Slugs and snails will ingest the granules, retreat immediately, and will not return.

Deer also love to munch on hostas. Repellants are the best bet for dealing with these nuisance eaters. Try coyote urine granules (it really does work), or RepelsAll.

A few hosta to try

We carry several varieties of hostas, including changing-out some varieties from month to month. Here are a few worth considering:

Curly Fries – 2016 Hosta of the Year. This aptly named hosta has thin, bright green leaves with a noticeable ruffle along the edges. Maturing at 6 inches high and 16 inches wide, this little hosta won’t take up much space but creates an impact just the same.

Fire and Ice – Upright, curling leaves that are deeply variegated with shades of green and white make this a standout in the garden. Whether planted as a specimen or as a border, it’s impossible to miss. At 16 inches tall and up to 32 inches wide, Fire and Ice is the perfect pairing for larger or smaller hostas.

Fragrant Bouquet – Mid-sized and light green, this pairs particularly well with blue hostas. Truly fragrant, this hosta is a great addition for anyone who revels in heavenly scented flowers. Remember, the air becomes more still at night and scent dissipates less quickly, so late evening is a great time to enjoy your garden for its sweet scents.

Popcorn hosta at Tonkadale Greenhouse

Popcorn hosta

Empress Wu – Though it takes a few years to reach its true potential, this one is well worth the wait. Eventually maturing at an impressive 4 feet high and wide, Empress Wu is a great choice as a backdrop for shade gardens or as a foundation plant on the shady side of the house.

Ginko Craig – At just 10 inches tall, this one is great as a border plant. Its perfectly rounded shape and sharp white edge on the leaves make it a stunning specimen as well.

Other great varieties to consider include:

  • Abiqua Drinking Gourd
  • Blue Mouse Ears
  • Blueberry Muffin
  • Cherry Berry
  • Cool as a Cucumber
  • Krossa Regal
  • Maui Buttercups
  • Popcorn
  • Rainforest Sunrise
  • T-Rex

And that’s just a few of the great varieties you’ll find!

Whether you’re cultivating a new love for hostas or satisfying an itch to add even more, we’ve got a great one for you!