If you can only identify three plants in the garden, odds are one of them is going to be a hosta.


Timber Press Pocket Guide to Hostas  


Planting hostas in the right place is easy enough: most prefer shade, although deep shade is not the best option, except in the case of very dark green hostas. Though some are supposedly more tolerant of sun than others, hostas are simply not suited to a site that gets hot afternoon rays; they'll dry out. Filtered shade and rich, moist soil will bring out the best in most hostas. In fact, some studies show that soil that stays consistently moist is even more important than shade; hostas in moist soil are better able to withstand the sun.


For years, hostas have been one of the top-selling perennials in the United States, preferred for their easy care. In fact, because hostas are such a common sight in gardens, they're often taken for granted. The ordinary green-and-cream, wavy-leaved hostas are by far the most popular variety in U.S. gardens. But you may be surprised to learn that there are literally thousands of hostas to choose from, and even more interestingly, they come in an amazing range of sizes. Some—like ‘Komodo Dragon’—are as much as six feet across, while others, full grown, would fit in the palm of your hand. These extreme hostas—the largest and the smallest of the genus—are not for every landscape, but they can be wonderful, easy-care specimens where the location and design allow for their special features.


The Genus Hosta  


Jumbo hostas:

The chartreuse ‘Sum and Substance’ (60” diameter x 30” high) has drawn media attention as one of the best of the big hostas. It has remained near the top of the American Hosta Society’s popularity poll for years, and a few years ago was named the American Hosta Growers Association’s Plant of the Year. Now the focus has shifted to ‘Titanic’, a sport of ‘Sum and Substance’ featuring ribbed, variegated foliage with a gold edge and dark green center. The ultimate size of ‘Titanic’ is about 4 feet high x 5 feet wide, although some experts believe the size at maturity may reach 80" in diameter. Another hosta similar to ‘Sum and Substance’ is the variegated ‘Sum of  All’, reaching 60” in diameter and 36” in height. ‘Solar Flare’ is a large hosta with yellow-gold leaves; but it isn't quite the size of ‘Sum and Substance’, reaching only (only!) 52" wide and 28" high.


Some of the better known giant-sized “blue” hostas include ‘Bigfoot’ (70” x 30”), ‘Blue Angel’ (up to 70” in diameter and 48” high), ‘Blue Mammoth’ (70” x 45”), H. sieboldiana ‘Gray Cole’ (some experts believe the ultimate width on this cultivar will reach over 84” with a height of 36”), ‘H. D. Thoreau’ (84” x 38”), ‘Krossa Regal’ (72” x 36”), and ‘Mr. Big’ (80” x 40”).


The New Encyclopedia of Hostas 


Many of the giant “green” hostas are quite aptly named; they include 'Behemoth' (48” x 36”), 'Bethel Big Leaf' (56” x 36”), 'Big Boy’ (48” x36”), ‘Big Sam’ (48” x 36”), ‘Colossal’ (48”x 28”), and ‘Jolly Green Giant’(44” x 32”). ‘Mountain Snow’, a green and white variegated hosta, reaches up to 60 inches across and 28 inches high. The variegated 'Frosted Jade' reaches up to 60” wide and 28” in height. ‘Yellow River’ may reach as much as 80” wide and 36” tall.


Mini hostas:

Among the smallest hostas are the fragrant cultivars 'Asuka', 'Kunpu' and 'Otome No Ka'. 'Fragrant Tot' has yellow leaves streaked with green and reaches only 6" in diameter and 4" in height. 'Geisha' (6” x 4”) has chartreuse leaves with a green margin. 'Goody Goody' has white leaves with a green margin and reaches only 8" in diameter x 2" high. ‘Bobbin’, a dwarf form of ‘Silver Kabitan’, is the smallest hosta in the “erect” group, with a diameter of about 4 inches and a height of only 2 inches.


The “Tiny Group” of hostas includes ‘Abiqua Miniature’ (7” diameter x3” high), ‘Blue Ice’ (8” x 4”), ‘Gosan Gold Midget’ (5” x 3”)’, ‘Ivory Pixie’ (8” x 6”), ‘Shining Tot’ (6” x 2”), ‘Thumb Nail’ (4” x 2”), ‘Tiny Tears’ (4” x2”) and ‘Tot Tot’ (8” x 4”). Other exciting new mini-hostas include ‘Blue MouseEars’, ‘Cat and Mouse’, ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’, ‘Sunlight Child’ and ‘Cracker Crumbs.’


The Color Encyclopedia of Hostas  


‘Gold Colleen’ is a yellow-leaved form with striped purpleflowers that only reaches 6 “ in diameter and 8” in height. ‘Golden Spades’ has a similar size and description. The Korean species Hosta venusta forms a dense, spreading mound reaching about 10 inches wide and but less than 3 inches high. ‘Blue Ice’ has the rippled blue leaves often found on giant hostas, but this time in a compact form only 10 inches wide by 6 inches high. Hosta ‘Little Bo Peep’ is a variegated, moundinghosta reaching just over 8 inches in width and 3 inches in height. ‘Cat’s Eyes’ has dark green margins and yellow centers that turn to ivory-white, growing to 6” wide and 2” tall.


Exceptionally large or small hostas are more than just curiosities; they can be used as specimen plants, but they don’t have to be singled out. Tiny hostas can be used as rock garden plants, as edgers, or even in containers or trough gardens. Very large hostas can be used in perennial beds and borders, in large containers, or in some cases even as ground covers. Try some of these extreme hostas to add some “wow” power to the shady parts of your yard.



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Welcome to Garden Variety, a common ground for gardening enthusiasts in the B&N community. Each day, our resident experts, guest bloggers, and B&N staff produce articles on evergreen topics and growing trends in the realm of landscaping. From seasonal plants and edible gardens to book suggestions and landscape innovations, this is the place where ideas flourish.


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