Sun and Shade

Sun or shade, walking the thin line

When it comes to choosing the right spot for a plant, many gardening enthusiasts often make the worst mistakes (and not just with hostas).  They put plants in a place that's totally unsuitable for them.  Of course the plant growth and general condition will be disappointing.  They look sad and miserable, if they don't die all together.  It's crucial to do some research in advance to find out what the optimal condition for any given plant is and to give it with a place in the garden that comes as close as possible to the required conditions   If such a place isn't available, you'll either have to create it (e.g. by planting or removing shrubs, trees or hedges,  ...) or else choose different plants for the existing conditions.

General observations

  • Hostas grow faster in more sunlight, but they will get more damage to the leaves.
    The optimal compromise is to give as much sun in the morning or late afternoon as possible, and light to full shade for the rest of the day, preferably the shape isn't to deep.
    Deep shade all day long isn't good for any hosta.   They won't grow into nice even clumps and will not display their full color potential.
  • Hostas, with their rather thin leaves, evaporate a lot of water.  In the hot sun at noon, most of them will struggle to maintain the correct water balance, even if there is an ample supply available in the soil. The heat will turn the leaves ugly, starting at the edges.
    When the temperature gets to high (even in shady places) growth will come to a stop.  It's a good practice to cover the soil with a mulch that will keep the temperature of the root ball down and prevent evaporation through the soil surface.
  • Taking into account the huge number of available cultivars there already are and the vast numbers of new ones that hit the market every year, it's impossible to give an advice on the correct location for every individual cultivar.  As a hosta lover, you'll have to find out by trial and (hopefully not to much) error what the ideal spot for a cultivar is.

Green hostas

They have the most chlorophyll, and therefore can tolerate more shade.  In really dark places they will grow but not thrive.

Blue and grey hostas

These are basically green hostas, covered with a waxy coating, which gives them a blue or grey cast. In full sun the wax on most of them will wear very quickly (also because in these spots they're more exposed to the rain), leaving you with less good looking plants.  A shady place, with a couple of hours of morning- or evening sun is recommended.

New' blue hostas

Over the last couple of years a number of new blue cultivars have appeared that require more sun to look at their best (e.g. H. 'Deane's Dream, H. 'Flemish Skies').  Don't put them in places that are shaded all day.

Yellow hostas

There isn't a single advice that applies to all yellows: some do well in the sun, others only like some morning or evening sun.  As the yellow chlorophyll isn't as good in photosynthesis as the green one, it's clear that the yellow hostas will require more light for optimal growth.

Variegated hostas

Because they have less chlorophyll, they will grow better in a little more sun, but not in the hot noon sun.  They generally prefer the morning or evening sun, with light shade for the rest of the day.

Hostas with a lot of white

Hostas with lots of with around the edge or in the centre will burn very easily, even more so if the leaves are very thin.  They won't tolerate more than one or two hours of morning sun.  But with the lack of chlorophyll in the white parts, they need a lot of light to grow well.  So, for the rest of the day they need some light shade. To much sun and the white parts will melt out (turn brown first, then disappear all together, which leaves you with a horrendous looking plant).

Yellow centered hostas

In order to get a nice yellow center color, they need at least 1-2 hours of direct sunlight; else the center will stay green or chartreuse or turns only partially yellow.

Scented hostas

Without exceptions these have H. plantaginea juice in their veins, a species that occurs far more to the south than any other species.  In order to grow and flower well they need a lot of sun and heat.  They tolerate sun at noon (although they might get some sunburn).

Sun lovers

There is an increasing number of hostas that will perform rather well in full sun.  It's good to keep in mind that they will do better if they get some shade during the hottest hours of the day.

I've compiled a list of sun tolerant hostas.  It's by no means complete, and of course I can't guarantee that each and every one of them will perform well in all possible.

H. 'Abba Dabba Do' H. 'Allan P. McConnell' H. 'August Moon'
H. 'Blonde Elf' H. 'Blue Angel' H. 'Blue Umbrellas'

H. 'Day's End'

H. 'Elegans' H. 'Fortunei Aureomarginata'
H. 'Foundling' H. 'Fragrant Bouquet' H. 'Fragrant Gold'
H. 'Francee' H. 'Ginko Craig' H. 'Gold Drop'
H. 'Gold Edger' H. 'Gold Regal' H. 'Gold Standard'
H. 'Goldee' H. 'Golden Medallion' H. 'Golden Sculpture'
H. 'Green Sheen' H; 'Halcyon' H. 'Honeybells'
H. 'Hoosier Harmony' H. hypoleuca H. 'Inniswood'
H. 'Invincible' H. 'Jewel of the Nile' H. 'June'

H. 'Krossa Regal'

H. lancifolia H. 'Lemon Lime'
H. 'Little Aurora' H. 'Marilyn' H. 'Midas Touch'
H. 'Minuteman' H. 'On Stage' H. 'Paradise Joyce'
H. 'Patriot' H. 'Pearl Lake'

H. plantaginea

H.  plantaginea 'Aphrodite' H.  plantaginea 'Ming Treasure' H. 'Regal Splendor'
H. 'Rising Sun' H. 'Royal Standard' H. 'Royal Super'
H. 'Sea Drift' H. 'Shining Tot' H. 'Snow Cap'
H. 'So Sweet' H. 'Squash Casserole' H. 'Suger and Cream'
H. 'Sultana' H. 'Sum and Substance' H. 'Sum It Up'
H. 'Summer Fragrance' H. 'Sumthing Good' H. 'Sun Power'

H. 'Sundance'

H. 'Sweet Standard' H. 'Sweet Susan'
H. 'Undulata Albomarginata'

H. 'Undulata Univatata'

H. 'Vanilla Cream
H. yingeri