Which Hosta Should I Grow?
What plants have over 5000 different varieties, grow well in shade, are relatively pest and disease free and can be used to fill spots in practically any garden? If you said Hostas, then give yourself a congratulatory pat on the back. Leaves of green, blue, yellow, white or combinations thereof either grow in mounds or stand upright like a vase. There are hostas for sun, hostas for shade, small hostas, large hostas and giant hostas. There is literally a Hosta plant for every occasion. Choosing the right variety can present something of a challenge. Here are a few varieties that I find intriguing.
‘Whirlwind’ is considered a medium to large Hosta, growing up to 20 inches tall and 40 inches wide. Creamy white leaves with dynamic green margins emerge in the spring. As it grows, the leaf centers can change from white to light green. As lovely as the color is, what really makes this plant stand out is the way the leaves stand upright and twist. The overall effect is of constant movement, even on the stillest of days. Hardy in zones 3-9, like most Hostas, ‘Whirlwind’ grows best in dappled shade with a little morning light.
‘Patriot’ is a crowd-pleasing favorite. Attaining medium to large stature, this mounding plant’s green leaves are irregularly edged in purest white, which gleams even in the shadiest garden. A sport of long-time favorite ‘Francee,’ this Hosta is very easy to grow since it is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions, including close proximity to black walnuts. Hardy in zones 3 to 8, ‘Patriot’ sends up lavender flowers on 34-inch scapes in July and August. This is a lovely, versatile plant and it’s easy to see why it has become such a favorite.
‘Guacamole’ has leaves as green as the avocado dip for which it is named. The broad, corrugated lime-green leaves have streaky, bluish-green margins. The overall effect makes me crave tortilla chips so I can dig in. ‘Guacamole’ grows into a large, mounding plant, hardy in zones 3-8. As if that wasn’t enough, ‘Guacamole’ comes with a bonus. Mid-summer brings very pale lavender, fragrant blossoms growing on scapes up to 36 inches tall. Hummingbirds just love these flowers.
In stark contrast to the calm serenity of ‘Patriot’ and the large, tasty appeal of ‘Guacamole’ is ‘Fire & Ice’ - a small sized plant that radiates energy. ‘Fire & Ice’ grows upright rather than in a mound. The lanceolate white leaves are edged with green and grow twisted, looking like snowy flames in the garden. Hardy in zones 3-8, this Hosta is a sport of ‘Patriot,’ to which it contrasts so nicely. Its unique appearance adds spice to any garden design.
People love the latest and greatest of anything. New and interesting plants draw the attention of media and collectors while older plants fall into the background. But those plants still perform a vital role. When creating a landscape, garden or even a stage set, the designer needs a backdrop and extras so the stars can shine. ‘Royal Standard’ could be considered either a backdrop or an extra. The large plants have solid green, ovate leaves that create mounds of glossy greenery. This is the perfect backdrop for newer or showier plants. Until mid-summer, that is. The backdrop remains, but the incredibly fragrant white flowers towering above the mounds of lush green leaves steal the show. ‘Royal Standard’ is an older bit player that has its own moment to shine.
Since there are literally thousands of registered Hosta varieties, choosing the right one can be a daunting task. For my own use, I decided that a chart listing the characteristics of each variety would be helpful. I could then make an informed choice more easily, based on the characteristic that most interested me.