First, to dispel a common misconception, there are no sun hostas, no sun-loving hostas and no sun-proof hostas. There are, however, hosta varieties that are able to “tolerate” more sun than their shade-loving cousins. Those are called “sun-tolerant” hostas.
Sun-tolerant hostas still need protection from afternoon sun, especially the hotter sun of the dog days of summer. No hosta will survive long if planted in full hot sun like a daisy or a sunflower.
Here at Sunset Hosta Farm, we're in Zone 6. Here and north of us, sun-tolerant hostas can generally take four to six hours of direct morning sun but still must be shielded from the afternoon sun.
Sun-tolerant hostas have certain characteristics that allow them to be placed in that category.
Fragrant HostasHostas with fragrant flowers, like 'The Shining' pictured above have a touch of Hosta Plantaginea in their family tree which makes them more sun tolerant. For this types of hosta to emit the best fragrance, some direct sun is actually necessary.
Leaf ColorWhere leaf color is concerned, generally the brighter the leaf color, the more sun the hosta can tolerate.
Mature Size: Large Height 28” Width up to 70”
Sun Power forms clumps of upright vase-shaped arching brilliant gold leaves that are more intense when grown in the sun, but it will also simply glow in the shade. It has pale lavender to white flowers in mid summer. Also drought tolerant.
One of the first hostas to emerge in the spring, it has broadly ovate leaves which form a mound of lime green leaves with a glossy texture. The leaves turn yellow when exposed to more sunlight. It has pale lavender blooms in mid summer. It is also heat tolerant
Generally the greener the leaf, the less sun is necessary for healthy hosta growth. The green will look even lighter in the sun. Our best picks:
Mature Size: Large Height 24" Width up to 54"
Guacamole is one fast grower and will fill an area quickly. It forms large, dense clumps and thrives where the sun can brighten the leaf centers. Its avocado green leaves are shiny with a dark green wide margin. The leaves are moderately folded. Fragrant white blooms appear in early summer making it perfect for planting near walkways, patios, decks or patios. 2002 Hosta of the Year.
Honeybells' long, wavy apple green leaves are puckered downward giving the clump a very unique shape. Strongly scented lavender blooms draw in the butterflies and honeybees. Looks great when planted with variegated hostas for contrast. Scented hostas like Honeybells are wonderful when planted hear walkways, paths, patios or decks.
Mature Size: Small Height 12” Width up to 36”
This rapid-growing hosta has long mid to dark green glossy narrow leaves. It grows into a dense spreading mound which makes it an excellent hosta for containers. Bell-shaped lavender blooms. Lancifolia has actually been known to take more than six hours of sun and is grown that way here at our farm. Also great for edging and border planting.
Mature Size: Small Height 11" Width up to 24"
Teaspoon is an excellent choice to show off in front of a shady garden. The leaves are medium green, slight corrugated and form a dense mound of cupped, upward-facing foliage. Pale lavender flowers show up in summer. A very pretty small hosta.
Where the blue hostas are concerned, in order to keep that gorgeous blue color as long as possible through the season, afternoon shade is mandatory. These blue hostas were bred to be able to take some direct morning sun, but even if the sun-tolerant blue hostas get too much sun, the leaves will turn green or burn. But not to worry, the blue color will return the next year giving you a chance to relocate the hosta until you've hit just the right spot for the color you want. Our best picks:
2008 Hosta of the year for good reason. The medium blue/green mouse ear shape of the leaves is nothing short of adorable! Outstanding lavender to white lily-like flowers atop graceful stalks in summer. Great for rock gardens, fairy gardens and borders. Very popular and a must-have for any hosta garden. Also slug tolerant.
Not only a garden standout, Blue Umbrellas is also a vigorous grower and sun and slug resistant. It will greet you in the spring with nice blue umbrella-shaped leaves that are downward cupped. Pale lavender flowers will appear in summer.
Hadspen BlueMature Size: Medium Height 18" Width up to 30"
Hadspen Blue sports an elegant mound of heart-shaped powdery blue leaves. It's slug resistant, too, due to its thick cupped and corrugated foliage. Its medium size lends well for use in a border, as a ground cover and in containers. This one has great form and texture as well as a beautiful blue color.
Stunning by itself or in a group, First Frost is a beauty. Unlike other hostas that begin to fade as early as August, First Frost keeps looking good well into the Fall. Beautiful green-blue leaves with yellow to white edged margins. It blooms lavender in late summer. Also slug resistant as well as sun tolerant. Best sited in filtered morning sun and afternoon shade. Photos do not do this 2010 Hosta of the Year justice.
June's leaves are of thick substance, 6” long and 4” wide at full growth. It sports a nice gold center and blue-green margins. Pretty lavender blooms in the summer. A sport of the popular 'Halcyon'. Hosta of the Year in 2001.
A Sunset Farms favorite! This sport of 'Francee' has stunning, very dark green leaves surrounded by a pure thick white margin. A very popular white-margined hosta. Pale flowers appear in early to mid summer. Pictures never do this one justice.
Patriot is a long-time favorite for its dramatic contrast of color. It sports bright green leaves with wide white margins. Lavender flowers pop up in mid summer. Holds its form and has good looking foliage even late in the summer. Let this one brighten up your shade garden.
The compact shape of So Sweet makes this hosta ideal for edging a shady garden. The leaves are glossy green with creamy yellow margins that fade to white later in the season. Its compact growth makes it great for containers, too.
This vigorous grower is the reverse sport of 'Golden Tiara.' It forms a low, dense mound of gold-centered green-margined foliage. It flashes a bright purple flower in mid summer. Part of our Tiara collection.
This rapid grower emerges early with neat, compact heart-shaped green leaves that are marginally variegated. Olive green petioles are outlined in cream. Looks great in shallow, wide containers. Rich lavender to purple flowers emerge in a dense cluster. A 1996 Hosta Merit Award winner.
Want a fast-growing hosta that blooms like no other and produces lots of seed pods? This is the hosta for you. Wide gold margins surround a narrow center flame of green on tight mounds of foliage. Purple striped bell-staped flowers emerge in summer. Part of our Sunset Hosta Farm Tiara collection.
Mature Size: Very Large Height 31" Width up to 70"
Hosta of the Year in 2000. The vase-shaped form and upright habit of Sagae make it the perfect hosta for a backdrop of smaller plants. In the spring, the heart-shaped leaves have a frosty blue color with greyish green streaks. In the summer, the leaves turn to green and the early yellow margins turn more creamy white. Huge pale lavender flowers emerge mid summer. Sun Tolerant and slug resistant. This one always gets noticed!
Best Care Tips for Sun Tolerant Hostas
- Extra water. At least one inch of water per week during the growing season with a good soaking periodically during the hotter summer months . If you're growing hostas in the hot, southern areas, consider installing a drip irrigation system to keep the hostas well watered.
- Good drainage. Good quality soil with lots or organic matter will hold the moisture well. Avoid clay and compacted soil.
- Mulch. A three-inch layer over the soil will help to conserve moisture and keep the roots cool.
- Throw some shade. Supply some shade source during the hottest parts of the year. A well-placed trellis, a garden statue or even another larger hosta can provide just the right amount of respite from the sun.
For a full list of sun tolerant hostas click here.
To Sum Up
But since hostas are a very forgiving perennial, they will come back the next season to give you another crack at just the right placement. Once you have it, though, your hostas will give you many years of added beauty to your garden.
Where to go next!