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.
It's important to remember that "sun-tolerant" does not mean they are drought-tolerant. Hostas need consistent moisture to thrive. Sunlight is rarely an issue, but intense heat and dry conditions are.
Sun-tolerant hostas still need protection from the 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.
Conversely, hostas with thin leaves will not take as much sun and the leaves can burn when exposed to too much sun Large leaves are able to absorb more water and hold it for its root mass.
Hostas 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 these types of hosta to emit the best fragrance, some direct sun is actually necessary.
Where leaf color is concerned, generally the brighter the leaf color, the more sun the hosta can tolerate.
Generally as a rule, hostas with white, yellow or gold tones on the leaves can withstand more sun before the leaves will burn. Their yellow colors will appear brighter when given sun, and without the sun the leaves can quickly fade to green.
Our best picks:
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.
Mature Size: Large Height: 22" Width up to 45"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, slightly 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.
Mature Size: Large Height 33” Width up to 72”
Not only a garden standout, but 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.
Variegated sun-tolerant hostas will thrive with some additional sunlight.
Our best picks:
Mature Size: Medium Height 14" Width up to 36"
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.
Mature Size: Medium Height 16” Width up to 37”
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.
Mature Size: Large Height 23” Width up to 50”
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.
Mature Size: Large Height 23” Width up to 40”
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.
Mature Size: Large Height 26” Width up to 45”T
he 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.
Mature Size: Medium Height 14” Width up to 35”
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.
Mature Size: Medium Height 16” Width up to 30”T
his 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.
Mature Size: Medium Height 16” Width up to 44”
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-shaped flowers emerge in summer. Part of our Sunset Hosta Farm Tiara collection.
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 of 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 sources 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.
Duplicating exact planting conditions for a specific hosta is half-knowledge and half pure luck so experimenting may be necessary.
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!