Friday, August 23, 2019

Top Ten Hostas to Brighten Up Your Shade Garden

Shade gardens don't have to be bland. There are the usual colorful shade perennials like the usual suspects like Astilbe, Foxglove and Bleeding Hearts. Those are good choices for some bright colors in a shade garden.

But have you ever considered incorporating bright-colored hostas into your shade garden scheme?

Here at Sunset Hosta Farm, we grow and sell the hostas we love. We have a good selection of bright leafed hostas.

Here are our top ten recommendations. Click on the name to see more information.

Small Hostas

Size: Small
Height: 12” Width up to 20”
Amber Tiara has thick chartreuse oval-shaped leaves with a blunt tip. It forms an attractive dense mound. The flowers are light purple on 22” scapes in late summer. Sure to brighten up your hosta garden.

Height: 10” Width up to 30”
A sport of H 'Sea Fire', Saint Elmo's Fire is a true beauty that is noted for its showy yellow leaves. As the season progresses, the leaves turn light green with pretty white margins. A very attractive bi-colored foliage display. It's a stunner!

Medium Hostas 

Size: Medium
Height: 18: Width up to 44”
The leaves of Grand Tiara are thick, heart-shaped, ovate and wavy. The gold margin is much wider than 'Golden Tiara' which gives the effect of a golden yellow leaf with a center splash of green. Good sun tolerance. The morning sun enhances the leaf color. In summer, the clumps are literally smothered with scapes of purple flowers making it one of the most popular Tiaras.

Height: 16” Width up to 37”
June's leaves are of thick substance, 6” long and 4” wide at full growth making it very slug resistant. It sports a nice gold center and blue-green margins. The leaf center will turn green if sited in deep shade. Pretty lavender blooms in the summer. A sport of the popular H. Halcyon. Very pretty as well as sun tolerant. Part of our Hosta of the Year series. (2001)

Height: 18” Width up to 30”
The reverse sport of H. Patriot, this hosta features dark green margins and white centers. The leaves are of very heavy substance. It displays pale lavender flowers in mid-summer. A great specimen plant and a real beauty. Always on top of the customer favorite list and one of the best white-centered hostas ever!

The Shining

Height: 20” Width up to 36”
This fast-growing beauty of the hosta world is especially charming when in bloom. Unlike most hostas, this bright mound of gold foliage produces gorgeous white to light lavender fragrant flowers in late summer. It displays the best color with half a day of sun. A stunner, and one you will want to use as a specimen plant or as a focal point.

Large to Very Large Hostas

Height: 22” Width up to 40”
If you want a bright yellow color and you want it fast, this is the hosta for you. Dancing Queen has deep veins and heavily textured leaves. It emerges bright yellow in the spring and fades to pale yellow over the summer. Lavender flowers contrast nicely with the golden foliage in mid-summer. 

 Place near dark blue or green hostas and watch it stand out. A fast, reliable grower. Plant in bright a.m.. sun for its best color.


Height: 24” Width up to 54”
Guacamole is one fast grower and will fill an area quickly. It forms large, dense clumps and thrives in partial shade 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 paths. Very sun tolerant. 2002 Hosta of the Year!

Height: 36” Width up to 72”

One of the largest hostas available today and one of the earliest hostas to emerge in the spring. It has broadly ovate leaves which form a huge mound of lime green leaves with a glossy texture. The leaves of Sum and Substance change to yellow when exposed to more sunlight. It has pale lavender blooms in mid-summer. It's sun and heat tolerant. Deserved the distinction of Hosta of the Year in 2004.


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 shadier spots. It has pale lavender to white flowers in mid-summer. Also drought tolerant. This hosta will hold its color until frost.


Incorporate some bright-colored hostas into your shade garden today!


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Sun's Effect on Hosta Leaf Color

Hostas continue to be a favorite perennial plant for plenty of reasons. Their toughness, beauty, ease of care and variety of great sizes, leaf colors and shapes make it one of the best plants for a shade or semi-shade garden.

Contrary to what some people may think, though, no hosta will survive, much less thrive, in complete shade. All plants need some sunlight to photosynthesize.



But just how much sun do hostas really need?

If you're not so concerned about the hosta's leaf color through the season, you can plant your hosta with morning sunshine and semi or dappled sun during the afternoon. All hostas will be nice and healthy in these conditions.

If you're looking for that exact picture-on-the-website color, though, it becomes a bit tricky and may take some trial and error. Learning about the sun's effect on hosta leaves can go a long way in achieving the right placement.

First, sun is not sun is not sun

The heat and brightness experienced in a full sun location can vary from area to area as well as the time of day. Full sun in the morning hours will not be as intense as full sun in the afternoon. Sun in the south is, of course, more intense than the sun in the north.

There is also the consideration of microclimates. Things like fences, buildings and even other plants can shade an area through part of the day and that needs to be considered.

Some Generalities

The Shining Hosta

Fragrant Hostas

There are hostas with fragrant flowers.  These have evolved from H. Plantaginea.  The Shining, pictured above, can tolerate more sunny conditions.  In fact, fragrant hostas need four to six hours of sun to develop those beautiful fragrant white blooms.  

And unlike most other hostas, the fragrant ones bloom in the late afternoon instead of in the early morning.  This species also has the ability to grow new foliage during the summer months.

Here at Sunset Hosta Farm, we offer six varieties of fragrant hostas.  They are:

Blue Hawaii - Coming soon!

Thick Leaves

Hostas with thicker substance to their leaves can take more sun as they can absorb and hold more moisture. Sum and Substance, Big Daddy and First Frost are great examples of this.  Conversely, hostas with thinner leaves are more susceptible to sun-scald.

Leaf Color

Leaf color plays an important role in answering the question of how much sun a hosta needs for the best color and health.

Halcyon blue hosta

Halcyon Hosta

Blue Hostas

For our full article on the effects of the sun on blue hosta leaf color, click here.  Here are some generalities.

Blue hostas require the most protection from the sun because the blue color is actually a waxy coating on the top and or bottom side of the leaves. The leaves are actually a shade of green, but the waxy coating makes them appear those great shades of blue. 

Too much sun can cause this waxy coating to melt off and expose the green leaf underneath. This is the reason it is recommended that blue hostas are planted in deeper shade than other hostas.

The best siting for blue hostas is some morning sun and complete afternoon shade. If your blue hosta is keeping its blue color through most of the season, it's obviously in the right spot. Keep in mind, though, that blue hosta cultivars differ greatly in their blue coloring and in how long they will hold their blue color into the season

Minuteman Hosta

Minuteman Hosta

Dark Green Hostas

Dark green-leafed hostas need less sunlight to thrive. This is because they have more chloroplasts in their leaves and photosynthesis can occur with less light. 

To keep that deep green color, plant it like you would a blue hosta. If you don't mind a lighter green color, you can give it more sun.

Guacamole hosta

Guacamole Hosta

Light Green Hostas

Light green hostas may require more light. In fact, you can somewhat control the color of the leaves by its placement. In more sun, the leaves will begin to turn even lighter.

Fire Island Hosta

Fire Island Hosta

Gold, Yellow or Chartreuse Hostas

Generally, hostas that tolerate more sun have leaves with hues of white, gold or yellow. The leaves may be solid or variegated. These are the most sun tolerant of the hostas. They're able to handle more sun provided they're kept adequately moist. They need at least two hours of direct sun to look their best.

The yellow leaf colors will look brighter when given more sun. Without at least a couple of hours of sun, the yellow leaf color can fade to green or chartreuse, or yellow hostas that emerge green may stay green instead of turning yellow.

White Feather Hosta

White Feather Hosta

White Hostas

As a general rule, the more white a hosta is, the more sun it needs to maintain its vigor. Most solid white leafed hostas, like White Feather, emerge a ghostly white then the leaves become white with light green stripes as it matures. 

Again, the thicker the leaf, the more sun it can tolerate. Thin leaved white hostas should be restricted to partial shade or early morning sun and little or dappled afternoon shade.


White or Yellow Centered Variegated Hostas

These tend to burn in too much sun unless the hosta has thicker leaves. Morning or late afternoon sun is recommended for white and yellow variegated hostas with thinner leaves.

Loyalist Hosta

Loyalist Hosta

Variegated Hostas

Variegated hostas have minimal amounts of chlorophyll. In full sun, the chlorophyll levels can increase and cause the leaves to pick up a green cast and look less variegated. With insufficient sun, any yellow or white margins may not lighten to the mature color.

Other Things to Consider

The hotter the weather and the more intense the sun, the more water a hosta needs. Hostas expire a lot of moisture through their leaves. For a large swath of hostas, installing a drip irrigation system is a great idea.

It is normal to see color changes in the hosta leaves throughout the growing season as the sun grows more intense. These changes are temporary for the season.

Sun Tolerant Hostas

There are hostas that are “Sun Tolerant.” If your hosta is advertised as such, it is your best bet for placement in some sun. 

Here at Sunset Hosta Farm, we offer many sun tolerant hostas. 

To read our blog post all about sun tolerant hostas, click here.

Signs of Sun Scald

  • Faded or bleached out green color on the leaves of blue hostas.
  • Browned leaf edges.
  • Dull color and faded spots on the leaves.


Because there are so many variables to consider, you could follow all of the above suggestions and still not be successful in achieving an exact leaf color.

One of the great things about hostas is that they're easy to dig up and move to another location. And there's always the possibility of planting your hosta in a pot. Then you can move it around until it's in just the right spot for the coloring you're after.


Where to go next!

Flowering hosta in a pot

Love hostas or know someone who does?
Visit our website for great hostas at an affordable price!

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