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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

What Are Sun Tolerant Hostas?

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.  Once a hosta's roots are mature that hosta will be much more drought-tolerant that a younger hosta plant.  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.
An investment in a nice shade cloth will save your hosta from the intense heat.  Those Sun Sails functional and pretty.

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.

Thicker Leaves

Sum and Substance Hosta blooming

Sum and Substance Hosta

Like the leaves of the Hosta Sum and Substance pictured above, sun-tolerant hostas generally have thicker leaves that are described as rugose, heavily textured or corrugated. As a bonus, these leaves are usually the most slug resistant ones.

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.

Fragrant Hostas

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.

Leaf Color

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:


Sun Power Hosta

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.

Sum and Substance Hosta

Mature Size: Large Height 36” Width up to 72”

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:


Guacamole Hosta

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 Hosta

Mature Size: L Height: 22" Width 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.


Lancifolia Hosta

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.


Teaspoon Hosta

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:

Blue Angel Hosta

Mature Size: Large Height 18” Width up to 32”

One of the bluest hostas that are sun tolerant. The leaves are heart-shaped blue/green which form a nice-sized flowing mound. White to lavender flowers appear in mid-summer. Leaves are heavily textured. It's one of the most popular blue hostas and looks great in large containers or tubs.

Blue Mouse Ears Hosta

Mature Size: Mini Height 8" Width up to 19"

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.

Blue Umbrellas Hosta

Blue Umbrellas Hosta

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 Hostas

Variegated sun-tolerant hostas will thrive with some additional sunlight. 

 Our best picks:

First Frost hosta in white ceramic

First Frost Hosta

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.


June Hosta

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.

Minuteman Hosta

Minuteman Hosta

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.

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Patriot Hosta

Patriot Hosta

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.

So Sweet Hostas

So Sweet Hosta

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.

Emerald Tiara Hosta

Emerald Tiara Hosta

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.

Golden Tiara Hosta

Golden Tiara Hosta

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.

Grand Tiara Hosta

Grand Tiara Hosta

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.

Soaker hoses are always a good idea.

  • 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.


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Monday, July 6, 2020

Making and Using Leaf Mold in the Garden

A free, readily-available resource!


First, what exactly is leaf mold?

Leaf mold (leaf compost) is quite simply decomposed leaves. It is one of the best soil amendments you can use to bring new life to your soil. It has a texture much like compost, dark brown to black, and has an earthy aroma. 

Leaf mold acts mainly as a soil conditioner by improving the soil structure. It WILL NOT add nutrition to your garden plants but it will enhance the condition of your soil creating a soil that is rich in calcium and magnesium and is less prone to compaction.


Benefits of Leaf Mold

  • It's easier to make than compost as there is no mixing of greens and browns.
  • It increases water retention. In areas where droughts are a constant threat, this can be really important. It really soaks up the rain. It has been known to hold up to 400% of its own weight in water.
  • It can be used as an effective weed barrier.
  • It provides a great habitat for soil life including earthworms and beneficial bacteria.
  • It will lighten up clay soil.
  • It will help prevent sandy soils from drying out too fast.
  • If you leave the leaf mold piled up for two-plus years as many gardeners do, you will end up with hummus. Hummus is that dark rich crumbly organic matter that covers the forest floor – Nature's compost. It improves the soil structure and holds nutrients and moisture.
  • It's a free renewable resource!

Why not just add the leaves to the compost pile?

While it's okay to add thin layers of leaves into your normal compost, too many Autumn leaves, even if they're shredded, will tend to mat together and prevent airflow in the pile and you'll notice the pile will start to smell. 

 It's a better practice to decompose the leaves in a separate bed then incorporate the leaf mold directly into the soil.

Why not add the leaves straight into the garden beds?

This is something many gardeners choose to do, however, the leaves may take more time than one season to decompose into that wonderful crumbly texture.

Most leaves are slightly acidic as they fall, but as the leaves break down into leaf mold, the pH goes up into a more neutral range. This is the main reason gardeners prefer to let the leaves sit over the winter to decompose as opposed to placing them straight into the garden. 

Applying leaf mold will not correct a pH problem if you have one, but it will have a moderating effect.

How to Make Leaf Mold

Leaf piles can be made at any size, but it's recommended to pile the leaves 3 feet wide by 3 feet high, water the pile and let sit. You can use rounded chicken wire to hill them up to the 3 feet.

Some gardeners recommend filling a plastic bag with leaves and cutting holes in the bags for airflow. For a small batch of leaf mold, this may work well. If you have the space for a 3 by 3 area, I see no benefit to the plastic bag.

How to Use Leaf Mold

  • Acid-loving plants like Hostas, Blueberries, Azaleas, and Rhododendrons will love the boost they get from leaf mold. Mulch up to 4” around the plant but away from the trunk.
  • For perennial plants, use leaf mold as a mulch top dressing for winter protection. The best time to mulch with leaf mold is after the first few touches of frost. Remove any dead vegetation and apply 2” of leaf mold, then turn it into the garden or container next spring. 
  • For Ornamental Plants. Pile leaf mold 2-3”deep around the plant, within an inch of the base.
  • Just like regular compost, use the bottom of the leaf mold pile first as it will be the first to decompose.
  • Mix leaf mold into soil in containers for its ability to retain water.

Leaf Mold for your Veggie Gardens

For vegetable gardens. You can turn the leaf mold in at the end of the season which will create a soil that is less prone to compaction. Leaf mold is rich in calcium and magnesium which are essential for healthy vegetables. 

It is particularly good to incorporate in areas where you're growing carrots and members of the cabbage family. Remember that it does not provide the needed nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Apply up to 4”of leaf mold between rows and 2-3”around plants and till in at the end of the growing season.

Best Trees for Leaf Mold

Leaves of any trees can be used. The smaller the leaves, however, the faster they will break down. Smaller leaves like Birch, Alder and Japanese Maple only take six months to break down.

Using different types of leaves together will help balance and improve the quality of the finished product.

Here at Sunset Hosta Farm we have no shortage of leaves, so we take advantage of this valuable free resource by using it both as a leaf mold amendment to our container soil and garden soil and adding it to our compost pile

Ways to Speed up the Decomposition Process

Leaves naturally decompose slowly to furnish plant nutrients gradually and improve the structure of the soil beneath. Because leaves are basically carbon, it takes longer to break down than, say, grass clippings which are nitrogen rich.

This three-bin system is ideal for aerating the leaves as they decompose by moving them from one bin to another.  

Other ideas:
  • Run over the leaves with the mower before stacking. Small pieces always decompose more quickly.
  • Add nitrogen such as grass clippings, fresh manure or blood meal.
  • Turn your leaf pile over every few weeks.
  • Cover the pile with tarps to keep leaves consistently moist and warm.


Use leaf mold in containers for its ability to retain water

For perennial plants in containers or in the ground, you can use leaf mold as a mulch top dressing for winter protection. 

The best time to mulch with leaf mold is after the first few frosts. Remove any dead vegetation and apply 2” of leaf mold, then turn it into the garden or container next spring.

For Ornamental Plants. Pile leaf mold 2-3”deep around the plant, within an inch of the base.



Here at Sunset Hosta Farm we have no shortage of leaves, so we take advantage of this valuable free resource by using it both as a leaf mold amendment to our container soil and garden soil and adding it to our compost piles.  It's a great free organic resource!


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