12 Colorful Hostas for Your Garden

Blue leaves of Hosta 'Halcyon.'
Photos Lamontagne/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Hosta is a very large genus of more than 70 species and hundreds of hybrids and cultivars. With rare exception, these herbaceous shade-loving perennials are grown for their foliage, not their flowers, yet hostas still offer surprisingly diverse color. The foliage can be blue, gold (yellow), or green. Or, sometimes, one will find a pleasing blend, as when there is just enough yellow and green to form chartreuse. In addition to all of this variety in color, these stars of the foliage world are often variegated.

Most people know hostas as shade-loving plants, and indeed they serve this purpose admirably. Hostas can be excellent ground-cover plants for large expanses of shady garden territory, blanketing the earth with soft color while blocking out weeds. Few plants are easier to care for, though they can be susceptible to leaf damage from snails and slugs. Once established, hostas are incredibly easy to propagate by dividing the root clumps in spring or fall.

Here are 12 excellent hostas that run the gamut of foliage color.

Gardening Tip

Hostas are renowned for being easy-to-grow plants, but they live up to that repution only if they get enough water, and if grown in well-drained soil. And they require more feeding than you might expect for a plant that is not grown for its flowers. The American Hosta Society recommends a 10-10-10 (NPK) fertilizer, applied three or four times a year.

    • 01 of 12

      Plantagenia Hosta (Hosta plantaginea)

      flowering hostas

      The Spruce / Letícia Almeida  

      While hostas in general are grown for their foliage rather than blooms, an exception can be made for Hosta plantaginea. This species is considered one of the better-flowering of the hostas, bearing highly fragrant, unusually large white flowers in late summer if the plant is given sufficient sunlight. The rest of the year, H. plantaginea forms a dense groundcover, spreading out as much as 2 feet, with glossy, heart-shaped leaves that are medium-green in color. Like most hostas, this is an easy-care plant, but it spreads faster than some other hosta cultivars, requiring division every few years.

      Native Area: China

      USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

      Height: 12–18 inches

      Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade; tolerates more sun than most hostas

    • 02 of 12

      Ground Sulphur Hosta (Hosta 'Ground Sulpher')

      Hosta 'Ground Sulphur'
      Hosta 'Ground Sulphur' Courtesy: Missouri Botanical Garden

      In addition to the familiar green hostas, there are also a number of yellow-leaved hostas, ranging in color from yellow-green chartreuse to pure yellow. One of the better varieties is 'Ground Sulphur', a low-growing 1-foot-tall plant with a slightly wider spread. The sulfur-yellow flowers are heart-shaped, forming a flat, spreading mound. The plant blooms with lavender flowers early in the summer. As a low-growing hosta, damage from slugs and snails may be more evident than with larger varieties.

      This hybrid makes a good edging plant. Yellow-leafed hostas, in general, need more sunlight than the green or blue-leaved varieties in order to display their best color.

      Native Area: Nursery-bred hybrid

      USDA Growng Zones: 3–8

      Height: 6–9 inches

      Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

    • 03 of 12

      Fire Island Hosta (Hosta 'Fire Island')

      Fire Island hosta (image) is one of the best with golden leaves. It needs some sunlight.
      'Fire Island' is one of the nicer hostas with golden leaves. David Beaulieu

      Hosta 'Fire Island' has brilliant yellow leaves that gradually fade to a more chartreuse color as summer progresses. In mature plants, the leaves are rippled and corrugated. Unlike most yellow hostas, Fire Island does not tolerate much direct sun. It will achieve its best color if direct sun is limited to the morning hours, enjoying shade the rest of the day. The lavender blooms appear in mid-summer.

      Native Area: Nursery-bred hybrid

      USDA Growing Zones: 2–8

      Height: 10–15 inches

      Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade; prefers some direct morning sun

    • 04 of 12

      Sum and Substance Hosta (Hosta 'Sum and Substance')

      Sum and Substance hosta
      'Sum and Substance' hosta.

      @Missouri Plant Finder

      Hosta 'Sum and Substance' is quite a large plant, sometimes approaching 3 feet in height and 5 feet in spread. It has very large heart-shaped yellow-to-golden leaves that have a glossy, thick texture. This is a typical golden hosta that needs a fair amount of sun to bring out its best color. Bell-shaped fragrant flowers bloom in late summer atop 38-inch stalks. This multiple prize-winner is among the best of the yellow hostas.

      Native Area: Nursery-bred hybrid

      USDA Growng Zones: 3–8

      Height: 2–3 feet

      Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

      Continue to 5 of 12 below.
    • 05 of 12

      Golden Tiara Hosta (Hosta 'Golden Tiara')

      Hosta - Golden Tiara

      ZoomTravels / Getty Images

      Hosta ‘Golden Tiara’ is a medium-sized plant that forms a spreading mound up to 38 inches wide. The wide, heart-shaped leaves have irregular golden-yellow margins. In late summer, the plant blooms with funnel-shaped lavender/purple flowers on 25-inch stalks. Golden Tiara has a reputation for tolerating dry soils better than do most hostas.

      Native Area: Nursery-bred hybrid

      USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

      Height: 1–2 feet

      Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

    • 06 of 12

      Blue Moon Hosta (Hosta [Tardiana Group] 'Blue Moon')

      Blue Moon hosta
      Blue Moon hosta culivar

       @Missouri Plant Finder

      The Tardiana group of hostas are derived from a cross between H. tardiflora and H. sieboldiana var. elegans. These cultivars are all blue-leaved hostas that grow best in near- full shade. Hosta 'Blue Moon' is a small plant with heart-shaped, bluish-green leaves. The flowers are white and come out in late summer.

      Native Area: Nursery hybrid cultivar

      USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

      Height: 6–9 inches

      Sun Exposure: Full shade (tolerates part shade)

    • 07 of 12

      Halcyon Hosta (Hosta 'Halcyon')

      Blue leaves of Hosta 'Halcyon.'
      'Halcyon' is one of the blue hostas. Photos Lamontagne/Photolibrary/Getty Images

      Hosta 'Halcyon' is another cultivar in the Tardiana group, similar to 'Blue Moon', but a slightly bigger plant, growing as tall as 24 inches with a similar spread. The broad, spear-shaped leaves are heavily textured. It retains its cool blue color well into the heat of late summer, much better than most of the blue-leaved hostas. Halcyon blooms with lavender or lilac-blue flowers in late summer.

      Native Area: Nursery hybrid cultivar

      USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

      Height: 18–24 inches

      Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

    • 08 of 12

      Elegans Hosta (Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’)

      Hosta Elegans
      Hosta Elegans

       

      SvetlanaKlaise / Getty Images

      Hosta 'Elegans' is a large, broad plant, growing to as much as 4 feet in spread. The large, heart-shaped leaves are heavily textured in a glossy green to blue-green color. Funnel-shaped white flowers with a bluish tinge appear on 36-inch stems in late spring to early summer. This plant grows slowly, and may take several years to reach its adult size and shape.

      Native Area: Nursery hybrid cultivar

      USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

      Height: 2–3 feet

      Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

      Continue to 9 of 12 below.
    • 09 of 12

      Minute Man Hosta (Hosta 'Minute Man')

      Picture of Minute Man hosta. As the photo shows, Minute Man hosta has variegated leaves.
      Picture of Minute Man hosta. David Beaulieu

      Hosta 'Minute Man' is regarded as one of the very best of the white-margined hostas. It has large, ovate-shaped leaves with a thick texture and slightly wavy edges. Large, pale lavender flowers appear on 24-inch stalks in early to midsummer. This is an especially fast-growing plant, allowing for division and propagation almost every year.

      Native Area: Nursery hybrid cultivar

      USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

      Height: 1–2 feet

      Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

    • 10 of 12

      Undulata Variegata (Hosta 'Undulata Variegata')

      Hosta 'Undulata Variegata'
      Hosta 'Undulata Variegata' Courtesy: Missouri Botanical Garden

      Any number of hosta cultivars can carry the terms "undulata" or "variegata" in their names. "Undulata" refers to a plant with leaves that have wavy or rippled edges, while "variegata" refers to leaves that are bicolor, with a central color surrounded by a contrasting margin. Variegated hostas are usually green with white or yellow. Foliage is termed "medio variegated" when the lighter color (white, light green, or yellow) occurs in the center of the leaf.

      For example, this Hosta 'Undulata Variegata' is white in the middle with green at the edges. These plants produce lavender blooms in early summer.

      Native Area: Nursery hybrid cultivar

      USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

      Height: 1–2 feet

      Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

    • 11 of 12

      Patriot (Hosta 'Patriot')

      A picture of Patriot hosta shows its white margin. Grow it in partial shade to partial sun.
      Picture of Patriot hosta. David Beaulieu

      Another good variegated hosta is 'Patriot', which sends up its lavender blooms slightly later than ' Undulata Variegata'. 'Patriot' is a sport—a genetic mutation—of another popular hosta, H. 'Francee'. Patriot can spread as much as 30 inches. The bell-shaped lavender flowers appear in summer on 34-inch stalks that rise above the leaf clumps.

      Native Area: Nursery hybrid cultivar

      USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

      Height: 12–20 inches

      Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade

    • 12 of 12

      Francis Williams (Hosta sieboldiani Francis Williams')

      Hosta Frances Williams
      Hosta Frances Williams

       

      James Guilliam​ / Getty Images

      Hosta sieboldiani 'Francis Williams' is one of the most popular hostas of all time, and for good reason. This large variegated hosta has huge 12-inch heart-shaped leaves with a puckered texture and prominent veins. The leaves are predominately blue-green, with irregular greenish-yellow margins, which lighten to a creamy white as the leaves age. This is a very easy plant to grow, spreading to as much as 5 feet over time.

      Native Area: Japan

      USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

      Height: 2–3 feet

      Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade