Hostas are shade plants, right? Not necessarily. Hostas are usually termed "shade-tolerant" plants, meaning they will grow in shade or partial shade. But shade might not be their ideal growing condition. Some hostas need a period of full sun to look and perform their best.
The caveat here is that they need some time in full sun. It is not recommended that any hosta remains in full sun all the time or else the leaves will burn and brown. But many hostas are more vigorous and display their most vibrant colors if given at least some sun exposure.
Hostas for Full Sun
Hostas with yellow leaves or fragrant flowers can stand more sun than hostas with green, blue, or white leaves.
There are, of course, always exceptions and you might even have a hosta that is basking and thriving in full sun, so it is not a hard and fast rule.
In general, yellow hostas need to be planted in a partially sunny location to keep their yellow color vibrant. Without at least a couple of hours of full sun, the yellow color will fade to green, or worse, look like a green leaf that is yellowing.
Similarly, fragrant hostas in the species Hosta plantaginea, need exposure to the sun to develop their flowers. Hosta plantaginea is one of the most heat tolerant hosta species.
Keep in mind, the heat experienced in a full-sun location can vary from area to area and even during different times of the day. Full sun in the morning hours will not be as intense as the full sun at noon. While yellow and fragrant hostas need some sun exposure, they do not like to bake or fry in the sun. So if your site is extremely hot or dry, you will need to keep any hostas left sitting in full sun well watered.
Hostas for Partial Shade
No hosta is going to thrive in deep shade. All hostas need some sunlight to photosynthesize. The shade-tolerant varieties seem to do best when exposed to morning sun and afternoon shade. Too much sun exposure will result in burned leaves, starting from the edges inward. The leaves will look brown, dry, and papery.
Blue hostas require the most protection from the sun. The blue-colored hostas have a waxy coating on its leaves. The waxy coating gives the green leaves a blueish tint. In full, hot sun, this waxy coating melts and exposes the green leaf underneath, changing the color of your plant from blue to green. If the waxy coating melts away, it can expose the leaves and may lead to sunburned leaves. Avoid spraying the leaves with a pesticide or fertilizer, this can also cause the waxy coating to melt.
There are several varieties of hostas with white leaves or variegation. Unfortunately, only trial and error can tell you which types of white hostas can tolerate full sun without burning. The thicker the leaves, the more tolerant the hosta will be of the sun. White variegated hostas with thin leaves, like "White Christmas," should be situated in partial shade to maintain its best appearance.
A problem with white variegated hostas is that the leaves are white because it has minimal amounts of chlorophyll. If located in full sun, the plant's chlorophyll levels can increase and cause the leaves to pick up a green cast and look less variegated. For the best results for white variegated hostas, only expose them to the morning sun. Rule of thumb, the thinner the leaves, the less sun you should provide.
Watch for Signs From Your Hosta
The only real gauge for how well your plant is handling the sun is to see how it is performing. There are two clear signs that will tell you your if your hosta is getting too much sun:
- You will notice browning on the tips or outside edges of leaves
- Your plant's leaves will dull in color or get faded spots
If your hosta is not doing as well as you would like, do not be afraid to move it. Hostas are strong plants and can withstand digging and replanting.
Hostas That Have Full Sun Tolerance Potential
Based on past growing experience, the American Hosta Society and home gardeners recommend several varieties and cultivars to look at for potential full sun candidates. Keep in mind that these suggestions vary and are dependent on your location, your exact sun exposure, and, of course, all other growing conditions can impact your own plants.
- Yellow hosta: August Moon, Gold Regal, Golden Sculpture Rising Sun, Squash Casserole, Sum, and Substance, Sun Power
- Yellow variegated hosta: Gold Standard, Inniswood, Regal Splendor, Sundance
- Fragrant hosta: Hosta plantaginea, Aphrodite, Fragrant Bouquet, Fried Green Tomatoes, Guacamole, Honeybells, Invincible, Royal Standard, Summer Fragrance, So Sweet, Sugar & Cream
- White variegated hosta: Hosta undulata Albomarginata, Francee, Minuteman, Patriot
- Green hosta: Invincible, Pearl Lake
Some Sun Tolerance, Not Full Sun
As established, no blue hostas should be planted in full-sun spots, however, you can try to grow these types of blue hosta in sunny, but not full sun, locations.
- Blue Hosta: Blue Angel, Elegans, Halcyon, Krossa Regal