Hostas are known for their use in brightening shady spaces, adding texture and color to challenging spaces in the garden. While hostas are usually termed "shade-tolerant" plants, meaning they will grow in shade or partial shade, some cultivars actually tolerate partially sunny spaces. In fact, a few varieties benefit from periods of sun exposure to keep their foliage vibrant and colorful.
The caveat here is that these cultivars benefits from some time in the sun, but it is not recommended that any hosta remains in full sun all the time, as the leaves may burn and turn brown. Too much sun exposure may also cause colorful foliage to fade. 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/gold leaves or fragrant flowers often tolerate 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. Keep an eye on newly planted hostas that receive sun exposure and move them into a shady location if the leaves begin to turn brown around the edges.
In general, yellow or gold hostas tolerate partially sunny location without losing their vibrant yellow color. About two hours of daily sun exposure will keep these yellow or golden beauties looking their best. Aim for morning sun to avoid burned leaves.
Similarly, fragrant hostas in the species Hosta plantaginea, need exposure to the sun to develop their flowers. Hosta plantaginea is one of the most sun-tolerant hosta species, thriving even in four to six hours of sun exposure.
Keep in mind, a full-sun location varies from area to area and even during different times of the day. Full sun in the morning hours is not as intense as the full sun at noon, and sun exposure in southern states versus northern climates can be much more severe. While yellow and fragrant hostas need some sun exposure, they do not like to bake or fry in the sun. So if your sunny site is extremely hot or dry, make sure to add drip irrigation to keep your hostas well-watered.
Hostas for Partial Shade
Although they're known for their shade-tolerance, most hosta varieties perform well when exposed to a bit of 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. Too much sun exposure also causes colors to fade.
Blue hostas require the most protection from the sun. The leaves of blue-colored hostas aren't actually blue. Instead, a waxy coating on the green leaves provides a blueish appearance for the plant. In full, hot sun, this waxy coating melts and exposes the green leaf underneath, changing the color of your plant from blue to green. Rain can also make the waxy coating fade over the course of the growing season.
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 that tolerate sun exposure. 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 family, including 'Aphrodite', 'Ming Treasure', and 'Venus'; 'Fragrant Bouquet', 'Fried Green Tomatoes', 'Guacamole', 'Honeybells', 'Invincible', 'Royal Standard', 'Summer Fragrance', 'So Sweet', 'Sugar & Cream'
- White variegated hosta: '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'