Hosta (Hosta sp.)

Quick Facts

  • Hostas are highly collectable and offer endless choices for the shade garden
  • Plants are easy to grow in a wide range of soil conditions
  • Flowers appear in late spring, early summer and can attract pollinators and hummingbirds.  If not desired, they can be removed.

Common Name(s): Hosta, plantain lily

Scientific Name: Hosta

Image of an "Aurea marginata" hosta
Hosta 'Fortunei Aureomarginata'

Family: Asparagaceae

Size:  0.5 — 4'+  tall; 0.5 — 5’+ wide (depending on cultivar)

Hardiness: Zones 3—8

Leaves: variable from narrow to broad. Could have a wavy texture, smooth margins or even be twisted. Leaf texture often is shiny and smooth but can be puckered.

Leaf Color: large heart shaped leaves with a point ranging in size from less than an inch to 12+ inches depending on cultivar.  Extremely variable from bright green, lime green, blue green, medium green to dark green. Often variegated with green, white, cream or yellow.

Flowers: Produces racemes of lilac, purple, or white flowers in June and July that rise above the foliage. Gardeners are often conflicted about the beauty of hosta flowers.

Fruit: forms “seed pods” after flowering

Habit: usually mounded in habit. Variable from extremely compact to more bushy.

Stem: some leaf types have longer petioles than others. Longer stalks often rise above the foliage to hold the racemes of flowers.

Nativity: Korea, China, Japan

Insects & Disease Issues:  Slugs and snails are attracted to the foliage. Also susceptible to leaf spot, viruses, and crown rot, but less frequent of a problem.

image of hosta in bloom
A hosta in bloom

Culture and Uses:

The quintessential shade plant, so much so that occasionally "shade garden" and "hosta garden" are considered synonymous!  Grow in full to part shade, although some cultivars, particularly those that have a lot of green in the leaf, will tolerate full sun if provided adequate moisture.  Plants prefer moist well drained soils, but tolerate dry conditions fairly well once established.  This adaptability is largely what makes them such popular shade plants.  Flowers appear in spring and summer.  Flowers are occasionally fragrant and attract pollinators, including the occasional hummingbird.  For the gardener that does not like the flowers, they can be removed before or after bloom with no adverse affects on the overall plant health. Spent blooms should be removed to improve appearance and prevent them from going to seed. Propagate by division, dig entire plant early in the season as the foliage is just starting to emerge and separate into pie shaped pieces.  These strongly clump forming perennials grow larger each year and eventually the center will begin to die out.  Frequent division (every 5 to 7 years, or more!) helps keep plants healthy and an attractive size. 

Notable Cultivars & Related Species:

Literally thousands of named cultivars - too many to list here!  They differ largely on size, leaf color, and leaf pattern.

image of hosta sun power
Hosta 'Sun Power'
image of blue umbrellas hosta
Hosta 'Blue Umbrellas'
image of frances williams hosta
Hosta 'Frances Williams'
Last reviewed:
December 2021

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Yard and Garden, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on August 31, 2016. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.