Yellow or Gold Hostas: Better in the Sun

The yellow in a hosta is a genetic absence of chlorophyll, which makes the leaves appear different shades of yellow. As yellow hostas contain fewer food-producing chloroplasts, annual fertilizing is important.  (Note: Around 2003, the American Hosta Society changed its show terminology from “gold-leafed” to “yellow-leafed.”  Chartreuse hostas are considered to be in the green category.)

Yellow Hostas Need More Sun

As a general rule, a yellow hosta needs to be planted in a sunnier location to keep its color vibrant.  The yellow color may fade to green without at least two hours of full sun daily. Some glossy, chartreuse hostas change to yellow when exposed to more light, like H. ‘Sum and Substance.’ Yellow or yellow-centered hostas are often sun-resistant.

The temperature of a full-sun area can vary by the time of day and by your location (southern versus northern United States, high altitude versus low altitude).  Even though yellow hostas need some sun exposure, any hosta in full sun will need to be watered frequently.

Overhead watering during the middle of the day can cause water droplets to magnify the sun’s rays and burn the leaves.  Hostas grown in full sun will often turn to a lighter color and the leaves can elongate.  Yellow hostas are most vulnerable to sun damage early in the season when the leaves are expanding.  This is when trees have not gotten all of their leaves back yet.

Using Yellow Hostas in the Garden

Yellow hostas add color, brightness and contrast to the garden.  Their luminescent leaves glow at dusk, dawn or on rainy or overcast days.   Planting next to green or blue foliage makes all of the different colors stand out.  However, over-planting yellow hostas in a blue or green border can produce a spotty effect, so position them carefully!

Some Yellow Hostas

August MoonCaptain KirkCurly Fries, Dancing QueenDaybreakEye CatcherFire Island, Happy DayzIsland Breeze, Key WestLadybug, Lemon Love Note, Liberty, Maui Buttercups, Old GloryParadigmPot of Gold, Prairie Moon, Queen Josephine, Rainbow’s End, Rainforest SunriseStained GlassSum and Substance.

For a list of ALL the yellow hostas we currently offer, please visit our Buy Hostas page and search for ‘yellow hostas’.

Seasonal color changes in hostas

A small percentage of hostas predictably change colors during the course of the season. There are three types of changes:

Viridescence: Hosta emerges white or yellow and becomes greener.

Examples: Amy Elizabeth, Chinese Sunrise, Dawn’s Early Light, Eskimo Pie, Fortunei Albopicta, Gold Edger, Golden Oriole, Guardian Angel, Heart Broken, June Fever, Lemon Frost, Little Sunspot, Manhattan, Nancy, Night Before Christmas.

 

Lutescence: Hosta emerges green or chartreuse and turns to yellow or whitish yellow.

Examples: August Moon, Bitsy Gold, Bright Glow, Gaiety, Gold Standard, Golden Gate, Golden Scepter, Golden Sculpture, Golden Tiara, Golden Waffles, Grand Canyon, King Tut, Little Aurora, Lunar Magic, Midas Touch, Paradigm, Piedmont Gold, Sea Dream, Shade Master, Solar Flare, Thai Brass, Zounds.

 

Albescence: Hosta emerges yellow, yellowish green, or with green areas that turn to near white.

Examples: Celebration, Emerald Crust, Fan Dance, Grand Prize, Paul’s Glory, Red Hot Flash.

Lutescence and viridescence are caused by genes related to sensitivity to temperature.

With viridescence, higher temperatures slow down the activity of this inhibitor gene so that increasingly more chlorophyll is produced, making leaves ‘greener’ as the season progresses.

With lutescence, the gene(s) become more inhibiting as temperatures rise so less chlorophyll is produced, making leaves ‘yellower’ as the season progresses.  Lutescent hostas need more sunlight than viridescent hostas to bring out their color to the fullest.

These color changes are genetic and are different from the color changes that result from different amounts of sunlight. (ie. ‘Guacamole’ can look at least three different colors depending on the amount of sun.)

To find more information on these color changes, visit our Hosta Color Changes Information Page.

To search for the individual hostas listed, visit our Hosta Buy page (for hostas we currently have available) or our HostaSearch Database (information on 7,000+ hosta varieties)!

Growing Hostas by Trees

Millions of hosta lovers grow hostas under trees, but there are some things to consider.

Every variety of tree grows differently.  Some trees’ roots grow near or above the soil surface and some grow further into the ground.  Some trees are sensitive to soil changes, while others are not.   Keep in mind that a tree’s roots often extend out to the edge of the tree’s crown (leaf growth) of the tree.

The positives:

  • Hostas by trees may get morning sun, late afternoon sun, or filtered light, all of which are ideal. They are more likely to be protected from the intense overhead sun from about noon to 4:30.
  • Hostas may get some hail protection.
  • You can reduce or eliminate the need for weeding or cutting grass around a tree.
  • The base of your tree will look more attractive.

The negatives:

  • Competition for moisture and nutrients—the soil may already be partially depleted, and tree roots can wrap around hosta roots.
  • It may be difficult to dig a hole due to dense tree roots.   (Our garden trowel can help.)
  • Hostas under trees may not get enough light.  Hostas do need some light!   For less light, select a dark green or blue hosta as these varieties have more chlorophyll.

Solutions:

  • Some hosta lovers plant their hostas in containers in the ground to protect the hosta from tree roots.   The container must allow for adequate growth of the hosta’s rhizomes (roots) and have good drainage.  About twice a year, turn the container about 120 degrees in case any tree roots are getting into the drainage holes.   You can also cut out the bottom of the pot.
  • Provide extra water and fertilizer.