Choosing Hostas for the Garden

H. 'Gentle Giant'

H. ‘Gentle Giant’

When I first started working with Tom last spring, he gave me a copy of The Hostapedia. Forget that he was offering me a flexible schedule, the true perk of the job was the book. Yes, that’s right, a 15 pound, 1,100 page encyclopedia dedicated almost in its entirety to describing 7,400+ named hostas. I couldn’t wait to show it off to my family, wanting them to share in my good fortune. I promptly started reading it aloud to my new son, certain that he would find the endless descriptions as riveting as a nursery rhyme.

I’m still paging through it but when my eyes glass over, I wonder:  How to pick just one or two new hosta to try in my garden?

H. 'Victory'The first step is easy – elimination by availability. These 7,400 hosta plants narrow down to just a few hundred that can be easily purchased. After that, there are only a few other considerations.

  • Space and Size – Where will I put this plant and how much room does it have to grow.

  • Cost – I love my garden, but price always counts.
  • Looks – That’s why I’m planting these in the first place! Sometimes I want a hosta that contrasts, sometimes I want a hosta to blend in, and sometimes I just get excited by the shape of the leaf or a certain shade of green.
H. 'The Razor's Edge'

H. ‘The Razor’s Edge’

Once I determine a general size and price limit, I just pick the one that I like how it looks. This method can also be employed for choosing heucheras. Basically, hostas and heucheras are both great plants and if I think I’ll like it, it can’t hurt to try growing it.

This year I have an old bed that could use a little depth and rejuvenation, so I’m looking for a larger hosta to plant in mass.  I’m debating between Gentle Giant, which has a wonderful vertical form, and also Victory, which has a subtle and graceful contrast that edges each leaf.

I’d also like to plant a few small containers this year, and am eyeing up a couple minis – Blue Mouse Ears and The Razor’s Edge, which has striking red petioles and wavy leaves.

H. 'Sparkler'

H. ‘Sparkler’

If all else fails in making a decision, there are always Tom’s favorites. His enthusiasm makes it difficult to name just one, but here’s the short list: