Sun Tolerant Hostas

big-daddy-hosta-2-400Is there such a thing as sun tolerant Hostas? Find out which varieties fare better in sunny areas and those to avoid plus growing tips for “sun” Hostas. I have also written about how to use hostas in a perennial bed border.

How many times have you been on a garden tour and have seen a Hosta variety that you remember for days?  It is what makes avid gardeners take their pencil and paper along to these outings and write down all the names of the excellent varieties they want to add to their own flower beds. However it can be difficult to duplicate the planting conditions and sun exposure.

Many times each year someone that visits our home will ask me about “Sun Hostas” and mention they have heard or read there were some new Hostas that were good to plant in the sun.

I always tell them, no, there are no “Sun Hostas” but that some of the varieties are able to stand more sun than others. The person asking always seems disappointed when I tell them that there are no specific Hosta varieties bred to consider it a plant for full sun.

I too would love to purchase a Hosta that would thrive in the hot sun in the south west corner of a building!

Hosta Varieties that Fare better in Sunny Areas

Not all is lost though, as many of the heavy rugose leaved Hostas will withstand more sun than others. Varieties that are better suited for hot sun places are Halcyon, August Moon, Sum & Substance, Sun Power and ones like Big Daddy with large corrugated leaves. Also, June, Touch of Class, Gold Regal, King Tut, Lady Isobel Barnett, Krossa Regal, Paradigm, Elaitor, Nigrescens, Komodo Dragon, Montana, (the species all green variety) and Bressingham Blue.

Mostly you have to try it in your setting and soil to see how things work.  If there isn’t any afternoon shade, then probably plant something different in that spot or use some man-made shade.

Varieties of Sun Tolerant Hostas

There may be more, but these I have in my gardens and so can say they are quite sun tolerant.

  • Halcyon
  • August Moon
  • Sum & Substance
  • September Sun
  • Sun Power
  • Big Daddy
  • June
  • Touch of Class
  • Gold Regal
  • King Tut
  • Lady Isobel Barnett
  • Paradigm
  • Elaitor
  • Nigrescens
  • Montana (all green species)
  • Bressingham Blue
  • Krossa Regal

Characteristics to look for:

  • Thicker leaf texture – the thicker the better
  • Corrugated leaves
  • Look for larger varieties with more root mass to absorb more water

What you Give Up:

  • Will possibly lose their dark bluish coloring
  • May have sunburn around edges of leaves
  • May also have sunburn holes in the middle of the leaves
  • May lose their glaucus bloom (powder coating) in the leaves
  • May lose their bluish color

I  had for years Halcyon planted in probably 85% full sun, hot west sun in the afternoon, and they survived just fine each year.  They would burn some, but not bad for all that sun. (These were out in the open, not next to a cement walk or foundation that generates temperatures 10 to 15 degrees hotter.)

They however, did not retain their nice bluish color in that full sun.  I wanted them for a mass planting and didn’t care that they weren’t as blue as Halcyon should be, but wanted them more for their floral display in August! En masse, Halcyon can be one of the better floral displays for Hostas.

Hosta Varieties to Avoid in Sunny Areas

Any Hosta with a thin leaf texture (the ones the slugs like best) either greens or golds or variegated, will not take a lot of sun, and will burn in too much sun.

What to Avoid:

  • Thin leaf texture
  • Green or Gold Variegated Leaves

I have found that water is the tweekable item to getting Hostas to be able to withstand more sunlight.  This is what all the books say, and what all the speakers say, is that they need at least an inch of water per week to maintain healthy plants.

The leaves are so large and water evaporates so fast from them that they need to receive much extra water.  Not just a cup or two when you think of it, but even lots more water when the temperature gets over that 90 degree mark.

And, when the clumps get over 5 years old, the roots are fighting for all the soil and water they can as they get so root bound.

Planting Tips for Growing Hostas in Sun

  • Give them plenty of water  (soak older root bound plants)
  • Good quality soil  (lots of compost please!)
  • Man-Made Shade

Many years I have a tendency to believe the weather man saying it is going to rain the next day and so won’t go through the work of watering the ones I know need extra water, and then the rain will go around us, and then a day or two will go by without the extra moisture they need.  This is when Hostas start to deteriorate.  I have seen amazing things happen and the plant comes back to life when they are given plenty of water on time when they need it.

Soil is the second thing that plants need almost more than moisture, as with good soil filled with compost, retains water readily.

We did some house renovation this past summer and in replanting two beds, we had to purchase “black dirt” to fill in for the beds next to the house.

I was beside myself with joy when I planted the new beds and in each hole I dug, I put a half pail of compost and then filled in with the new loose soil!  It was such a hot dry summer, that anything else I had dug was in cement hard clay and couldn’t be persuaded to be moved, and this was the first time I had ever had a new bed with new soil!

I had amended soil in the old beds, but it never was like planting in nice loose soil.  It was just like gardening programs on television!  I could see after about a month, into August, that the Hostas were starting to take hold and really did well, even with the hot weather continuing.  I watered them all at least once each week, some of the miniatures and smaller varieties more often, even every day, and expect next spring to have some exquisite plants again.

(I use a pail of water and an 8 oz. plastic glass and pour a small amount on the little ones, and then go back again.  If the temperature is at 90 or above, the water evaporates very quickly.)

You can also use man-made shade too, with trellises or vintage gates set in the garden, with vines making the shade needed for a hosta.  Pergolas too, add much interest and focus on the gardens, as well as the shade again.

One Last Tip

One of the best ways to tell if a specific Hosta variety fares well in sun is to go to your local nursery in August and look at the Hostas. Check the leaves closely and see which varieties do not have burnt leaves. You can also do this while on a garden tour or when visiting friends.

Make sure that the ones you are looking at have actually been in the hot sun and are out of protected elements.

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