Some not-so-humble hostas



The first flush of roses is fading here in WNY. I am now
welcoming martagon lilies (with many more lilium species and cultivars to come)
and other midsummer plants like rudbeckias, phlox, and hemerocallis. They’ll
come in and out of bloom, get mildewy, and fade away, according to their various wonts.

But faithfully in full leaf since May and continuing through September
are the sometimes-maligned hostas. What would the dry shade gardener do without
these plants? I would have practically nothing in certain sections of my front
garden, I know that much.


Above and at top you see some rather prepossessing varieties
one of my neighbors has going in her front easeway. We are all hosta-lovers
here in the land of the Norway maple. (I include a human for scale.) These aren't the newer, fancy ones you see in catalogs: just some tried-and-true varietiesSieboldiana 'Elegans' and Sum & Substance, I'm thinking.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I used to dislike hostas but they’ve grown on me. There’s certainly something to be said for reliability in the garden.

  2. I became a hosta lover some years ago too–I love their restful foliage. I recently removed some mismatched shrubs in front of our house and planted about 15 hostas a friend gave me—all super cool varieties.

    Tonight, I’m taking her out to dinner as a thank-you–she even dug out about half of them! Gardening friends are priceless.

  3. Hostas prove their value over the years if left to grow. I planted Hosta Sagae almost 20 years ago. Today it measures about seven feet across, and, of course, is almost three feet high. A treasure near my front driveway!

  4. I think I have a case of hosta-envy! I am jealous of anyone who can grow hosta without the deer eating them. Here in southwestern CT, hosta is affectionately called ‘deer-candy’ since no matter what you do to guard them from the deer, the deer eventually win the battle and all you’re left with is a few leaf stalks.

  5. I keep trying them here in NOLA. They start growing, they look beautiful and then those horrible land mollusks – slugs and snails, 6 inches long – chew them in a night. I have found a farfugium and a begonia which have a similar look, but I miss the hostas. (And now, what are these huge black and brown caterpillars on my begonia?)

  6. Nothing is more beautiful than the restful shades of green in a hosta garden. I am a devoted but lazy gardener, and I adore anything that pretty much takes care of itself. They’re common, yes, but who cares. With all the varieties, the possibilities are endless. I am constantly baffled by anyone who doesn’t think this plant is terrific.

  7. I’m a new convert – just discovered hostas (well, gardening entirely), but I already love their broad glossy leaves and incredible usefulness.

  8. Hostas only interest me if they are as big as Volkswagen.

    So, you’ve just named my two favorites: ‘Sum and Substance’ and sieboldiana ‘Elegans.’

  9. Hmm. You say these like dry shade. But how dry are we talking here? I live in the desert and I’ve got a maple in my backyard under which I am jonesing for some understory. But dry here means average rainfall is something like 4″ per year. You all sound like you just have dry areas in your garden but live in much wetter climes. Am I right? Or should I go buy a pile of hostas right this minute?

  10. Hi Anne,

    We do have more rain than you, but the thing with Norway maples is much more than shade, it is their shallow roots which hog all the water. That creates the dryness.

    That being said, I would ask your extension person about hostas in Nevada before you go out and buy any.

  11. I sometimes worry about being pedestrian for liking hostas as much as I do, so I am glad for some validation in your post. 🙂 Of course, I am very excited about my recent acquisition of Gordon’s Pan Am hosta (which looks just like a variety in my mom’s garden, but is said to be a direct descendant of a plant that was grown for the 1901 Pan-American Exhibition… but I am also proud of my New Hampshire woodland garden, which includes hostas and ferns from my dad’s house. Then, of course, there are my mom’s amazing specimens throughout her property. I love that they come in such a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors but still have a cohesiveness among themselves.

  12. I’m in north Florida and I do fine with hostas. But they’re in containers. They seem to require the least water of all my shade container plants.

  13. I agree with Michele on the big as a Volkswagen thing. Also love mini hostas. Anything in between has to be pretty darned special to catch my eye. Visited a hosta breeder in Maine couple years ago who had MONSTER hostas, I mean up-to-your-waist monster. I hadn’t planned on spending any money, but I walked out with 3 of the biggest varieties he had. They’re taking their time reaching vast proportions, but it’ll be worth the wait! In the meantime my ‘Sum & Substance’ and ‘Frances Williams’ rock my world.

  14. I love hostas! I practically ignore mine and they are thriving here in SC. My favorite are the blue ones. I don’t know the names of any of them–most of mine came out of my mom’s garden. But I would love to find a hosta breeder!

  15. It’s great to read the comments of people who have or are developing a passion for the freindy plant known as the hosta. I am currently developing about 20 acres of woods and am always looking for different hosta’s to plant. I do understand about hosta’s being deer candy though.

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