Hostas for Sun
Promote shade-loving hostas to sunny spots. These perennial favorites can actually tolerate a fair amount of sun—and some can withstand a few hours of direct sun. Gardeners are always pushing the envelope, and hostas for sun are yet another example. Ideal growing conditions for hostas feature filtered light, what a plant tag would label “partial shade.” But many hostas adapt to increasing amounts of sun. The secret to finding hostas for sun? Learn what clues to look for to find hosta plants adapted to tolerate sun.
In general, hostas for sun feature a few specific characteristics. First, hosta plants that tolerate sun generally have thicker leaves. ‘Rhino Hide’ hosta, ‘Thunderbolt’ hosta and ‘Liberty’ hosta are varieties with thick leaves. The thicker leaves, by the way, also offer greater slug resistance. While these hosta plants withstand more sun, they still grow best and develop best leaf color in partial shade.
Second, hosta plants that open fragrant flowers can usually withstand a little more sun. These types of hostas include ‘Fried Bananas’ hosta, ‘Garden Delight’ hosta and Hosta plantaginea, a native of China with flowers that open and release fragrance at night.
The other clue to sun tolerance is leaf color. Hostas for sun typically have leaves with hues of white, yellow or gold. The leaves may be solid or have some variegated pattern of these colors. ‘Fire and Ice’ hosta has bright white leaves with green edges. ‘Sun Power’ hosta has bright chartreuse leaves that glow in the landscape. ‘Sum and Substance’ hosta also has chartreuse leaves, which are large (up to 20 inches across) and puckered.
Knowing which hostas can tolerate sun is only part of the equation. It’s also vitally important to understand the growing conditions that hostas for sun require. When you plant hostas in sun, it’s important to provide ample water. The minute a hosta is enduring direct sun or brighter sun, the leaves, especially the larger-leaved varieties—are going to demand a steady water supply. In windy areas, the need for water rises even higher, as winds literally wick water from leaves.
If you plan on growing hostas for sun, consider installing drip irrigation to keep plants well-watered, especially in Southern areas. In all regions, add a mulch layer to help maintain soil moisture. Check the mulch layer depth in midsummer. If it’s down to a 1-inch thickness, add more.
It’s also important to understand that full sun in Vermont or Minnesota is very different from full sun in Georgia or Oklahoma. In Southern regions, protect hostas for sun from the strongest sun of the day—afternoon sun. The further north you garden, you might be able to get away with full sun all day. Try it and see how plants fare. If you see signs of distress like brown leaf edges, dull color or faded spots on leaves, place plants where they’ll receive shade during the hottest part of the day.