Planting With Hostas


Hostas are versatile, hardy perennials which, when given a little shade, can be used in a variety of ways, with a variety of companions - plants and others. The colour, size, shape and texture of the leaves and even the flowers of hostas can contrast with and compliment other plants, including grasses, ferns and many other perennials.

There are lots of books and articles available which offer good advice on the subject. For example, Richard Ford wrote an interesting and informative article for the Autumn edition of the our very own Journal. We have some ideas for you to consider as well.

1. Woodland Border
Hostas have traditionally been incorporated into woodland borders. A high canopy of deciduous trees offering filtered shade is ideal .They can be complemented by smaller trees such as Japanese Maples. Other woodland plants such as ferns, heucheras, rogersias and geraniums offer a good foliage contrast with the hostas, but some people prefer to use just the different size, textures and leaf colours of the hostas themselves with no companion planting. The images, above and above right, of Peit Derooij's garden in the Netherlands, illustrate this planting style. The picture below shows acers and hostas in pots in late spring in the garden of John Baker & June Colley. 

Hostas with Acers; © J. Colley
 
Hostas in a woodland border; © A. Whittle
2. Companion Planting 
Companion plants can be used together with hostas in borders or in pots. They can be effective offering contrast or compliment in colour, leaf shape or texture. The two pictures below, again of June Colley & John Baker’s garden in Lindford, Hampshire illustrate this. The first shows dark red/purple Asiatic lilies contrasting with the green foliage of the hostas in the foreground, together with yellow lilies complementing their gold variegation. The second shows Rosa ‘Teasing George’ with Hosta ‘Gold Standard’.

Hostas with asiatic lilies;
© J. Colley
 
Rosa 'Teasing George' with Hosta 'Gold Standard'
© J. Colley

3. In Pots
Hostas a very well suited to growing in pots.They can look good grouped in small numbers on a shady patio or, as in the picture below, packed together to give the impression of  a spectacular mass planting. They can even be 'hung' up high, which not only looks good, but deters slugs as well!
 See our guide to container growing for more information. 
 
Hostas in a patio showing a restrained use of colour and hung, top left ; © J. Colley

4. Around a Pond
Hostas make excellent pondside plants, thriving in damp, but not waterlogged soil. I find that hostas with either yellow or white margins and green centers go partiularly well with hardy arum lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica), the white margin matching the outer flower (spathe) or the arum lily and the yellow margin matching its central spadix. They can be used as pondside plants or in woodland borders.
 
Hostas around a pond;
© A. Whittle
 
Hosta 'Fortunei Aureomarginata' with arum Lilies;
© A.Whittle

5. Specimen plants
The larger varieites of hostas in particluar can be used as focal points or specimen plants either planted in the ground or, as in the picture below left (taken at the home of the Belgian collector and hybridizer, Dirk Dupree) in large planters.

6. For their Flowers
Although hostas are usually planted for their foliage, they can also also be used and appreciated on the basis of their flowers. In the picture below, H.Elegans is mass planted in a white-themed garden where its flowers compliment those of the taller philadelphus. Additionally, many varieties of hosta have very fragrant flowers which can add an extra dimension to their versatility and appeal.
 
In a Large planter; © A. Whittle
 
Hosta 'Elagans' with philadelphus;
© A.Whittle