Larger Hostas

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.


Hosta Teeny-weeny Bikini' at Carolyn's Shade GardensHosta ‘Teeny-weeny Bikini’: I couldn’t resist including one more miniature.

In my recent article Miniature (& Small) Hostas, I explained my evolving relationship with hostas and how my collecting tendencies had led me to miniature hostas for space reasons.  I display these little treasures in special ways in containers, in my rock garden, or as groundcover in order to highlight their small stature.  However, for specimen plants and variety of leaf color, there is nothing like a larger hosta.  They come in an an infinite number of combinations of colors, heights, widths, leaf shapes, flowers, and habits.  There is a medium to large hosta for every garden condition, both as the star of the show and a lovely backdrop for your other perennials and shrubs.  In this article, I want to highlight some of my favorite larger hostas as well as some cultivars that are new to me.

Mature Hosta tokudama ‘Flavocircinalis

Leaf of mature ‘Flavocircinalis’

Before I get to the plants, however, I want to explain something that took me a while to figure out.  Larger leaf hostas do not look like themselves in a nursery pot because they take one to two years to mature and reach their full size and coloration.  Immature plants will have different shaped leaves, usually pointed, and will not display the intricate color patterns that you can expect on the plant in your garden.   Compare the photos of Hosta tokudama ‘Flavocircinalis’ above and below. That is why at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, I always encourage customers to look at the mature hostas in the display gardens before making their choices.

Immature plant of ‘Flavocircinalis’

Immature leaf of ‘Flavocircinalis’

Here is a taste of some of my favorite and best-selling larger hostas.  You can view well established specimens of these cultivars in my display gardens:

Hosta ‘June’ was the American Hosta Growers Association 2001 Hosta of the Year with good reason and is the most popular hosta with my customers.

The beautiful leaf coloration of ‘June’.

‘First Frost’ is the 2010 Hosta of the Year.

The leaves of ‘First Frost’ emerge with bright yellow leaf margins, which age to cream (in photo above) and set off its very blue center.

‘Great Expectaions’ is my second biggest selling hosta and has one of the most beautiful habits of any large hosta.

The elegant leaf coloration of ‘Great Expectations’.

‘Earth Angel’ is the 2009 Hosta of the Year and is as large and glorious as its parent ‘Blue Angel’ but with a cream margin.

‘Earth Angel’ is the first giant blue hosta with a contrasting border.  The leaves can reach 18″ x 12″ and a specimen can be 5′ wide.

Hosta tokudama is my favorite of all species hostas and ‘Aureonebulosa’ is my favorite cultivar of the many tokudama offspring.

The cupped and heavily puckered texture of  ‘Aureonebulosa’ is typical of the tokudama group.

‘Fragrant Bouquet’ is the 1998 Hosta of the Year and has fragrant flowers.

‘Fragrant Bouquet’s’ light green leaves really stand out in the shade, and it retains its yellow margins all season.

When I visit hosta collections and displays, some plants always stand out.  I look for these plants in the trade to add to my own gardens and offer to my customers.  Here are some of the cultivars I was able to add this year:

‘Touch of Class’ is a close relative of ‘June’ but with a wide blue border enclosing a central gold stripe.  It has an excellent habit and great slug resistance.

‘Liberty’ is the Hosta of the Year for 2012.  You can see both the yellow coloration of its new leaves and the wide cream margins of its older leaves in the photo above.  For a great shot of its coloration, see both the header and wordless Wednesday photo at Pat and Jim’s Gardening Adventure.

‘Paradigm’ is the 2007 Hosta of the Year.  For a much better photo of its leaves and habit, check out these photos of all the Hostas of the Year, by clicking here.  The American Hosta Growers Association has only picked 17 hostas to be Hosta of the Year out of an estimated 6,000 hosta cultivars in the trade so this accolade is quite a meaningful honor.

‘Fragrant Queen’ is a fragrant hosta boasting very substantial rounded leaves with wide white margins.

I have coveted ‘Brother Stefan’ every time I have seen it.  For a much better photo, showing its coloration, texture, and habit, click here.

Just a few ideas for using larger hostas in your garden:

Left to right: ‘Flavocircinalis’, the species H. tokudama, and ‘June’ massed in front of a Japanese holly.

Left to right: ‘Frances Williams’, ‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd’, ‘Kabitan’, and ‘Earth Angel’.

‘Great Expectations’ displayed as a specimen with other hostas, ferns, epimediums, violets, and hardy geraniums.

A specimen ‘Fragrant Bouquet’ with yellow waxbells, hardy gernaium, and ‘Luxuriant’ bleeding-heart.

A simple but elegant container planting at Duke Gardens in Durham, North Carolina.

A rare Hosta tokudama by itself in a container on my front porch.

Colorful foliage is a fun and essential part of the shade garden.  I hope I have introduced you to some new and intriguing larger hostas that you can add to your shade.


For two more articles on hostas, click here:

Miniature (& Small) Hostas

Hostas for Fall

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here

When I want information about hostas, I go to the Hosta Library and My Hosta Database to find photos and comprehensive written descriptions.  I have added both these sites to my sidebar under Plant Information so you will always be able to find them.

67 Responses to “Larger Hostas”

  1. Wow these are beautiful! I wish we could grow them here but I am told it to too hot. If I ever find one I’m going to try – I have so much shade and I think they could survive. Really Gorgeous photographs!

  2. Thank you for another wonderful post on plants I can’t grow :(. I love the picture of the miniature hosta in the fun planter. I love looking at hostas’ wonderful foliage, it was great to see all your beautiful pictures.

    • Masha, When I read blogs around the world, I often see plants that I can’t grow–it is frustrating but fun at the same time. It was my husband’s idea to put that tiny hosta in to the cat planter. It came out really well so I had to show a photo. Carolyn

  3. Carolyn, yor hostas are beautiful! I love hostas but I gave all my hotas away because the slugs loved them even more. How do you keep de slug and snails away from your hostas?

    • Ann Saslow Says:

      I would also love to knlow the answer to slugs vs. hostas. The slugs always win!

    • Denise, I really do not have a problem with slugs or snails. I do have slugs but they don’t bother the hosta. I like to think it’s because I garden organically and have for 30 years so everything is in balance. The slug problem can be solved but surrounding the plant with something the slugs don’t like to crawl over like poultry grit, gravel, or even course sand. I do this in my lettuce garden. Carolyn

  4. I do love hostas. My mother has a nice one; plain green leaves and nothing really spectacular about it when in the garden. however, when the leaves are used in formal bouquets they become stunning! Imagine a dense bouquet of flowers encircled by lush, green, large hosta leaves…

  5. The larger hostas are my favorites!

  6. I have used every Hosta you have showed in your post in gardens I have designed here in Western New York. I swear Western New York is the Hosta capital of the world. We seem to have more Hosta per capita than anywhere. You can not kill the things in our climate. The grow faster than the slugs can munch them them down. We have specialty growers and nurseries and a world renowned author on Hosta, Mike Shadrack. Phew… Hostas are everywhere. LOL.

    Great post Carolyn, now I am calmed down from my Hosta rant. Funny, I have been looking for a cute little miniature, but haven’t got my hands on one this year. I may have to take a trip to the Hosta nursery which is a pretty long drive, but price of gas will make my little Hosta worth its weight in gold.

  7. You are my hosta guru. Thanks so much for the shout out. jim

  8. Have you seen ‘Empress Wu’ yet?

    • Les, So funny you should ask. I was in NC for my oldest son’s graduation and went to Green Hill Hostas, a specialty hosta hybridizer and grower specifically to get ‘Empress Wu’ among other hostas. The owner, Bob Solberg, gave me the scoop on ‘Empress Wu’, which he said is at best 4′ high and quite an ordinary green hosta. He told me I would walk right by it so I decided against it. On the other hand, I did get ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’, ‘Country Mouse’, ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’, and a really lovely upright very blue medium hosta with gorgeous purple stems called ‘Blueberry Cobbler’. When I got back to the hotel room, my 13-year-old son immediately wanted to see the 6′ hosta and was very disappointed. Carolyn

  9. I just love hostas. I really do need more. Love the look of them in the containers!

    • Holley, They are excellent container plants. They are very forgiving about being watered, and you can leave them out all winter provided the container won’t crack. The container with just the fern and the hosta really impressed me with its elegance. Carolyn

  10. Carolyn… these are all among my absolute favorites with the exception of Fragrant Queen which I don’t have, nor am I familiar with… I’d have to say that if I were to choose only one, it would be flavocircinalis. They are all spectacular though and I enjoyed your post immensely. We had a sudden weather change to 90+ degrees today and my Francis Williams burned on several leaves … all the others only managed to grow a remarkable amount in one day! Take care, Larry

    • Larry, ‘Fragrant Queen’ is new to me too. I ordered it because it seems to have thicker leaves than other fragrant hostas and is dark green and bright white. I always wondered if the problem with ‘Frances Williams’ was burning or a genetic defect. Either way it is still absolutely unique and one of my favorite hostas. If you get this response and have time, could you comment on the slug issue raised in the other comments? Carolyn

  11. Lovely Hosta captures, Carolyn! I know how well they grow in the shade. Very nice!

  12. All my hostas are currently planted in pots due to the slug damage they incur if I dare to put them in the ground. They work really well like that, but I long to be able to grow them grouped with geraniums and epimediums at the front of a shady border like you show. Wonderful. Great tip about the leaves changing so dramatically over time too – one of my hostas has caught me out, turning in to a much larger plant with huge leaves than I was expecting, a lesson to do more careful research, but hopefully one day soon it will get its chance in the ground.

    • Janet, Even though I know about the change from immature to mature, when I compared the photos of ‘Flavocircinalis’ it amazed me. I think that your much damper and cooler climate in England makes you much more prone to slugs. Gardeners have the same problem in the Pacific North West over here. Carolyn

  13. Your chioces are all lovely. I love the blue colouration and would also love to be able to buy June for my mother in law as that’s her name! – Not to mention its beautiful colouration. The container planting is stunning. To your description I’d like to add that they are much more tolerant of dry conditions than many people realise. I grow mine under a White Mulbery that sucks all the water from the ground. Christina

    • Christina, Hostas are so easy to grow that you could dig one up, throw it on the ground, and plant it in a month only to have it thrive (don’t try this at home). They are great for dry areas and bad soil, at least that is my experience. I often use them to colonize nasty sites, especially slopes where they will hold down the good soil and allow the bed to slowly improve. Carolyn

  14. Carolyn, I love these big bold plants much more than the mini ones you featured before (despite their super cute names!). The texture of the leaves of the plants in the tokudama group is just gorgeous. In the UK, we’re always told hostas need moist soil, so it’s interesting that you find them forgiving about watering.
    And this time I promise not to mention the s*** word! I shall just covetously admire your hole-free plants…

    • Jill, It is funny, but I can sense the presence of tokudama genes in hostas. I am attracted to certain cultivars and when I look them up they invariably have tokudama heritage. It’s a very unique look. Hostas do not require moist soil here–see my reply to Christina. I have asked Larry (and anyone else who has experience with combating slugs) to comment on the issue. Carolyn

  15. I enjoyed all of the hosta varieties you’ve shared here. I have quite a few here…many I don’t even know the names of. If I do a post I’ll ask for your input to help ID them;-)

  16. Diane Masters Says:

    I love this newsletter, but I haven’t figured out how to subscribe to it. Let me know what AI need to do

    • Diane, To subscribe to my newsletter, go to the home page of my website/blog by clicking on the words Carolyn’s Shade Gardens at the top. In the sidebar on the upper right, you will see email subscription. Enter your email and hit the subscribe button. Carolyn

  17. Carolyn – another enlightening post. I liked the mini hostas (especially their names) but I love the curves and textures of your large hostas. I’ve seen these plants in people’s front gardens where I live and never thought they were that special. However, in your woodland setting they look stunning. I am seeing them in a different light!

  18. What an amazing collection of Hostas. They are fascinating plants. I find that I am always surprised by quite how big they can get. I think that the foliage should be an essential element in any garden for colour, form, texture and architectural purposes. Thanks for posting so many images.

  19. I like the idea of putting hostas in containers. I must try that.

  20. Wow!
    I love hostas, but I’ve never seen such an amazing collection as yours.
    You’ve inspired me to thinking about them for some shady woodland areas that I want to work on next year (note to self…do NOT start up there yet!).
    I do have bit of a slug problem in a couple of areas of the garden, but I noted the hostas you’ve said are slug resistant, so they’ll be on my list!
    Thanks for a great and informative blog 🙂

  21. In reference to slugs I would say that my first line of defense is toads… we have scads of them! They get even more numerous as the summer progresses and seem to love it here. It can be a major hassle at lawn mowing time as toads are notorious jaywalkers and I really have to keep my eyes open. The other problem with toads is that planting late in the season can be a problem as a shovel full of soil can yield 3 or 4 toads trying to get their winter rest. I was wondering where toads eggs were deposited and it looks like water just as in the case of frogs… but we are some distance from any standing water. I seldom see a slug… maybe 2 or 3 per season. As a precaution, I also use Sluggo which has iron phosphate as its active ingredient. This is totally safe to the environment and animals, and after a time deteriorates to become soil. Our bigger concern regarding the hostas is earwigs which leave tiny holes towards August/September. I use a lot of wood mulch which probably creates an environment for the earwigs, but not to do so would make keeping up these two acres with my health issues pretty much impossible. The other negative side of the wood mulch is that new hosta sprouts can sometimes get holes punctured as they come though the mulch in the spring. At any rate, my best advice regarding slugs is ‘bring on the toads’! Larry

    • Larry, Thank you so much for responding to the slug questions. We have toads too and more than usual this year, but not like you. I wonder if salamanders and garden snakes eat slugs because we have a lot of those. I have to be careful cutting back hosta because salamanders like to rest in the stems. It just gets back to what I said earlier. Keep everything in balance by not using chemicals and things will take care of themselves. Carolyn

  22. Carolyn you have hit upon my one hidden obsessions…hostas. When I had my shade gardens at the old house I had well over a hundred in the collection. I could not bring many with me since the house had not been built and would take months as winter approached. So sadly I left them. The new owners promptly tore them all out and threw them away. My heart still aches as I think of it, but I now have a new collection growing with many of these in your post that are 2-4 years old. They grow throughout the garden and in their own hosta garden. I even have them in the white garden for those that flower with the heady fragrant white flowers which I love!! I fear if I ever visit i will leave with hundreds and heavily in debt…I am in rehab for this obsession by the way…I frequently fall off the wagon and will again once I clean up the messy weedy garden under the trees..i am sure they would love some more hostas there..

  23. NWPhilly Eric Says:

    Do you have any recommendation for a robust-growing small chartreuse hosta to plant en masse to form a carpetting effect ? ‘Golden Tiara’ might work, but I was hoping for something more yellow and perhaps shorter. We’ve had a community garden where a bed of chartreuse creeping jenny has become infested with some bug and we’re hunting for a replacement which creates that same colorful glow.

  24. Wow. Just what I was looking for. I wanted a large variety hosta but wasn’t sure which one. I thought it was ‘Blue Angel,’ but now it may be ‘June.’ Or ‘Aureonebulosa.’ The containers are gorgeous too. Thanks for al the inspiration!

    • Margaret, I am glad you were inspired. ‘June’ and ‘Aureonebulosa’ are not really large hostas and are dwarfs compared to ‘Blue Angel’ or ‘Earth Angel’. Check the ultimate size on the tag before you buy. Have fun, Carolyn

  25. Sharon Halpin Says:

    Happy June 1 and congratulations to your son on his graduation, Carolyn! Sounds as if you wouldn’t have had room for the ‘Empress Wu’ if you had gotten it. That ‘Blueberry Cobbler’ hosta sounds lovely — and such a yummy name, too!

  26. Thank you for another excellent post. I planted several ‘June’ hostas last year, and they are still small. It is great to see what they will become, though I think they are beautiful even now. Gardening certainly requires patience. I added an ‘Empress Wu’ this spring. I hope it lives up to my HUGE expectations. It is about eight inches tall, and so far it does not impress me.

    • Deb, I think you will love your ‘June’. You are right, it is beautiful in its immature and mature state. It is my best selling hosta. You will have to keep us all informed about ‘Empress Wu’. I got a good laugh out of its 8″ stature. Carolyn

  27. I love all the variations in Hostas! You’ve highlighted wonderful choices.

  28. I truly enjoy the variety of hosta plants, too. I have several miniatures now, and would like to find just a few more varieties. It seems this year’s growth is wonderful – the hostas are really “showing off!”

    Your post was very, very nice! 🙂

  29. Hi Carolyn, I love your Hostas especially (June) and A touch of class. Interesting and useful point, checking the mature plant when purchasing a young specimen.

  30. […] Larger Hostas « CAROLYN'S SHADE GARDENS (tags: hosta) […]

  31. Thomas Gustafson Says:

    I would love to visit your gardens, but can not find where your located. Are the hosta for sell or just your enjoyment?

  32. Deborah Childs Says:

    Hi Carolyn,
    Could I send some picture of Hostas that I have in my yard to ID?

  33. Bonnie Brienza Says:

    I have 3 beautiful 12 year old White Hosta that I brought to our apartment. They are in pots on our patio. I beleive they are Christmas eve and Christmas. For 12 years they have done beautifully in the spring , then eventually develop some kind of leaf rot which spreads when they are watered. For years I have tried everything to prevent this happening. What can I do? Is there something I can spray or treat them with? They do not have bugs or slugs, I have remove the leaves when I see this happening and have watered them at on their soil. They do better in the pots than in the ground.
    Your garden is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
    Bonnie Brienza
    Charlotte, NC

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