Gold Hostas

Gold Hostas

Our list of hostas changes frequently, so some of the varieties mentioned here may not always be available.  We realize it would be better if everything was always up to date, but it doesn't work that way around here.

My own sainted mother doesn't care for gold hostas.  Seems they look like they're sick.  Actually, lots of people don't care for gold hostas.  But when you look at our growing area at dusk, when everything has receded into a mass of gray-green, the gold hostas stand out like someone was shining a flashlight on them.  A nice, bright gold hosta certainly draws attention.  They are also great companions for blue hostas.  If you don't like them, there are plenty of other choices, but before you move on, think about the first place your eye landed when you opened this page.

'August Moon'

One thing to remember with gold hostas is that in order to show their best color, most of them need a bit of morning sun, or at least fairly bright light.  Just as green hostas get deeper green with less light, so do the gold ones. So gold hostas may not be the best choice for areas with little light, where they tend to be limey, greenish yellow or chartreuse.  Not that there's anything wrong with chartreuse, it just isn't gold, so while the plant may still be beautiful, the color may not be what you expect.  The plant of 'August Moon' above, contrasts nicely with the dark green Sweet Woodruff, but would be much brighter yellow if given more sun. 

Conversely, we are often asked which hostas do best in sunny areas, and generally, our recommendations include those with gold foliage.  'Squash Casserole', for instance is one of the best hostas we have come across for growing in sunny areas.  Others that are often recommended for sun tolerance are 'Gold Regal', 'Golden Sculpture' and 'Sun Power'.  Just remember to provide them with plenty of water and don't let them dry out completely if you plant them in the sun.

I suspect that there is really no difference between gold and green hostas in their ability to tolerate sun, as long as we are comparing plants with similar leaf substance.  Both will suffer edge burn if allowed to dry out and both will change color.  The reason we find gold hostas better for the sun is the nature of the color change.  We like deep dark green leaves, so when the sun bleaches a green hosta, we lose the good color and need to move it to a position with more shade.  With gold hostas, the bleaching is seldom objectionable and sometimes actually improves the appearance of the plant.  The plants are both reacting the same way to the light level.

Some yellow hostas are viridescent.  That means that they are yellow in the spring, when they first come up, but turn green later in the summer. This is probably not an endearing quality, but we often grow the plants anyway because some of the absolute brightest and best yellow foliage is seen on viridescent plants.  There is some logic involved here, because plants have to produce chlorophyll to survive. The stunning yellow leaves on some plants such as 'Fire Island' and 'Eye Declare' are so bright because there is little green in the leaf to mute the yellow.  These plants turn green in the summer so they can produce and store enough food to survive.

Others yellow hostas are lutescent, which means they come up green and change to gold as the season progresses. 'Gold Standard' is probably the best known example of a lutescent hosta.  When it comes up in the spring, there is no hint that it is anything other than a green plant.  Gradually the leaves develop a beautiful gold color, while the margins remain dark green.