hosta for deepest shade

emme-dc(7b DC)March 14, 2012

What medium or smallish size hostas grow best in deepest, darkest, most light-challenged locations? I have a corner with a fence to the south, a wall to the west, and tall buildings to the East and North. I had some solomon's seal there, and it multiplied from three to about five stalks in four years.

Another area under a deck, with some indirect light sneaking in, I figure mostly just ferns might thrive. But I would like to include some hosta, and am wondering what cultivars will do best with really poor light.

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

any plant that is NOT green.. is less aggressive ...

the darker the area.. the more green that the plant has to do ...

so in the darkest .. deepest corner.. it has to be green ...

any hosta with white .. will be weak there ...

all that said.. describing shade by word is very hard ... so its really hard to give you anything much more precise ...

how tall is the deck ....


    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 12:11PM
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hosta_freak(z6 NC)

Not surprising about Solomon's Seal. It is very slow,even in my garden,with ample light. But,I would say any of the blue hostas,but with low light,you will get few,but bigger leaves;more leaves,and smaller leaves in more sun. Phil

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 2:00PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

since she sounds like a hosta neophyte..

a blue hosta.. is a green hosta.. with a wax coating.. which reflects the sky .... making it appear blue .. go figure on that ...

and as summer wears on.. the wax can wear off ..


    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 4:05PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

in an email she asked: So if there's no sky above, it will look... brown, like the underside of the deck, or red, like the bricks of the building next door?

===>> no it wont be brown

but it MIGHT lack vigor.. because its not green.. in really dark areas ... the wax will interfere with the plants ability to grab what little light there is .. to some extent ...

phil alluded to that when he said: but with low light,you will get few,but bigger leaves;more leaves,and smaller leaves in more sun.

what you havent done.. is tell us how high the deck is.. it could range from a deck to a second story bedroom .. to a deck three feet off the ground..

but i chuckle to think of you laying on your belly every evening to look at hosta under a 3 foot deck ...

perhaps if you could post a pic.. or more fully describe the circ's.. we can be more specific ...

shade is nearly impossible to describe in words ... i have been in shaded hosta gardens.. and my glasses are in full dark mode.. because.. though shade.. its so bright.. they are confused ... and this is prime for vigorous hosta

or it shade can be a cave ... with a little light coming in the door ... and most things will die here

i presume though you say its dark.. its somewhere between my examples ...

what will work in your circ's .. really is left to you to experiment with ... because we can not see nor experience your shade ... but a pic might help ...


Here is a link that might be useful: best how to i have ever seen

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 10:00AM
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emme-dc(7b DC)

Not quite organized enough to take and post a photo just now. The deck is about eight feet above the ground. Basement opens onto ground level; deck is above off the kitchen and dining room. Between the house and a fence, in a space about eleven feet wide, there is some paved area and some planting bed punctuated with trees. The trees reach up through a light well in the deck, but this light well is shaded to the East and South by the house. Just past the fence to the North is a five story apartment building, so there's not much reflected light from that side. Sun comes in under the deck in the afternoon in certain seasons. There are other trees around, too. Spring seems to be the sunniest season, and it's not too sunny down there right now, even without leaves on the trees.

I think it's enough light for really shade-hardy stuff to live. Good to know that green varieties will do better than variegated ones with light colors in them. Of course I am much attracted to the more interesting ones, but I don't think I can be very picky in this particular spot. If I can get a lush, woodsy look going, I will be very pleased.

So, among greener hostas, any specific suggestions for some that will offer interesting contrasts of scale, shape, and texture?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 11:19PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

Try Gold Standard if you want a lighter variety that will contrast well with blues and greens. If you are getting some sun, especially an hour or so in the afternoon, then you should be fine.

What kind of tree is it that comes up through the deck?


    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 6:56AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

sounds pretty dark .. and i would default to all the hardcore workhorses that are really cheap..

that would be gold standard .. and the undulata clan ...

and i would suggest that you go with rather large plants.. rather than hoping you can nurse along a babe and grow it to size.. in what sounds like a very dark area ...


ps: link to hosta library ... where you can check out various suggested names ...

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 3:08PM
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donrawson(Z 5)

Like Ken said, your best bet will be cultivars that are primarily blue or green. Most hostas with a lot of white or yellow require more sunlight to fact, some won't even survive in deep shade...they just get smaller and smaller, and eventually disappear.

Steve had a great comment...hosta Gold Standard, even though it has been around for a while, is an outstandingly beautiful plant when sited next to blues and greens...and Gold Standard will do fine in a fair amount of shade. (I'm saying this because sometimes we overlook the older, common, cheap plants...thinking that the new and expensive introductions are better.)

A couple other comments...a large, bright gold hosta will brighten up a spot in deep shade... just one bright gold hosta could be a real showpiece in that area which will be dominated by blues and greens...

And finally, there are a few hostas which are much more attractive when grown in a significant amount of shade...I'm not saying they grow better...just that the coloration is much more pleasing. Some examples are June, which looks a lot better when grown in shade...and Dust Devil is really nice in a lot of shade...and Queen Josephine looks awesome all summer long when grown in a lot of shade (otherwise, by mid-summer, the white edge starts looking ratty). There are some others that look better when grown in a lot of shade...maybe someone else can mention a few...

By the way, is that area being shaded by overhead trees? Can you prune off some of the limbs to allow more sunlight? Also, beware of root competition...

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 7:38PM
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Perhaps you can rotate a couple of fairly large pots of distinctive hosta on your deck, and spot them in areas of shade for a few weeks--in rotation, of course.

I've long been a fan of the New Orleans courtyard gardens, and looking at them could give you some ideas for plant selection. Some items which could be invasive in other situations might be subdued in your space. Not being familiar with the zone conditions in DC, mostly being a southern gardener, I think you will have a more protected area than the average DC garden space.

So I'm throwing in a few types of plants that could maybe hopefully perhaps (?) work? Mahonia (Oregon grape), aspedistra (cast iron plant comes with white stripes too),dwarf or small-leafed azalea, camellia, some forms of mounding grasses, perhaps giant leriope muscari, or lily of the valley (it spreads!)...

I'm thinking you could use containers to great effect for your hosta. Since they are dormant in the winter, you will have the other plants carrying on the show while they are out of the picture.

One of my favorite books about this type of courtyard garden is the book by Roy Guste, SECRET GARDENS OF THE VIEUX CARRE. A real treat.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 10:02PM
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emme-dc(7b DC)

I will definitely put gold standard on my list.

The trees that grow up through the deck (that is, the deck was built around them) are Bradford Pears, which characteristically take a narrow habit. They are taller than the house now, probably over 35 feet tall.

I hear you about cheap hostas. That they are cheap because they are easy to grow, most likely. Which means, their chances are relatively good in challenging conditions. This goes with my nature :-).

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 6:59PM
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squirejohn zone4 VT

Undulata Erromena is a very durable hosta that's all green and very common. In fact it's so common that it may be hard to find for sale. You may may be able to get a piece from a neighbor, garden club sale etc.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 8:04AM
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