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Blue Hostas – a Popular Blue Perennial

By Susan Coyle Minshall

Gardeners and landscapers favor this lovely hosta plant with the bluish tint. Blue hostas come in all sizes and shapes but often the bigger the better for landscape accents. When it comes to the colors of perennial plants in the garden, blue is by far the most rare.

What Makes Blue Hostas Blue?

Blue hostas develop a glaucous* waxy layer that develops as they emerge which helps to protect the leaves from harmful weather. The waxy layer causes the light to reflect in such a way that it gives the hosta leaves that bluish coloring. Blue hostas will get bluer through the years as they reach maturity, which is about four to five years.

*Glaucous means covered in bluish grey or green tint. 1)

Blue hostas grow more blue as they reach maturity.

Deep Blue Hostas

Hostas come in several shades of blue. Each hosta variety can have different amounts and types of the blue tinted wax coating which can change the appearance of the leaves. Some hostas develop that layer later in the season.

Deep Blue Sea hosta is a good example of a late “bloomer”, as its deeper color happens later in the season.  The Blue Angel hostas shoot out their blueness in early spring. While the Fragrant Blue hostas are even known to retain that blue color longer into the season.

The leaf shape of the blue hosta will also cast a different shade of blue on the leaves. For instance, leaves that are twisted or corrugated or that have deep veins will cast a different color than hostas with smooth leaves.

Growing Blue Hostas

Blue hostas are a forgiving perennial, easy to grow and transplant. Landscapers love hostas because they come in all sizes, textures and shapes that add pleasing contrast and variety to your landscape. Sizes can be mini to giant, textures smooth to seer suckered leaves shape can be mounded or grow more vertically vase like.

When to Plant Hostas

The sturdy and resilient nature of hostas means they can generally be planted anytime the soil is workable. However, best times are naturally in spring, when everything is eager to grow, as well as in late august, in our zone 7b, around the time you’d plant your winter crops.

“You want to get them in the ground 4-6 weeks before the first frost.” Bob’s Hosta Planting Tips on HostaHosta.com 1)

How to Plant Hostas

The hosta roots are more wide than deep, so that’s the kind of hole they’ll need. Also, as with anything gardens, the first most important factor for success is the soil.

  1. Dig wide – 2-3′ wide hold
  2. Dig 9-12″ deep
  3. Add good soil – fertile, loose, and well draining, with coarse organic matter
  4. 10-10-10 fertilizer – we use Milorganite, which is also a deer repellent
  5. Mulch – wood bark or wood chips is great

For more information on planting hostas, you may enjoy this informative how-to article on HostaHosta.com1)https://www.hostahosta.com/planting.html 

Keeping Blue Hostas Blue

Blue hostas that are grown in warmer locations may only keep their blue hue until late June, while in the northern climates, the leaves will remain blue longer. However, there are things you can do to help your hostas keep the best color year after year. The most important thing you can do is place the hosta in dappled shade.

Blue hostas thrive in dappled shade.

Morning sun and afternoon shade will give the hosta just enough sun to thrive and enough shade to keep that blue color longer. Most hostas perform well in such a location but it is even more important with the blue hostas. Direct sun or too much sun can fade or melt off the blue wax and can cause the leaves to look more green than blue for the rest of that season.  Without that waxy layer, the leaves can also burn more easily.

Blue hostas love a gentle morning light.

If the placement is right and the leaves are still not giving you the blue coloring you expected, there are other things to consider.

Hosta Problems

Excessive rain in one season can slowly wash off the waxy coating so important to the health and beauty of the hosta leaves. You may notice the hosta leaves turning from blue to green earlier in the season when there’s much more rainfall than usual. It may surprise you to know that the blue color on the leaf can be rubbed off with your finger. But if the leaves of your blue hosta do turn green, not to worry. The blue waxy layer will return as the hosta emerges the next season.

Blue hostas color can rubbed off with your finger… but don’t do it!

There is much debate on which hostas are the best blue-leaved cultivars. While the answer to that is very subjective, here on Sunset Hosta Farm we have grown many hosta types and these are the blue hostas that we prefer.

blue hosta image
Blue hostas in landscape – image by HostasDirect.com

Best Blue Hostas

There are many blue hostas that are available these days, but here are our favorites.

Of the extra large hostas, the ones that reach over 48” wide in maturity, our favorites are Blue Angel, Blue Umbrella and Blue Mammoth. In the large category, 24” to 48” wide, we prefer Halcyon, Love Pat, Big Daddy and Blue Hawaii. In the medium category, 12” to 24” wide, Blue Jay, Hadspen Blue and Blue Wedgewood are great blues. Last in size but certainly not least in beauty for your garden, the small hostas, and Blue Moon, Dorset Blue and Hadspen Hawk are some of our favorites.

Best Extra Large Hosta

Best Large Hostas

  • Halcyon
  • Love Pat
  • Big Daddy
  • Blue Hawaii

Best Medium Sized Hostas

Best Small Hostas

  • Blue Moon
  • Dorset Blue – more vase-like shape
  • Hadspen Hawk

Hostas and Deer Problems?

Many people tell us they can’t grow hostas because the deer love them and devour them. If that’s happened to you, or if you’re growing them for the first time but have deer around you, there are solutions to try.

The one that’s worked for us is Milorganite. Our other favorite is planting deer repellent plants such as rosemary and lavender. You can read more about both of these deer deterrents in this article.

Blue Hostas in Closing

The blue color of hostas has been described in many ways, including deep blue, powdery blue, intense blue, metallic blue, icy blue, silvery blue, and chalky blue. No matter which term you use, with the right care, blue hostas will add a peaceful, cooling feel to your perennial shade garden.

 

Contributing writer Susan Coyle Minshall is a freelance writer, perennial garden enthusiast and owner/operator of Sunset Hosta Farm and Senior Dog Retreat.   Her work has appeared in Practical Gardener, Double Talk Magazine, Good Old Days Magazine, Twins Magazine, GreenPrints Magazine and the Journal of Court Reporting.

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