Photo: Alison Rosa

Durable, Colorful Foliage

Go ahead, run your hands over the leaves—you wouldn't be the first. There is something about hosta foliage that begs to be touched. Large and luxuriant, generally with a velvety matte finish, the leaves look like something born in a primeval forest. While many perennials have tender, delicate look-but-don't-touch flowers, hosta color comes on robust leaves that stand up to the attention. And for gardeners who struggle with a shady area of the yard, these colorful, durable plants seem heaven-sent, transforming a potentially drab space into a lush, soothing oasis.

Native to China, Korea, and Japan, where they grow alongside streams and in woodland areas, hostas really became of interest to American gardeners in the 1980s, when breeders found success in changing the variegation, something that previously occurred only through natural plant mutations. The variegation appears as a band, or margin, of contrasting color around the leaf's edge. It usually combines any of the two core colors—green, blue, or gold, which includes the chartreuse and yellow-tinged varieties—or a core color with white, though some newer varieties have three colors.
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