Hostas, also known as plantain lilies, are easy-to-grow, shade-tolerant herbaceous perennials, cultivated primarily for their beautiful foliage. Their leaves come in a wide range of shapes, colors, sizes, and textures. Like ginger, hostas grow from knobby underground rhizomes or stolons. Hostas are native to China, Korea, and Japan and were first introduced to Europe in the late 1700s and to the United States in the mid-1800s.
The Barnes Arboretum is home to the East Coast’s only National Hosta Display Garden north of South Carolina; here, the genus Hosta and many of its numerous cultivars can be enjoyed by visitors and studied by horticulture students. The garden demonstrates some of the landscaping uses of hostas and the variety of sizes, colors, forms, textures, and flowers available in this genus.
We planted the hosta garden along Latch’s Lane because the area is surrounded by mature shade trees and shrubs, providing the shady environment hostas need. We integrated the hostas into this existing layout; individual specimens are used as focal points to draw attention to particular areas, or to draw the eye from one area to another. Multiple specimens of single Hosta varieties frame the garden’s spaces, act as ground cover, create a sense of direction, and add contrast in foliage. Hosta cultivars were selected for their color and variegation, leaf and mound shape, texture, size, longevity, and distinction. Some important groups of hostas highlight sports, or natural mutant specimens, and seedlings of a given cultivar.
The Delaware Valley Hosta Society (DVHS) took the lead in developing this garden at the Barnes Arboretum in 2012 and the American Hosta Society designated it as a National Display Garden in early 2015. The hosta collection at the Barnes Arboretum is the largest in a 600-mile radius.
Hostas in the Barnes Arboretum’s National Hosta Display Garden (pdf).