​​Perhaps the Best Shade-Loving Perennial for the Garden 


Hosta selections

​Hostas are shade-loving perennials that come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. A new garden at the UT Gardens, Knoxville, will display more than 500 hosta cultivars thanks to the generosity of Cornelia B. Holland, who gifted the Gardens with divisions from her extensive private collection, including those shown. Photo by S. Hamilton, courtesy UTIA. Download image.

The new "Tranquility-The Cornelia B. Holland Hosta Garden" will be dedicated on June 7 at 2 p.m. The public is invited to the free event, which will be followed by a hosta sale to benefit the garden. Mrs. Holland is shown in this image in her private garden in Middle Tennessee. Photo by P. McDaniels, courtesy UTIA. Download image.



UT Gardens May 2015 Plant of the Month:
Submitted by Susan Hamilton, Director of the University of Tennessee Gardens

Hostas are often touted as the best shade-loving perennial plants for the garden, and rightfully so. They are easy to grow, fairly pest free, and offer a wide range of colorful and beautiful foliage, flowers, and forms. It’s no surprise that they are the number one shade perennial sold in the United States.

The Hosta genus has around 45 different species and an estimated 5,000 different cultivars! Hostas vary from tiny plants just a few inches in size to massive 4-foot clumps with heart-shape leaves almost 2 feet long. Leaves can be puckered, wavy-edged, green, variegated — the variations are practically endless. Blooms include white or purplish-lavender bell-shaped flowers that appear in summer. Some are intensely fragrant. With so many choices there is a hosta for almost every use, from containers to edging to groundcover to background plantings and specimen plantings.

Hostas are effective companions along other shade-tolerant perennials including many wild flowers. They also pair well with shrubs like azalea, rhododendron and hydrangea and grow well under deep-rooted deciduous trees such as oak, ginkgo, dogwood and Japanese maple. 

Hostas thrive in a moist but well-drained soil rich in organic matter. A great way to continually enrich the soil around hostas is to use well-decomposed compost as mulch. Apply a 2 to 3-inch layer of compost each spring. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1-inch per week. To bolster their growth apply a fertilizer labeled for use on herbaceous perennials and follow label directions.

Slugs are the most common pest of hosta. They feed at night leaving small holes in the foliage. Commercial slug baits and sprays are available. The disease crown rot, sometimes called southern blight, is caused by several soil-borne fungi. Having a well-drained soil and not mulching right up around the crown of the plant are good strategies to prevent this disease. It’s best to remove and discard any diseased plants.
If you are a real hosta enthusiast, explore the American Hosta Society (AHS) website at americanhostasociety.org. AHS operates regional chapters that allow enthusiasts to get involved with other Hosta lovers locally.

The University of Tennessee Gardens, Knoxville, is the newest of
23 AHS display gardens in North America thanks to a generous benefactor. ‘Tranquility—The Cornelia B. Holland Hosta Garden’ will be dedicated at the UT Gardens, Knoxville, on June 7 at 2 p.m. The dedication is open to the public and will be followed by a fun and educational hosta sale with proceeds benefiting the new garden.

The University of Tennessee Gardens located in Knoxville, Crossville and Jackson are part of the UT Institute of Agriculture. Designated as the official botanical garden for the State of Tennessee, the gardens’ mission is to foster appreciation, education and stewardship of plants through garden displays, educational programs and research trials. The gardens are open during all seasons and free to the public except during designated special events. For more information see utgardens.tennessee.edu



Patricia McDaniels, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 615-835-4570,

*NOTE: Copy corrected on 5/7/2015. The UT Gardens is one of 23 AHS display gardens in North America, not one of 21 as previously listed on 5/4/2015.