If you're seeking plants to use in a shady East Texas yard, consider hostas, one of the most popular perennials in the United States. There are approximately 36 species and more than 1,000 cultivars and hybrids of hostas, including several that - given shade and water - will flourish in our hot, dry summers.
Hostas are attractive foliage plants that offer an amazing variety. Sizes range from H. 'Thumb Nail,' which is just 2" tall at maturity, to H. 'Blue Angel,' which reaches 48" tall and has 14" leaves. Hosta varieties offer foliage that is yellow, green or blue-tinted, solid or variegated, and smooth or textured.
Common requirements for hostas include shade, fertile soil with a high degree of organic material, mulch and water during the Texas summer. While some publications and catalogs feature "sun-tolerant" hostas, East Texas gardeners should plan on a maximum of three hours of morning sun, even for those varieties. Hostas are relatively disease- and insect-free; their only drawbacks are that they die back to the ground each winter and they can be attractive to snails and slugs.
A hosta variety trial has been under way at the southwest end of the Tyler Rose Garden since 1997. Thus far, the best varieties for our area seem to be 'So Sweet,' 'Sugar and Cream,' 'Blue Angel,' 'Blue Cadet,' 'Royal Standard,' 'Francee,' 'Patriot,' 'Albo-Marginata,' 'September Sun,' and 'Lancifolia.' Interested gardeners can visit the hosta trial beds at The Rose Garden or, as always, rely on your local landscaper or nursery for advice on appropriate varieties for our area.
John Childress, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service