The color of a yellow hosta is genetically determined. Chlorophyll creation is slowed or blocked in yellow hostas leading to less chlorophyll making the leaves appear different shades of yellow. Because yellow hostas contain fewer food-producing chloroplasts and are therefore not self-nourishing, annual fertilizing is important.
*Note that in 2003, the American Hosta Society changed its show rules to replace the term “gold-leafed” with “yellow-leafed”. Hostas with chartreuse leaves belong in the green hosta category.
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Yellow hostas need sun (often sun-resistant or sun-tolerant)
As a general rule, yellow hostas need to get some exposure to sun to keep their yellow color vibrant. The yellow color may fade to green without at least two hours of full sun. Some glossy chartreuse hostas such as ‘Sum and Substance’ can change to yellow when exposed to more light. Yellow hostas can generally, but not always, tolerate full sun better than other hostas. The hostas that are able to handle more sun are “sun-resistant” or “sun-tolerant” hostas. Search for sun-tolerant hostas in our HostaSearch Database.
The heat generated in full sun can vary by area and time of day. Full sun in the morning will not be as intense as full sun at noon. Full sun at higher elevations is different from that at lower elevations. Even though both yellow and fragrant hostas need some sun exposure, most of them can still burn due to overexposure.
Any hostas in full sun will need to be watered frequently. Avoid watering overhead or directly on the leaves when the sun is at its most intense (usually just after noon) because the water drops magnify the sun’s rays and burn the leaves. Hostas grown in full sun will tend to turn to a lighter color and have elongated leaves. Yellow hostas that are sensitive to too much sunlight are most vulnerable early in the season when the leaves are expanding. These hostas need temporary shade if they put out their leaves before trees put out their leaves. To learn more about how sun affects all hostas, visit our Hostas and Sun page.
Yellow hostas in the garden
- Be sure to plant yellow hostas in an area which receives at least two hours of sun a day to keep them from darkening to chartreuse.
- Yellow hostas draw attention because of their brightness, so place them where you want to draw focus.
- Yellow hostas often look best in clusters or drifts and make a garden look more organized than if they were placed individually around a garden.
- Place yellow hostas in front of dark green or blue hostas to add more “depth” to a garden
Yellow hostas add color, brightness and contrast to the garden. Their luminescent leaves glow at dusk, dawn or on rainy or overcast days. Planting next to green or blue foliage makes all of the plants look even better. However, over-planting yellow hostas in a blue or green border can produce a spotty effect.
Lutescence and Viridescence- a genetic seasonal color change
Lutescence and viridescence in hostas are caused by genes related to sensitivity to temperature. In viridescent hostas, higher temperatures slow down the activity of this inhibitor gene so that increasingly more chlorophyll is produced. This means that they turn from yellow to green as the season passes. In lutescent hostas, the gene(s) become more inhibiting as temperatures rise so less chlorophyll is produced, which means that the hostas will turn gold as the season passes. Lutescent hostas need more sunlight than viridescent hostas to maximize the potential color. Some examples are below.