Los Jardineros Garden Club

Using hostas as companion plants in the high desert

Frost hardy and heat resilient, these plants survive the extremes well with a little care


Hostas survive well in Taos County's winter-challenged cold and summer heat with a little location planning. Frost hardy and resilient, hostas come back year after year with little care or need of winter mulching. With the harsh sunny days that come with summers in the mountains, the plants do need to be located in shady areas along the north side of buildings or in the shade of trees and bushes. Although known mostly as shade plants, most hostas do best when they receive early morning and late afternoon sun. The color of the foliage plays a role in how much light they need. Blue-green cultivars do better with more shade while chartreuse or gold cultivars prefer more sun.

Their glorious foliage is what showcases these plants in many gardens and they are great companion plants for daylilies, heuchera, astilbe and coneflowers. Foliage ranges from deep, dusky blue-green ("blue angel") to classic clear green to bright chartreuse ("gold standard"). Some leaves have white, cream or contrasting green variegation. Hostas can be textured or smooth and heart-shaped, oval or long, spear-shaped in foliage. Some plants can grow wider than 4 feet, while others, such as "little mouse ears," remain tiny, mounded plants reaching about 1 foot wide.

When planting hostas, a gardener should consider each plant as a specimen plant and determine placement by the plant's foliage color, height and full growth spread and location of companion plants. A gardener that uses the same hosta cultivar over and over lining a border or garden path makes the mistake of losing the individuality of these striking plants. Hosta plants do best with consistent water, so be sure to water plants slowly so as to not compact soil or encourage soil erosion. Water deeply and before noon before it gets too hot, so as to give the plants a chance to dry somewhat before nightfall.

Although hostas are grown for their foliage, these perennials produce long, graceful stems of lavender or white bell-shaped blooms. These flowers can brighten our garden and some flowers are even fragrant. However, if you really don't love the flowers, it's perfectly fine to trim the stems back below the foliage line to keep the focus on the leaves.

Hostas never really need dividing, but if you would like to make new plants, it is best to do so in the spring before the shoots get too tall. You can divide them anytime throughout the growing year, even in summers, as long as you compensate for root loss by trimming the leaves and supplying adequate moisture.

You will find a great selection of these beautifully textured plants in our local nurseries or they can be ordered from catalogs if you want to go deeper into the many varieties that can be grown here in Northern New Mexico.

If you are interested in learning more about gardening and landscaping in the Southwest, consider becoming a member of Los Jardineros Garden Club. Contact Mary Short, membership chair, at (575) 758-1590 or via email at clydeshort@verizon.net for more information. The next Los Jardineros Garden Club meeting will be held on Thursday (May 18) at 9:30 a.m. in the Taos Tennis Room, located at 88 State Road 150 in El Prado.