Although there are only about 70 species of hosta, there are thousands of different cultivars, far more than the average gardener can cope with.
It is the foliage that gives hostas their attraction. They are sometimes called 'plantain lilies'. The basic shape is a pointed oval, varying from narrow to rounded. Many are pleated along their veins and others have a puckered, seersucker-like texture. The surface sometimes has a bloom on it, a bit like that seen on plums or grapes.
The colour of the leaves is basically green, but there are plenty of variations on this. Some are bluer and some are paler, almost to the point of becoming yellow.
The other variations are the bicoloured leaves. These are variegated in cream or yellow. There are three basic variegations: a narrow margin of colour, a wide margin or central markings.
Many gardeners remove the flower stems but they can be very attractive with lily-like flowers in blue, mauve or white.
Hostas make excellent ground cover and are best grown in light shade. They can be grown in sun but they then need a soil that does not dry out. propagation is by division which can be difficult with large clumps. Their main problem is slugs which are attracted by the lush stems and foliage.