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Hosta are a species of low-growing ornamental plant that are distantly related to lilies. Although hosta plants do produce tiny flowers on stalks, they are chiefly grown for their leaves. Hostas come in a variety of leaf sizes, shapes and colors. Hostas will survive in deep shade, but prefer filtered sunlight. The plants are hardy through U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 3, and will tolerate heat up to zone 9. There are hundreds of varieties of hostas that exist in the world today. Hosta enthusiasts develop new varieties yearly. Hostas can be identified through their leaf appearance.
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Measure the diameter and height of the hosta plant using a yard stick. Some hosta plants grow larger than others. For example, Hosta Empress Wu grows over 6 feet in diameter, while hostas such as Yakushima Mizu may only grow 6 inches tall and 6 inches wide.
Cut a leaf from the plant using pruning shears. Measure the length and width of the leaf. Different species of hostas have different sized leaves. For example, the hosta Earth Angel has leaves that are over 1 foot long. The hosta Lakeside Shore Master will produce leaves that are 3 feet wide.
Trace the shape of the leaves with your finger. Some hostas produce heart-shaped leaves, while others will produce leaves that are truncate with square bases, wedge-shaped or attenuate like an oval with pointed ends.
Examine the leaf's texture. Hostas may have a thin or thick leaves with a puckered or smooth texture. Hostas that have a thick texture are more resistant to slugs. Although the leaf thickness may not be mentioned in hosta catalogs, the slug resistant property will be mentioned.
Look over the appearance of a hosta leaf. Hostas vary in color and variegation, or striping, based on their variety. Hosta Fragrant Bouquet has leaves that are apple green with light yellow margins. Guacamole hostas are light yellow with apple green margins. Patriot has dark green leaves with white borders, while Hadspen Blue have a bluish-green tint to the leaves.
Consult hosta websites such as the American Hosta Society or the American Hosta Growers Association. These groups have members who are knowledgeable about hosta varieties and can positively identify your hosta based on your description.