Many home gardens and yards have a shady spot where nothing seems to grow well. A good choice for such a spot is the versatile Hosta. It has a long-standing reputation as a plant that only grows well in shady locations. However, this is no longer the case. The newer varieties of Hostas grow well in direct sun, and do not have the sun scald problems associated with older varieties. Hostas are available in different colors as well as in an assortment of blended colors. They also range in size from very small to quite large. Hosta 'Thumb Nails' are only 2” tall and the leaves are only 1/2” wide. One of the largest is the Hosta 'Blue Angel' that can grow to four feet and has leaves that are 14” across and 20” long.
The prominent feature of Hostas is the foliage. The leaves range from a dark green to varying shades of green and blue. Some of the leaves are oval, some are heart-shaped, and others are strap-like. The edges of the leaves can be flat and straight, have a wavy edge, or appear somewhat contorted. Some varieties have variegated leaves that may be yellow on the edge and green in the middle, or vice versa. Others have combinations of white and green, or white and yellow. With all the varieties available – well over 150 – it would be difficult to find one that did not appeal to every taste. Besides the leaves, the Hosta has a lovely flower. Depending upon the variety, Hostas can flower from early summer until fall. The trumpet-shaped flower may be white, lavender, blue, purple, or even bicolor. The flowers are arranged on a stalk that rises above the foliage. They can be very small or as large as 3” long and 5” across.
Hostas are relatively carefree plants for your yard. They like well-drained soil and cannot tolerate wet conditions as they are prone to root and stem rots. They, also, like soil that has had organic matter added to it. They do not need much fertilizer, but will flourish with occasional additions of organic material. They can get crowded in one area and do need to be split every now and then. Many people have started their Hostas from plants they have received from a friend or relative who had recently split their plants. Thinning should take place in late fall or early spring, when the leaves are not opened.
The one major problem with Hostas is damage from slugs. Slugs will feed on the leaves, resulting in numerous holes and a horrific appearance. Hostas provide a great environment for slugs as the leaves hold in moisture and provide a hiding place from the hot sun. Avoid using mulch around Hostas if there is a problem with slugs as the mulch provides hiding places and nesting sites for laying eggs. A good fall and spring clean up as part of your regular tree and shrub care program will also remove over-wintering egg masses and keep the populations in check. There are many home remedies and commercial shrub care products available for slug control. A terrific site for more information about Hostas is at greenmountainhosta.com. They carry many varieties of Hostas as well as many other perennial plants for sale. Most nurseries and garden centers carry Hostas, but they go quickly, so get there early. As was mentioned earlier in the article, check with your friends and relatives who may have Hostas and ask them to save you a few the next time they split their plants.
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