Hats off to Hosta

Norma Evans


My name is Hosta. My lush, tropical looking foliage and my easy care make me the darling of the garden set. Maybe I should be called Cinderella I am so gorgeous. I used to be called Funkia, but I wasnít so popular then. Do you think it might have been the name?

The first hostas came from China, but hostas are native to Japan and Korea as well. They were discovered by the plant hunters of the 1700ís, but have become immensely popular in the last 15 years. Much of their popularity with gardeners is their reliability. While not quite foolproof, hostas are hardy perennials which require a minimum of maintenance. They do not require deadheading, pruning, or dividing. If grown in good soil, hostas can grow in the same spot for 30 years or more without fertilizing.

Hostas can grow almost anywhere, but they prefer a woodland type soil. Hostas are good pot plants and will perform well on shady apartment balconies. Very light beach sand or heavy clay soils, however, must be amended with compost or organic matter. As a general rule, the more sun a hosta plant receives, the better the soil needs to be in order to supply enough moisture.

One great feature of hostas is the huge variety of sizes, colours, shapes, and leaf textures. Blue Angel will grow to over 48" high. Sum and Substance will grow over 6 feet wide. Hosta Thumb Nail is only 2" tall, and there are varieties in all sizes in between.. Foliage can be smooth, shiny, dull, puckered or leathery. Leaves can be huge. Blue Angel can have leaves 14" wide and 20" long. A large hosta can be a big moving problem so it is important to know how large your hosta can grow and leave sufficient space. Hostas take anywhere from 4 to 8 years to mature.

Hostas are valued more for their foliage, than their flowers. Foliage can be all green, blue, gold or yellow and endless combinations of white and green, blue and cream , white and gold, cream and green; the variations are endless.

Propagators grow hostas in full sun, but that is generally in Holland where there are canals nearby. Few of us can provide hostas with sufficient water to grow them in full sun and it makes more sense to grow them in part shade. Morning sun is preferable to afternoon sun. Yellow and gold hostas perform better in sunnier locations; whereas blue hostas stay blue in shadier sites. The blue hosta leaves have a waxy type coating which is melted by the sun and the blue leaves becomes more green than blue. Conversely, gold or yellow foliage can be more chartreuse in colour when grown in deep shade. Hosta Cherry Berry must be grown in a sunny location or it will sulk and not thrive. It is important to read plant labels.

Most hostas are more or less round in shape, but some varieties are tall and vase shaped. One endearing feature is that they are virtually weedless. No weeds can establish themselves under hostas Hostas are a superb companion for early spring daffodils or tulips. Once the bulbs have finished blooming, the hostas leaves are beginning to unfurl and as the hosta opens the bulb foliage is eventually completely hidden.

If hostas have an Achilles Heel it is the slug problem. Woodsy soil sometimes brings with it a slug population. There are many suggested cures on the market and many homemade beer, molasses, and yeast concoctions.. What I find most successful is a dilute solution of household ammonia. A spray bottle with 10 parts water and 1 part household ammonia dispatches slugs reliably. The solution is not damaging and is a mild form of nitrogen. The ground can be sprayed just as its noses are beginning to show and this will dispose of any overwintering slug pearls or babies. If there is still slug damage, then the solution can be used on a slug any time it is seen on the plant. Another strategy is to hide a board under the hosta plant. The slugs feed at night and need a place to hide during the day. A nice damp board is an attractive spot and the gardener need only check under the board from time to time to look for culprits. If you find one slug, look for another. They are seldom alone.

Donít try to grow hostas from seeds as the seedlings will likely be all green and unlike the parent. The best time to divide hostas is in the spring. Lift the plant, wash the roots and look for natural dividing spots.

Hosta la Vista.