Hostas: Appealing and Practical

Hosta leaves catch sunlight in the shade.

Hostas always make the top ten list for shade plants. They are appealing and practical. Planted in groups, hostas are graceful, lovely. Under trees and bushes they make a floaty fringe. Some arrive early in summer and leave late in fall. Long stems of their tubular flowers add charm to a bouquet. They’re easy to care for returning every year larger and wider with one feeding. They should make the top ten list for almost-perfect plants!

Appealing

Many of my hostas are inside a wood privacy fence. Protected from deer and too much wind, they grow larger and showier every year. Leaves are smooth or have a ribby texture. Some hosta leaves are just one or two shades of green. My favorites are variegated leaves. Their edges are white, cream, yellow or gold.  The rest of the leaf is green, pale green or blue green.  The reverse is true: edges in shades of green with light colored centers.  Variegated leaves gleam in a shady area by day. At night they catch and reflect porch light or moonlight.

Tubular flowers climb tall stems and are usually white or lavender in color. Depending on the variety they can bloom from early summer into fall.  Plant tags list bloom times and are a handy guide for planning a succession of blooms. Hostas are more beautiful the larger they grow.

Practical

Hostas are reliable, durable. They have shallow roots enabling them to grow in many places without disturbing their neighbors’ root systems. They fill in the areas where they’re planted shading out weeds and functioning as ground cover. As perennials, they return every year sending pencil-like shoots out of the ground before unfurling their leaves.

Care

  • Hostas are perennials native to Japan and China. In the U.S. they grow in Zones 3-9.
  • Plant in part shade to shade.  Bushes and trees provide a perfect spot beneath their branches for just the right amount of light. New hostas have been developed for sunnier places.
  • Soil should be rich, well drained but hostas can tolerate most soil types. Add compost yearly to provide nutrients and help keep the soil moist. Hostas like it more on the wet side than dry. Because hostas’ roots are shallow, water more often during the growing season. Under a tree they compete with the tree roots for water.
  • Size varies from miniature 8 inches tall to 25 inches tall. Width varies from a few inches to 4 feet or more. It’s important to check the plant tag to find out how big they will eventually grow so you know how much space they’ll need. In a year or two, you can divide them to share with others. Maybe there are more places in your garden for the divided plants. They are great at limiting weeds.

Pests

Biggest pests in my neighborhood are slugs and deer.  That’s right: small mollusks and large animals.  Slugs make holes in the leaves which don’t bother me. I used to put gravel or egg shells in a ring around hostas to keep slugs at bay. Slugs don’t like rough textures to crawl over. Not a chore anymore. Instead, birds and toads do a pretty good job of protecting the hostas by eating the slugs.

Deer like hostas – not for their beauty but as a food source. So far deer have not been a problem. In our older suburban neighborhood deer sometimes come to visit. Hostas rescued from the super sunny front of the house and planted on the shadier side of the house have not been bothered.

Attract Hummingbirds

I have met a hummingbird every summer sipping from the hostas’ flowers blooming at the side of the house. Despite the fact that the flowers’ color is not the hummer’s preferred red, hummer has figured out that the tubular lavender blooms have desirable nectar.

Again – Appealing and Practical

There are some plain green hostas in my enclosed backyard that I dug up from an old store property that was to be demolished. The owner allowed the community to take the plants they wanted. These plain, green reliable hostas are first to come up in spring, stay green all summer. In late August after other hostas’ flowers are long gone, the plain green ones produce lavender flowers that are translucent in the late afternoon light. The flowers also have a little scent. Surprise! They are the last of my hostas to leave the summer party.

 

Interesting info on slugs:

http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/pests-and-problems/insects/slugs-and-snails.aspx

 

Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried

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juli

Juli gardens a small yard in an older suburban neighborhood. There is a lot of problem-solving and fun on a small property. She likes to share what she's learned. She learns from others too.

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