Herbicides are chemicals meant to kill herbs i.e. plants that do not form a woody stem. The most commonly used herbicide in home landscapes is 2,4-D which is used to control broadleaf weeds in the lawn. If you have ever used it and have seen the dandelions twist and turn and become distorted as they slowly die, that is what 2,4-D does to plants. It is an effect called epinasty and it is...nasty.

Well, when other plants, such as hostas are exposed to this chemical, they also respond with twisted, distorted, bubbly and bumpy foliage. Most of the exposure occurs accidentally when liquid herbicides are sprayed on the nearby lawn during a windy day. The drift goes over and lands on "non-target" plants including the hosta.

A less understood source of the contamination is through miss-application of "Weed-N-Feed" fertilizers. Everyone seems to understand the "Feed" part of the equation but they don't always realize that the "Weed" part is a plant killer. They use broadcast spreaders and, when they get near the hosta bed or border, some of the pellets fly around. Later, they melt in the next rain or irrigation and enter the root system of the hosta.

The best thing to do is to avoid the contact in the first place by using herbicides sparingly and more cautiously. Normally, a healthy, established hosta will not die from exposure but will look terrible for the rest of the season. Fortunately, the foliage dies back in the fall and usually, the new foliage the following year will be o.k.  

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