Hostas are easy to grow and require minimal care. That about sums it up, I guess. However, as with most things, it really is not all that simple.

True, on average, the genus, Hosta, does require less care than many other herbaceous perennials grown in our landscapes. They can take a lot of abuse but will prosper if you follow just a few cultural hints.

Somewhere along the line, hostas got the misnomer as a "shade-loving" perennial. Anyone who knows a little about plant science understands that all green plants must have a certain level of light in order to carry out photosynthesis. If you put one of these plants in the total dark, they must die.

Therefore, it is better to call plants like hostas, shade tolerant plants. This gives us a lot more latitude in finding the ideal place for them to grow in our landscape.

Many hostas will thrive and multiply rapidly in full sun, IF they are given enough moisture. If the soil is NOT well endowed with organic matter or is sandy, the hosta leaves will usually scorch in full sun. However, put plenty of compost, leaf mold or other organic material in the soil and water them regularly and they will thrive.

Another factor in the amount of light a hosta needs or can tolerate depends on the color of the leaves.

Hostas are pretty flexible when it comes to soil types. However, since they need a steady availability of moisture, it is important that the soils be well-drained but also moisture retentive.

This sounds almost counter intuitive but it is true of many plants that, when they need the moisture, it had better be there for them. But, they will not tolerate sitting in water logged soils or they may become plagued with rot diseases.

Soils dominated by clay usually become poorly drained and have low oxygen levels for good root growth. Those with high sand content drain too well and become droughty and do not hold nutrients well.

Fortunately, both of these conditions can be remedied by the addition of large amounts of organic matter such as compost, leaf mold or other soil conditioners. The organic matter loosens the clay and allows more pore space for water and air. In the sand, the organic matter "clogs" the huge pores and holds moisture and nutrients better.

In terms of soil acidity i.e. pH, hostas, like many, many other landscape plants prefer a slightly acid soil in the pH range of 6.0 to 6.5. Here again, they are very flexible and will tolerate a much wider range. Don't guess about the soils pH. Get a soil test done at a quality laboratory such as the one at your local Extension Service Office. Never add lime to the soil unless instructed to do so by a soil test!

Hostas were traditionally considered an "ironcast" plant that had no serious problems in the landscape. Well, as with a lot of things in life, as we gain experience over time, we tend to find more problems. This is true with hostas but, they are still pretty pest resistant...or resilient.

The major pests of hostas appear to be:

  1. Slugs - These shell-less snails wreak havic with hosta leaves in many gardens. They are difficult to control because they like the same environmental conditions that foster good hosta growth. However, there is some hope. For more...

  2. Deer - In the latter half of the 20th century, more and more of us moved out into deer territory to build our houses. These cute critters soon learned that they had a taste for the Asian import called the hosta. More on deer....

  3. Foliar Nematodes - Not only are hostas bothered by creepy crawly slugs and large four legged deer but they are now being invaded by microscopic (or nearly so) roundworms called nematodes. More...

  4. Virus - Although some plant viruses result in interesting, artistic looking variegation in plants, they also often cause a loss of plant vigor and are impossible to get rid of once they get into the plant. More about virus in hostas...

  5. Southern Blight - This fungal disease causes root rot primarily in southern parts of the United States.

Other problems occasionally encountered in hosta gardens include:

In a hosta "collectors" garden, the species stands alone for display. However for most gardeners, hostas are just one of many types of plants used in the landscape. Various types of plants and hardscape features work well to complete hostas in the garden including:

Just like most herbaceous perennials, hostas may be propagated in several ways. Enthusiasts, hobbyists and professionals multiply the number and types of hostas all the time.

Copyrightę 2000 -