Hostas are quickly becoming one of the most popular perennial plants grown in our landscapes. Sometimes referred to as plantain lilies, hostas are reliable plants for both shade and partial sun situations. Besides the wonderful foliage hostas produce, many display fragrant flowers from early summer to fall, depending on the cultivar.
Flowers are trumpet-like in shape and may be white, lavender, bluish or bicolor. There are hundreds of hosta varieties from which to choose and more varieties become available each year. Leaf color may vary from shades of yellow, green, gold, white or bluish. Variegated forms also exist.
Plant size and shape may range from a few inches across to several feet. Diversity in leaf color, plant shape and form make hostas excellent candidates for a wide variety of landscape situations.
Hostas grow by underground stems called rhizomes. They prefer well-drained soils amended with organic matter, such as compost or rotted animal manure. Hostas do best on raised beds. They will not tolerate soggy conditions, especially during the winter months. Plant hostas by digging a hole as deep as the root ball and at least twice as wide as its diameter. Backfill and water well. Space hostas according to their spread at maturity.
Planting, transplanting and dividing should be done in early spring when the leaves begin to emerge. Dividing can be done either by cutting away a section of a clump with a sharp shovel or by lifting the root mass and separating it by hand.
Separate the plant so that an "eye" is present in each division. Very small divisions tend to establish slowly. Most hostas can be divided in four to five years, depending on the vigor of the clumps.
Light requirement can range from partial sun to dense shade. It is important to know the specific needs of each hosta selected. With too much sunlight, leaf discoloration or leaf scorching may occur.
Hostas respond best to light fertilization. Soil testing will help determine lime and fertilizer requirements. Without the benefit of a soil test, apply 1/2 lb. of 10-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. at planting or when growth emerges in the spring. Slow release fertilizers can also be used to meet nutrition needs throughout the growing season.
Place mulch around hostas to help conserve moisture. Keep them moist but not wet by applying supplemental irrigation only when necessary. Hot summer days may require additional irrigation. Avoid planting hostas in areas that receive direct afternoon sun.
Hostas are tough plants and when maintained as vigorous, healthy plants, insects and diseases are seldom a problem. However, if given the opportunity, slugs and snails will devour hostas freely. Organic controls or applications of registered insecticides are sometimes needed when slugs and snails are a problem.
In many areas, deer may be a problem. Deer often eat hosta foliage when other food is scarce. Deer repellants may give temporary control, however, fencing or the watchful eye of the pet dog may be the only sure way to keep deer away.