Hosta: A Shade Plant
Hosta in bloom
Everyone is always looking for a plant that will do well in the shade. Anyone who has been gardening for a while knows that plant is Hosta! Not known for it's beautiful flowers, though it does flower, it is more well known for it's beautiful leaves. It is said there are over 3,000 registered varieties of hosta...that's a lot of hosta, and with that much hosta there is also an American Hosta Society. Believe it or not there was somebody named Hosta! Nicholas Thomas Hosta...an Austrian botanist. He was the first director of the botanical gardens at the Belvedere Palace in Austria and though I can't find why, the hosta plant was named for him.
Most people just want a plant they can put in the shade that will add some interest rather than having a barren spot in the shade. Hosta is definitely your answer. Hosta will grow in the sun but too much sun will cause leaf curl, but more about that later. The best part is once their colorful leaves appear they stay until autumn. You can find mini-hosta plants or you can go with hosta plants that have giant leaves or grow six feet across! On the other hand, there are also miniature hostas.
Golden or white-variegeted are among the most popular.
Light Green leaf hosta
Easy to Grow
Hostas are easy to grow....you plant them and off they go! Even though they do well in shade, complete, dense shade may stunt their growth though some hostas grow better in deep shade than others. Hostas with blue leaves do better in more shade, while hostas with green or yellow leaves prefer more sun.
I mentioned leaf curl early on...you will see leaf curl (actual curling and drying of leaves) if your hosta is getting too much sun. Morning sun or a little afternoon sun is enough for most hostas. Though you may have some leaf curl it hostas will continue on anyway, bold little plants that they are.
Try to plant your hostas in a shady spot where they can get morning sun but only a little afternoon sun. The sun in the south is stronger than the sun in the north so be more shade conscious in the south. Since hostas are not overly fond of heat though, you may have difficulty growing them in the south.
As with any plant, a little compost or mulching goes a long way.
Hostas like their roots wet so when you water them do a deep watering (making sure enough water gets down to the roots). If you have sandy soil like me and/or if it's a dry season water them more frequently to keep those roots happy.
Hostas are 'self propogating' and will spread on their own. It will probably take two or three years but you will notice your plants are not only fuller but getting crowded, you may also notice some brown leaves in the middle of your plant. Time to divide. The best part is, when you divide them you wind up with two or more plants. You can plant them somewhere else on your property or share them with a friend!
It is best to divide hosta in the spring though I've done it throughout the summer and never had any problem. The only thing is the leaves will wilt and they won't grow as well the year of the transplant if you do it after early spring. In early spring the leaves are small or not visible and it is easier to divide them and they respond better.
When you dig up your hosta you will see what you thought was one plant is made up of many little plants. Separate them and plant each one separately. When you separate make sure the 'clump' you are separating has at least three little shoots coming from it so it will be strong enough to "survive on it's own". When you 're-plant' make sure the depth is about the same as it was for the original plant, you don't want them too deep or too shallow. Remember to keep the plants watered well after division to give them a good start.
Hostas in different stages of growthClick thumbnail to view full-size
Flowers on Hostas
What about the flowers on Hostas? They are dainty and appear every year without fail. When the blooms fade though you are left with empty looking stalks. As soon as the flowers have finished blooming you can cut their stalks off. Actually you should cut them to give the hosta plant more strength.
Though short-lived, the hosta's flowers can be sweet and slightly fragrant...as a result they will often attract humming birds. They can bloom anytime between June and October but I have noticed in my yard they usually bloom around the end of June or beginning of July depending on the weather. For some reason they say the white hosta flowers are more fragrant than the lavender. As new hostas are hybridized better flowers are appearing, well not appearing but growing on hostas, bigger, longer lasting and more fragrant.
Hosta are also popular with animals, deer, rabbit, voles, slugs, and snails can be a major problem. Beer traps come highly recommended to kill slugs and snails. A beer trap is simply a container filled with beer. The slugs are attracted to the beer, climb into the container and drown. Make sure the container is actually deep enough for them to drown. A plastic cup, yogurt container or the like will do. Bury your container into the ground, fill it with beer, and wait to pick out the slugs and snails. Make sure the container is close enough to the plant to be effective. If you have a dog you may have to alter your container or he'll be drinking the beer. Of course you can hand pick the slugs and snails but you must be sure to stomp on the snails to kill them ore they will just come right back.
Just FYI, if you're having problems with slugs and snails in your flower pot, line the rim of the flower pot with copper and they will not cross it.
While not a pest, keeping your hosta too wet can cause crown rot. It is a preventable disease that will result in yellowing leaves and stunted growth.
So, what have you learned about hostas?
- Easy to grow shade loving plants
- Blue leaf hosta prefers more shade; green and yellow leaf hosta prefers more sun.
- Early morning sun or filtered afternoon shade are best
- Hostas are hardy plants
Now to leave you with a few facts to help you with your hosta plants:
- When planting don't plant clumps of hosta too close together
- If possible group hosta with other shade loving plants like astible
- Hosta can be planted under maple trees
- Hostas with yellow/gold leaves should be planted in sun
- There are variegated leaves among some hostas
- Hosta is an effective, easy care ground cover
I hope you've found this hub interesting. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask and/or leave a comment in the comments section below.
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