Growing and Propagating Hostas
Books To Help You
Hosta Shade - Great Plants
One thing y garden never runs out of is shade. I'm not complaining because the huge old trees that provide them are worth it, but it makes finding perennials a bit tricky until you learn about growing Hostas.
There are about twenty different varieties of Hosta in my gardens and I didn't buy any of them. Chances are, if you have any gardening friends at all they will be happy to fill up your car or tractor trailer with starts for free. Hostas are easy to divide and it keeps them healthy.
For some reason, Hostas had a 'finicky' reputation in my world, which couldn't be farther from the truth. Until I was blessed with all this shade, I didn't give them much thought. A friend dropped off a paper grocery sack full of some she said that her elderly neighbor had given her. The woman told her to 'spread them around' as they were rare. The medium-sized leaves are mostly creamy white with a green stripe down the middle. That was about twenty years ago and I've been sharing them ever since. Recently I think I've seen a few in garden centers, so maybe they aren't that rare any more. Anyway, I planted them around the foundation of our home and was amazed at how it lit up that dark, north-facing area!
When the time came to divide them, I was a bit nervous. What if I killed them, with them being so rare and all. My neighbor told me it was super easy to divide them and go for it. She was right. You basically just dig one up and pull apart the sections of little plants growing around the clump! From then on I learned to ask people if they had any Hostas they wanted to trade and that's how I ended up with white Hostas, blue-green, heart-shaped, spear-leafed, tall, short and every kind of Hosta you can imagine.
The tips for planting:
They prefer shade or partial shade. Varieties differ. Some tolerate sun and some keel over and croak with just a little sunlight. Find out from your nursery (or friend) how much light they like best.
Moist, loamy soil. Our soil is pure sand, so I have to give them a lot of compost.
Water. They can be very dramatic if they get too dry and will seem to have died and disappeared, but will pop again when given a nice long drink. I discovered this when we went on vacation one year and returned to find bare soil where my precious Hosta's once had been. What a relief to learn they were just on vacation too.
Pests - Slugs used to be a huge problem and I tried many ways to protect my Hostas from them; beer traps which made the raccoon's happy but didn't get rid of the slugs. Finally, I discovered diatomaceous earth. Fossilized ancient sea creatures that act like a barrier of ground glass against their slimy little bodies and the go away. The best way to use it is to sprinkle it liberally over the ground where the plants will come up - this way the baby leaves are coated and protected early. Add a little more when their half-grown and you should be good for the rest of the season. I buy mine in twenty-five pound bags at swimming pool supply stores because they cost about the same as buying a small box in a garden shop. It's ancient already, so keep it dry and it lasts forever.
Deer are a menace to Hostas and people use all sorts of gizmos and chemicals, but we've found that a motion-controlled spotlight and a very vocal beagle keep them away from mine.
Do some research as some of them have beautiful, scented blooms in late summer. Some are just grown for the foliage. They also come as small as ground cover to three-feet tall with elephantine leaves, so be sure you check this out when choosing a location.
Give a Hosta a try, I know they'll grow on you!