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Heavenly Hostas - The ultimate shade plant

By Josh Spece

Hostas come in a huge variety of shapes (fountain, mounded, upright), sizes (two inch babies to four foot giants), and colors (blue, gray, yellow, gold, chartreuse, all shades of green, white, and many combinations of these). With all this variety, there is surely at least one for everyone! They are also virtually care-free. Once established, they rarely need watering and won't need dividing for many years.

When planting hostas, mix lots of compost into the planting area. They do best in an area that has stays moist, but isn't soggy. Hostas can be fertilized with a balanced, slow-released fertilizer just as they are coming up in the spring. You can also fertilize them with a dilute water soluble fertilizer until early August. Then the plants need to begin preparing for the winter rest. Even more important than fertilizer is water. If you really want your hostas to thrive and grow to their true potential, give them lots of water…within reason, of course! This is not to say you must water your hostas all the time. As long as the plants are established, they are very drought tollerant. Newly planted hostas should at least be kept watered for the first year. Once established, it is nearly impossible to kill a hosta unless you REALLY try!

Generally, hostas are shade loving plants. That doesn’t mean they will do well in a dark, poorly lit area. Ideally, they should have bright filtered light or dappled shade. Most can tolerate at least some direct sun (early morning or late afternoon) and some can take full sun if provided with plenty of water. Usually the gold ones can take the most sun as well as those with extremely shinny, glossy, or thick textured leaves. Those with fragrant flowers also seem to do better with a little sun. Hostas that have a lot of white in the leaf sometimes are difficult to grow. They have so little chlorophyll they have trouble making enough food to survive. These, too, will benefit from more light. Blue hostas will usually turn green if they get too much sun. The more sun a plant gets, the more, but smaller leaves it will have. The more shade, the bigger, but fewer leaves it will have.

Most of the time hostas aren’t bothered by many pests. The most comon problem is slugs and snails. They usually don’t do permanent harm to the plants, but they make them look like swiss cheese! There are many slug baits on the market to help control slugs and snails, but they should be used with caution because they are poisons. Other, less dangerous, deterents include surrounding the plants with diatomatious earth or copper rings. The DE cuts their slimy skin and the copper rings give them electrical shocks, so they won’t cross the barrier.

Hostas are one of the truly carefree shade perennials. They don’t need any winter protection, once they are established they don’t need watered, they keep weeds down by shading them out, and unlike so many other perennials, they don’t need devided. The longer you leave them alone, the better they look!

Hostas aren't usually grown for their flowers, but there are several that have extremely big or fragrant flowers. Some of them are:
'Aphrodite' -- large, double & fragrant 'Fried Green Tomatoes' - large & fragrant
'Fragrant Bouquet' -- large & fragrant ‘Fried Bananas’ - large & fragrant
‘Guacamole' -- large & fragrant plantaginea -- large & fragrant
'Fragrant Bouquet' -- large & fragrant ‘So Sweet’ - fragrant 'Venus' -- large, triple & fragrant
'Venus' -- large, triple & fragrant

Some of my favorite large hostas:
‘Blue Angel’ - blue ‘Sum & Substance’ - chartreuse
montana ‘Aureo-marginata’ - green with cream margin ‘Lady Isobell Barnett’ - green with gold edge
‘Night Before Christmas’ - white with green margins ‘Sagae’ - frosty blue leaves with creamy margins

Small to Dwarf hostas are great for rock gardens:
‘Abby’ - green with gold edge ‘Just So’ - gold with blue margins
‘Lakeside Neat Petite’ - blue ‘Pandora’s Box’ - white with green margin
Venusta - green ‘Warwick Curtsey’ - cream with green edge

Some unique hostas for those looking for something different:
‘Embroidery’ - unique “stitching” around center of leaf ‘Spilt Milk’ - green with white streaks
‘Tattoo’ - unusual “tattooed” maple leaf on leaves ‘Uzo-no-Mai’ - tiny green whirlpool of leaves

My favorite variegated hostas:
‘Cherry Berry’ - green edge, white center, red stems ‘Fragrant Bouquet’ - apple green with cream edge
‘Great Expectations’ - gold with blue margins ‘Guacamole’ - gold with green edge; shiny
‘Pandora’s Box’ - tiny white with green edge ‘Striptease’ - green with narrow gold stripe

The best blues:
‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd’ - round, cupped leaves ‘Blue Angel’ - huge, pointed blue leaves
‘Halcyon’ - our best selling blue ‘Lakeside Blue Cherub’ - small, blue leaves

Website by Josh Spece
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