The Hosta Garden

Hosta leaves come in four main colors: blue, green, yellow, and white.

Hosta leaves come in four main colors: blue, green, yellow, and white.  Combinations of these colors as well as the intensity of these colors are what make hostas unique.  The leaves can have wide, irregular margins, or very distinct but thin margins.  Color may change from spring through fall.

The leaf surface may be flat, curled, cupped, wavy, contorted, piecrust, or furrowed.  Flat surfaces have even and smooth features.  A rugose leaf has uneven features such as dimpled, puckered, embossed, ruffled, pleated, wrinkled, and crinkled leaf surfaces.  Cupped leaf surfaces are cupped around the margins.  Wavy leaves are relatively smooth but wave or undulate along the margins.  Contorted leaves are warped or distorted.  Piecrust leaves have closely spaced, distinct, regular, undulations along the margins.  Furrowed leaves show the veins sunken or impressed, creating a ribbed effect.

Leaf size can range from the size of a thumbnail to as large as a platter.  Mounds can be fist-sized to three feet tall and five feet across.  Hostas are known primarily for their foliage, but their flower scapes also add interest to the landscape.  Depending on the variety, hostas bloom between June and October and last for several weeks.  Some are fragrant and can scent the entire yard.

Growing Hostas

Hostas are known as shade plants, but many can grow with quite a deal of sun.  The general rule is that the thinner-leaved and bluer varieties need more shade than the thicker-leaved varieties.  For most hostas, you should pick out a shady spot that is protected from the hot afternoon sun. Water is essential to good hosta growth.  The larger the leaf, the more water loss, so the more you‚Äôll need to water your hostas,  During the height of the growing season, make sure that your hostas are getting at least 1-11‚ÅÑ2 inches of water per week.  Mulching will also help prevent water loss.  Use a good organic mulch such as shredded bark or pine straw.  Keep the mulch away from the base of the plants to avoid diseases and insects. Hostas can be fertilized annually in the spring with a general purpose granular fertilizer (10-10-10).  Be careful not to get it on the leaves as the fertilizer may burn the plant.  Organic gardeners can use Milorganite, well-rotted manures, or soybean meal.

Hosta Pests

Hostas are easy to grow, but there are a few creatures that are also fond of hostas.  You may find holes in the leaves of your hostas which are most likely the handiwork of slugs. There are many slug baits on the market which are very affective at keeping slugs off your plants. Voles are another major pest of hostas, especially during the winter
months.  These meadow mice eat the crowns and roots of the hosta, leaving the plants stunted or dead.  Mouse traps, vole baiting stations, or a sharpeyed cat are all good solutions, but voles are very difficult to get rid of.
There are a few diseases to look out for too.  Crown rot can occur when the extreme heat, humidity, and moisture cause the crown to rot and the leaves to pull off the plant.  Foliar nematodes are microscopic worms that feed on leaf tissues between the leaf veins of mature leaves, eventually causing the entire leaf to die.  In the case of both of these conditions, the plants should be destroyed so the disease is not spread to your other plants.

Uses for Hostas

Border/Edging planting - Use hostas that are 12 inches in height or less but have increased horizontal growth to soften the edge.
Background planting - Large green hostas will show off more colorful plants.
Specimen planting - Unique hostas are allowed to grow into large clumps.
Ground cover planting - Hostas that are fast growers and form a thick mat of roots will cover the ground and prevent weed growth.
Highlight planting - Yellow and mostly white hostas can be a natural brightener for shady gardens or dark corners.
Container gardens - Miniature hostas create an entire scene in one pot, or add your favorite hosta to your annual summer container.

Our hosta garden at the Learning Gardens is located underneath the oak tree between the water and herb gardens.  This garden was situated here to take advantage of the shade of the oak tree and its prominence in the garden.