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The genus Hosta originally comes from China and Japan. Hostas like shady, moist, organic soil, but many can tolerate and thrive in other conditions. If treated with a little care (more in the south and west), they will easily outlive those that plant them.
Grown mainly for the ornamental effect of their foliage, hostas become more impressive year by year as they gain in size and beauty. As clumps mature, margins on variegated varieties often become more pronounced; puckering become more prominent; and leaf color may become more intense.
Choices abound in size and shape, leaf patterns, color, texture, substance and flowers, as there are thousands of registered cultivars of hosta. Large hostas may measure 4 feet in height and 5 feet in width, while the smallest miniatures is only a few inches across, and most hostas ranging between 1 and 3 feet tall. Hosta leaves may be rounded to oval, heart-shaped or lance-like. The leaf may be flat, have a wavy edge or a puckered texture. Hosta flowers are produced from early summer to fall depending on the species and cultivar. Flowers may be white, lavender or purple. A few hostas are fragrant.
Hostas often grow bigger in the North than in the South, given the same conditions.
Blue-leaved hostas may be bluer in the North.
Some variegated varieties and yellow or gold-leaved hostas need some sun to fully develop their color.
Yellow-leaved hostas often appear more yellow in the South.
Yellow hosta can brighten up a location, if it is not too shady.
Green and blue hostas may lose some of their color intensity with too much sun.
Sunlight is necessary to encourage flowering.
Morning sun with some early afternoon sun (5 to 6 hours total) benefits fragrant hostas.
Morning sun is preferred over afternoon sun.
Morning sun and mid-day shade is the ideal condition for most varieties. An often recommended general guide is a minimum of 25% shade in northern regions and 50% in southern regions, depending on the variety. And, do not forget hostas growing in more sun will require more water, an inch or more of water per week if not supplied by rains. Did you know blue hostas are not really blue? The leaves are green with a wax coating on their surface. This wax is produced when new leaves are emerging. Over a season the wax can melt off in the heat, especially in the South. The coating may also wash off in heavy rains or with frequent overhead watering. They will be the bluest in the spring and may gradually lose the blue color, possibly turning to green by fall. The color tends to be bluer and last longer in cooler climates or areas.
Variegated leaves may include a combination of lighter and darker shades of color. Medio variegated leaves show a light color in the center of the leaf, which may be white, gold, yellow, or light green. Marginally variegated leaves show a light color on the edge of the leaf. Some plants naturally experience seasonal color changes. A plant might change from variegated to all green leaves during the season, or from green to yellow, or turn from yellow to white.
Shearing the leaves is a technique used to increase eye/shoot and root production. In northern climates, hostas should be sheared before August to allow new shoots time to mature before first frost.
If potting hostas, we recommend using a nursery-type mix rather than peat-vermiculite types. For example: 60 to 70% compost bark, 20% peat, and 10 to 20%perlite ( or coarse sand). Optimum pH is 6.0 to 6.5 and soluble salts should be low. When preparing a new garden or working an old one, if composted material is not available, this example mix can be used to amend the soil.
Hostas are heavy feeders and require a complete fertilizer program to attain the most spectacular foliage. We use 14-14-14 slow release fertilizer as a top dressing and water soluble fertilizers up to 30-30-30 N-P-K (Nitrogen for foliage, Phosphorus for roots, Potassium for structure and flowering). In early spring after the first growth starts, apply a well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer. Avoid excessive fertilizer, especially in the summer. Do not fertilize at least two months prior to first anticipated frost. Addition of compost over the bed in the fall, can reduce next year's fertilizer requirements.
Slugs and snails are the primary hosta pests. Occasional pests include aphids, thrips, voles and mites. Watering hostas in the morning (versus the evening) decreases pest and disease opportunities. Remove hosta leaves and clean up around the plants after they have died back to help control diseases, voles and slugs. Leaves that are thick and stiff are said to have "heavy substance"; such leaves are considered to be somewhat resistant to slug feeding. While there are a number of commercial and home remedies for slugs and snails, we have found that a 15% ammonia and 85% water mixture deters the critters, as well as deer. Increase the ammonia percentage if deer are the culprits.
Hosta Diseases and Pests
Hostas are easily increased by division of the clump in early spring. Hostas can be grown from seed, but as the male parent is often unknown, the resulting seedling is always an unknown. Just like children, new hostas will be a mix of DNA, that may or may not resemble the parents. Vegetative propagation is always advised for true matching offspring of the parent.
Patented Plants will have a patent number on the label or indicator that a patent has been applied for. Patented plants may not be propagated in any way, shape or form without the owner's permission or until the patent term has expired.
Companion plants enhance the appearance hostas. Early blooming bulbs and perennials will enhance emerging hosta leaves. Spring bulb foliage can be hidden after blooming by the larger hosta leaves. Recommended companions include astilbes, heuchera, snowdrops, crocus, tulips, daffodils, trillium, anemones, forget-me-nots, ferns, hellebores, pulmonarias, and wild gingers. In summer months, bright annuals such as impatiens, begonia, and coleus make attractive companion plants.
The hosta descriptions used on this site are generally noted per their registration with the American Hosta Society. Your hostas appearance may differ based on climate and conditions. We have also added some of our own comments and experiences.
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