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June 24, 2012

Hosta - This foliage is a gardener’s best friend

-by Debra Anchors

One of the best-selling perennials in America is treasured not for its flowers but for its foliage.  Hosta has won the hearts of gardeners across the Country.

A Variety of Hosta

A remarkable tolerance for shade and cold, resistance to insects and incomparable beauty and variety make these perennials simply irresistible.  Rippled, smooth, ruffled or ribbed, leaves range in size from petite (three-quarters-inch long) to giant (22 inches long).  Foliage colors include bright yellows, cool blues, and just about every shade of green imaginable.  Foliage edged in white, streaked with gold, or striped in contrasting tones of emerald and cream provide ample opportunity for designing one-of-a-kind beds and borders.  According to the American Hosta Society, there are more than 30 hosta hybridizers at work in the United States alone.  Cultivars with showier, fragrant blossoms have been cropping up in nurseries, expanding the palette still further.  Old as well as new cultivars bloom with white or lavender flowers in late summer, just when a splash of color is needed most.

Site selection:  While hostas tolerate a range of soils in USDA Zones 3 to 10, slightly acidic soil, amended with organic matter, produces the most vigorous growth.  At least two and a half hours of morning sun are needed for the richest coloration; yellows need more sun, blues less.

Planting:  Plant rhizomes anytime, with large-leaved specimens no closer than two feet apart.  If possible, mulch the first winter with pine needles or boughs to prevent heaving.

Care:  Young hostas need two seasons or more to mature, and require regular watering during dry spells.  Before spring growth appears, put down a ring of a balanced, slow-release fertilizer around the crown of the plant (never allow fertilizers to touch plant ‘eyes’).  While some gardeners divide their hostas every five years or so, it is not essential.

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  1. Hostas really are such a versitile plant, at home in a variety of garden styles.

    The biggest iusse is keeping the slugs away!

    1. Good morning! Thank you for visiting.

      I have been told slugs are a real problem for many; luckily I haven't had this challenge here. Slugs would be a great topic for a future article - thanks! -Debra

      P.S. I love your website! Visitors, be sure to follow the link, above, to Diligent Gardener

    2. Thanks Debra, really kind of you to say that :) I just added your site to my list of blogs on my site page

  2. Just visiting and found your lovely collection of hosta.
    I wonder whether Hosta can grow in tropical climate.
    Love those colours.

    1. Hello James - It is so nice to visit with you again!

      I am sorry to report that Hostas grow in most areas except deserts and the tropics or subtropics. They need about 700 hours of temperatures below 40°F to flourish and so, sadly, Hosta will not survive in Malaysia. -Debra

      P.S. Yes I do believe in fairies; they dance in my gardens daily. Take care!


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