Hosta

Hostas are one of the most popular garden plants. They are easy to grow, require little maintenance, and live for a long time. Unlike a lot of other popular plants, they prefer to grow in the shade. Also unlike others, they are mainly grown for their foliage, rather than their flowers.

Hosta is a genus of 30 or more species of perennials native to Northeast Asia. They are herbaceous, which means that they die back to the ground in the winter. Hostas belong to the family Agavaceae. The name, Hosta, which acts as both the scientific name and the common name, is in honor of Nicholas Thomas Host, an Austrian botanist. At times, Hosta have been called corfu lily, day lily, plantain lily and funkia. After a couple changes in classification, they are now just called Hosta.

Hostas do the best in zones 3-8, and in a shady area. They prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. Too much sun will increase the amount of water needed, and it may make the leaves yellow. Different species tolerate full shade better than others. Make sure to check before you plant them. I have had several Hostas on the north side of my garage for many years. They get morning sun, and a little in the late afternoon, and that seems to suit them just fine.

The foliage of Hostas is the reason that they are planted so often. They have leaves that can range in size from 1 to 15 inches long, and 1 to 12 inches wide. The plant itself can be anywhere from 4 inches to 8 feet wide, growing in a mound shape. The leaves may be green, yellow, white, blue, chartreuse or some combination of these. Golden and white variegated leaves are harder to find, making them more of a prize. Blue leaves are really green, but they have a wax coating which reflects the light in such a way that it looks blue to us. It is said that blue leaves also need more shade than the other colors. An added bonus is that weeds will not grow underneath a mass of Hostas. To me, that is one of the best reasons to have Hostas in your garden!

Hostas grow from rhizomes. Some can spread using stolons, which you might call runners. These are horizontal shoots on top of the soil, or underneath, that can produce new plants from a bud on the tip. Hostas should be planted in rich, well drained soil. Propagation is very easy. The plant can be dug up in the spring, divided and the pieces replanted. You can do this in the fall also, at least 30 days before frost. They should be divided after 3 or 4 years, waiting makes it harder to divide as the clump gets denser.  Believe me when I say dividing them is easy. I’ve done it several times, and not as carefully as I should have. Despite me, all of my divided Hostas have survived and flourished.

Unfortunately, humans are not the only ones who enjoy Hostas. They are also a favorite snack for deer, slugs, snails and sometimes rabbits and squirrels.

Flowers are pendulous, arranged on upright stems, and may be white, lavender or violet. They look rather like lilies, but only one species, plantaginea, has a scent. They bloom during the summer. There are two schools of thought on Hosta flowers. Some people enjoy them, and deadhead after they bloom, or leave them to go to seed. (Note that Hosta grown from seed may not come true to the parent plant.) The other group feels that the flowers are a distraction from the beautiful foliage, and they cut off the buds before they can bloom.  Regardless of how you feel about the flowers, you should be able to find Hostas that enhance your garden from among the thousands of available varieties.

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One Response to “Hosta”

  1. Kem Says:

    Cool article. I can only add that hostas hold up very well to dogs (black lab chasing tennis ball) running through them. 😉

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