The images show it all; Hostas are grown for their impressive foliage which is very varied both in size and colours. There are Hostas with bright green leaves, stripes, greys and blues, all different shades of green. Hostas also vary much in size, some are very small no more than a few centimetres across up to giant Hostas, which can grow up to a metre across and which make a dramatic statement in a border.
Most of the types of Hosta will do best, in terms of leaf colour, if they are grown in semi shade although the yellow-leaved Hostas will endure more sun. Hostas mix well in borders but also make a bold statement when planted on their own. When planting a Hosta, bear in mind it's possible eventual size and leaf shape which can mean, because some Hostas grow very large there is no point in planting too close by as when the leaves do emerge, they will shadow anything nearby, although if it's also a shade loving plant the combination may work. I have found common spotted orchid quietly growing in the shade under the leaves of a large Hosta.
If you are planting Hosta in a shady spot bear some varieties will look better in shade than others. The blue leaved Hostas can look a bit dull in shade, and the yellow leaved will not do as well in shade. The best varieties for shade are those with green and yellow variegation on their leaves, such as Hosta fortunei var.aureomarginata (AGM)(image left Hosta on path)
Tips on Growing Hostas
In many ways Hostas are easy to grow and come up reliably year after year. Hostas are a herbaceous perennial and fully hardy which makes them easy to grow. Hosta's preferred growing conditions include shade and soil which is moist, well drained and does not dry out, although they are such tough plants I have grown them in tubs and walls both of which tend to be on the dry side, but do display the Hosta at it's very best. If the only spot in your garden for the Hosta has sun, avoid the midday /early afternoon, as should we have a hot summer the leaves can scorch if there is too much sun.
Hostas do flower in the summer, but their flowers are not particularly attractive and can become quite ragged not long after flowering. There is a gardening school of thought which recommends pruning off the flowers, so that the plant puts it's energies into foliage, as Hostas do not repeat flower so once pruned it is thought to divert more growth to the leaves.
Hostas can be divided in the spring to make new plants and this is best done when the plant is established. Hostas are really tough plants so just dig it up, best time is in the spring when the new shoots are showing, divide by either putting two spades in back to back and forcing apart, or cut a chunk off with a hacksaw or sharp knife. Hostas are fairly indestructible although the slugs and snails do a good job.
In terms of maintenance you can leave Hostas undisturbed for many years. They will welcome a mulch over winter/spring of organic material, but will soldier on fine without it if you just leave them alone.
Where to plant Hostas
The striped varieties look very good in shady areas and all look good alongside water features and ponds. Hostas also look good alongside a path grouped together see image left.
Hostas look just fantastic in the spring when the leaves unfurl the new foliage, image left and beautiful when they catch the rain image top left. Hostas look good in woodland settings with ferns, and also in a mixed border where they add structure and a bold splash of green
When planting a new Hosta, plant with it's crown at the same level as the existing soil, and if the planting area is a little on the dry side it is a good idea to make a slight depression around the plant to create a mini well which will help pool the water and to water the Hosta well to get established.
Growing Hosta and How to Deal with slugs and Snails
The is just one "but" when growing Hostas which is that the slugs and slugs and snails can be ferocious in their attention. If you have a lot of slugs it maybe a struggle but with reasonable protection (follow this link for beat the slugs) you can have a healthy looking plant for (all most ) the summer. The only reason Hostas are marked with amber wheelbarrow being moderately difficult to grow is because of the problems with slugs and snails.
There are a number of steps you can take to reduce damage from slugs and snail.
Firstly always from early spring when the leaves first emerge, utilise slug protection.
If you are especially prone to slugs and snails there are some Hostas which are sold as being more slug resistant and generally the blue and larger varieties have the tougher leaves. The main problem with Hostas is slugs and snails and there are some reputed to be the more resistant to slugs. These tend to be the larger thicker leaved varieties such as Big Daddy, Gold Regal, Liberty, Halcyon, Silvery Slugproof. This does work; I have planted the large blue leaved varieties and suffered much less damage.
All plants will suffer some damage. If your Hosta gets badly damaged as in the image middle left there is not much you can do, perhaps remove some of the really tattered leaves. However if you catch the slug damage earlier, as in the image below, you can cut away the very damaged leaves and the plant will look much neater. You will also note when cutting away the damaged leaves, new growth at the base of the plant and you will give that more room to come through. It will be restored and look like the middle image. You can tidy up Hostas in this way to remove the worst of the slug damage.
If you are in any doubt how much snails like Hosta you can see from the image of double trouble.
Hostas are herbaceous which means at the end of the summer they die back and can look as if they are dead, see image below left. Hostas are one of the earliest herbaceous plants to die back and can look untidy, it does no harm to the plant to cut back to ground level.
Come the spring the new Hosta leaves push through the earth spiking upwards and look very attractive as they unfurl, image bottom left.