Hosta, also known as Plantain lily is a popular shade plant that is grown primarily for its attractive foliage. Hardy in UDSA zones 3-10, this frost-hardy perennial is ideal for border plantings, large containers, and ground covers in shady areas. They also make great companion plants for early blooming bulbs because they hide the dying foliage.
Numerous cultivars range in all sizes from 6 inch tiny dwarfs to large cluster 2½ ft tall.
Young hosta plants require some pampering but once established, need little care. Plant it at the same soil level as grown in the container, in rich, moist, well drained organic soil with a ph 5.5 to 6.5. It prefers partial shade to shade (2 1/2 hrs. of morning sun and afternoon shade) and needs protection from the hot summer sun.
The bluer hostas need more shade to retain a true blue color conversely; the yellow and white leaved variety require more sun to maintain a brighter color. Thicker leaved hosta will tolerate more sun compared to thin leaved variety.
Give them plenty of water; they require at least 1 inch of water per week and more if grown in sandy soil. The larger leaved variety may also need more water. It’s best to water early in the day. A dry growing season (drought) will produce a smaller plant the subsequent year.
Fertilize in spring to mid summer at 6 week intervals (April, mid-May and July) with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. Stop feeding after July to allow the plant to harden for the winter.
Hosta bloom in midsummer on tall spikes of lavender, blue, or white tubular flowers that rise above the leaves. Both leaves and flowers can be used in floral design. When finished blooming, remove the dead stalks. Hosta platanginea (Fragrant Plantain lily) is one hybrid that produces white fragrant flowers that smell like tuberose.
Propagation: It takes 4-8 years for a hosta to reach full size. Propagate by dividing crowded clumps in the spring when new shoots appear. The best time is in the fall after the leaves die back or in August/mid-Sept, 30 days before the first frost. This will give the roots time to establish themselves before winter. Hosta needs to be divided when it develops a the bare circle on the inside of the plant and new growth comes from the outside of the circle.
Hosta can also be started from seed. It takes 2-3 years to mature and will not come true (except H. ventricosa) to the mother plant.
Slugs and snails cause large holes in the leaves
Cutworms and black vine weevil will chew on the leaves
Deer will eat the leaves down to the stem; rabbits will eat new emerging shoots.
Scorched leaves- plant needs more shade
Crown rot (Southern blight fungus)-outer leaves wilted and yellowed
Wilted and browning leaf tips-not enough water
*Foliar nematodes-parallel damage between veins is becoming a major problem
*Hosta virus X -Tannish spots on leaf surface, added color to leaves (ink bleed) – big problem esp. in nursery stock. Plant material can be tested for the virus.