A true winner that’s suitable for nearly any garden, hosta plants are a leafy shade-loving perennial that sets itself apart with its wonderful array of foliage shapes, colors, textures, and sizes. These plants are garden workhorses when it comes to the reward they offer versus the minimal effort they require to plant and maintain.
Hosta plants are growing more and more popular in the U.S. There are thousands of named cultivars, meaning there’s a hosta variety with the aesthetic potential suitable to any gardener’s tastes. Read on to learn more about hostas, popular varieties and tips for growing them.
What Is the Hosta Plant?
Hostas are rhizomatic plants that originated in Northeast Asia, where new species are still being discovered today. Once thought to belong to the same plant family as the lily, hosta plants (also known as plantain lilies in the U.K.) are currently classified as belonging to the Agavoideae subfamily, which makes them relatives of several popular desert plants such as the agave, yucca and Joshua Tree.
Hosta plants need to lose their foliage and go dormant in between growing seasons. At a minimum, they need 30 days at temperatures below 43 degrees Fahrenheit. Longer dormancy at lower temperatures (down to –35) will allow most hosta varieties to really thrive. Some hosta enthusiasts living outside the appropriate USDA zones (3 through 9) use a refrigerator to simulate these conditions.
Several Popular Varieties of Hosta Plants
Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’
This giant hosta variety can measure up to 5 feet across in its central clump and sports impressive blue corrugated foliage. Giant hostas in general are ideal as specimen plants.
Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’
For a charming and handsome border plant — which is perfect in pots as well — choose a miniature hosta variety. ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ is a fine performer here.
With light-green foliage that goes deeper green toward the margins, this hosta can take more sun than other hosta plants.
Hosta ‘Gold Standard’
This aptly named variety, with its gold foliage edged by green, is among the best of the hundreds of variegated hosta plants.
Tips for Growing Your Own Hosta Plants
1. Selecting a Variety
With thousands of registered hosta varieties available, selecting one or several may seem a little daunting. After you’ve done some research and have an idea what you want, find growers (commercial vendors or amateur enthusiasts) who specialize in hostas. They can greatly aid you in finding the perfect hosta varieties for your garden.
2. Prepare the Soil
To prepare a good growing environment for your hostas, the American Hosta Society recommends tilling the soil thoroughly, 12-18 inches deep. If the soil has too much clay, or is otherwise in poor condition, amend it with some hummus, some larger sized organic material (such pine bark fines), and a small measure of coarse sand.
The ideal time to plant hostas is in spring, before the start of any substantial growth. Hostas can be planted at any time during the season, however. If planting outside of early spring, keep a close eye on them to make sure they get enough water.
3. Watering and Feeding
After planting in a suitable soil, hostas require remarkably little special care. Many hostas find a home beneath shade-giving trees and large shrubs. Especially with trees and shrubs with shallow root systems, the competition for water and nutrients necessitates plenty of watering (especially during hot, dry summer conditions) in addition to an application of some slow-release fertilizer once the hostas are planted and every spring after that.
To grow the happiest of hostas, apply a 1-2 inch layer of mulch during the growing season. This will keep the roots at a steady temperature, reduce weeds and will allow for better water retention. Mulching may become more necessary if the rhizome (underground stem) finds itself “climbing” somewhat above-ground from the heaving of the ground during the freezing/thawing cycle. Be careful not to over-mulch, though, as voles like to dine on hostas in abundant cover.
As was hopefully shown, hostas, in all their wonderful variety, are a group of perennial, shade-loving plants that are also some of the most versatile, dependable and rewarding garden performers one could hope for. One downside, though: These plants are slightly toxic to cats, dogs and horses. If you have animals, take the appropriate caution. Otherwise, cultivate these garden charmers and they’ll reward you in spades.
Image from pixabay.com.