Hosta

Hosta sieboldiana

A genus of low growing plants with bold architectural leaves, available in a range of interesting colours and textures. Most forms prefer dappled shade but there are a few that will tollerate sun. Good ground cover perennials - ideal for planting under trees and shrubs or near water.

Family: Asparagaceae (Asparagus family)
Botanical Name: Hosta
Common Names: Plantain lily

Foliage: Deciduous, large oval textured leaves, in various shades of blue-green, grey-green, silvery or yellow. Many variegated forms are available.

Flowers: Delicate spires of blue, lilac or white bell-like flowers.

Flowering Period: Mid summer to autumn.

Soil: Moisture retentive (but not saturated), fertile soil (clay or loam). Acid or neutral pH.

Conditions: Best in partial shade. Plant in a north, east or west facing aspect, in a sheltered position.

Habit: Low growing, clump forming.

Origin: Eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Russian Far East).

Type: Herbaceous perennial.

Hardiness: Most species are fully hardy in the UK.

Toxicity: can be toxic to cats, dogs and horses.

Planting and Growing Hostas

Hostas thrive in deep, rich, moisture-retentive soils with plenty of organic matter added. Plant when dormant between autumn and spring. Shelter from cold, dry winds.

Most types thrive best in partial or light shade. Certain variegated forms can fade if exposed to full sun and other species such H. plantaginea need a few hours of sun to retain their vibrant colours. Therefore, it is best to check the plant label carefully before choosing a planting site. If you are unsure of the variety, plant in a container and try in different areas of the garden first.

Taking Care of Hostas

Water copiously during dry weather. Mulch annually with leaf mould, garden compost or well rotted manure.

Pruning Hosta

Remove dead foliage as it dies back, towards the end of the growing season.

Pests and Diseases

Slugs and snails love the leaves and can quickly make unsightly holes, eventually stripping the plant bare, if left uncontrolled. To deter them, surround the plants with sharp grit or crushed egg shells. Alternatively plant in pots or containers, edged with copper tape or a strip of rough 'wet-n-dry' sandpaper.

Note: Slugs and snails mostly attack a night, so if you nip out with a torch you can usually pick them off by hand. If slugs are a big problem in your area consider growing a slug resistant variety.

Propagating Hostas

Divide established clumps in early spring or late summer.

Sow seed under glass in early spring. Seedings from variegated forms and cultivars won't usually come true to type but can often be interesting and rewarding.

Popular Varieties of Hosta

A wide range of varieties and cultivars are available:

Hosta crispula has heart-shaped, dark-green, broad pointed waxy leaves, edged with white. Lilac flowers on 2ft (60cm) high stems in summer.

Hosta elata (montana type) has wavy large light green leaves with deeply impressed veins. Loose clusters of white/lavender flowers in mid summer. Height to 3ft (90cm).

Hosta fortunei has grey-green heart shaped leaves with lilac flowers in midsummer. Variety 'albopicta' has lush creamy-yellow leaves edged with green. Other good cultivars include: 'Aurea' (yellow to green), 'Aureomarginata' (green leaves, edged yellow. Available at Van Meuwen ) and 'Obscura Marginata' (green edged creamy yellow). 'Albopicta' has broad, creamy-yellow, heart-shaped leaves with contrasting green margins. Available at You Garden. Variety 'Patriot' has ovate leaves with dark green centers and white streaked margins. Available at Gardening Express.

Hosta lancifolia (narrow-leaved) forms a neat mound of narrow, lance shaped, glossy dark green leaves. Pale lilac flowers in late summer. Height to 2ft (60cm), spread to 1.5ft (45cm).

Hosta plantaginea has glossy yellow-green leaves and fragrant white flowers. This variety needs a sunny position. Height and spread to 2ft (60cm).

Hosta rectifolia has upright lance-shaped dark green leaves, up to 1ft (30cm) long. Large violet-blue flowers in late summer. Height to 3ft (90cm), spread to 1.5ft (45cm).

Hosta sieboldiana forms clumps of glossy blue-green leaves and has off-white flowers. Height to 2ft (60cm). Variety 'elegans' has corrugated, slightly cup-shaped, blue-grey leaves, topped with white/lilac bell-shaped flowers on tall slender stems in summer. Available at Thompson & Morgan and Van Meuwen. Other good forms include 'Big Daddy' with enormous puckered grey-blue leaves and spikes of greyish-white bell-shaped flowers in June. Available at Gardening Express.

Hosta tardiflora is a dwarf form that produces a neat mound of glossy green, lance shaped, leaves. Mauve flowers in early autumn. Height and spread to 10in (25cm).

Hosta undulata (wavy plantain) has wavy green leaves with white splashes and lilac funnel-shaped flowers. Variety 'albomarginata' has narrowish green leaves with a narrow white edge, available at Gardening Express. Height to 1.5ft (45cm). Other variegated forms such as 'mediovariegata' are also popular, available at Van Meuwen.

Hosta ventricosa (blue plantain) is a vigorous species with blue-grey heart shaped leaves. Violet mauve flowers in mid to late summer.

Hosta Hybrids

Garden centres mostly sell hybrid forms, which usually have richly coloured leaves and/or striking variegation.

Hosta 'Blue Angel' on of the best blue forms, it produces a clump of wavy-edged, large blue-grey leaves. Pale lavender-white flowers in June. Height to 30in (80cm). Available at You Garden and Van Meuwen.

Hosta 'Blue Cadet' produces blue-green leaves and lovely purple flowers. Available at Gardening Express.

Hosta 'Gold Standard' is a medium to large plant with wide-oval, puckered, yellow leaves, with dark green margins.

Hosta 'Fire and Ice' produces unusual flame shaped leaves the colour of ice with green edging. Great to brighten a shady border. Lilac blooms in summer. RHS Award of Garden Merit. Height and spread to about 3ft (1m). Available at Van Meuwen.

Hosta 'Fragrant Blue' has heart shaped foliage with a blue tint, providing a colourful backdrop to the midsummer mauve flowers. Low growing. Height to 1.5ft (50cm) spread: to 3ft (1m). Available at Thompson & Morgan and Van Meuwen.

Hosta 'Francee' is a lovely white-margined form with blue-green leaves each with a slightly jagged yellowish band round the edge. Spikes of lavender bell shaped flowers in summer. Available at Gardening Express.

Hosta 'Great Expectations' is an early flowering hosta with stiff, heart shaped, variegated foliage, in splashes of yellow and green. Reasonably slug resistant. Height to 2.3ft (70cm), spread to 4ft (1.2m). Available at Thompson & Morgan and Van Meuwen.

Hosta 'Guacamole' is an upright form with deeply veined green leaves with a deeper green margin. Very hardy and easy to grow. Looks good near water. Available at Gardening Express.

Hosta 'Empress Wu' is a giant hosta with immense green leaves with deep veining that gives a corrugated texture. Soft violet flowers tall stems in summer. Available at Gardening Express.

Hosta 'Honeybells' has light green wavy leaves (up to 1ft long). The flowers are lilac with splashes of violet.

Hosta 'Minuteman' (RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM)) has green leaves edged by contrasting cream margins. Pretty, lilac flowers appear in mid summer. Height to 22in (55cm), spread to 3ft (1m). Available at Thompson & Morgan and Van Meuwen.

Hosta 'Purple Sensation' is noted for its abundant, star shaped, purple blooms in midsummer. The bright green leaves are deeply furrowed with undulating edges. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Hosta 'Royal Standard' is a broad-spreading, medium-large hosta with slightly puckered glossy ovate leaves in apple-green. Fragrant white flowers in summer. Available at Gardening Express.

Hosta 'Shade Fanfare' has large heart shaped chartreuse leaves green with broad creamy yellow margins. Available at Gardening Express.

Hosta 'Sum and Substance' one of the most popular hostas with stiff leathery leaves in bright chartreuse fading to gold. Lavender flowers appear on 3ft (1m) stalks midsummer. Available at Gardening Express.

Hosta 'Wide Brim' has wide, heart-shaped puckered leaves, in dark green-blue with a cream margin. Pale lavender flowers in June-July. Height to 18in (45cm). Available at You Garden and Van Meuwen.

Slug Resistant Hostas

The thick, glaucous foliage of the following varieties are less likely to be attacked by slugs and snails:

Hosta 'Carnival' has grey-green leaves, splashed with wide margins of pale gold. Lavender-coloured flowers in summer. Prefers shade but will tolerate some sun. Height to 1.5ft (45cm), spread to 3ft (1m). Available at Van Meuwen.

Hosta 'Halcyon' produces dense clumps of grey-green leaves, topped with lavender flower spikes in late summer. Height and spread to 20in (50cm). Available at Van Meuwen and Gardening Express.

Hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears' a compact form, with rounded blue-green foliage and lavender-pink blooms. Height and spread to 12in (30cm).

Hosta 'First Frost' has attractive variegated foliage with a broad gold edge. Height to 18in (45cm), spread to 36in (90cm).