Van Chaplin

Some simple care can really make a big difference.

Pretty flowers and big, bold leaves. It's no wonder hostas are favorite perennials for the shade. If yours don't look as fabulous as the ones shown here, the following pointers should help.

  • Light--Hostas prefer a few hours of morning sun, but shield them from the hot midday and afternoon sun. Yellow-leaved and variegated hostas need more shade than solid green ones. Light shade from tall trees is fine, but don't plant hostas in the woods. They don't like root competition from trees and shrubs.
     
  • Moisture--Water thoroughly once a week throughout the summer. Apply 1 to 1½ inches each time. Brown edges on leaves indicate that plants aren't getting enough water.
     
  • Soil--Hostas like fertile, well-drained soil that contains oodles of organic matter, such as composted manure, sphagnum peat moss, compost, and chopped leaves. If your soil is poor, consider lifting dormant hostas this fall, amending the soil, and then replanting.
     
  • Voles--These mouselike rodents chew off hostas at the base. To foil them, remove all mulch from around the plants--voles like to hide beneath it. When you plant hostas, place a couple of shovelfuls of sharp gravel in the holes around the roots. Voles don't like to dig through gravel.
     
  • Slugs and snails--These pests prefer chewing holes in hostas with thin foliage. They usually don't bother selections with thick leaves, such as 'Elegans' and 'Sum and Substance.'
     
  • Coastal South--Most hostas don't do well in this climate. One that does is fragrant plantain lily ( Hosta plantaginea), which bears white flowers in summer. Forget about hostas in the Tropical South. They won't grow there.

Plant Now, Save Bucks
Just because it's hot outside, that doesn't mean you can't plant hostas. Potted hostas can go in the ground anytime, as long as you keep them watered. And because many garden centers are having plant sales now, you can probably pick up good-size plants from 20% to 50% off.

Among our favorite hostas are 'August Moon' (chartreuse leaves; white flowers), 'Frances Williams' (blue-green leaves edged in yellow; lavender flowers), 'Gold Standard' (gold leaves with green edges; lavender flowers), 'Royal Standard' (glossy green leaves; fragrant white flowers), and 'Elegans' (huge, puckered, blue-green leaves; white flowers).

"Help Your Hostas" is from the August 2003 issue of Southern Living.

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