Growing hostas is extremely enjoyable and rewarding, so it can be very frustrating when your beloved specimens are eaten or destroyed by garden pests.
Slugs and Snails
For hostas, the number one pest is without doubt slugs and snails. Very often people give up growing hostas all together after they get fed up of the slug and snail damage. Fear not! There are many ways to stop your hostas being damaged.
Garlic - Many of our customers have sent great feedback on their use of garlic wash to keep their hostas from being eaten. You can make your own garlic wash by boiling 2 whole garlic bulbs in approx 5L of water. Stew until soft, use the back of a fork to squash the bulbs and remove the husks from the solution. Finally sieve into a bottle or container. Now you have your concentrated solution you can dilute into a watering can, it is up to you how strong your solution is but generally two or three table spoons at a minimum into a 10L watering can. Water on and around your hostas. Garlic wash is an excellent chemical free alternative that helps keep your hostas look lovely.
Copper - An excellent and attractive way of protecting your plants is by using copper. Some choose to use copper bands which you can stick around your pots to create a barrier. Is worth keeping an eye out online as you can also get very nice copper pots which are impenetrable to slugs and snails. Slugs and snails receive a small electric shock when passing over copper which makes it extremely uncomfortable for them. Copper has been a key element to our flower show displays for many years.
Crushed Seashells - This is an excellent way to create a sharp, hard surface that slugs and snails will avoid. Combining crushed seashells with another method such as the Garlic Wash can be very effective.
Good Housekeeping - There is a lot to be said for general good housekeeping in the garden. Avoid leaving debris and mess where slugs and snails can shelter. In the Autumn and Winter, clear the tops of your plants and remove any eggs you may find. Lift your pots up to check for eggs laid underneath. By keeping everything clear and tidy you will drastically reduce the amounts of slugs and snails that will want to inhabit your garden. Find more information on slug prevention on our Dealing with Slug and Snails blog.
Apart from slugs and snails, which are the main pests for hostas, vine weevil come second. Although certainly not as common to every garden as slugs and snails are, vine weevil can cause rather a lot of damage if left untreated. Vine weevil cause two different types of damage at two different stages of their life cycle. The first damage is caused when they are larvae, vine weevil grubs hatch and begin eating the plants roots. One or two larvae are unlikely to do any great damage to an established specimen, but an infestation can mean enough of the roots are damaged that the plant dies. Once larvae hatch, the adults feed off hosta leaves and leave circular cuts on the edges.
If vine weevil are detected in your garden, the best way of removing them is using nematodes. Nematodes are microscopic worms that will seek out vine weevil larvae and kill them. Make sure you buy nematode products specific for vine weevil. Nematodes are easy to apply, usually using a watering can or sprayer over the affected area. It is best to reapply a week or so after your first application. Nematodes do not work if soil temperature is under 5°.
Squirrels, rabbits and deer
As lovely as it is to have wildlife in the garden, they can sometimes be a pest when they damage your plants. Squirrels are not too bad, they will dig up your pots and beds and bury their acorns causing the occasional sapling to emerge from peculiar places. If you are having issues with squirrels there are repellents that you can buy, but generally if the damage is minimal it isn't necessary.
Rabbits and deer will eat hostas and will do so if given the opportunity. With a consistency similar to lettuce hostas are a delicacy to these critters. At the nursery we are right on the edge of a forest full of deer and rabbits which is lovely, but has meant we have had to build rabbit and deer fencing to protect the hostas. In a garden it is much easier to keep these animals out using barriers, if there are areas you are unable to protect you can use repellents. Garlic wash used for slug prevention has also proven to be effective.