As a specialist Hosta nursery, having a reputation for virus free plants is extremely important to us. Unfortunately HVX (Hosta Virus X) is not very well know and is often found in hostas for sale across the country. In this article we will try and give you an idea of what HVX is, how it may affect your plants, the symptoms you may see and how to avoid getting it in your garden in the first place.
What is HVX and what are the symptoms?
So what is HVX? HVX is a virus that affects hostas, it doesn't kill the plant but once infected the plant will never recover. The symptoms of HVX can vary plant to plant, but some of the tell tale signs include ink bleed in the veins, compressed sunken mottled leaf tissue and leaf discolouration.
It is important to note that some of these signs are not always caused by HVX, some can be a result of frost damage or random colour variations in the leaf so don't immediately panic if you see these symptoms. Another very important thing to know is that the absence of these symptoms is not an indication of the absence of infection. Some plants can be infected and show no symptoms for several years. Factors like weather and plant positioning can affect whether symptoms show or not.
How to avoid HVX in your hostas
So if HVX doesn't kill your plant why do we need to avoid it so much? Well although HVX does not kill hostas, it's symptoms are unsightly and it is highly infectious to all of the other hostas you may have in your garden. HVX spreads through sap, much like a human disease that needs to enter the blood stream. The fastest way to spread HVX is poor housekeeping, reusing tools and cutting implements without disinfecting is a sure fire way to spread infection. Always ensure that tools are disinfected, especially between flower cutting or division.
Quarantine new plants if you can, they don't need to be on the other side of the garden but avoid proximity that may allow two broken leaves to touch each others.
Choosing reputable sources to purchase your plants is very important and we don't just mean you have to buy from us! Ask the nursery or garden centre you are purchasing from about HVX and what prevention they have in place. If a nursery hasn't heard of HVX or don't have any prevention procedures then that probably answers how safe buying from there would be. We would always recommend choosing specialist nurseries to purchase your hostas. We've had several customers come to us, ecstatic to have purchased £3-4 plants from curtain chain supermarkets only to find they are HVX positive and they have also infected there other healthy plants. If a hosta is very cheap then it is unlikely to be from a specialist nursery that would be taking precautions.
Be wary of 'Virus Free Guarantee', no nursery, no matter how good they are can guarantee their plants are virus free for many of the reasons we've already mentioned. One notably reasons 'virus free' is hard is the fact infected plants can go years without symptoms. If a nursery can demonstrate they have sourcing, cleaning and quarantine procedures that is a very good indication that HVX is a lot less likely in there plants.
What to do if you think one your hosta is infected with HVX?
If you suspect one of your plants is infected with HVX, the first thing you can do is send us a picture. We're happy to try and identify HVX no matter where you've purchased the plant from. If the symptoms are obvious, we can confirm this to you and advise what to do next. If you're based in the UK, we can also send you a HVX test kit for a small charge. Virus testing kits are particularly helpful if the symptoms aren't obvious.
If your infected hosta was planted in the ground, we recommend that it is removed carefully and disposed of (not into your compost). Remove as much of the soil and any roots you can see. Once removed, we advise only to use this spot for other plants and not hostas, as new hostas can be infected by plant tissue left in the soil. Research has shown that HVX can stay present in the soil for over 2 years after an infected plant has been removed. Disinfect any tools thoroughly and wash your hands with warm soapy water before touch anything else.
If your infected hosta is in a pot, remove carefully and dispose of (again not into your compost). Either clean and disinfect your pot before using again for hostas or plant something other than a hosta in it. Disinfect any tools thoroughly and wash your hands with warm soapy water before you touch anything else.
What do we (Sienna Hosta) do to ensure we supply the healthiest plants possible?
Here at Sienna Hosta we take HVX very seriously. We only grow hostas here at the nursery, so if we didn't take it seriously and we had an outbreak of infection we would be in trouble. We can reassure customers that we have stringent procedures in place here at the nursery to help prevent HVX.
First and foremost, any new varieties we purchase are sourced from nurseries, plant breeders and plant collectors that we trust and we know have HVX prevention policies. Secondly, any new varieties we purchase are quarantined and observed prior to being made available. We also carry out random testing with HVX Immuno Test Kits. Finally, our disinfection procedures are very strict and thorough. Our potting bench is lined with a rubber mat that can be disinfected after splitting and potting. All tools are disinfected in between splitting and we disinfect our hands in between bare rooting every single plant we dispatch.
It may all sound like overkill, but we know that we are doing everything in our power to supply the healthiest plants possible to you and ultimately that is worth the extra cost and effort.