Growing hostas is extremely enjoyable, not to mention addictive, with the selection of varieties now available. Hostas are not fussy when it comes to what soil they are planted in, but for best growing results, use well-drained damp soil with a PH of around 6.5 or 7. As for position of planting, although different varieties of hostas have specific requirements, the general rule is to plant in dappled shade or an area with limited direct sunlight, under a tree canopy, for example. By doing this you restrict the amount of direct sunlight on the leaves which can cause scorching. Some varieties are more tolerant of sunlight and are not as prone to scorching, such as ‘Sum and Substance’ and ‘Sunpower’. By choosing the right planting position, your hostas will look their best.
There are many planting companions that complement hostas such as ferns, astilbes and heucheras, all thriving in similar conditions.
Many varieties look fantastic when grown in a pot; take into consideration the maximum size of your hosta before choosing a pot for it as larger more vigorous varieties can fill a smaller pot rather quickly. For this reason, many people see miniatures as the best hostas for pots.
Hostas do not require a huge amount of maintenance and can be an excellent, hassle free addition to your garden. They will start to appear around late March to early April, although this can be weather dependent, first showing as pointed shoots from the ground which are often referred to as eyes. Most varieties of hostas flower around July time; their flower colours vary although most are lavender or purple. There are a few hosta varieties that produce wonderfully scented flowers. Some people choose to cut hosta flowers off; this does not harm the plant and actually helps the leaves look their best further into the season.
As hardy perennials, hostas start to die back around October/November, although this can vary depending on variety and the weather. Once they have died back, you can simply remove the dead leaves to tidy. On the nursery we leave the dead leaves until January as they come away much easier then and you are less likely to leave behind messy strands. Hostas remain dormant throughout the winter months; they do not need to be frost protected although young plants can be vulnerable in extreme cold.
Once established in the ground hostas rarely require watering unless there is a particularly hot and dry spell. Hostas in pots and planters will require semi regular watering but can go up to two or three days without water. When watering, it is advisable to do so into the base of the plant and not onto the leaves. There are several reasons for this, one being water droplets which settle on the leaves will magnify sunlight and create burns on the leaf surface. A second reason for this is that if you live in an area with particularly hard water, you will get a white powdery residue on the leaves. These hard water marks do not harm the plant in any way nor do they remain.
There are a few things people think about when they consider growing hostas in their garden. The first is usually slugs. Some of us are lucky and slugs are rarely a problem in our gardens, others not so much. There are many ways of managing slugs and protecting your hostas, from regular slug pellets to more homeopathic and organic solutions. We suggest if you do choose to use slug pellets to apply them well in advance before the spring, usually around the middle of February, as slugs do not hibernate and this can reduce their number before your hostas are out. Apply a second time around late March/April, as hostas start to show if you feel this is necessary.
Many hosta lovers will not use slug pellets as they have young children, pets or worry about the wildlife. There are many pet/wildlife safe and organic alternatives, such as wool pellets. These do, however, have different requirements when applying, and using them in the same way as regular slug pellets is ineffective. There are many other methods hosta growers have tried with varying degrees of success. Egg shells or any sharp decorative chipping can help as slugs will sometimes avoid moving across them. You only have to trawl the internet to find lists of old wives tales but don’t be so quick to rule them out.
Hostas grown in pots tend to be less affected by slugs and snails, however, protecting the pot with copper bands can also help. Raising the pot over a dish of water will also ensure slugs and snails cannot reach the hosta. If your potted hostas have been eaten, the culprit will likely still be in the pot, hiding at the base of the plant or under the pot rim.