Hosta expert and author
WHETHER ITS A NINE-DOLLAR PLANT OR A PRICEY RARITY won at an
Mike Shadrack explains
why the hosta is Perennial
Number One: “Don’t you
feel sorry for those folks
who grow delphiniums?
They get a week of beautiful
flowers and, then, for the
rest of the year, they only
have that crap foliage to look
at. There’s no comparison.
People buy hostas for the
foliage rather than the
mix well with others—and
because they come in all
sizes from four inches to
three feet tall, they can be
planted front, middle, and
back of any garden bed.”
Hostas are for almost every
garden, thriving especially
well in regions with cold
winters. Vast numbers
of local gardeners grow
them, in spite of the famed
problems with deer and
slugs. Show up at a WNY
Plant Society (wnyhosta.
com) meeting some Sunday
afternoon to learn why they
auction, a hosta will give its best performance if it gets a good start. Hostas are
probably the easiest perennials on the planet, but they are living things and
have a few needs.
The reputation of hostas as “shade plants” does them a disservice. Yes, they
tolerate more shade than most perennials, but most hostas prefer more
light than they get in the typical shady spot dug between tree roots. Most
would thrive in morning sun and afternoon shade, or a full day of dappled
sunlight—if they get enough moisture. Hostas like lots of water, but should
drain well. It’s a reasonable generalization that yellow hostas accept more
direct sunlight than blue or darker green hostas (and the blues fade out in
sunshine). But the ideal spot is cultivar-specific and, over time, they will show
you what’s best for them—especially if you try the same cultivar in three spots.
Planted in the ground, hostas will do best in a prepared bed with compost-rich
soil, accompanied by compatible perennials or surrounded by a sea of other
hostas. If you are planting hostas under trees—a situation they tolerate better
than most plants—at least clear the roots in a two-foot circle around them.
Alternatively, many gardeners grow wonderful hostas in pots in rich potting
mix, and display them on a deck or place them around the garden as accents.
Like many perennials and most woody plants, hosta roots grow outward
PLANTING TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS
rather than down, so it’s important to prepare a wide hole that isn’t much
deeper than the size of the root ball or the pot it came in. In the center of the
hole, make a little mound that you can spread the roots over. Do not plant the
hosta too deeply; you should feel or see the little nubs (budding eyes) at the
base of the plant above ground. Once the plant is placed in the hole, backfill
with enriched garden soil. If you are planting hostas in containers, untangle
their roots (bare-root them) if they have been a long time in their pots,
and allow them some room to grow. (Container growing means eventually
repotting them; you’ll know when the pots no longer have enough soil to
Bob Solberg covers the little mound of soil with pea gravel, then spreads the
Give a great hosta a great home; it will reward you for decades
roots over it, then covers them with more gravel, and finally covers that with
compost or manure-enriched soil (some fertilizer may be added).
Authors and experts Mike and Kathy Shadrack plant their hostas in a mixture
of fifty percent good garden soil, twenty-five percent organic matter such
as rotted manure or composted leaves and grass, and twenty-five percent
particulate—like pea gravel or chicken grit.
Well planted hostas need minimum care. Learn to manage slugs and deer (or
Hybridizers often focus on variegation.
plant in containers that are kept out of harm’s way). You’ll find a plethora
of products and opinions about solving these problems, including fencing,
repellants, scare tactics, and careful placement. For a recent planting, water
deeply whenever the top inch of soil feels dry. After two or three years, except
during severe droughts, hostas in this region will do fine relying simply on
rainfall. The plants are extremely hardy. No winter protection is needed.