What are Hosta?

Miranda Fine
Miranda Fine
Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Hosta are shade loving plants known for their showy foliage. They are perennials, which means that they die back at the end of each growing season and resprout in spring. They are shade tolerant plants, and are mostly grown as ground covers. There are over 3000 varieties of Hosta cultivars, or different varieties of the plants, that come in varying sizes and with different colored or variegated (one or more colors) foliage.

Hosta are native to Japan, China and Korea. They grow from rhizomes which are tubular, fibrous roots. The leaves range from small to large in size and are usually oval or shovel shaped. Hosta reach maturity in 4-8 years. The plants are generally easy to grow and long-lived. Young and mature plants are widely available at garden centers and nurseries, which are helpful resources for determining which cultivars do well in your area.

Hosta are especially popular in plantings for shaded areas, such as under a leafy hardwood tree. Although they are usually grown for their foliage, the plants have spikes of white or purple flowers each summer. The flowers are usually odorless, but some cultivars are scented. Most cultivars do best in areas where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade. Hosta require at least one inch of water weekly, during the growing season, either from rain or irrigation. The plants also need to be fertilized, but not after mid-summer.

The blue hued varieties do best in very shady areas, while the variegated varieties tolerate more sun. Some popular cultivars are “Francee” which has green leaves with white edges, “Gold Standard”, which has yellow leaves with gold edges, and “Blue Angel” with large blue-green leaves. The American Hosta Society, an association of Hosta enthusiasts, can assist you in finding out what varieties are best for your region and personal landscaping needs.

Despite being easy to grow, Hosta are very popular with deer, slugs and snails. They are also susceptible to foliar nematodes, which are microscopic worms that attack the plant’s leaves and a disease called Hosta X. Tall fences and guard dogs are the only effective way to keep deer away, which can reduce a large Hosta planting to stalks in a matter of minutes. Commercial snail and slug baits are effective, but introduce chemicals that are hazardous to children and pets into the garden.

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