I spent quite a bit of time this morning cutting back my hostas before the inevitable hard frost turns the leaves into slimy brown messes. This is about the only care a hosta needs throughout the long growing season, and for that reason alone they have a high place at the top of my desirable perennials list.
There are other advantages, too. Hostas grow in shade or part shade, their foliage is beautiful, they can be divided easily, they come in all sizes and all shades of green, and they return dependably every spring.
What more could a gardener ask?
I cannot write about the hosta without mentioning my granddaughter Brittany. For years, this was the only plant she could grow, so her front garden is ringed with them. But this year, she has been concentrating on growing something else, and my first great-granddaughter is due any day. Maybe by the time you read this column, she will have arrived. Brothers Noah and Owen are anxious to see her after this long waiting time, and so is the rest of the family.
But back to the hosta.
In old gardening books and articles, it was known as funkia. Not a very attractive name, and maybe that was part of the reason they were dismissed as a rather unattractive species whose flowers were insignificant. Now, however, the hosta is recognized for all its usefulness and beauty in the garden.
The plants are available readily in the spring, and just about any gardener has plants in need of division that she will be glad to share.
As soon as those tender green shoots appear, the whole plant can be dug out and divided with a sharp spade or a heavy knife, depending on size. The place(s) for division will be obvious, with two or more sections clearly visible. Pop one section back in place, and the rest can be replanted in a shady spot or shared with friends.
Large hostas are good as a focal point in a garden and also can be grown in masses, in containers or along a border. Remember when you plant, it takes about five years to grow to full size, and full size may turn out to be very large indeed - up to 3 feet tall and about as wide in some cases.
This plant prefers partial shade, and some cultivars will grow adequately on the north side of the house where sunlight for part of the day is less intense and can be tolerated. Too much sun, especially in the afternoon, will scorch leaves.
Hostas grow best in rich, well-draining soil, as do most plants, but is not too fussy. Water regularly in times of sparse rainfall, and that is all the care they will need.
Slugs are the hosta's worst enemy, chewing holes in the leaves, so some remedy will be necessary in most locations. I use Escar-Go, which I like because the slugs crawl away and die discreetly out of sight. It is also harmless to dogs, cats, squirrels and the other wildlife that frequents my yard.
I am told deer enjoy a meal of hosta, but so far that is one species we do not have to worry about near downtown. Although who knows? The way wildlife is proliferating around here, anything is possible.
The hosta flowers are lily-like on long stems, in lavender or white, and I don't care for them. I usually snap them off if I am paying attention or bring them in as part of a bouquet.
Reasonable cost is another benefit of the hostas, added to all those listed above, so as you plan for spring, be sure to include these winners.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.
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