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Consumer Horticulture

Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

Hosta Has Much To Recommend It

Rosie Lerner, Purdue Consumer Horticulture Specialist

Released August 20, 1998

If you're looking for a plant that is winter hardy throughout the Midwest, excels under shady conditions and has fabulous foliage as well as attractive flowers, then Hosta is the plant for you. Also known as plantain lily, Hosta performs best in partial to full shade, although some have been able to survive full sun conditions if given a cool environment with plenty of moisture. The leaves will tend to burn or turn sickly yellow if given too much heat and sun.

There are hundreds of different Hosta cultivars that have been introduced by breeders over the years. Some of the more common types will be relatively inexpensive for those who want to give them a trial run. For the serious Hosta collector, there are new and/or rare cultivars that cost $100 or more for just one small plantlet! There are dwarfs that only reach a few inches tall and wide to giants reaching five feet in spread.

Hosta is available in a wide variety of colors and textures, including leaves of blue, green, yellow or white variegation, and leaves with waffle, stripe, or pleated texture patterns. Some Hosta have white flowers; others are blue. Some are even fragrant.

Hosta is relatively pest-free, though in wet seasons, slugs really can take a bite out of the foliage. Various slug baits and home remedies, such as trapping slugs in saucers of beer, have been used with some success.

Hosta is usually sold as containerized plants and can be transplanted to the garden just about any time the ground is not frozen. If planting in mid-summer's heat spell, take extra care to water the plants as often as needed to prevent them from wilting. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch will help conserve soil moisture, as well as cool the soil a bit.

The larger cultivars of Hosta will form quite sizable clumps. While there is no need to divide Hosta on a regular basis, it is a great way to propagate and expand your planting. You can dig up older plants in spring or early fall and cut into sections with a sharp knife. Or simply cut and lift an offset of an older plant with a sharp spade, leaving the mother plant in place. Replant the divisions as soon as possible to prevent the roots from excessive drying.

Last updated: 10 April 2006
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