Hosta, or banana lily, is one of the best and most reliable plants for home gardens. They thrive in shade (often a difficult area for any gardener), have few pest problems and are reliable in cool climates.
There are hundreds of cultivars available, offering a wide range of plant sizes, leaf shapes and foliage colours, as well as delicate flowers. No wonder they are so popular!
Lots of variety
Hostas grow in clumps of oval or heart-shaped leaves or on single stems. Foliage colors include various shades of green, gray and blue, often with gold, yellow, cream or white variegation.
Some varieties offer a cheerful mix of colors in each leaf, but remember that the more white or cream the color, the less effective the plant is at photosynthesis. This means that plants with greater amounts of white or cream will be less vigorous growers.
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The leaves may also be smooth or wrinkled and wavy, with a dull, glossy or waxy finish.
The flowers are produced on erect stems above the foliage. The flowers range from white to lavender to purple, and some are very fragrant. Some varieties begin blooming in early summer; Others in mid to late summer during frost.
If you’re a gardener who doesn’t like hostas, that’s okay, just remove the flower stalks when they appear by cutting them as close to the crown of the plant as possible. This will not have any harmful effect on the health of the plant.
Hostas also vary greatly in plant size, ranging from 2 inches to 4 feet. Small species can be planted close together for a low-growing ground cover; Larger plants can be used in foundation plantings, as specimen plants or in perennial beds to provide contrast with columnar plants such as delphiniums or iris.
Choose a location
Although hostas will tolerate full shade, their best location is actually a partially or lightly shaded location. Some will tolerate full sun if mulched heavily and watered regularly, but hostas grown in full sun usually suffer from leaf chlorosis or dry, scorched foliage by midsummer.
Hostas are ideal for flower beds on the north side of a building, fence, or in other areas where they will receive bright, indirect light or light shade but no direct sun.
Choose a location protected from wind and cold if possible. Large hosta leaves are easily damaged by wind and hail, which will not kill the plants, but will spoil the appearance of the foliage for a season. Most varieties will be damaged by winds over 35 mph.
Deep, organic soil with good drainage is ideal for hostas. If your soil is heavy, compacted, or has been disturbed by construction, you can improve it to improve plant growth by adding 2 to 3 inches of compost or other organic matter over the planting area and incorporating it to a depth of 10 inches. Avoid planting hostas in areas with poorly drained soil, which may lead to root and crown rot.
Because hostas need a constant supply of moisture, mulching is recommended in the summer to conserve water and reduce weed competition. However, only apply about 1 inch of loose organic mulch since thick layers of mulch are more likely to promote high slug populations.
Hostas are easy-care perennials. Pest problems are few and may include slugs in wet years.
Spring is the best time to plant hostas because it gives the plants plenty of time to become well established before the heat of summer or cold of winter. However, if well cared for after planting, container-grown plants can be placed in the garden any time the ground is not frozen.
Hostas can be divided in either early spring or late summer after temperatures have cooled and flowering has finished. Either dig up the old plants and cut them into sections with a sharp knife or use a sharp shovel to remove the offsets while leaving the mother plant in place. Make sure each section has at least two or three buds and plenty of roots.
Keep the plant and its roots moist. Dig a hole slightly shallower than the root ball and at least 1 1/2 times as wide. Place the hosta plant in the hole so that the crown is just above the soil level and add soil as needed. Don’t bury the crown. Do not tamp the filled soil. Water the soil well to remove air pockets and allow the soil to settle.
After transplanting in late summer, at least one growing season must pass before active above-ground growth resumes. Starter fertilizers (high in phosphorus) can be applied to transplanted hostas to promote root growth. Overfertilization should be avoided, especially in late summer transplants, to reduce the possibility of delayed hardening off.
Due to the continuing popularity of hostas and the ever-increasing number of cultivars available, the American Hosta Society helps gardeners find a new cultivar each year that grows well throughout the U.S. It is widely available and retails for about $15 in the United States. Selection year. Check out their Hosta of the Year program for recommendations and photos of past recommendations. Pictured above is the most recent winner, the 2022 pick, Island Breeze.
Sarah Browning is an Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension. To ask a question or reach her, call 402-441-7180 or email her at email@example.com or 444 Cherrycreek Road, Lincoln, NE 68528. Learn more about Nebraska Extension at Extension.unl.edu.