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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Friday
May222009

Shade Perennials; How About Hosta?

Hosta "Wide Brim". Hosta is a work horse of the garden. Just plant it and forget it. This is another easy-care perennial. The only maintenance required is to snip off the bare spikes that carried its flowers after the blooms have gone. Even that chore is optional. Hostas are known for their resilience and durability. They withstand cold, heat, drought, clay and will bounce back from practically any trauma. This perennial grows reliably from zones 3 to 9.

As a lawn specimen or as a structural element in a shade garden, there is nothing as elegant as a mature Hosta gracing a garden with its symmetrical arcing leaves. Except for a few cultivars that can thrive in full sun, most Hostas do best in part or deep shade. They are successfully combined with other reliable shade plants to create visual interest where strong colored perennials cannot bloom. The graceful arcing of the Hosta leaves, like a short fountain, adds elegance to any garden whether it is used as a specimen plant or as part of a perennial composition.

There are thousands of varieties of Hostas to choose from. The easiest way to make a selection is to first determine which shades of green would look best in the garden and which variegated colors would be most effective. If an architectural or formal look is desired, choose one variety only and repeat it in several spots in the garden. Also, planting a row of one variety makes a grand impression.

By mid-summer, some Hostas become food for slugs that eat through their leaves and convert them into lace doilies. In most cases, cultivars with leathery elephantine-textured leaves are relatively immune to this slug fest.

Hostas work well as a physical border to delineate a flower bed from a lawn. Their arcing leaves suffocate the lawn beneath its leaves, ensuring that no grass will creep into the flower bed. Their sturdy root system does double duty as an anchor that prevents erosion on slopes. This feature also makes Hostas difficult to dig up when they become too large for their location. That is why it’s best to plant strategically to avoid having to move them later. However, they are so rugged that, if necessary, they can be dug up and divided anytime. Once out of the ground,  slice through the root ball with the edge of a spade to divide it into as many plants as needed. The new plants will go into shock when replanted, but no matter how withered they might look from the trauma of propagation, they will grow back the following season in good health.

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Reader Comments (3)

Well a very good and informative blog...keep it up.I am mysely a garden lover in the himalayas, a place called kashmir(India).I have a green finger to some extent too.Found your blog interesting because climatically we shear the same four seasons and thus the flowers too.

July 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArshad

I have many hostas in my garden and have great success with them for many years. However, this summer two of my hostas had issues. In both cases the individual leaves and stems fell out. The two plants were located in separate areas of my garden. I have other identical plants right next to both of these plants that are doing fine, I moved one plant to another location after pulling out all the lose stems. I am about to remove the second one all together as the entire plant seems to be effected. I have no idea what has caused this. I live on Long Island and we did have a very hot spell that lasted over a week. I do water regularly so I doubt that's the cause. But I'm wondering if you have any idea what has caused this to happen.

August 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRicki

This has been an unusual summer for all perennials. Plants that seemed to never have issues before have become problematic for some gardeners. I suggest that you wait until next season. Perhaps winter will resolve all issues. In the meanwhile, I recommend that you contact an upscale nursery in your neighborhood to find out if they or their clients have reported similar plant behavior and if there has been a successful remedy specific to your location.

September 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterAllan

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