Hostas are the bad-boys of shade gardening: They come in literally hundreds of named forms with leaves that vary in size from 1 inch to 2 ft across. They go particularly well with ferns and other fine leaved plants like box: just look at all the textures in the picture above! (click on it to see the real details) But take care: Hosta come in soooo many different forms, colours and textures that collecting them can become addictive. I’ve resisted, and tried to use them only to add interest, not to become the main attractions. Except for today. Today they get a blog-post of their very own.
Their puckered, variagated leaves form distinct clumps that hold their own, whilst suppressing weeds. Although they are generally trouble-free they have one big issue: slugs ‘n snails. More than almost any other plants molluscs love to munch holes through Hosta leaves, leaving them looking tatty. Leaves without holes look so much nicer, so it is worth trying to keep then at their best. I use hedge-hog friendly ferrous sulphate slug bait, which is less toxic, and thus somewhat less effective, than metaldehyde formulas. (See article link at end for more detail)
I now have five different Hosta varieties in my garden. Here they are, but I’ll make no promise that I’ve got their names right. Please tell me if you spot a mistake. Naming Hostas (once you lose the label) is not for the feint hearted!
1. Hosta ‘Royal Wedding’
These two plants have grown very quickly each making clumps almost 3ft across (80cm). They were planted less than 2 years ago from 1 litre pots, at which point they only had half a dozen leaves each. Now… well they are squeezing out the ferns behind them, and the and Epimedium growing between them. I’ll let them have their way for another year or so. I’m quite curious how large they’ll get, and hope they will start to do that layers waterfall-look as their leaves stack up more densely. The cream edging is a bit on the yellow side for a white-garden theme, but it gets whiter as the season progresses. Also, their flowers are actually a pretty good pure white so get to stay on.
2.Hosta ‘Undulata Mediovariegata’
This clump is 2ft (60cm) across. is my largest leaved Hosta – hence the most attacked by molluscs. It’s looking pretty good in this picture, but it’s pretty well impossible to prevent slugs and snails gravitating to it. I like the crisp white variegation in the centre of each leaf, as well as the way each leaf swirls left or right, like a paint stroke from a flick of the wrist. Towards the back it’s produced a few all-green, non-variegated leaves. Not sure if I should remove these. In the case of variegated shrubs any shoots that revert to the plain green type grow more vigorously and end up taking over… Think I’d Better do a bit of Googling…
3. Hosta ‘Stiletto’
This is my choicest Hosta, a miniature variety, with leaves barely half an inch wide (1.5cm) and 4in long. The whole clump is only 15 inches across (40cm). I nearly didn’t put it in the ground, assuming slugs would wreck it, but it’s the large leaved varieties they go for, so… good call!
4. Hosta ‘First Frost’ (?)
I’m growing this Hosta in a pot in a shady corner. It’s leaves are a distinctively leaden blue with creamy white margins. These contrast nicely against the black pots.
5. Hosta ‘Praying Hands’
A tall, tight clump, spreading only 20inches (50cm) This is a relatively new cultivar. It holds its leaves upright, with each leaf somewhat rolled up. The distinct ribbing and wavy edges, emphasised with a fine white outline, make for some wonderful textures. Of all my Hostas these are the most trouble-free. Slugs seem to give them a pass. Don’t know why, but I’m grateful!
- Further Reading: Slug Bait – Metaldehyde vs Iron Phosphate By Robert Pavlis
See also: Are Hosta Flowers Worthwhile?