Hosta have leaves for days in sun or shade
Common Name : Hosta, plantain lily
Science-y Name : Hosta
A Few Cultivars : August Moon, Alligator Alley, Band of Gold… to literally name just a few. There are so many to choose from!
Native or Non : Decidedly non-native. Many hosta come from Japan where the common name is gibōshi.
Characteristics : Leaves! Hosta from the small to the tall are a fountain of leaves that range in size from a dog’s ear to an elephant’s ear (well, a small elephant). Leaves come in a variety of cool greens, soft yellows, dusty blues, and variegated with green and creamy whites. Each leaf is supported by a sturdy stem that radiates out from a central crown above the roots.
Most hostas also flower and depending on the variety bloom in late spring through early fall. Buds on the stalks open up to elongated bell-like flowers that come in shades of purple or simple white.
While the flowers are sweet it’s the leaves on many hosta that are the wow factor. Some varieties, such as the Empress Wu or Gentle Giant, grow up to 46 inches tall and 70 inches wide. That’s stems and leaves. It’s always humbling to look a plant in the eye without crouching. One leaf off one of the giant varieties is large enough to make an impromptu rain hat with an adequate brim if you need protection in a sudden downpour. Just a bit of twine to tie it under your chin and you’re a true garden sprite.
Fun Fact : In the yard of one customer there is a fun little variegated hosta with the great name
Curly Fries. This wasn’t just the name given to the plant by the home owner; this is a hosta that is for sale in nurseries and was also named hosta of the year in 2016 by The American Hosta Growers Association.
Curly Fries is a cultivar (a plant that has been produced through selective and controlled breeding) created by Robert Solberg, who named it because of the ruffled appearance of the hosta leaves.
Naming a cultivar has benefits. For Curly Fries it can be registered with The American Hosta Society which is the International Cultivar Registration Authority for hosta cultivars. A cultivar name makes it easier for customers to find the plant in a nursery, and sometimes the cultivar names can be patented which gives the patent holder legal rights to the cultivar and the ability to license growing rights to others. (There is no patent on Curly Fries that we are aware of.)
So when you see those fun names on the plants at your local nursery know that there’s a story behind how that plant came to be before it graced your garden!
Care Considerations : Hosta like rich soils and shady spots, but this can make them likely to get root rot without proper attention. RAG Thyme gardeners will check hosta for signs of rot and be sure that any mulch in the garden bed isn’t crowding the crown. Mulch that is piled too high or crowding the crown will hold in moisture.
Two other big hosta pests are rabbits and deer. Rabbits prefer the new growth and stems, while deer will happily snack on the leaves. There are a few things to potentially deter these snackers; a sliver of Irish Spring soap left near spring growth is stinky enough to keep bunny and deer away from tender young leaves. And there are spray repellents that also help. Both of these deterrents will need refreshing through the season. Reapply spray repellents after rain, or every few weeks if you start to notice they’re being nibbled. Truth is, there may not be much that will keep rabbit and deer away from those tender, tasty leaves forever.
Every few years hosta should be split to promote healthy growth or they will die back in the middle. Our gardeners will talk with you about the best time to split a plant and where the “new” plant can be placed in a garden.
Contact us to get an estimate on RAG Thyme services for your yard and garden! We’ll help existing plants stay brilliant, or suggest alternatives with as much beauty and personality.