Serene in green, Hosta is known for its dapper foliage, but Hosta flowers can draw the eye too.
Did you get handy with a paintbrush over lockdown? Sales of green paint shot up during the pandemic, as people forced to stay home lusted over interiors in meditative, natural colours. But gardens became refuges too, and those looking to carry the calm vibes into their outside space will find a friend in the Hosta. With cultivars in practically every shade of green, this genus of herbaceous perennials is exactly the biophilic balm the doctor ordered.
Where to plant Hostas
With a palette ranging from bright emerald and dark forest green to steely blues, these elegant plants are just the thing to brighten up a dark corner. They thrive in sheltered spots in north-facing as well as east and west-facing gardens. But it's not just their foliage making gardeners fall head over heels. Tall spikes of dinky bell-shaped flowers add interest and, importantly, fodder for bees.
What's more, Hostas provide an invaluable groundcover in that awkward no man’s land under trees and shrubs, where there’s little hope for the grass or sun-loving plants.
While Hostas create a luscious carpet of green when planted en mass, they can also wow as individual specimens. A couple of Hostas in containers can give your shady patio an instant facelift. Choose a small or medium-leaved Hosta paired with colourful annuals for a long-lasting display.
Another benefit of planting Hosta in a container is they might be better protected from slugs and snails.
Garden designer Jack Wallington keeps them at bay by sitting his pots on gravel and adding copper tape around the pot. Our contributor Helen Allsebrook swears by sheep's wool. If you struggle with slugs and snails, opt for varieties with larger, tougher leaves and newer cultivars that are more resistant. Hopefully, a combination of these will keep your Hosta leaves from becoming Swiss cheese.
Fallen for Hosta but don’t have much shade? Do as [Jack Wallington](https://www.jackwallington.com/15-sensational-plant-combinations-you-can-try-at-home-from-the-rhs-chelsea-flower-show-2017/) does and plant your Hostas among Dahlias or taller plants which can shield them from the sun.
How to care for Hosta
We defy you to find a cheaper form of therapy than encountering a bed of Hostas nestled in the dappled shade of woodland or hugging the edges of a babbling brook. Known to grow up wet cliff faces, mountain meadows and woodland, its native environment is a good indication of the conditions you'll need to provide.
In lieu of a babbling brook, you'll want to keep the soil moist as Hostas thrive in rich, damp soil in shady locations. Clay or loamy soil works best, and remember, damp doesn't mean boggy. The key is well-draining but consistently moist soil, especially when the plant is still young. They will kick the bucket in prolonged periods of drought.
Remember that Hostas with heavy variegation in chartreuse and creamy white will need more sunlight than their darker-leaved cousins. But too much direct sunlight can burn the leaves. Additionally, if your Hosta leaves turn brown, it's usually a sign of too much light and not enough water.
Hostas flourish in the summer months and die back over winter. You can cut them back to the ground, and in spring, you'll notice new shoots pushing through the soil. Eventually, these will unfurl to become those look-at-me heart-shaped leaves.
Divide your Hosta in spring and replant the root cuttings or if you're feeling generous, share them with friends.
Did you know?
- The Hosta originated in East-Central China before spreading throughout Asia, into Korea and Russia, and became hugely popular in Japan.
- The genus is named after Austrian botanist Nicholas Thomas Host. But the plants were introduced to Europe around 1829 by Philipp Franz von Siebold.
- In Japan, it is eaten as a vegetable; the mature leaves are treated like spinach.
- The Hosta has had its portrait painted throughout the years, but artistic representations were particularly prolific during the Edo period in Japan.
- European explorers would often task Japanese locals to collect plants for them. These "original, native" specimens were actually taken from ancient temple gardens that had been in cultivation for hundreds of years. This meant plants that were once described as true species, such as Hosta fortunei, are now known to be cultivars, but that doesn't make them any less attractive to us.
- One particular breeder, Karl Foerster, liked to juxtapose large leafy plants with grasses and ferns. He called this combination Dreiklang, which translates as "the sounding of three notes in perfect harmony."
- The Hosta has a reputation for being hostile when it comes to a man's best friend. The glycoside saponins can cause abdominal issues, including but not limited to vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhoea. Find out which other plants are poisonous to dogs in the article below.
Where to buy Hostas
The Hosta Collection
Bali-Hai NurseryHosta 'T Rex'
Bali-Hai NurseryHosta 'Barbara May'
Bali-Hai NurseryHosta 'Love Pat' - Bare Root Plant - Hardy
Bali-Hai NurseryHosta 'June' ® - Bare Root Plant - Hardy
Bali-Hai NurseryHosta 'Blue Mouse Ears' - Bare Root Plant - Hardy
Bali-Hai NurseryHosta 'Empress Wu' ® single division - - Bare Root Plant - Hardy
Is your patch bursting with flower power? Let us know what you're growing by using the hashtag #ShowUsYourBlooms
This article is part of Candide's Festival of Flowers, an online floral take over, aiming to unite the nation in a joyful celebration of gardens, plants, pollinators and people! Read more from the series below.