Friday, June 26, 2015

6 Top Hosta Myths

I love Hosta,  There, I said it!  I love buying them, planting them, and watching them get bigger and more beautiful every year.  I also like the way they brighten up my gardens like no other plant can.  They come in some gorgeous shades of green, white and yellow with leaves that range from small to large.  I really like the pie crust edge ones right now-they add a little something to the Hosta.  I am not a Hosta expert by any means, but I have a little experience and have done plenty of research on this wonderful species over the years and there are a few myths I hear constantly and it drive me nuts. So, here they are:

1.  Hostas are shade plants-this is probably the biggest myth there is.  I get so sick of people telling other people that Hostas can not tolerate any sun.  Hostas are the opposite, meaning they are shade tolerant which means they tolerate lower levels of light.  In Asia, where they are from, they grow in the sun.  Now, those of you in the southern part of it's range,  it is best to give them shade because the sun is stronger down there (it's all about latitude).  But those of us up here in the north, well, we can grow some of them in the sun as long as we supply adequate moisture.  The more sun and water they get the bigger they get.  Also, some of the yellow and variegated cultivars will color up better with some sun and the solid green ones are pretty sun tolerant.  The only ones I would avoid planting in the sun are the blue ones-they won't hold their color well (they will lose their waxy coating and look green).  Here are a couple pics of some I have growing in some sun:

Hostas "Brother Stefan" and "Elvis Lives" growing in the sun with Lamb's Ear
Hosta "August Moon" can take quite a bit of sun
Hosta "Honeybells", like most fragrant Hosta, can take the sun

2.  Hostas are hard to kill.  Another myth.  While it might be almost impossible to kill the "old fashioned" Hostas it is possible to kill a plant you paid good money for.  Some Hosta growers have also said that certain hostas like "Great Expectations" are very difficult.  If you google difficult Hostas you will see some chatter on the internet on the subject.  I haven't come across any that seemed difficult to me but I have lost Hosta "Sum of All" this past winter to vole damage.  They ate the entire crown.  Voles and rabbits are usually what take mine out, but I have lost a few to other issues related to the retailer I purchased them from, hence number 5 on my list.

"Old Fashioned" Hostas are hard to kill

3.  Hostas should be divided.  This is soooo untrue!  Sure, Hostas can be divided-but they don't need to be-at least not for many years.  Why is it that some people never let their Hostas reach their size potential?  I love big Hostas-I think that is when they look their best.  Most of the time heavy corrugation or huge leaves won't show up in a Hosta until it gets some age.  I didn't buy "Sum and Substance" or "Sagae" because I want a small Hosta with little leaves.  I bought them because they get huge with gorgeous leaves!  If you want  a bunch of small Hostas then buy small Hostas-there are many out there.  Don't buy An "Empress Wu" and then never let it get to the size that it should be.  That is just silly! 

Hosta "Sum and Substance" is young but already 3.5' wide
Hosta "Christmas Tree" is 4.5' wide

4.  Damage to Hosta plants is caused mostly from slugs.  This one drives me nuts!  All over the internet people show pictures of an issue with their Hosta and everyone always tells them it is slugs and to put eggshells down.  Slugs are not the only cause for holes or damage to Hosta plants.  There are sooo many reasons a Hosta can look terrible or have holes.  A few of these reasons are: falling objects, hail, cold damage, stepping on, cutworms, animals eating them, and anthracnose.  My biggest problem is with cutworms and I did a post last year on them-here it is:  Here are some examples of some damage I have on my Hostas and what caused it:
Slug damage on Hosta
Cutworm damage on Hosta
Hosta damage from being stepped on in early Spring
Damage on a Hosta from falling debris
Damage on Hosta from falling debris
Rabbit damage on Hosta

5.  It doesn't matter where you buy your Hosta plants.  Another falsehood.  I no longer buy my Hostas from a source that has no clue about the plant or who doesn't guarantee disease free stock.  Your big box stores and some nurseries are clueless to any diseases or issues associated with Hostas and because of that they are spreading the problem.  Heck, they have diseased stock sitting there on the salesfloor just waiting for an unwitting customer to buy up their infected plants.  Ignorance is on their side.  Personally, I opt to buy disease free stock from the most reputable sources.  And guess what-they are not more expensive and they have better selections. You would not believe the varieties you can buy-not just the same old Hosta.  Here are just a few of the issues that you might find with your Hosta if you buy from a unreliable source: HVX, Nematodes, Athracnose, Crown Rot (also called Petiole Rot), and Bacterial Soft Rot.  My favorite Hosta retailers are:

6.  HVX is not a problem.  Yes it is!  One of the biggest problems with HVX is denial.  I once saw a very reputable blogger's post on shade plants and what did she show a picture of?  An HVX infected "Gold Standard" Hosta.  Of course, she has since removed the photo (I think), but still did she not notice something wrong?  It had classic ink bleed throughout the entire plant.  I hope she didn't think she had something interesting there. If your Hosta is looking unhealthy, has ink bleed or tissue collapse you should have it tested for the disease.  For more information on this issue see the Hosta Library:

I hope I have given you some information on Hostas that you can use and refuted those pesky myths that seems to surround these beautiful plants.  If you have any question or comments feel free to leave them below. 

Happy Gardening!  Rhonda


  1. So exciting whatever you have written in your blog on the topic 'Hostas'. I have also planted these plants in past few times. And was not any idea about it that you wrote about Hostas. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. You are welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. 20+ years ago I moved to this house. Under 2 Pin Oak trees I tilled the soil and added potting soil and planted, Hosta, Astilbe, Ferns, Lily of the Valley, Wild Ginger, Columbine and Bleeding Heart. The Ginger, in the last few years has pretty much moved on their own to other locations. The Astilbe I moved. The Bleeding Heart is there as well as ferns and Lily of the Valley and some Columbine (I thin those out). The problem is the Hosta's used to be huge and through the years they have gotten smaller and smaller. Two years ago I dug up the area again and added more soil and replanted the Hostas. Nope they are there. they just don't grow much or increase in size. I let the Oak leaves be the mulch. Should I not do that? Should I add more fertilizer? I am about to give up. The Solomon's seal is growing well and spreading. Another plant called Painter's Palette is also growing well in an area above where the Hosta are. The ferns are in the area with the Hosta and they do very well. How can I get the Hosta to grow?

    1. Mulching with oak leaves is perfectly fine-I mulch my hosta with fallen leaves every fall. There might be a couple of reasons your Hosta stays small or even shrinks-the first one is tree roots. Tree roots from large trees can strangle a hosta's roots and prevent them from taking in the water and nutrients it needs.When you dig up a hosta check for feeder roots from the tree-they will be finer looking and usually brown if they are tree roots-a hostas roots are white and fleshy. Remove these tree roots (untangle them)from the hosta roots and replant if this is the problem. Another issue with hosta shrinkage is animals. Voles will eat the roots and crown of your hosta. Moles can tunnel through the soil under your hosta, and rabbits will eat the leaves and crowns of your hosta plants. These will all prevent your hosta plants from flourishing. Inspect your hosta and check for animal damage and if there is some (such as eaten leaves-parts of your crown damaged or tunneling) take steps to prevent by using animal repellents. Fertilizing in spring and then again in summer-never in the fall. This will help the hosta gain size. Just remember that it takes a few seasons for a hosta to recover after damage from either animals or digging up but your patience will be rewarded:-)) Good luck!