Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hostas in the Landscape

Hello again,

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.

"When I was ten years old, my Mother received free seed packets by saving the end stickers from the bag that bread came in. With five kids, it did not take long for her to collect enough Wonder Bread stickers for seeds for the whole yard. That was 50 years ago; in those days there were very few seeds for the shade garden. At that time there was one perennial that was king of the shade garden--and still is today. That plant is the hosta!

Hosta is shade-tolerant, rather than shade-loving. It will thrive on the edges of woodlands, under high limbed trees like oaks, maples, pines and spruce. Hosta will also grow well in the back of the house, a fence or at the base of a stone wall. The best place to grow hosta is open wooded areas, filtered shaded areas and in gardens with only morning sunshine.

If you can grow rhododendrons, azaleas, mountain laurel and hollies in your foundation plantings you can grow hosta. For the best hosta plants select a garden or planting area that is sheltered from winds that can steal the moisture from the plant's foliage during the hot days of summer.

Hostas have big leaves and the wind can steal water from the plant quickly. They are frost-hardy perennials with a fibrous root system. The plant grows in a compact rounded mound of wonderful colored, variegated or green foliage.

From the center of the plant will rise tall stems filled with tubular, bell-like, funnel-like and sometimes almost spider-like flowers. The flowers will range from white to purple in color, and single to double petals. If the bees do their job, the flowers will produce small jelly bean shaped seed pods.

The foliage appears in early spring and last well into the fall. The foliage of the hosta is what most of us grow the plant for--flowers are a bonus. Each leaf has a long stem that lifts it from the ground to help display the leaf color, shape, texture and unusual character. Variegated leaf varieties are unique as no two leaves on the plant are identical. Did you know that hostas have juvenile small foliage in the spring and larger summer foliage?

When my Dad first planted hosta on the shaded side of the house, he had very few varieties to choose from: solid green leaf and green and white variegated forms. Today hostas come in many forms and are classified by size, shape, leaf blade, finish, color, and venation. Also by size--miniature to giant--almost like we grade eggs.

If you want to grow hostas, you will need a fertile soil with a lot of organic matter, such as compost, animal manure or peat moss. The garden soil should be kept moist at all times but well drained--with no standing water ever! Clay-type soil must be broken up with conditioners such as compost and coarse sand. Provide shade for the leaves and protection from the wind. Plants grow best with one inch of water per week and spring fertilization. I use a good perennial fertilizer such as Plant-tone, Dr. Earth General Purpose, or Bradfield Organics General Purpose Organic Plant Food. Remember--the healthier the soil, the better it is fed, and if you provide the right amount of light the plant will grow better.

Add a little bark mulch or compost around the plant to control weeds, hold summer moisture around the plant and help protect the plant during the winter and your shade garden will be one to enjoy all summer. If slugs appear, use Sluggo or Sluggo Plus to control them, and remember--these two products are safe and effective. "

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
February 21, 2010

1 comment:

Jessica Hallett said...

Love hosta... and so does my dad! that is clear from our yard lol