Fundamental Facts

HARDINESS: Zones 3 to 9
PREFERRED LIGHT: Full to partial shade
ATTRIBUTES: Big leaves; fragrant white or lilac flowers; (or beds, edging, groundcover)
SEASON OF INTEREST: Spring through fall
FAVORITES: 'Krossa Regal', 'Frances Williams', 'Little Aurora'; 'Sun Power' for sun
QUIRKS: Needs ample water to prevent scorching, especially if grown in sun
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Astilbe, epimedium, monkshood, primrose
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Partial shade in fertile, moist soil
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Slugs and snails
RENEWING PLANTS: Plants live many years; divide overcrowded clumps in spring or fall
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Good except for deer
SOURCE: Bedding plants, division
DIMENSIONS: 14-36 in (35.6-91.4 cm) high, wide; dwarf, to 1 ft (0.3 m) tall,wide

Hosta in the Landscape

There are many good reasons for the enduring popularity of hostas among shade gardeners. They grow easily, forming lavish mounds of handsome foliage. And they remain attractive throughout the growing season. Hostas make a strong statement in a border or woodland garden, as a groundcover beneath trees, or as an edging along a walk or driveway.

Hostas don't unfurl their leaves until late in spring, making them ideal for interplanting with spring bulbs. They quickly and effectively hide the unsightly spent leaves of daffodils and crocus as they emerge in spring. But hostas aren't just foliage plants. At some point in the season, the timing depends on the variety, hostas send up long, slender flower stalks lined with fragrant white or lavender flowers that linger for several weeks.

Beyond Plain Vanilla

If you like plain green leaves, there are a number of hostas that fit the bill, ranging from pale lime to deep forest. But there are alternatives, including hostas with solid blue leaves, such as 'Krossa Regal', or golden ones, such as 'August Moon'.The leaves may also be variegated: marked with edging, marbling, or center splotches in white or yellow that is luminous in shade. Some hostas have softly ribbed leaves, while others, such as 'Frances Williams', are puckered or quilted. These versatile plants come in large and small, varying from the demure. 6 in (1 S.2 cm) high 'Little Aurora' to the immense, 30 in (76.2 cm) tall and wide 'Sum and Substance'.

Growing Hosta

The secret to growing spectacular, low-maintenance hostas is good soil. In early spring, or in fall in mild areas, plant in organically rich, well-drained soil.They'll be fine without further fuss as long as they're neither overwa-tered nor allowed to dry in a drought. They thrive in good but indirect light. For sunnier spots, select a more light-tolerant hosta, such as 'Sun Power'.

Shady spots that welcome hostas are often damp as well.This saves you die trouble of regular watering, but it also means that slugs and snails may be lurking. These pests can deface the leaves with holes, although new fohage quickly fills the gaps. To keep these marauders at bay, water only in the morning so that the plants are not moist overnight to tempt these nighttime feeders. Don't fertilize, which encourages succulent, vulnerable growth. Set out slug traps, such as saucers of beer; use copper barriers, which give the pests an electric shock upon contact; or sprinkle the area with diatomaceous earth, which forms a sharp barrier that cuts slugs' skin. Varieties with thick, quilted leaves, such as 'Frances Williams' are less appealing to slugs.
Deer may also dine on hostas. To dissuade them, tuck a bar of deodorant soap among your hostas, or spray plants with a commercial deer deterrent as directed on the label.

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