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By David Beaulieu, About.com Guide
Hosta 'Undulata Variegata'
Courtesy: Missouri Botanical Garden
Hosta plants are herbaceous perennials. The most natural way to group hosta plants is by leaf-color. The foliage of hosta plants can be blue, gold (yellow), or green. Or sometimes, one will find a pleasing blend, as when there's just enough yellow and green to form chartreuse. In addition to all this variety in color, hosta plants are often variegated. For pictures of hosta plants, open the mini-photo gallery by clicking on the picture (below right).
As if all this weren't enough, the leaves of hostas come in a number of sizes and shapes. Shapes can be elongated (sword-shaped, for instance) or something more rounded (such as those with heart-shaped leaves). In some cases, leaves are flat; in others, concave. Finally, leaf surfaces may be smooth or bubbled (the technical term for this bubbly look is "seersuckered"). Hosta plants also produce flowers, and these, too, exhibit variation, both in color and size.
Hostas are usually treated as shade plants, since the colors of their foliage tend to fade if exposed to too much sun. The gold-leafed types of hosta plants are an exception: they will not attain their maximal golden color without receiving quite a bit of sun. By contrast most green-leafed and blue-leafed hosta plants will lose the rich color of their foliage if they receive too much sun. However, as Marie Iannotti notes, since fragrant hostas (see below) need some sunlight for full flower development, you may wish to make an exception for them, else you'll miss out on their wonderful aroma.
Hostas With Green Leaves
Hosta plants are more often grown for their foliage than for their flowers. Such specimens should be grown in partial to full shade.
An exception may be made for Hosta 'Plantaginea,' which will bear white flowers that are highly fragrant, if the plant is given sufficient sunlight. In fact, one of the common names for these hosta plants is "fragrant" hosta plants, and their flowers are larger than those of most hosta plants. Hosta 'Plantaginea blooms in late summer.
Fragrant hosta plants can be grown in planting zones 3-9. At maturity fragrant hosta plants will stand 1'-1 1/2' tall with a spread of 1 1/2'-2'. Grow fragrant hosta plants in a sunny area.
Hostas With Gold (Yellow) Leaves
Hosta plants with gold leaves should be planted in full sun to bring out their color fully. That color can range from a true gold to a chartreuse, depending on variety, location in the yard, geographical region, etc. Hosta 'Ground Sulphur' stays under 1' tall, with a slightly greater spread. It blooms in lavender, early in the summer. Zones 3-8.
Hostas With Blue Leaves
The blue-leafed hosta plants should all be grown in nearly full shade. Hosta 'Blue Moon' has heart-shaped, bluish-green leaves. A small hosta plant, 'Blue Moon' stays under 1' tall, with a slightly greater spread. The flowers are white and come out in late summer. Grow in zones 3-8. Hosta 'Halcyon' gets a bit bigger (14" tall, with a spread of about 2') than 'Blue Moon' and has lilac-blue flowers.
Hostas With Variegated Leaves
Variegation in hosta plants is manifested in a couple of different ways. Foliage is termed "medio variegated" when the lighter color (white, a lighter green, or yellow) occurs in the center of the leaf. For example, Hosta 'Undulata Variegata' (zones 3-8) is white in the middle and green at the edges. These hosta plants reach 1'-2' in height, by about the same width. They produce a lavender bloom in early summer. Grow in partial to full shade.
By contrast, when the lighter color occurs on the edge of their foliage, hosta plants are said to be "marginally variegated." An example is Hosta 'Patriot,' grown in zones 3-8. Its leaves are green in the center and white on the edges. These hosta plants reach 1'-1 1/2' in height, with a spread of 2'-2 1/2'. Their lavender blooms appear later than do those of Hosta 'Undulata Variegata'. Grow in partial to full shade.
Care of Hostas
The hostas discussed on Page 1 are commonly planted in rows to form borders in a landscape design. They are reasonably low-maintenance, not least of all because the dense foliage of hostas crowds out much would-be weed growth around them, making hostas an effective groundcover (I'd still supplement with mulch, however). But don't mistake "low-maintenance" for "no-maintenance"....
Care of Hostas
· Hostas need a lot of water, although they also need good drainage.
· Fertilize your hostas. The American Hosta Society states, "The norm seems to be an application of around 10-10-10, three to four times per year." The "10-10-10" referred to is the NPK number.
· After blooming, cut off the scape (the stalk that bears the bloom). Otherwise, nourishment is wasted, travelling to the seed pods (you want it to go, instead, to the crowns of the hostas).
· As the foliage of hostas begins to die back in fall, you should remove it, since leaving it to decay in the planting bed is just an open invitation to slug pests (see below). What do you do with it after removing it? First, inspect it. If the leaves look healthy, compost them. But hostas are susceptible to some diseases. So if the leaves don't look healthy, simply dispose of them.
· Hostas require protection from certain garden pests. For instance, you may have to practice the following: Deer control, Mouse and vole control, Wild rabbit control, Slug control (see below).
Slug Control for Hostas
A taste for beer has been the downfall of many a formerly svelte figure. You may find it helpful, as well as amusing, to know that slug pests, too, are drawn to beer -- with even more disastrous results (for the slugs, that is!).
Simply set a bowl or similar container outside at night in the planting bed where your hostas grow. Then fill it with a couple of inches or so of beer. Drawn by the smell of the beer, slugs will scale the sides of the container and take the plunge -- into the beer, where they drown.
It is one beer party which your hostas, although teetotalers themselves, will most certainly enjoy hosting!