Central Illinois Hosta Society

Kingdom:Plantea - Division:Magnoliophyta - Class:Liliopsida - Order:Asparagales - Family:Agavaceae - Genus:Hosta
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How do I decide what hostas to grow?

A good guideline to use is the American Hosta Society Popularity Poll. ( Hosta Popularity Poll ) For a discussion of hosta, listed by various plant characteristics such as color, size, type of variegation, and other attributes, see Chapter 6 in The Genus Hosta, by W. George Schmid.

How do I obtain hostas?

Most nursery and garden centers are now selling hosta. As you learn more about this wonderful plant you will seek out growers who specialize in this genus in an effort to find the perfect hosta for your garden. Visit our commercial sponsors listed on the Hosta Vendors page (also see The American Hosta Growers Association)

How much do hostas cost?

You can find a hosta for as little as a few dollars to as much as several hundred dollars. Many of the older cultivars are available in the $5.00 to $10.00 range while the newer introductions can be found for $15 to $35. Local Nursery prices may be higher depending on your area. The price of unusual hosta cultivars can are more expensive depending on availability and demand.

How do I care for my hosta?

After they are planted, your hostas will require very little care. Because hostas are usually grown under trees that compete for moisture make sure that your plants get enough water during the growing season. A layer of mulch will help keep the roots at an even temperature and prevent competition from weeds. An annual feeding of slow release fertilizer will keep your hostas happy.

How should I prepare the soil before planting my hosta?

The answer to this question can depend upon where you live, how long it has been since the land was cleared, and the manner in which it was cleared prior to construction, as well as a number of other variables. However, as the result of discussions at various local and National meetings and responses to questionnaires, it appears that a majority of persons rototill the soil down 12-18 inches and amend it with peat humus, larger size organic material and some coarse sand. In clay soil, sand alone actually will make the soil harder than it already is, stunting root development. A mixture that seems quite common is:

1/3 native soil (the stuff already in the hole)
1/3 peat humus (some use ProMix as an alternative to the peat humus)
1/3 pine bark fines (some use other larger material)
The purpose of the larger organic material is to improve aeration of the soil; the peat humus aids in water retention. (See also W. George Schmid's The Genus Hosta, Appendix F)

When (and with what) should I mulch?

The easy answer to timing is anytime, but you also may want to watch your garden in the winter. Some hostas may appear to be crawling out of the ground. This problem results when the ground heaves (goes through repeated freeze/thaw cycles). Most people keep an eye on the problem and put additional mulch around the hosta as it "climbs" its way out. Another problem arises in the early spring. Some hostas are more eager to begin yearly growth than others -- for example, H. montana `Aureomarginata'. Some people find it useful to mulch the eyes of these hostas if there is a late frost predicted. If the plant has begun leafing out others have suggested placing large plastic pots over the plant, but do not let the leaves touch the pot as they will melt where they touch if the temperature gets low enough.

Another favorite topic of debate is what mulch to use with hosta. There are some well known "hostarians" who use no mulch at all; they simply weed the areas until the hostas come up and the hosta itself prevents the further development of weeds. Some use pine straw or cocoa mulch, as they both tend to diminish slug problems and do not break down as quickly as other mulches. Others find that double shredded hardwood mulch works best because of its water retention capabilities. Others use shredded leaves as mulch, but some have also found that this increases their slug problems. Thus, the gardener must make a determination based upon the specific needs of the garden and aesthetic desires. Regardless of the type of mulch you choose to use, do not mulch deeper than 2-3 inches! In many cases over-mulching has lead to vole problems by providing a nice warm medium that is easy to tunnel through, so be alert!

How often should I water my hosta?

Hostas love plenty of water. Research by George Schmid presented in his book, The Genus Hosta, indicates that in their native habitat hosta receive over 60 inches of rainfall annually. In most of the United States this is well above the rainfall levels experienced. As a consequence, it is essential that we supplement nature and ensure that the plant receives a minimum of 1 inch per week during the growing season for adequate growth. In most cases, people who have achieved maximum growth conditions provide 1.5 inches per week, spread out over the week; e.g. 3/4 inch every 3-4 days. In addition, hostas have a very high transpiration rate conditions due in part to their leaf size, and thus soil and should allow for optimum water retention. (See also W. George Schmid's The Genus Hosta, Appendix F)

Are there particular plants near which hosta should not be situated?

Hostas have been known to have trouble competing with shallow rooted trees and shrubs. Where there are limited planting areas and you want to keep the trees, some have dealt with this problem by planting the hosta in a container large enough to accommodate growth. This container planting also has been recommended in those cases where voles are an extreme hosta "predator". If you use the container method you need to drill or cut holes in the bottom to ensure good drainage. (See also The Hosta Journal, Volume 20, Number 2, pages 71 et. seq.)

When is the best time to plant, and/or divide hosta?

Hostas can be planted at any time during the growing season, although most people try to plant hosta in the spring. The later in the season you plant a hosta; the more important it is to keep the plant adequately watered. Hostas may also be divided or moved at anytime. However, given the increased shock to the plant caused by dividing or digging it up to be moved, spring is much preferred. In fact, it is recommended that dividing occur before the plant begins any substantial spring growth. Once the eyes are evident, the plant should be dug and divided by using a sharp knife. It is also recommended that the knife be dipped in a fungicide (e.g., 10% Clorox-water solution is a good substitute) before making the cut, and that the cut surface be dusted (or washed if using bleach) after the cut is made.

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