Growing shade loving Hosta plants as a ground cover. How to grow Hostas in part sun. When and how to divide a Plantain lily. Funkia pruning and pest control.
The Hosta is a beautiful, shade tolerant garden perennial grown mainly for its broad, heavily textured leaves. There are hundreds of named cultivars with dark green, blue-green, and variegated foliage.
These attractive leaves grow into rounded mounds averaging two feet tall by three feet wide. There are several miniature Hosta varieties that mature to a height of 18" or less and a few giants that top out at four feet or taller by six feet wide. There are also a handful of upright growing types.
Pretty white to purple flowers appear during the summer months. These are often fragrant and always held above the leaves on upright stalks. The blossoms are less showy than the leaves but welcome nonetheless.
One variety, H. plantaginea, bears five inch trumpets which are larger and more ornamental than most Hosta flowers.
To say that Hosta plants are shade tolerant is an understatement. These plants prefer shade. In fact, too much sun is harmful to them.
The hybridization of so many delectable cultivars is nothing less than a godsend to shade gardeners.
Unsurprisingly, perennial gardeners tending sunny sites became covetous of this horticultural largesse and sun tolerant types were developed to satisfy their desires.
Varieties with solid-colored leaves can inhabit deep shade. The variegated types most often need brighter light in order to maintain the desired coloration. Site these in high, filtered shade or in areas where the gentle rays of the early morning sun provide the day's light.
Avoid planting any Hosta plant where the strong rays of the afternoon sun can touch it. Afternoon sun will scorch the leaves and may even kill the plant.
Soil: Moist, sandy soil of average fertility that drains well but never dries out is preferred. Plants do best on soils high in organic matter.
Hosta roots compete well with tree roots which is why they are so often massed beneath mature trees.
Water: Keep moist at all times. Plants growing in part sun or in containers will need more frequent watering than plants sited in deep shade.
Pruning: Remove unattractive leaves at any time. Remove flower stalks after the blooms have faded or before they even form if you feel that the blooms detract from the beauty of the plants.
The clump will die to the ground once freezing weather sets in, so it is not necessary to cut it down. Fresh leaves will sprout in late spring.
Slugs and snails are the only pests you will need to worry about. Keep the garden clean of plant debris to reduce its attractiveness to these pests.
The good news is that there are slug resistant Hosta varieties.
Spring is the best time to divide mature clumps. Do this while the plants are still dormant and when the ground is moist but not soggy.
Carefully dig the clump up and place it on a tarp. Cut cleanly through the clump with a sharp spade. You can cut it into 2, 4, or 6 pieces depending on how many new clumps you wish to start.
Keep in mind that larger divisions tend to grow more vigorously than small ones.
Large pieces can be installed in the garden immediately. Small divisions will do best if individually potted and nursed along in a shady area until they are a bit larger before being planted into the open ground.
The spreading, mounding forms make nice ground cover plants on their own; but the late-sprouting leaves are also a perfect cover for the fading foliage of spring bulbs.
When you install a new bed of Hostas, use this to your advantage by filling the spaces between them with crocus or daffodil bulbs which also enjoy shade.
Don't want to plant bulbs?
Substitute ferns or Solomon's seal for the daffodils for a ground cover which will be lush and green all season long.