Hostas are mainly grown for their wonderful foliage which adds strength to any planting scheme. They are a very large and diverse group whose leaves, patterns, colours, flowers and size all vary – there must be one to suit you!
- Leaves – from thin and strappy to almost circular
- Patterns vary
- Colours – from blue, green, yellow, white and different variegations
- Flowers in tall spikes of white, lavender or purple, some scented
- From 10 cms to 1.2m (4in to 4ft) high
Hostas tolerate light to medium shade and look good in most locations: in shady areas, next to water features, along paths, in woodland settings with ferns, in mixed beds and borders, in rockeries and in containers.
Hostas are attractive to pests as well
The RHS says that hostas are resilient and easy to grow. That’s true but they are also attractive to a number of pests which strip leaves and nibble holes in the foliage. Culprits include slugs, snails, deer, rabbits, voles and field mice.
We’ve talked about controlling slugs and snails before. Like many gardeners, I’m not keen on using slug pellets (especially those which contain metaldehyde, a chemical toxic to children, wildlife and pets which is now found in drinking water). Try choosing slug and snail resistant varieties, close inspection, nematodes and barriers.
Some varieties are more resistant to slugs and snails
Larger-leaved and blue-green varieties of hosta have thicker and tougher leaves which are said to be more resistant to slugs and snails. Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans, ‘Big Daddy’ and ‘Gold Regal’ are three resistant examples.
Variegated hostas tend to be more susceptible.
Check your hostas regularly, including new ones. If there are any signs of a leaf being eaten keep looking around until you find the culprit.
Nematodes are a biological control
They are a microscopic eelworm which you water onto the soil. They control slugs (yes!) but not snails.
Grow your hostas in containers
Hostas do look splendidly elegant in containers, and slugs and snails find it harder to get at them. Bear in mind these rules.
- Make sure the leaves and the pot are not touching anything else from which the slugs or snails can get onto the hosta.
- Put the container in a large saucer of water or in a pond – a moat!
- Smear plant-protection glue round the outside of the container. Vaseline or WD40 are also said to work.
- Fit copper tape, copper wire or sandpaper around the container.
- Put fine mesh (like windbreak or shade netting) over the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.
More barriers around hostas in the ground
Get your barriers in place in April before the first leaves unfurl themselves so the pests are kept outside the barrier from the beginning.
Try putting fine grit around the plant. Some people recommend cactus grit or poultry grit. Try pine needles and holly leaves. I’m trying sheep’s wool pellets (which swell up in damp conditions) for the first time this year and they seem good, especially if the barrier is wide enough.
Even more barriers
If your hostas are attacked by field mice or voles, try growing them in wire cages sunk into the ground.
Although some chemical products are available, unfortunately netting and high fencing (dug into the ground to prevent tunnelling) are really the only effective ways to protect your hostas against rabbits and deer.
If you're troubled by pests eating your hostas it's worth persevering to find a solution that works in your garden. Good luck with growing these wonderful plants.
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