The Michigan Hosta Society Fact Sheet

Hosta are shade-tolerant, hardy, perennial plants grown principally for their foliage. These plants are native to Japan, Korea and China. In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the popularity of Hosta in the United States. They are grown throughout this country, except in tropical areas. The midwest, especially Michigan, is a great place to grow and enjoy Hosta. In fact, hostas have become the most widely used shade perennial. Why have hostas become so popular? First, a housing boom occurred in this country after the end of WWII. Many of these once treeless subdivisions are now 35 to 45 years old and the landscapes around these homes have become shaded. The current residents, searching for plants which perform well in a shady environment, have discovered and planted Hosta. Second, many exciting new cultivars of hostas have been developed in the past two decades, particularly through hybridizing efforts in this country. Third, the availability of new and unusual cultivars has increased (and the price decreased) because of the extensive use of tissue culture propagation in Hosta.

Hosta leaves are green, blue, gold or white, and may have a single, solid color or may have the colors mixed with center or edge variegation. Leaf size can vary from thumbnail size to the size of a serving platter. Individual clumps come in a variety of sizes, from fist-size plants to mounds three feet tall and five feet across. Hosta flowers are borne on spikes and, while less dramatic than many sun-loving plants, add color to a shade garden at a time when few other plants are in bloom. Individual hosta plants bloom for several weeks. The bloom season, however, spans several months, from June into October, if various cultivars are planted. As a bonus, many hostas show outstanding color changes in their foliage with the approach of autumn The culture of Hosta is very easy. The plants are grown from divisions and can be planted any time from the middle of May until the middle of September. The soil can vary from sand to clay loam, but is best supplemented with organic material. While hostas are regarded as shade plants, they will, in the North, tolerate considerable sun. However, it is best to avoid locations with mid-afternoon sun. Hostas can be divided for purposes of propagation but, unlike sun perennials, do not require regular dividing. Hosta have few diseases. Its only significant pest is the slug. Although slugs will not destroy the plants, they often make hostas appear rather unsightly. Fortunately, slugs can be fairly easily controlled by baiting.

Using Hosta in the Landscape

Hostas can be utilized in many ways in the landscape. Large and medium clumps can be used as a single or specimen planting. Several different cultivars can be planted together for a variety of leaf color, size, texture, flower color and bloom time. Such a planting is even more effective when interplanted with spring bulbs, broadleaf evergreens (azalea, rhododendron and holly), primroses, woodland plants, ferns, astilbes and dwarf conifers. Plants thus combined can have changing interest throughout the gardening season. Hostas can be mass planted as a ground cover or as a surround, particularly under trees whose shade and roots make grass difficult to grow. Lastly, hostas are often used as edging plants to soften the line between the garden and a yard or paved area.