The Hosta - A Shade Loving Perennial


My first introductions to Hostas were four small green and white clumps edging a small section of my mother- in- laws driveway.

I was not terribly impressed, they looked more like scraggly lettuce plants with a few sticks growing out of the middle plus their size never seemed to change from year to year.

Fast forward a few years, I now had my own home with visions of gorgeous gardens blooming in my head. The property was surrounded by trees, which we loved not only for the privacy but the house was kept quite cool during the hot summer months.

I soon discovered that all that shade may have been good for keeping our home and family cool it wasn't great for growing certain perennials as most I'd looked at all said full sun.

During trips to local nurseries looking for shade loving plants I kept noticing Hostas, thinking "Oh, great spindly lettuce" I went ahead and purchased two plants, I was desperate to plant something along the perimeter of those wonderful trees.

The two green plants with white stripes found a home next to a simple concrete birdbath, one on either side. During the summer I weeded around them, watered and feed them every two weeks but didn't really hold much hope that they would turn into anything special.

The following Spring during winter clean up I noticed small green shoots popping up beside the birdbath but again didn't get to excited. Well, by mid summer those two had tripled in size were very full and looked absolutely beautiful.

I began to rethink my first impression of Hostas and after doing some research discovered there are hundreds - actually more then 2600- of varieties available. Leaf colors include green, blue, gold and white. The leaves can either be a solid color or variegated with a second color mixed in the center or along the edges.

Several plants in various shades can really dress up a shady corner. By mixing several of the brighter hues along with darker shades can be quite dramatic.

Another way to use Hostas is by mixing them with other shade plants, which can include Perennials such as Astilbe, Bleeding Heart and Japanese Painted Ferns also, Shrubs like Azalea, Hydrangea or Sweet Pepperbush. You're not limited to using shade plants just within wooded areas or around trees. For instance, a partly shaded walk way along side your home would make a perfect candidate for this combination, plant the shrubs or tall perennials along the back next to the house with the Hostas placed in front can look quite stunning.

A large shade tree in our front yard looked like a good candidate for dressing up and because of the success of the birdbath Hostas of course I decided to try more around the tree. Using a tiller we formed a circle around the base and mixed good topsoil into the existing dirt, edged the circle with bricks, all that was need now were the plants.

I spent several days' scouring local nurseries looking for Hostas in different colors and leaf textures. Armed with six new plants of moderate size - I'm one of those impatient gardeners - I staggered them around the tree, put down a thick layer of cedar mulch then for decorative accent added several groups of unusual looking rocks found in the woods, a family of resin squirrels also found a home sitting around the plants.

It really looked great and I just knew by the following year with regular watering and feeding those six plants would be larger, fuller and gorgeous.

Several days later while doing my daily walk around to look for anything new, I noticed something strange around the tree in the front yard. Getting closer things really looked funny.

It took a moment to realize there were no longer leafy plants growing there, just a bunch of green stems. This was how I learned that Hostas happen to be a favorite before dinner snack for deer.

Therefore my advice is if you live in an area populated with those brown eyed beauties and your going to give Hosta growing a go make sure to spray them with a safe repellant periodically from their emergence in the spring until the first frost in the fall.

So for those shady areas think about planting Hostas, after all they are a whole lot more than scraggly looking lettuce.

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Bonnie P. Carrier is the creator of Savvy Home Decorating & Savvy Outdoor Decorating. She is the mother to two grown daughters and a very spoiled 4yr old Blue Merle Sheltie named Toby. Stop by for information and ideas for both inside and outside your home.

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