Extension and Ag Research News


Dakota Gardener: Brighten the shade with a hosta

Hostas thrive in shade to dappled-shade areas, perfect for planting under trees or in heavily-shaded areas of the yard.

By Emily How, Horticulture agent

NDSU Extension – Ward County

“I need to plant a hosta under my tree, which variety is your favorite?”

This innocent question to one of the NDSU Extension Master Gardeners in Ward County sent me down a rabbit hole learning about this beautiful shade-loving plant.

Hostas are a member of the asparagus family and are native to Asia. With over 2,000 different cultivars, there are many different leaf and flower colors, and variegations. Common flower colors are white, lavender and purple. The bell-shaped flowers may be fragrant and are a good pollen source for hummingbirds and bees. Hosta flowers can also provide great ornamental value to the landscape.

Though the flowers are stunning, hostas are traditionally grown for their foliage showcasing different leaf variegation. The American Hosta Society has categorized hosta leaves into five major leaf colors, green, blue, gold, Medio-variegated (dark margins and a light center), and Marginal variegated (light margins and a dark center). There are also different heights of hosta, ranging from a dwarf height (less than 4 inches) to a giant height (more than 28 inches).

Hostas thrive in shade to dappled-shade areas, perfect for planting under trees or in heavily shaded areas of the yard. Depending on the color of the leaves, hosta have different light requirements. Hostas with blue coloring need more shade than yellow and gold hostas, which benefit from two to three hours of the morning sun. If you start to notice brown or scorched leaves, this could be a sign that your hosta is receiving too much sun.

Common problems for the hosta include hungry deer, slugs and rabbits. Young sprouts are more likely to be damaged by these creatures than older plants. Try fencing or using repellents to keep deer from eating the hosta leaves, but keep in mind that a hungry animal will eat anything.

Another problem plaguing hosta plants is Hosta virus X. This virus, first discovered in Minnesota, causes the plant leaves to look discolored and blotchy. It can take several years for the virus to show symptoms in the hosta plant. It spreads quickly through division sterilizing tools and ensuring that your hosta plant comes from a reputable source is the easiest way to prevent this disease from spreading. If you suspect your hosta has Hosta virus X, contact your county NDSU Extension agent to confirm.

As for the Master Gardener’s favorite hosta cultivars, the current list includes June, a medium-sized hosta with gold and blue-green leaves; Blueberry Muffin, a medium-sized hosta with deep blue leaves and lavender flowers; and Abba Dabba, a large-sized hosta with green center and gold edges.

NDSU Agriculture Communication – June 14, 2024

Source: Emily How, 701-857-6444, emily.how@ndsu.edu

Editor: Kelli Anderson, 701-231-7006, kelli.c.anderson@ndsu.edu


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