Hosta Plants

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Hardy plants that originated in the Far East, hostas thrive in the United States today in USDA zones three through nine. In lay terms this means between the Canadian border and northern Florida. Of the approximately 40 recognized species and hundreds of varieties of hosta today, most are the broad-leaved perennials we readily recognize. Easy to grow and adaptable, it's little wonder that hostas are so popular.

Hosta Basics

Several cultivars of hostas, the green and golds among them, do well enough in full sun. The vast majority, however, prefer dappled light or shade. In gardens, hostas do especially well in woods gardens and near water. If you're planning a quiet hammock retreat, be sure to incorporate hosta plants into your design. They're a natural amid rocks, coupled with ornamental grasses, and with shrubs like hydrangea, boxwood, and yew. In the wild, they grow in open fields, forests, mountainous terrain, and along river and creeks.

A significant growth factor to remember about hostas is their need for a dormancy period--even as little as a month--and near freezing temperatures to encourage it. If hosta are grown twelve months of the year, they will decline and eventually fail. If the climate is too hot, they will also fail. Maritime conditions--that is, cooler, damper, and cloudier than most in the United States--are ideal.

Maritime, however, does not mean boglike standing water. Neither clay nor sandy soil is therefore good. Hosta plants grow most happily and healthily in moist, highly organic soil. Fertilizer, most hosta gardeners agree, is not important, even necessary. Adding peat moss, compost, manure, or leaf mold helps the soil retain water without trapping it, which is the point.

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