The Shade-Tolerant Hosta

The hosta is the most popular shade-tolerant perennial in the country.  It’s no wonder why.  While most bedding plants – both annuals and perennials – love full sun, not many can tolerant some degree of shade.  Hostas are a plant that you can situate under a tree, near your house, or anywhere that is shaded part of the day, as long as they get some daily sunlight.

Hostas, also known as plantain lilies, originated in Japan, China and Korea and were first brought to America about 200 years ago.  They grow from rhizomes or stolons, sprouting into somewhat oval leaves that usually feature two colors.  The most popular colors are green, blue-green, yellow green (gold) and white.  By midsummer they sprout erect scapes, which display six-pedal flowers in white, lavender or violet.

Hostas are rare in that they are grown for the beauty of their leaves, not the flowers.  They are eaten in some cultures, although they are toxic to dogs, cats and horses due to the saponin in the leaves.

Our hostas have just begun to peak above the surface here in Cape May County, NJ.  It seems a long way off before they will have to be checked daily for slugs and snails, their main nemesis.  Hosta will look great in your garden and they are very easy to grow.  But if deer, rabbits or voles are regular visitors to your property, they will find your hostas and chow down.  The only effective deterrent is a protective cage.

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