February 2018

Hosta needs water at key times of year

Most hybridized fragrant hosta have Hosta plantaginea blood. Photo courtesy of

Lack of water at the right time is the primary reason hostas don’t do well in our gardens.

In particular, water hostas in July, August, September and October and keep watering until the first frost, said Cynthia Miller Wilhoite, who has been growing Hosta for 35 years and has more than 800 cultivars in her collection. An active member of the American Hosta Society, she and her husband, Chris Wilhoite, own Soules Garden on Indianapolis’ southside. She spoke earlier this month at the 20th annual Spring Garden Clinic.

The most common pest of hostas is the slug and the best control for this leaf-munching, land mollusk comes from the sea — crushed oyster shells. This common feed for chickens is usually available at farm stores.

Apply a ¾-inch deep layer of crushed oyster shells in a 6-inch-wide ring around the leaves, called pips, as they emerge in spring. She said this one application of this natural product is all that’s needed to control slugs throughout the growing season.

Variegated hostas tend to grow more slowly and may not always be the toughest. That’s because the white or cream variegation lacks chlorophyll, the pigment that turns sun into plant energy, she said.

“I tend to like hostas with a thicker leaf,” Wilhoite said. Not only are the plants generally tougher, thicker leaves also provide more slug resistance. Always consider the mature size of the plants. Hostas may take up to seven years to reach maturity.

The popularity of mini hostas is fueled by consumer interest in miniature gardens. Miniatures usually are not larger than about 12 inches tall and wide, some with leaves as small as a thumbnail. Minis also are good as an edger in the shade garden.

Wilhoite said medium-size hostas are the workhorses in the garden because they provide a good show without overwhelming the scene. These will be 12 to 18 inches tall and no wider than about 2 ½ feet. Large and gigantic hostas will be at least 4 feet wide or more, she said. Here’s a sampler of her recommendations:


  • Blue Mouse Ears
  • Itty Bitty
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Mini Skirt
  • Church Mouse
  • Pure Heart


  • June
  • Halcyon
  • Autumn Frost
  • Mystic Star
  • First Frost
  • High Society


  • Sum and Substance
  • Blue Angel
  • Earth Angel
  • Elator
  • Blue Mammoth
  • Empress Wu


  • Plantaginea
  • Guacamole
  • Moonlight Sonata
  • Royal Wedding
  • Stained Glass
  • Cathedral Windows


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