By Marianne Binetti
Add a hosta or two to your garden beds and you will have perennial happiness. In the Northwest these shade lovers return year after year with little care and attractive foliage. Here are four tips to make sure your handsome hostas do their best.
Tip 1: Arrange your hosta plants by placing contrasting colors next to each other. The blue varieties perk up next to hostas with yellow in their leaves; the variegated hostas pop when placed next to foliage with solid colors.
Tip 2: Choose a location that shades your hostas from the hot afternoon sun. Hostas can adapt to the root competition of tree roots, but they need more water and fertilizer to keep them looking good. When hostas grow in dry soil, they adapt by producing smaller leaves. Adding lots of organic matter to the soil helps it hold more moisture -- and this makes for more robust hostas. I like to add shade-tolerant annuals, such as coleus, to a new hosta bed when the plants are young. In a few years the spreading hosta leaves shade the entire area and crowd out all weeds.
Tip 3: Display your favorite hosta on a pedestal, or in a pot set amid other perennials to really boost their self-esteem. Some of my hostas have been growing in the same pots for almost a decade without any winter protection. I did get a reminder one morning that a clay pot was becoming too small for a mature hosta. Just as I was thinking it should be time to transplant this hosta to a bigger home, I noticed a crack in the pot. A few days later the pot just split in half from the pressure of those thick and sturdy hosta roots.
Tip 4: The most important tip for growing happy hostas in the Pacific Northwest is to bait for slugs. Worry Free slug bait is safe around children and pets, and works great, even in my damp and shaded garden. I apply this slug bait during April, as new leaves emerge, and again in June, to ensure handsome foliage free of slug damage. Now that’s perennial happiness.