Hostas a great, shade-loving addition to your garden

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— Hosta, also known as Plantain-lily, is a lovely perennial that thrives in the shade garden. Originally from China, Korea and Japan, these plants are grown mostly for their foliage.

There are more than 70 known species of Hosta to choose from, many suited to our zone 3-4 environment. Some varieties will tolerate sun, but most grow best in light shade conditions.

Ranging from 2 inches to 4 feet in height, Hostas will produce a trumpet-shaped flower that is white, lavender or purple in color. For most gardeners, the flowers are considered insignificant compared to the foliage.

Leaves may be a solid green or blue, or possibly variegated, with a leaf texture that may be smooth or crinkled. Patience helps as it may take three years for the plant to show its true color and texture.

Hostas are often found growing in masses under trees in the landscape bed. They prefer well-drained soil such as that found in the woods. Because these plants generally open their leaves after daffodils and tulips have bloomed, they are are perfect companions to cover up the fading foliage of spring bulbs.

Plant Hostas in well-drained soil in the shade. Turn over the soil 8 inches deep and add 1/3 volume of organic material. Avoid planting in areas that receive high winds as this may dry out the plant leaves. In Routt County you'll probably need to water Hostas twice a week.

While not necessary, you may divide them in the spring or fall to acquire more Hostas for your gardens. They do not require much fertilizer. If you apply fertilizer, use a slow-release product in the spring.

Slugs may be a problem with growing Hostas. Simply pour beer into a shallow dish and bury it in the ground so the rim of the dish is at soil level. The beer will attract the slugs and eliminate the problem.

Hostas may be seen growing in gardens from the Deep South to the Rocky Mountains. They are often a bold statement in the garden as they draw your eye toward them. Their wide leaves offer an unequal contrast to other plants in the flowerbed. Whichever variety you choose, I think you will find our botanical gift from the Orient adds grace to your shade garden.

Camille C. Fisher is a Routt County resident and a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County.

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