Hostas, or plantain lilies, are originally from Asia and Russia. Since their introduction into western gardens, hundreds of hybrids have become available. They have proven their worth in shade gardens with roots that are cold-hardy to 40-below zero in zones 3-9, and in heat zones 9 to 2 (we are heat zone 8).
Plantain lilies come in all sizes and leaf shapes from tiny rock garden varieties to the 4 foot tall Sum and Substance. Hosta leaves range in color from spring green to deep gray in solid and variegated selections. The tubular flowers are white, pink or lavender.
In Northern U.S. states, hostas can be planted in morning sun, farther south they are placed in fertile soil under dappled shade. The Chinese varieties bloom best in full sun. Hostas tolerate drought but thrive with regular water.
Snails and slugs eat hosta leaves. Sprinkle crushed eggshells or put wire mesh around the base of the plants to reduce the damage. Nothing will deter deer.
Hosta shoots, flowers, leaves and petioles are edible so they are safe to plant where pets and children play. In Japanese cuisine early spring leaves (urui) are steamed and served with miso dressing.
The American Hosta Association (www.americanhostasociety.org) has chapters all over the U.S., including Tulsa’s Hosta Connection, which meets the fourth Tuesday of the month from March to November. Their monthly speakers focus on hostas and their companion plants.
At the October meeting, Dr. Gerald Klingaman, director of operations at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, will speak on shade gardening. Klingaman is a retired extension agent and educator from the University of Arkansas who is a well-known speaker and writer. His articles can be found at www.arhomeandgarden.org/plant_week.htm and www.learn2grow.com.
“I love growing Hostas because they brighten up the shade areas of my garden and they are very forgiving plants,” club President Carol Puckett said. “Recently when dividing plants, I accidentally lopped off a leaf and when I put the leaf in a pot, a plant grew from it! Some of my favorite Hostas are Great Expectations, Stained Glass, Paradigm, Cathedral Windows, First Frost, Guacamole and Liberty.
“Although they do have beautiful flowers, hostas are grown for their foliage. Hosta lovers get excited by the new cultivars that come out each year and drive for miles to get them. The Hosta Connection has potting parties to divide these new found treasures and then we sell them in September.”
Club member Ronald Jeffris grows his collection of 80 hostas in containers. Jeffris said he started growing his plants in15 or 20-inch pots because the soil at his house did not provide the right conditions. Even in August during the drought his plants thrived.
“My best or favorite hostas include Sum and Substance both for its color and sheer of size,” 4 to 5 feet, Jeffris said. “Guacamole grows quite fast and can be divided often to share. The shiny leaves go from chartreuse to gold, and the fragrant flowers and scapes are huge. The pots also seem to offer protection against slugs and other pests, although this year, the rabbits have decided that a few of them are rather tasty.”
Kathy Supernaw also grows her 125 Hostas in pots.
“The unique thing I do with mine is group them together by theme,” Supernaw said. “Some of my groupings are Bon Appetite, Jurassic Park (dinosaurs, t-Rex), Friends and Family, Royalty, Hollywood, Glory Days, Let there be Light, Tis the Season, Cure the Blues (blue Hostas), Angels in My Garden, and a few more. The Bon Appetite group includes Avocado, Guacamole, Orange Marmalade, Key Lime Pie, Mojito, Blueberry Muffins, etc.”
Tuesday’s meeting is an opportunity to hear a knowledgeable speaker and get answers to your shade garden questions.
If you go
WHAT: Hosta Connection featuring Gerald Klingaman on “Shade Gardening” with plant sale by Colebrook Nursery.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday.
WHERE: Tulsa Garden Center, 2435 South Peoria, Tulsa.
COST: Free and open to the public.
INFORMATION: Carol Puckett (918) 355-4281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.