How to Grow GIANT Hostas

The American Hosta Growers Association defines giant hosta as those that exceed 30 inches in height. There are several cultivars now that are in the 48 inch range. The size GIANT Hostas can achieve in your garden is determined by the light exposure, the available water and the depth and quality of the soil. All three factors need to be optimum to achieve maximum size.

How You Can Optimize The Growing Conditions For GIANT Hosta

Key West Hosta, a Giant Hosta

Key West Hosta forms an impressive mound of bright gold foliage 80 inches wide.

I like to use the analogy of comparing the needs of mice vs. elephants to the needs of miniature hosta vs. giant hosta.

On a small amount of food and water, mice can reach maturity in a matter of months.Compare that to an elephant.  An elephant takes huge amounts of food and water to reach maturity over 15 to 20 years!

With good conditions the giant hosta will reach maturity in 5 to 6 years.

Light Exposure

Liberty Hosta, a Giant hosta plant will brighten up any garden.

Liberty Hosta, a Giant hosta plant will brighten up any garden.

The optimal light for hostas as a general rule is:

  • dark greens and blues in less sun
  • yellows in more sun
  • variegated generally in mixed light

The ideal lighting is tree cover that has the hosta in and out of the sun as the sun travels through the sky.

Hostas Need Water

Hosta Empress Wu, A Giant Hosta

The wavy green leaves of Empress Wu are said to be the biggest hosta leaves ever!

Availability of water to the giant hostas is a very important factor. Most hostas receive about 60 inches of rainfall annually in their native habitat of East Asia.

When water is withheld, the hostas will stop growth. It will not be able to store as much food in the crown, which will then reduce the size of the plant the following spring.

Location, location, location is the largest factor in determining available water. If you have been gardening in the same location for several years you know where the moist spots are.

Moist areas are the ideal spot for the giants. We’re not talking about standing water that has no oxygen in the soil.  The best spot has soil that is likely to still be moist in the hot summer months.

The Depth and Quality of the Soil

Sum and Substance Hosta is a giant hosta.

A Healthy Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ Growing in Our Garden.

Deep rich soil is very much a factor in how large your giant hosta can grow. Here in New England we think 10 inches of loam is deep. If you are in Iowa, that is considered poor shallow soil. Ten inches of topsoil is fine. The higher the organic matter content is the better the soil will be. Incorporating 50% compost to the mix you backfill with is optimal. You can maintain a high organic content through the years by allowing a mulch to rot in place. Besides retaining and making nutrients available to your giant hostas, the organic matter also allows better water penetration and retention in your garden soil.

Obviously, not everyone has the “perfect” location to grow giant hostas to their potential. The solution is to amend the soil to help create a desirable site. Adding organic matter and peat moss will help with water retention. After that it is up to us to water the hostas when Mother Nature doesn’t do her part.

Giving hostas, and especially giant hostas, about 1 inch of water a week will greatly improve the chances of growing a massive clump.

Now you know what GIANT Hostas need to be all that they can be!

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Where And How Do You Use GIANT Hostas?

There are so many giant hosta cultivars today that the ways to use them is endless, limited only by your imagination.

Hosta Garden with Giant Hostas

A serene landscape featuring Giant Hostas. From our employee Sherri’s garden.

The giant hostas make tremendous focal points whether planted alone as a specimen or planted in a mass for large area coverage. Hosta ‘Key West’ or Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ can make a great focal point in a sunnier location. They both have a brilliant yellow foliage that is a great accent against surrounding green foliage. With less sun you will see them go on the greener side.

Hosta ‘Blueberry Waffles’ or Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ can be used as focal points in the shadier parts of your garden.

The variegation on Hosta ‘Bridal Falls’ and Hosta ‘Liberty’ are absolutely stunning when shown off as a mature clump!

If you have a large scale garden, the giants can be massed to great effect. Planted close enough to each other, they form a weed barrier by eliminating all light to any weeds that would try to grow below their canopy.

We often get asked what hostas we would recommend and, of course, our answer is “All of Them!” We hope you have a really big yard. It is always a hard question to answer as everyone’s opinions are different. We tend to lean towards the dependable growers that grab our attention in the garden.

Here are a few (or more!) hostas that we think everyone should have in their perennial garden.

What is a Hosta and Why Should I Grow Hostas?

The easy answer to this question is that they are the most popular, bestselling perennial in the world. That being said, let me give my two cents into why this is true.

Hostas are shade tolerant perennials that are extremely hardy and require very little maintenance. They are shade tolerant, not shade loving. Most hostas prefer a bright east facing area with a few hours of direct morning sun. Hostas do very well in a filtered light situation under the canopies of trees and shrubs and not in a dark area with little light. They do not like to be placed in a heavily rooted area, especially with a lot of surface roots from trees where they will fight for moisture and nutrients. Some hosta cultivars depending on their lineage can handle quite a bit of sun. Fragrant hostas are good for sunnier locations because they have the species Hosta plantagenea in their genes. If you want to grow hostas in a mostly sunny location then you should amend the soil with compost and peat moss and supply adequate moisture for best results. We recommend amending the soil with compost and peat wherever you plant them as they love a nice fertile soil to thrive and achieve their true potential.

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One of our hosta gardens

My favorite part of growing hostas in a shaded area is the absence of noxious weeds. I have shade gardens that I might weed three times a season and sunnier gardens that need it weekly. I love walking through the shade gardens or sitting in a chair in the shade gardens on a nice summer day where the shade keeps you cool from the hot summer sun. A major pet peeve of mine or maybe just more of a disappointment is driving by a house with a large shaded area that is either barren or just mulched. This is a perfect area for hostas and companion plants. With a little bit of work you will be rewarded with a mass of reliable color and texture instead of weeds, leaves or just plain bark mulch. The goal should be to have people stop in front of your house to see the colors and textures of a beautiful hosta garden.

Sherri-Garden-Pic

Garden picture from our employee Sherri’s yard

Hostas are incredibly versatile plants as previously noted above but also because of the large range of colors and leaf shapes they offer. Hostas come in multiple variations of blue, green, gold, white and even red. Clump sizes can be as small as 2-3 inches tall and as tall as 4 feet. Hosta leaves come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and forms. Just look at the amount of adjectives used to describe hosta leaves and clumps on our website. From giant to miniature, cupped, flat, heart-shaped, lance-shaped, vase-shaped, corrugated, deeply veined, folded, rippled, glaucous, misted, streaked and twisted to name a few. A good hosta garden has a never ending array of colors and attributes. I love when you talk to someone about hostas and their reply is, “Oh, those green and white things?”. These people have no idea of the magnitude to what the species of hosta is capable of!

Bringing Bluebirds and Tree Swallows Into Your Hosta Gardens

For those that are struggling to develop thriving tree swallow and bluebird populations in their hosta gardens and yards, I have some thoughts on how to reverse this problem. This is certainly not the final solution, but the answer to why you need to help them to be successful in today’s environment.

Prior to the settling 4-22-16-bluebirds-nesting-239of the colonists, the beavers were making dams, killing off the trees behind the dams, and providing perfect nesting areas for hole-dwelling birds like the tree swallow or bluebird. Protection from predators was given by the water surrounding a tree, which acted as a moat that kept them from reaching the nests. For those of you who have seen the recent expansion of the beavers, you will see this happening in its natural process.

So what does this mean for homeowners, who obviously do not have beaver dams on their properties? The protective living situation that these birds existed within must be mimicked in order to prevent the predator from climbing your birdhouse bearing pole or tree. Installing an obstruction of your choice will provide this protection. There are physical obstructions like cones, sticky feet, and a myriad of other barriers and deterrents that can be used.

These options can be further explored by doing some of your own research. Find a method that works for you to prevent mostly nocturnal predators from climbing the pole to eat the eggs or the babies; or, in the case of squirrels, to occupy the nest box for themselves.

Hosta Pest Control: Deer Deterrent Strategy 102

I would like to share a refined strategy on how to protect your hosta garden from deer. This is an accumulated strategy, built from research and experience. Using deer deterrents successfully can be somewhat of a challenge, but I have applied this strategy within my own hosta gardens with great results.

You have to understand and accept a few principles guiding the behavior of the individual deer and the herd. There are many variables that can play a role in the behavior of the deer. These variables include but are by no means limited to weather conditions, herd size, available food, and time of year.

The individual deer appears to have a great memory. It will recognize that it is April, and the hosta are emerging from your garden. Or perhaps it is January with heavy snow cover; that same deer remembers that the yews and arborvitae in the garden are still tasty. If the deer is hungry enough, it will eat right at your front door.deer_garden

The fact that the individual deer bears this strong memory is troublesome enough,  but the doe brings her offspring into your gardens to feed as well. As a result, the entire herd retains the memory of your location. Even if something happens to the mother doe, her offspring  will remember where she took them on any given week.

Due to the factors listed above and the deer’s ability to remember feeding locations, it is my opinion that a multi-faceted approach is key to protecting your hosta from them.

It is important when combating deer to have a less desirable yard than your neighbors. Like the old joke about the two campers who run into a bear on their trip, “I don’t have to outrun the bear—I just have to outrun you!” As long as the deer are more attracted to your neighbor’s yard, you will not have them in your gardens.

While I will not explain in detail how to utilize various deterrents due to the wide array of products and tactics available, I will mention some that have worked well for me. It is recommended that you do some research and experimentation in order to find which products or tactics will work best for your situation.

A dog that is free to roam your yard and urinate randomly is a great deterrent. If this is an option for you, then it is a great place to start; however, I understand that most homeowners are not in the position to make this work. I am fortunate enough to be able to do this. Abby and the other dogs that have roamed freely during working hours and urinated as they pleased have kept the deer completely out of our gardens despite the heavy population of deer in the area.

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If a free-roaming dog is not an option, there are still plenty of tactics to implement. Regardless of which ones you decide to use, I suggest that you use three different deterrents at any given time. I also strongly recommend mixing up tactics from year to year. As said before, the deer are smart and carry a great memory. Changing tactics up will keep them from outsmarting your efforts. Using the canine urine, the soaps, the motion makers and other approaches in a combined rotation will certainly put up a strong fight against the deer in your hosta gardens.

Hosta Sports and Reversions

What is wrong with my hosta? Why does some of the clump look different from the rest? What is a sport? What is a reversion?

Here is a technical definition of both a sport and a reversion.

  • Sport: An individual arising from the result of mutation, chimeral rearrangement, or mitotic recombination that is genotypically or phenotypically different from the original individual.
  • Reversion: (in Hosta) The change of a variegated sport back to its original solid color predecessor.

So what does that mean in layman’s terms?

A sport is a leaf bud in a clump of hosta that grows differently than the rest of the clump.

See the green growing in the clump of ‘Guacamole’ in the picture to the right. DSC031912The green is not a reversion because ‘Guacamole’ is actually a sport of ‘Fragrant Bouquet’. There are different types of sports as noted below.

  • Mutation: A genetic change of DNA of an individual.
  • Chimeral Rearrangement: (in Hosta) Changing position of the cells between different tissue layers in an individual, i.e., a gold-margined hosta producing a gold-centered, all-green, or all-gold division.
  • Mitotic Recombination: A change in the genetic make-up or physical appearance.

A reversion is a leaf bud in a clump of hosta that goes back to the original mother plant. DSC031921See the one dark green center of ‘Sum of All’ in the picture to the left.  The remaining leaves of the plant have reverted back to the gold of ‘Sum and Substance.’

So What Do We Do With a Sport or Reversion?

Both should be removed by using a knife and cutting the bud off of the clump. The best way to do this would be to lift the whole hosta and separate all the unwanted divisions, then reset the original hosta.

These sports and reversions can be kept if they are wanted and grown somewhere else in the garden.

The Subtle Beauty of Epimediums

The following is wikiHow’s definition of subtle beauty.

“Subtle beauty is almost indefinable and makes a woman seem special; achieving it requires modesty and self-awareness. A person may desire to exhibit subtle beauty rather than being exhibitionist and objectifying the body. Those with subtle beauty don’t scream for attention, but instead are happy with who they are without having to manipulate others through using their physical beauty to feel that way.”

Epimedium x rubrum

Epimedium x rubrum

This is how I would describe the presence of Epimediums in a shade garden.  They are not going to scream out to you from across the lawn ‘come look at me’. But when you come across them mixed into a shade garden they are going to make a memorable impression on you with their subtle beauty.

I feel that companion plants improve any hosta garden by accenting the shapes and colors of hosta. Epimedium plants are an easy to grow deer resistant companion plant that prefers moist but well drained soil and once established is somewhat drought  tolerant. The more vigorous cultivars may be used under the spread of  maple trees.  During the growing season they exhibit a beautiful canopy of foliage in addition to a prolonged period of spring flowering.  Leaves emerge green in the spring but many have a beautiful bronzy coloration.

Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’

Once well established they form a weed inhibiting ground cover with their dense canopy.  They are a rhizomatous plant that spreads and fills in with time.  They are not an overly aggressive perennial that becomes a nuisance.

If you are trying Epimediums for the first time I would highly suggest one of the vigorous cultivars.

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphurium’ is a vigorous yellow blooming cultivar with dark green foliage that emerges initially with chocolate colored foliage.

Epimedium grandaflorum 'Dark Beauty'

Epimedium grandaflorum ‘Dark Beauty’

The grandiflorums are also easy to cultivate.  Epimedium grandiforum ‘Dark Beauty’  exhibits large purple and white flowers  in April and May.  Epimedium  grandiforum  ‘Rose Queen’ offers bright pink flowers in late spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epimedium x versicolor 'Cherry Tart'

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Cherry Tart’

For those of you looking to take a walk on the wild side, why not try Epimedium  x versicolor ‘Cherry Tart’?  It is slower growing but the striking  pink and cherry red flowers may be just the thing to spice up your garden.

Deer resistant, winter hardy, easy to grow, ground cover flowering perennials. What’s not to love?

We’re Excited to See These Beauties!

This time of year we are always dreaming of seeing all the hostas emerge. We all have our favorites but there are some that you just get excited to see again.

Montana Aureomarginata Hosta

montana ‘Aureomarginata’ is always the first hosta to show itself and let us know the season has begun.

Dawns Early Light Hosta

We love when ‘Dawn’s Early Light’ unfurls and displays those neon yellow leaves!

Autumn Frost Hosta

The bright yellow margins with nice blue centers on ‘Autumn Frost’ are outstanding in spring.

Jetstream Hosta

I really fell in love with ‘Jetstream’ last year and can’t wait to see how blue it is this spring.

Final Summation Hosta

If you grow ‘Final Summation’ you can’t wait to see it bigger this year. If you don’t have it, click add to cart now!

Guardian Angel Hosta

‘Guardian Angel’ puts on a show in spring with bright white-centered leaves.

Liberty Hosta

‘Liberty’ shines in the shade garden with those wide gold margins. A real beauty!

Our Favorite Cute Small Hostas

These small hostas are perfect as border perennial plants or when you need to fill that small space in your rock garden. These small hostas also make great container plants for a deck or poor soil area in the garden. We like these cuties for their vibrant colors and garden performance.

Appletini Hosta, small hostaCherry Tart Hosta, a small hostaCorkscrew Hosta, a small hostaCurley Fries Hosta, a small hostaFrosted Mouse Ears Hosta, a mini hostaHideout Hosta, a small hostaHoly Mouse Ears Hosta, a miniature hostaLittle Treasure Hosta, a small hostaMighty Mouse Hosta, a miniature hostaMini Skirt Hosta, a small hostaMouse Trap Hosta, a miniature hostaRainbow's End Hosta, a small hostaSilver Threads & Golden Needles Hosta, a small hostaSlim and Trim Hosta, a small hostaTick Tock Hosta, a miniature hosta

Our Favorite Blue Hostas

Did you know that blue is the rarest color in a garden? Our blue hosta plants will give your garden true blue colors! From deep blue hostas to soft power blue hosta plants, intense blues and fragrant blues, these shade perennials are sure to delight! We like these blues for their good blue color and excellent garden performance.  Here’s our favorites!

Blue Tooth HostaBlueberry Muffin Hosta

Camelot Hosta, a Blue HostaGemstone Hosta, a Blue Hosta

Jetstream Hosta, a Blue HostaPewterware Hosta, a Blue HosaPrairie Sky Hosta, a Blue HosaRock and Roll Hosta, a Blue HostaSkylight Hosta, a Blue Hosta

Our Favorite Big Hostas

We often get asked what hostas we would recommend and, of course, our answer is “All of Them!”  We hope you have a really big yard. It is always a hard question to answer as everyone’s opinions are different. We tend to lean towards the dependable growers that grab our attention in the garden. Here are a few (or more) hostas that we think everyone should have in their shade garden.

If you want big, then our favorites are:

Blueberry Waffles Hosta, a Giant HostaBridal Falls Hosta, a Giant HostaBrother Stefan Hosta, a Giant HostaDevil's Advocate Hosta, a Giant HostaEmpress Wu Hosta, a Giant hostaFinal Summation Hosta, a Giant HostaBlue Legend Hosta, a Giant HostaFrost Giant Hosta, a Giant Hosta Gentle Giant Hosta, a Giant HostaKey West Hosta, a Giant HostaLiberty Hosta, a Giant HostaParhelion Hosta, a Giant HostaSimply Sharon Hosta, a Giant Hosta