Hostas, or plantain lilies, are popular because they give color and texture to perennial gardens from mid-spring until mid-fall. Large clumps of basal leaves with pronounced veining and smooth or wavy edges distinguish hostas. Leaves come in various shades of green, often with variegations. Lilylike flowers on tall stems (or scapes) in white and lavender bloom from late spring to late summer. Size and shape vary tremendously, with petite types a few inches tall for rock gardens at one end of the scale and giants with a single plant the size of a half whiskey barrel at the other.
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How to grow: Hostas do best in good, well-drained, moist garden soil with plenty of humus. They require some sun to partial shade to deep shade, depending on the species and variety. In the North, they like more sun. They need protection from slugs and deer.
Propagation: By division for named cultivars or from seed.
Uses: Hostas are the backbone of the shade garden. The smaller types are excellent in the border or as ground cover. The larger varieties become elegant specimen plants forming gigantic clumps of leaves over the years. They are also excellent as potted plants.
Scientific name: Hosta species