IF lush foliage and luxuriant leaves are your thing, you can’t do better than a hosta.
Not many of us can boast the dappled shade of a woodland’s edge to grow them.
But with so many of us gardening in the shadow of buildings, their architectural shapes, colours and flowers (which many people forget), they’re an ideal component for contemporary plantings.
They do have some demands, but are on the whole quite easy.
Hostas will grow almost anywhere, but not in hot sun – dappled shade is their thing. Leaves with lots of white can scorch, so need deeper shade, and blue varieties grow bluer in a shadier home.
I have divisions of the same plant which look completely different depending on the light intensity.Give them a moist but well-drained, humus-rich soil –dig in lots of compost when planting.
Mulch with well-rotted manure or compost in early spring, adding slow-release fertiliser or a handful of fish, blood and bone.
For hostas in pots, I’ve read that several growers warn against Miracle-Gro for fertilising all the time, as nitrogen from it builds up too much acidity in the soil.
Some recommend half-strength tomato or seaweed preparations as a foliar feed, or chicken manure pellets.
I have to say, until I looked it up, I didn’t know there were so many competing theories! Maybe this is why hostas have a reputation of being awkward.
I bought my first one nearly 25 years ago. I’ve planted mine in decent compost, chuck a random handful of fish, blood and bone at them in spring and let them get on with it. If you overfeed, the lush growth will just attract slugs and snails.
Many of my early varieties were simply labelled “variegated hosta” which looking back, isn’t very helpful.
I did buy two so-called “bargain deals” from an online mass market supplier during winter, with the result that several did not come away at all. (I’ve never got over the laughably-named Touch of Class, dead as a doornail, its plastic bag puffing out mould from the plant’s corpse.)
Container-grown, in-leaf specimens are more expensive from a garden centre, but don’t neglect small-scale specialists, where you’re likely to get more unusual varieties.
You get what you pay for in life...