Hosta, a broadleafed member of the lily family (Liliaceae), is a hardy plant prized for its foliage. Hostas, also known as plantain lilies, are native to Asia and came to the United States in the 1800s, according to Ohio State University Extension. Hostas are easy to care for and readily available from garden catalogs, garden centers and nurseries.
Hostas, perennial plants, have large, wide, oval or pointed leaves that grow from the crown of the plant in a symmetrical rosette pattern. Summer blooming, hostas produce pale lilac to nearly white flower spikes that can be showy and fragrant, depending on the cultivar. Hosta foliage color varies by species and cultivar, including yellow, gold, green or blue. Blue coloring is due to a waxy coating that develops as the foliage matures. Some cultivars have variegated foliage. Hosta height is variable by cultivar as well, ranging from 6 inches to 4 feet tall (not including flowers). Hostas reach full maturity in 4 to 8 years, according to Ohio State University Extension.
Hostas are poplar shade plants, useful under trees and in other places where grass is difficult to grow. Hostas are also effective in shady borders and in woodland settings. Smaller species or cultivars are suitable for edging or in containers.
Hostas tolerate a wide range of soils, but prefer well-drained, moist soil high in organic matter, such as compost. Partial or deep shade is best for hostas, because full sun is likely to burn its foliage. Cut the flower stalks off as they emerge to encourage foliage development if the flowers are unwanted. Hostas are suitable for USDA Zones 3 through 9, depending on the type.
Bluntleaf plantain lily (Hosta decorata) produces 6-inch leaves on compact, 2-foot plants. It produces showy, dark violet flowers in August. Fragrant plantain lily (Hosta plantaginea) is an old-fashioned hosta that produces 4- to 5-inch fragrant flowers in clusters from August to September. Wavyleaf plantain lily (Hosta undulata) has interesting foliage, showy flowers and is more tolerant to sunny conditions than other hostas.
Snails and slugs may bother hostas, and they are a favorite plant of deer. Chewing insects are another pest of hostas. Crown rot may be a problem in poorly drained soils. Commercial baits and insecticides may help reduce garden pests, but early intervention is recommended, as well as careful adherence to labels and precautions. Deer are extremely difficult to keep out of the garden.