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Iron Clad Hosta

Photo: Gail Hudson, Y&G News Editor
Hosta is a workhorse perennial in Minnesota. It’s a plant we can count on no matter what….unless the deer and slugs have their way! But despite winter, shady difficult sites, slopes, heavy clay soil, even dry soil, hosta are the go-to plant for cold climates.

Did you know there are 6,100 registered cultivars or varieties according to the American Hosta Society? Many more likely exist that are not registered. 
Chimera hostas
Photo: Gail Hudson, Y&G News Editor

Why are hostas striped?

Many hostas are chimeras….with different cells growing side by side and this accounts for the variegated or striped, patterned foliage. Propagating or slicing hosta crowns often reveals new cells with new color patterns and so we see a lot of variation in hostas. Fun for gardeners!

The best for slug resistance

Nursery owner and designer Steve Kelley gave a talk entitled Iron Clad Hosta at the 2020 Northern Green conference in January 2020. His many years of research and work with hosta made him an excellent person to hear from. 

Steve cited 15 of his favorites and gave tips on why hosta vary for slug damage. Slugs and deer, like soft, easy to chew foliage such as Hosta lancifolia, the common narrow-leaved hosta that lines many sidewalks or driveways. 
Hosta 'Regal Splendor', slug resistant.

The thick tougher leaves of the blue cultivars such as ‘Krossa Regal’ and ‘Regal Splendor’ help to make them less palatible for slugs. ‘First Frost’ is also slug resistant.

Mr Kelley noted Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans is a 1905 selection that is tried and true, but also a slow grower and slow to increase for garden division. In contrast ‘Golden Tiara’ from a local Minnesota hosta expert is fast to grow and increase.

The best for pollinators

He reminded me to get Hosta plantaginea for its large fragrant flowers, that pollinators love. ‘Royal Standard’ is a seedling of H. plantaginea that is especially nice. 
Hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears' miniature hosta
Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden

Smaller leaved hosta are slow to grow and take much longer to increase in the garden. However ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ is a faster growing dwarf or miniature hosta. For sunny locations,  ‘Sun Power’, ‘Sum and Substance’ and ‘Gold Standard’ were recommended.


For more information on hosta see this Extension website. Or join the American Hosta Society or locally the Minnesota Hosta Society. Many of the local society meetings are open to the public and welcome non-members to attend. 

Minnesota will be hosting the national  American Hosta Society meeting this June 10-13, 2020 in Minneapolis. Hosta will be for sale to the public at this event!  Now is a great time to join these groups if you love hosta or want to learn more about this tough plant.

BOLD hosta are also winners of the British Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Author: Mary H. Meyer, Extension Horticulturist and Professor 

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