The Hosta Genus (Plantain Lily)

The hosta genus is part of the asparagus plant family, Asparagaceae.

It consists of roughly around 40 different species, all of which are perennials, and come from Northeast regions of Asia. 

A testament to their popularity is the sheer amount of cultivars available, as there are over 6,000 different varieties to choose from!

These plants are grown ornamentally all over the world in shaded areas, where their huge foliage is the perfect focal point, often accompanied by clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers.

Hostas At A Glance

These beautiful plants can attract a plethora of wildlife into your garden, including bees and hummingbirds.

Unfortunately, they are adored by slugs, snails, and caterpillars, too!

This can mean that your hostas can resemble Swiss cheese rather than seas of foliage, but there are things you can do to limit the damage.

Spraying your hostas with a mixture of concentrated garlic water and plain water helps to keep slugs and snails at bay.

Hostas are perfect for very shaded gardens where your planting choices are limited, providing color and structure into any green space.

This is why they are frequently called the queen of the shade, and while they look good on their own, they make the perfect backdrop for hellebores, heucheras, aquilegias, and other flowering plants.

It’s worth knowing that hostas produce chemicals called saponins as one of their primary defenses, which are toxic to animals.

While these plants aren’t believed to be harmful to humans, it’s worth keeping children away from hostas. Hostas are known to be an irritant.

Some hosta species will produce flowers which have plenty of perfume, in particular, Hosta plantaginea is planted for this purpose, also known as the fragrant hosta.

Hosta Name Origin

The genus name honors Nicolaus Thomas Host, who was an Austrian botanist, and the personal doctor of Holy Roman Emperor Francis II.

The common name, plantain lily, refers to its similar looks to the plantain weed, Plantago major

Hosta Symbolism

Hosta plants signify friendship, faithfulness, and devotion.

Hosta Uses

Despite their toxicity to animals, all species of hosta are in fact, safe to eat. In Asian cuisine, they are often grown as vegetables. 

They are grown across the world for their beautiful foliage and striking flowers. Some species feature variegated foliage, only adding to their attractiveness.

They have endless applications in the garden, from dwarf varieties which are suitable for containers, to much larger varieties which are capable of spreading out and creating a great display.

Hosta Growing Requirements

Hosta plants are very long-lived in USDA zones 3 through to 8, and will provide your garden with a wealth of lush foliage and flowers for years to come.

They bloom in spring, summer, and fall, in shades of white or light purple.

There is a hosta-sized space in any garden, as you can get types which range from only 10cm tall to 6 feet tall. 

Some varieties you can even grow inside, too.

Hostas aren’t picky about the soil type, as long as it’s constantly damp, and has plenty of drainage.

They’ll survive in partial sunlight, but what they really like is plenty of shade.

These plants are very low maintenance. You will need to divide them every few years to keep them vigorous. 

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