Sunday, April 12, 2009

April Plant of the Month

John Gilrein, Plant of the Month Coordinator

Due to a shipping error (the supplier forgot to ship the order in time), our March 2009 Plant of the Month, woodland wildflowers and ferns, will be offered at the April 2009 meeting as a member appreciation plant. Plants we will offer include: Hepatica acutiloba, Uvularia grandiflora (merrybells), Trilliums, including T. grandiflorum, T. luteum, and T. sessile, and Adiantum pedatum (maidenhair fern). After members receive a free plant, leftover plants will be offered for sale. For details on growing these plants, please refer to the article in the March 2009 Green Dragon.

In addition, The April 2009 Plant of the Month will be Hostas. As our speaker will be talking about miniature Hostas, we’re going to purchase mainly miniature Hostas to coordinate with our speaker’s presentation. We have arranged to buy plants from a local nursery, Tobeytown, where an endless array of Hostas is grown, but none in very large quantities. As Tobeytown does not currently have a list of the plants available, you’ll have to be in suspense waiting for exactly which varieties we’ll offer on April 25. We hope to have some really enticing Hostas to inspire our discriminating members!

Hostas, formerly named Funkias, are hardy in zones 3 to 8. Hostas grow best in partial shade and humus rich, fertile soil with mulch and adequate moisture. In our northern latitude, Hostas are more tolerant of bright sun, but they will suffer more from dry conditions when planted in a sunny spot, unless the gardener provides plenty of moisture during dry spells. Blue leaved Hostas have the best foliage color in partial shade. Hostas with yellow or yellow variegated leaves have the brightest yellow coloring with some sun – but not a location that’s too dry or sunny.

Hostas unfortunately are preyed on by slugs, the chief pest of Hostas, but slugs can be controlled, or at least discouraged by baiting and trapping, or by mulching with sharp grit. Slugs can be baited with iron phosphate pellets (e.g. Sluggo), which are toxic to slugs but not toxic to mammals, including the gardener. Iron phosphate pellets will eventually dissolve in the rain, so they’ll need to be either covered, or reapplied during the season. An effective slug trap is any small container filled with cheap beer. Disposable, small hard plastic cups work well and can catch a lot of slugs. Some of the thicker leaved Hostas are reputedly more slug resistant. It is important to start slug control early in the season before slugs have a chance to disfigure your Hosta leaves with their chew holes. Hostas are very sturdy plants, though they may suffer from vole damage during the winter; I’ve only had a minor problem with this during 1 or 2 winters. Unfortunately deer also will eat Hostas. They chewed on my Frances Williams, but apparently never found her tasty enough to consume more than a sample.

I’ve never tried growing Hostas in a container or trough, but Hostas should be hardy enough to overwinter in a trough in most of our area, if the trough is in a sufficiently protected spot. Miniature Hostas would be perfect for a trough.

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