Hostas, slugs and snails

by James Alexander-Sinclair

A client of mine said something curious to me this week, as we were discussing what to plant in her garden: "I hope you're not going to give me any of those ghastly cabbagey things".

Hosta shoots emerging from the groundA client of mine said something curious to me this week, as we were discussing what to plant in her newly-landscaped garden: "I hope you're not going to give me any of those ghastly cabbagey things".

Strangely, I instantly knew that she was talking about hostas. The hosta can be a really annoying plant: pretty flowers and truly glorious leaves that can completely transform a shady corner, but (and this is a big, big but) they have the same irresistible attraction to molluscs as cow pie has to Desperate Dan.

At this time of year all is perfect with tightly furled funnels of foliage poking their heads through the ground. The problem begins when the leaves unravel to reveal, not flawless quilted duvets of perfection, but something moth eaten and riddled with holes.

However, one should not give up growing hostas just because they can be a little troublesome. Did David take one look at Goliath and wander off to the pub? Did Leonidas and his Spartans gaze upon the hordes of advancing Persians and suddenly remember another appointment? Did Barnsley run screaming from the field when faced with the might of Liverpool? They did not, they dug in their heels, confronted the enemy head on and sorted things out (admittedly it was not the happiest of endings for the Spartans but they gave it a pretty good shot).

Slug and snail control has been covered here a few times so you should have lots of available weaponry in the battle. Should you decide (as you should) that hostas are worth the trouble then it's easier to defend them if they are grown in pots (these are some particularly fine ones as grown by my mother) and always make sure that they're not at all stressed - well watered and out of direct sunshine (too much sun reduces the lustre of the leaves).

All these aspects considered, if I was only allowed to grow one hosta then I would have to choose Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans'. It has big glaucous blue leaves and a chandelier of white flowers, looks magnificent in a pot and wonderful in a damp corner amongst ferns (especially Matteuccia struthiopteris).

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Gardeners' World Web User 17/04/2007 at 17:54

I thank my lucky stars that we really don't have a slug or snail problem so my hosta's always put on a fab display. I think encouraging the birds into the garden helps us.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/04/2008 at 19:26

I have grown great hostas in pots for four years now with no slug problems. But, can you tell me if I need to change the soil or add feed or something. I just leave the pots alone, let them stay out all winter and they just seem to grow very well.

Gardeners' World Web User 16/04/2008 at 00:03

I have 4 hostas slugs don,t really bother with them maybe an odd nibble but if i were to put delphiniums or dahlia,s in the gardens they wouldn't last 5 mins

Gardeners' World Web User 16/04/2008 at 00:54

Just went through my flickr stats and noticed is linking to some of my hosta pictures, so let me tell you their story as well. They are my first attempt at "growing stuff" myself after receiving them as a gift last year. I've never been much of a gardener, and living in an apartment isn't much of an incentive to become one either. But they just sit in their pot in their little corner of my balcony and do their growing all by themselves, with the occasional helping of water in very dry periods. That way they liven up the concrete jungle and make me feel like the gardener I'm really not. Priceless!

Gardeners' World Web User 16/04/2008 at 09:01

I put a really thick mulch of builders sand around the spikes as they appear and have found this keeps damage to a minimum.

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