Who doesn’t love a hosta? They’re so lush; their leaves add wonderful shades of green, blue and gold to gardens and that’s before we’ve even thought about all the variegated versions with their stripes and flashes of white or cream and their pretty mauve or white flowers in summer. Unfortunately, those juicy leaves are also loved by slugs and snails – anyone who grows hostas knows what damage they can cause!
Some years ago I visited a garden that held one of the national collections of hostas. There must have been hundreds, so many that you would have thought all the county’s slugs would be drawn to it. But there wasn’t a single snail-munched hole to be seen.
The key, according to Derrick Targett, the collection grower, is hygiene and putting slug pellets down early. Each year he cleans every scrap of debris that could house slugs over winter from his borders, and then he starts scattering slug pellets, sparingly according to the packet instructions, from January onwards. His perfect, immaculate hostas were proof that this regime works.
But not everyone is comfortable using slug pellets, so if you’d rather steer clear of traditional metaldehyde-based pellets, use a liquid formulation such as Slug Clear or try one of the organic alternatives on the market. You can also help keep your hostas away from slugs by growing them in pots, banded with copper tape if you like as an added precaution. Because they’re contained, it’s just easier to monitor any potential invaders!
Let’s be honest, we’re not looking after National Collections; in most gardens the odd hole doesn’t really matter. I don’t let the threat of slugs put me off growing hostas – they’re far too beautiful and I’d miss them in my patio pots where they make a good backdrop for my tubs of colourful bedding.
If you’re still worried about potential damage, choose tough-leaved varieties (such as Hosta sieboldiana). They’re like leathery rump steak to a slug, compared to the fillet steak of delicate thin-leaved varieties. And for the best results, don’t forget to feed them, especially if they’ve been in the same pot for a few years. Something high in nitrogen such as Miracle-Gro would be perfect for pots, or try pelleted chicken manure on hostas in the ground.
MUST-BUY PLANT... Foxglove
EVERY DAY: Digitalis purpurea
Lovely though it is, our native foxglove is a biennial, so only lives for two years, flowering in its second one.
EXTRA SPECIAL: Digitalis ‘Illumination’
This one from the Thompson & Morgan range is a foxglove crossed with related perennial, isoplexis, from which it has inherited bright colours and a longer life span.
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