My Apologies to Mary
Years ago, a very wonderful friend of mine was espousing the virtues of hostas. Conjuring up an image in my mind of the cemetery variety, I replied that they were nothing but slug bait.
Thankfully my friend did not slug me! As a former president of the New England Hosta Society, she must have looked at me as a challenge and over the years kept pointing out unusual varieties. Her persistence paid off, and now I’m hooked. Having already mentioned that my favorite color is green, hostas already have one thing going for them. And the more I use them the more I love them.
There are really only three problems when growing hostas:
Bambi. Thumper. Slugs.
If the deer and rabbits in your area treat your hosta like a salad bar, be vigilant.
You need to interrupt their dinner and train them to look elsewhere. As soon as the hostas start to emerge in spring, spray with a repellent. There are many on the market and your local garden center can suggest one. There are also numerous homemade remedies on the internet – everything from Irish Spring soap to red pepper spray. I have had tremendous success with Deer Defeat. I purchase it online and apply according to package directions…more often in the spring as plants are actively growing. It’s all natural, does not have to be re-applied after rain and only smells really bad for a few hours.
If slugs are more your problem taking action NOW will prevent the chewed leaves that show up in July.
As soon as the hostas start pushing up through the earth, sprinkle a little bit of slug bait around. (Iron phosphate is my preferred method as it does not rely on chemicals that can be hazardous to people and pets.) Not too much – no need to go crazy.
Since slugs can have many litters (is that what you call them?) it’s important to get them under control before they start producing.
You can choose to set beer traps – basically a small tin filled with beer will attract the slugs and they fall in and drown. To me, that just seems like a waste of good beer!
I also read that using leftover coffee, sprinkled around the plants, will deter the slimy creatures. Apparently the caffeine tastes bitter and the slugs don’t like it. I have not ever had a real problem with these shell-less terrestrial gastropods in my garden and now I wonder if it is because I sprinkle my used coffee grounds in the garden to improve the soil. Of course you can limit slug damage by growing your hostas in containers. Many of you know I am a huge fan of using unusual foliage plants in containers and hostas are one of my favorites.
So let me just apologize to Mary right now. I was wrong and you were right. Hostas are beautiful. And you have recommended some great ones. ‘Winter Snow’, ‘Fat Cat’, ‘Grand Marquis’, ‘Sharp Dressed Man’. These are no cemetery varieties. For more information, and some great pictures, visit the Hosta Library.