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Hosta Care and Cultivation


Pest control
THAT frequently asked question! What can you do to protect your hostas from slugs and snails? Oh, I could write a whole book on this. Here are four different methods of keeping these pests at bay.

Chemical Control
Not everyone is happy about this but used correctly the risk to other wildlife is minimal. The most important thing to remember is timing – the earlier you start using slug pellets or liquid the better. A good date to remember is Valentine’s Day, some people say New Year’s Day is not too early! And you could put it on your mobile phone calendar so it pops up in front of your eyes at a time of year you may not be thinking of hostas! This will clear any eggs as well as the slugs themselves. It is so important to get them before the hosta noses start to appear. If you get the leaves up and unfurled without any damage the battle is more than half won. Slugclear by Scotts Garden Products is diluted then watered on to the pots and ground around your hostas. Don’t forget the areas where slugs and snails lurk – under stones, stacked pots, stone walls, etc. Pellets should be used sparingly and not on top of the plant, sprinkle away from the hosta and repeat every 3 or 4 days. Westland Plant Care have launched a new slug pellet called Eraza. Reports so far are very good. Less harmful, longer lasting and more effective than standard pellets. More expensive as well but could be worthwhile.

Natural Methods
The following are some of the controls many people use – crushed eggshells but you need a good layer, coarse grit, rough bark chippings, beer in a slugtrap, empty half grapefruit skins, a bucket of salt water to teach them how to swim! Just drop them in the bucket as you go round the garden For hostas grown in containers the sticky backed copper tape is proving very effective. Obtainable from garden centres, you wrap it around the container and it acts as an electric fence.

All of these suggestions work for some people – it’s a bit of trial and error but a combination will give you good results and help you grow stunning hostas.

Slugs and snails get electric shocks when they try to slide over copper. Although this does not kill them it is enough to send them elsewhere. This has been known for ages, but it was only recently – probably because the number and efficacy of slug and snail deterrents were reduced a few years ago – that products were devised to take advantage of this useful flaw.

Simple copper rings from www.slugrings.co.uk that can be slipped over plants and pressed lightly into the soil are expensive but last a lifetime and can be joined to make ever-larger rings as plant clumps expand. Encircling plants with copper tape (from garden centres) is an ideal way to grow juicy-leafed perennials, hostas and dahlias. Agralan Copper Snail and Slug Tape is tougher, stickier and more robust than others, and incorporates a jagged projecting frill that tips even the most ambitious snails over backwards. The tape is very versatile and can be used to protect entire greenhouses (stuck round the door), coldframes and raised beds. Circular barriers of various sizes for individual plants can be made using plastic lawn edging, a stapler and copper sticky tape. All these physical copper barriers work most effectively at the start of the season, as new shoots emerge. Once leaves have expanded and start to flop around, our slimy friends seem to be able to clamber around from plant to plant to get to what they want.

The main drawback to using copper rings of any kind is the danger of getting slugs or snails trapped inside – the results can be disastrous. Slug Shocka Fabric – either standing pots and containers on it or using it to create collars for vulnerable plants and Doff’s Socusil Slug Repellant containing copper silicate are both excellent.

Garlic appears to be the up and coming miracle plant – a very natural treatment that seems to be very effective in a number of horticultural applications. It is used in vegetable production and I believe it promotes healthy growth and disease resistance. The following recipe for garlic drench could be used on delphiniums and other plants that require such protection.

Recipe For Garlic Drench
2 whole garlic bulbs
2 pints water

Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the garlic has softened – about 20 – 30 minutes. Strain the juice, bottle it and keep it in a cool place. Add 2 tablespoons of this extract to a 2 gallon watering can and soak your plants on a weekly basis. The idea is that slugs and snails don’t like the smell (I could be flippant and go on about an allergy to being cooked in garlic butter but enough of that!). It is something that needs to be done on a regular basis and at additional times following heavy rain.

WARNING: Extractor fans on, windows open and I suggest you put the saucepan outside to cool – it is pungent!

Growing your hostas
Growing in the ground
Prepare the ground well as you would normally, adding garden compost or some other soil conditioner and a little slow release fertilizer or whatever you would normally use. Make sure the plant is adequately watered until it is established. Tidy the dead foliage in the autumn and fertilise and mulch in the spring. In the main they only require splitting when they have spread far enough. A few varieties benefit from regular splitting to maintain their variegation.

Growing in pots
To grow your hostas in pots think about right place, right pot and right compost. The right place is one that gives the right amount of shade, the right compost is a soil-based one, such as John Innes No 2 lightened with 20 – 25% peat or multi-purpose or leaf mould and some grit as well if you wish to help drainage. DO NOT use just multi-purpose compost please. It will offer your plant nothing by the end of the 1st season – fine for petunias but not for long lived and mature hostas. The right pot is one big enough – mature hostas will be much wider than their height. Hostas growing in pots will require repotting more frequently than ones growing in the ground.

Vine weevils
A horrid little creature is making its presence felt in gardens and has started on hostas – this is the very nasty vine weevil. These beasts tend to go for fibrous rooted plants. Quite often they will eat some of the hosta root and although the plant survives it tends to become stunted and lose a lot of its vitality. The only effective treatment I think is Bio Provado Vine Weevil Killer. It makes sense to use it as a precaution rather than wait for trouble. Diseases are not a great problem with healthy well grown hostas.

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