Garden Doctors: Hostas brighten up shade gardens

<strong>Leslie asks: We moved to Sonoma County from the Midwest, and in our previous landscape we grew several varieties of hostas. Given our mild weather, can we successfully grow hostas here?</strong>

We live in an older neighborhood that has mature trees and, therefore, shady areas are a significant part of the garden.

Yes, hosta, commonly known as the perennial plantain lily, can be grown successfully in our area. Even though our weather is milder than your previous home, they still will die back during the winter months and remain dormant until warm weather arrives.

They require regular water, filtered shade to full shade and organically enriched soil.

The beauty of growing hostas in a shade garden is the beautiful and colorful shape of their bold leaves. All cultivars contrast nicely with finer textured foliage plants such as ferns or small evergreen conifers.

Choosing evergreen ferns as shade loving companion plants will give the appearance of continued understory greenery during the time when the hostas go into their dormancy period.

A couple examples of popular evergreen ferns that thrive in our area are: Dryopteris erythrosora, commonly known as the colorful autumn fern, and Rumohra adiantiformis, commonly known as the leather fernand admired for its shiny green fronds.

More information for those readers not familiar with hostas: Each plant can produce many tubular-shaped flowers borne on tall spikes that rise up to 18 inches above the foliage.

The flowers may be white, lilac, or a bluish shade. The bloom usually lasts from mid- to late-summer, and the hummingbirds are attracted to the tubular-shaped flowers. Foliage is varied in appearance and can be oval with a heart-shaped base or narrow and lance-shaped, depending on the species or cultivar.

The width of the clumping plant can vary from 18 inches to 2 feet or even more, depending on the growing conditions. Heights can be 12 to 18 inches.

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