African Hosta Care: Growing African Hostas In The Garden
By: Mary Ellen Ellis
African hosta plants, which are also called African false hosta or little white soldiers, somewhat resemble true hostas. Grow these warm weather plants for a unique new garden feature.
About African Hosta Plants
The African hosta goes by a few different Latin names, including Drimiopsis maculata and Ledebouria petiolata. Its placement in a plant family is not fully agreed upon, with some experts putting it in the lily family and others with hyacinth and related plants. Regardless of its classification, African hosta is a warm weather plant, growing best outdoors in USDA zones 8 through 10.
What draws most gardeners to the African hosta is its unique, spotted foliage. The leaves are oblong in shape and fleshy. Most noticeably, the leaves are green with spots that may be darker green or even dark purple. Spotted foliage is not typical, so these plants add a bit of flair and visual interest to the garden.
The flowers are nice but not spectacular. They are white or white with a little bit of green and grow in clusters. Each individual flower is bell-shaped.
How to Grow African Hosta
Growing African hostas isn’t difficult. The plants grow like a groundcover, but also do well in clumps or edges or even in containers. Growth is slow, though, so if you want to fill in a space with groundcover, put the plants fairly close together. African hostas do best in shade or partial shade, much like true hostas. The more sun they get, the more watering your plants will need. Otherwise, they do not need to be watered often.
African hosta care is simple once the plants are established. They are not picky about soil type, tolerate some salt, and do well in heat and drought. There are no particular pests or diseases that bother African hosta, but shade-loving pests like slugs or snails may do some damage.
Deadhead your African hosta plants to ensure that they put more effort into producing more beautiful foliage and spend less energy on seeds.
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Hostas: plant, care & variety guide
When I moved to the Hunua Ranges, a little over seven years ago, I was chuffed to get my green fingers into a country garden dotted with youthful deciduous trees.
The adolescent English oaks beside our lawn still let enough light through their branches to grow rows of vegetables at their roots and waist-high delphiniums around the drip line, while bluebells, carpet roses and daffodils snuggled around the silver birches.
A few years on, the bluebells are still flourishing but the daffodils died out and the straggly roses have made way for rhododendrons, pieris, hellebores, cyclamen and a clutch of showy South African scadoxus bulbs that send up their fireball flowers right on cue for the Heroic Garden Festival this month (my garden is open from February 9-11).
In the dry, acidic shade of the oaks, however, it has proved a struggle to get anything much to thrive. There are several reasons why. For starters, tree roots are invasive and thirsty, robbing the soil of nutrients and mining every hint of moisture.
Come autumn, when deciduous trees lose their leaves, underplantings can be suffocated under a wet blanket of fallen foliage, unless you are an assiduous raker-upper. And when the leaves come down, there's no longer an overhead canopy affording protection from hard winter frosts, ruling out many of the dry-loving subtropicals and elegant ferns I used to grow in the shady corners of my former city garden.
When experimenting in the shade, I hadn't thought to plant shade-loving hostas – those bold-leafed beauties prized for their crinkled and crimped foliage in shades of chartreuse, silver, blue, green and gold – because everyone knows they prefer moist soil to bone-dry, barren dust, right?
WHAT HOSTAS NEED TO GROW
Experience has taught me that if you're prepared to pamper your hostas on planting, nestling each plant into the soil along with a generous bucket of rich compost, offering regular deep soakings during their first summer and mulching the ground around them heavily to hold moisture, they don't mind the dry one iota.
Regardless of your soil conditions, hostas need quite a bit of shade. Even in partial sun, their lush leaves will scorch and shrivel in the sun's midsummer rays.
* The yellow forms, and varieties of Hosta plantaginea, are notably more heat-tolerant.
* In my own garden, the only hosta that can take full sun and still look attractive is 'Purple Heart', which has pointy green leaves atop dark stems.
Hostas range in foliage colour from eerie shades of silvery-blue and grey to buttery gold and every shade of green from lime to classic Landrover green. Some have smooth thin leaves others are thick and crimped, crinkled or corrugated. Some have a graceful form with cascading foliage, while others are more upright or vase-shaped.
There are thousands of cultivars, many with variegated accents, be they splotched golden hearts, white streaks or neatly rimmed edges of cream.
GROWTH & PROPAGATION
As foliage plants, hostas range in size from dinky miniatures to paddle-leafed giants, such as 'Empress Wu', marketed as the world's biggest hosta.
'Empress Wu' is said to form mounds at least 1.2m tall and wide and, while my two-year-old plants aren't quite that lofty yet, they have doubled in size in one year. Having planted them 50cm apart, I suspect one of next year's jobs will be uprooting half of them to allow extra elbow room for the rest.
Hostas are easily propagated by division in spring, but wait at least three years before you start hacking up established clumps.
CARING FOR HOSTAS
I adore all hostas. So do slobbery slugs and snails. Here in Hunua, wild birds keep these slimy interlopers at bay, but suburban gardeners are advised to keep a box of slug bait handy.
Without protection in October, when the new shoots start to emerge from the winter-dormant rhizomes, the striking foliage of hostas can be blighted for the entire season.
Varies from 6 to 8 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide, to 48 inches tall and 6 feet wide, with many sizes in between.
Dappled or partial shade all hostas need some sunlight. Blue, green, and variegated varieties will do better in slightly deeper shade, while yellow and gold ones need more light to bring out their colors. Those with more substantial foliage can tolerate full sun in cooler zones, if given enough regular water.
Varies smooth, veined, waxy, cupped, heavily puckered, ruffled, or curled and twisted. Choose from a wide variety of hosta leaf colors, patterns and shapes:
- Shades from apple green to dark spruce, sunny yellow, and grayish-blue
- Variegated with white or gold edges or centers
- Shapes from long and narrow to wide and heart shaped
2021 Hosta of the Year:
Where to Plant Hosta
- Plant hostas in partial shade plant in full shade in hot summer regions. In general, the more yellow in the foliage, the more sun the variety will tolerate.
- Grow hostas in humus-rich, well-drained soil. Mix compost and mulch around hostas each spring.