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July 2015

Slug resistant hostas?

Slug resistant hostas? Yes, well, maybe…

Slug resistant(!) Hosta 'Brother Ronald' destroyed by slugs. mage ©GardenPhotos.com

Anyone who writes anything about hostas usually ends up saying that some varieties are slug resistant. But let’s stop right there: what do we mean by “resistant”? Well, we don’t mean immune, that’s for sure. What we mean is that they’re far less likely to be eaten than other hostas, that’s all.

These are varieties that have unusually thick and heavily textured leaves that the slugs struggle to munch through. They’re often related to the old favorite H. sieboldiana ‘Elegans’ and many of them have blue foliage.

Now, I was looking for a hosta for my daughter Lizzie’s small town garden recently. And slugs are definitely a problem. So, I took a look at the huge range on sale at the Plant Centre at the RHS garden at Wisley near London and picked out one I didn't know, ‘Brother Ronald’. The foliage is really tough and leathery, it’s a lovely puckered blue color and it doesn’t get too big. Ideal.

It turned out that it was raised by Britain’s only notable hosta breeder, Eric Smith, who also raised ‘Halcyon’, ‘Hadspen Blue’ and others that often hold their own against slugs. What’s more, I discovered that hosta wizard Mark Zilis marks it as “slug-resistant” in his superb Hosta Handbook.

Well, a couple of days later I had an email from Lizzie. You can see what happened (above). Too many starving slugs.

Here in Pennsylvania, we have not one slug bite on a hosta this year, in spite of the wet season. – although last night’s roof rattling thunderstorm has punched a few holes in one or two. But of course we have frogs and snakes around to help keep the slugs under control.

Hosta 'Blue Mammoth'- no slug damage. Image ©GardenPhotos.com

‘Blue Mammoth’ (above) is majestic as usual, ‘June’ (below), a sport of another Eric Smith variety, ‘Halcyon’, is also pristine as is ‘Great Expectations’.

Diana Grenfell published a list of ten slug resistant hostas in her excellent book, A Gardeners Guide to Growing Hostas. She recommended: ‘Blue Umbrellas’, ‘Fragrant Gold’, ‘Green Sheen’, H. hypoleuca, ‘Invincible’, ‘Krossa Regal’, ‘Leather Sheen’, H. sieboldiana forms, ‘Silvery Slugproof’ and ‘Sum and Substance’. A good choice.

In my Encyclopedia of Perennials, I included a longer list of slug-resistant hostas that I and Mark Zilis put together. It included most of Diana Grenfell’s list plus: ‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd’, ‘Big Daddy’, ‘Blue Angel’, ‘Blue Dimples’, ‘Blue Mammoth’(above, good with us), ‘Blue Moon’, ‘Blue Wedgewood’, ‘Dorset Blue’, ‘Fragrant Bouquet’, ‘Gold Edger’, ‘Gold Regal’, ‘Great Expectations’ (great for us in PA), ‘Hadspen Blue’, ‘Halcyon’ (good with us), ‘June’ (below, good with us), ‘Love Pat’, ‘Northern Exposure’, ‘Sagae’, ‘Sea Lotus Leaf’, ‘Spilt Milk’, H. tokudama forms and ‘Zounds’.

I wonder if any of these recommended hostas can take the pressure that finished off ‘Brother Ronald’?

Hosta 'June' - no slug damage. Image ©GardenPhotos.com

Order the Gardeners’ Guide to Growing Hostas in North America
.

Order the Gardeners’ Guide to Growing Hostas in Britain.

Order my American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Perennials in North America.

Order my Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Perennials in Britain.

Order The Hosta Handbook by Mark R. Zilis in North America.

Order The Hosta Handbook by Mark R. Zilis in Britain.