Hostas, a hardy perennial, originated from the Far East. Introduced first to Europe in the late 1700s, the hosta plant made its way to America about the mid-1800s. Today, the plants can be found throughout the country as it grows in a range of hardiness zones. Hostas generally are low-maintenance plants and boast more than 2,500 different cultivars (cultivated varieties). However, hostas have a natural enemy, and this enemy may be the reason your plants have holes in the leaves.
Basics of the hosta plant
The leaves of the hosta plant are broad, emerging from a central crown and developing into a mounded form, describes the University of Minnesota Extension office. Depending on the variety, hosta leaves may range in color from grass green to yellowish-green and multicolored patterns of green and white. The texture of the leaves also varies depending on the cultivar.
According to Master Gardener Gretchen Heinke from the Ohio State University Extension office, “All hostas bloom in summer with spikes of lavender to white, lily-like flowers, which can be quite showy…All fragrant hosta flowers are hybridized from Hosta plantaginea.” The flowers of the hosta plants can attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Its leaves, however, often attract slugs.
Hosta leaves and slugs
The leaves of your hostas can appear to be one big buffet to a slug. Often home gardeners blame the holes in the leaves of the hosta plants on cutworms or other insects. Generally, the culprit is the slug. Snails also will chew and leave holes in hosta leaves, but typically, it’s the slugs that munch on hostas in the United States. The holes the slugs leave tend to be irregular-shaped.
Slugs become active as the early spring days begin to warm. The creature prefers moist conditions and is most active at night. During the day, you may find slugs attached to the underside of your hosta plant’s leaves, as the slug seeks respite from the sun and heat. Recognizing a slug is easy. It looks like a snail without a shell, legless and usually it leaves behind a slimy trail as it moves across the leaves of your plants.
Ridding hostas of slugs
Tim Gibb, an Integrated Pest Management Specialist from the Purdue University Extension office, recommends three methods for removing slugs from your hostas. These methods include handpicking the slugs off the plants, baiting it with a beer trap, or using a commercial slug bait trap.