Plantain Lilies - Amazing Shade Plants for the Beginning Gardener

Plantain Lilies - Amazing Shade Plants for the Beginning Gardener

Getting started with hostas

By Published June 05, 2019 Updated May 09, 2023

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The following article is part of a series geared toward entry-level gardeners. For deep dives into a variety of perennials that we have sold over the decades, visit our archive of in-depth perennial articles written by Tony Avent, Dr. Patrick McMillan, and other Plant Delights and JLBG experts. We also have transcripts of our Gardening Unplugged videos, recorded during our Open Nursery and Garden Days, that have great information for gardeners of all experience levels.

Are you a beginning gardener looking to add some greenery to your outdoor space? Look no further than the plantain lily, also known as the hosta. This versatile and easy-to-care-for perennial plant is a great choice for those just starting out in gardening. With its lush foliage and attractive blooms, the plantain lily can add texture and interest to any garden. In this article, we'll take a closer look at this shade-loving plant and share some tips on how to grow and care for it, even if you're new to gardening.

The common name "plantain lily" for hostas is derived from the plant's resemblance to the plantain herb (Plantago species), which is also known as "broadleaf plantain". The leaves of both plants have a similar shape, and the name "lily" was added to the hosta's name because of its attractive, lily-like flowers that bloom in the summer. The name "hosta" comes from the Austrian botanist Nicholas Thomas Host, who is known for his work on European flora in the late 1700s. Since then, hostas have become a popular garden plant around the world, known for their versatility and ease of care.

A quick note about botanical names:

Binomial botanical names, also known as scientific names, are a standardized system of naming plants and other living organisms. They consist of two parts: the genus name and the species name. The genus name is always capitalized, while the species name is written in lowercase. Together, they form a unique name for each species of plant. Hosta plantaginea is an example of a binomial botanical name. In this case, "hosta" is the genus name and "plantaginea" is the species name.

Caring for Plantain Lily (Hosta)

Although plantain lily hostas require a generous amount of moisture, little other care is generally needed once the hosta is planted. Since plantain lily hostas are shade plants, they will not require a great amount of sunlight. Although some soil preparation will be required for best hosta growth, gardeners who have grown hostas will find that the amount of time tending them will be far less than the time spent simply admiring their beautiful leaves, flowers, and in some cases fragrance of the hosta flowers.

Frequently Asked Plantain Lily Questions

Q: What kind of soil do plantain lilies prefer?

A: Plantain lilies prefer rich, well-draining soil that is slightly acidic, with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. They thrive in moist, fertile soil that is high in organic matter.

Q: How much sun do plantain lilies need?

A: Plantain lilies are shade-loving plants that prefer filtered or dappled sunlight. They can tolerate some morning sun, but direct afternoon sun can scorch their leaves.

Q: How often should I water my plantain lilies?

A: Plantain lilies require regular watering, especially during hot and dry periods. Water deeply once a week or more often in extreme heat or drought conditions.

Q: How often should I fertilize my plantain lilies?

A: Plantain lilies benefit from regular fertilization throughout the growing season. Fertilize with a balanced, slow-release. organic fertilizer in the spring, and again in mid-summer.

Q: How do I prevent slug and snail damage on my plantain lilies?

A: Slugs and snails can be a common problem for plantain lilies. To prevent damage, try placing a copper barrier around the base of the plant or using an organic slug bait.

Q: How do I divide my plantain lilies?

A: Plantain lilies can be divided every 3-5 years to maintain their health and vigor. Dig up the clump in early spring or fall, separate the individual plants, and replant in well-prepared soil.

Q: Can I grow plantain lilies in containers?

A: Yes, plantain lilies can be grown in containers as long as they have plenty of room for their root system and are kept well-watered. Choose a container with good drainage and use a high-quality potting mix.

Plantain lilies are beautiful and versatile plants that can thrive in a variety of garden settings. Whether you're a beginner gardener or a seasoned pro, there are many reasons to include plantain lilies in your garden. With their striking foliage, delicate flowers, and ease of care, they are sure to add a touch of elegance to any garden. By following the growing and care tips outlined in this article, you can ensure that your plantain lilies grow and thrive for years to come. So go ahead and plant some today, and enjoy the beauty and grace of these wonderful plants!

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