Growing Hostas and Alstroemerias

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Hostas and alstroemerias are garden favourites for this time of year. But, while alstroemerias are grown for their attractive flowers, hostas are most loved for their pretty, variegated, pleated or plain leaves.

Hostas are useful, low growing understorey plants that flourish in the dappled shade of trees. They prefer morning sun and protection from the afternoon sun in a not-too-hot climate with soil that stays moist most of the time. Hot sun and dry periods will spoil the plants and just make them look miserable.

In most areas hostas will die back in winter and re-shoot new leaves from the base in spring. This is the time to be on the alert for snail attack. Snails and slugs are the number one enemy for hostas. There’s something about hosta leaves that these pests find irresistibly attractive and it’s very common to see their leaves peppered with snail holes. Once the holes are there, the leaves are spoilt. There’s no cure, only prevention. Potted hostas can be surrounded by a thin layer of sand to deter munching molluscs. Blitzem or Baysol pellets can be sprinkled around the plants. Make sure that the pellets are replaced after heavy rain periods and, if you have pets, use Blitzem Snail & Slug Granules.

In the warmer months hostas produce flower spikes topped with bell-like blooms. While these are pretty, most gardeners grow hostas for their leaves, rather than the blooms. Divide crowded clumps in early spring and feed regularly with a general liquid fertiliser like Thrive Flower & Fruit or Nitrosol while the plants are growing.

If you buy mixed bunches of flowers from the florist, chances are you’ll be familiar with alstroemerias, even if you don’t know their name. They’re the pretty, flared-tube flowers that come in a range of pink, apricot, white, cream and yellow shades. The petals are often artistically marked with fine, darker lines that look almost as if they’re been drawn by a sure-handed china painter.

In recent years, with the introduction of newer varieties, alstroemerias have migrated from the florist’s shop to the garden. Garden-worthy alstroemerias are more compact and have neat growth that makes them just as suitable for pots as for the garden. Some of the newer alstroemerias are grouped under the name of ‘Princess Lilies’ but there are plenty of others that are equally worth looking out for.

Grow alstroemerias in a full sun position in cool climates or in part shade where it’s warmer. Improve the soil before planting by digging in some old organic matter (such as manure or compost) and some Dynamic Lifter pellets. Put a layer of mulch around the plants to keep the roots cool.

Alstroemerias grow from bulb-like rhizomes that can survive for many years. The clumps will gradually spread in the garden and some varieties, especially the red and green flowered Alstroemeria psittacina, grow readily from seed and can be weedy. The garden-bred plants have much better manners and are unlikely to outgrow their welcome. Begin feeding new growth in spring with Thrive Flower & Fruit and remove old flower sections to encourage more blooms.


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