Hostas are one of the most maintenance-free perennials you can grow. But they do have one nemesis -- Slugs! They love hostas and can be a problem over the entire season if the slug problem is left unresolved.
The Damage Slugs Do to Hostas
Slug damage to hostas appears as multiple holes chewed through the hosta leaves. The most damage will be done to varieties with thinner leaves or hostas that are variegated.
Your first line of defense is knowing about slugs.
Besides being darn ugly and slimy, slugs look like snails without the shells. They love to prey on hosta leaves causing holes in their leaves. If not battled early, they can ruin the look of the hostas for a season.
Why are slugs drawn to hostas?
Simply they like the same environment that hostas do; moist areas, preferably with plenty of decomposing organic matter.
When are slugs active?
They come out when it's cool and dark; the wetter the ground stays, the more the slugs populate it. They can also be spotted on cool, cloudy days.
Now the good part ...
How to get rid of them!
There are many chemical products on the market that will kill slugs including Sluggo or Ortho Slug and Snail Killer. I have found that they do work.
If you want a non-chemical way of getting rid of the little buggers, here are some suggestions that work well.
Change Their Environment
You want to make it less inviting for those slug families. There are several ways you can do this.
- They love the moist ground, so replace the old mulch that no longer drains well to a fresh mulch which will dry out faster. This will make it less hospitable to slugs.
- Slugs are soft-bellied creatures. To make it more difficult for the slug to travel hosta to hosta, you can put a rough-edged material like lava rocks around the hosta that they don't want to crawl over. Any coarse material like crushed eggshells will do.
- Place an Epsom Salt ring around the hosta. Slugs won't go near that. Epsom salt is also a good source of magnesium for hostas.
- Copper Strips. These are adhesive strips that form a barrier around pots or raised beds. When the slimy slug tries to cross the barrier, it is deterred with a small electric shock.
- Coffee grounds are also hard for slugs to crawl over and the caffeine is deadly to them. An added benefit is that coffee grounds are a good source of nitrogen, calcium, and magnesium.
If you are already “overrun” by the slugs or had a late start in getting to them, here's the best way I've found to limit their numbers.
- Place wood pieces in the area you have found slugs. Turn the boards over during the heat of the day and you'll find them resting there. Dunk them in a mixture of one part bleach to nine parts water or vinegar to kill them.
- Take a roll of newspaper and put a rubber band around it. Soak it in a pail of water for a few hours. Take the rubber band off and lay the newspaper in the slug area. They will crawl between the pages of the paper. Roll it up and dispose of the slugs.
This one we've all heard about
Take a shallow container and bury it in the ground next to your hosta. Fill with beer. The slug will fall into the trap and drown. Not an unpleasant way to go, I guess, and it does work for a few slugs or maybe at the beginning of the season. I wouldn't rely on this method for a large area of hostas.
Here's one you may not have thought of.
Birds eat slugs, so having many birdhouses around your hosta garden will attract birds to eat them. Some birds that will feast on slugs, beetles, and mosquitoes are Cardinals, Bluebirds, Orioles, and Sparrows.
My favorite way to limit your slug population:
Buy Slug Tolerant Hostas!
What makes a hosta more slug tolerant than others is the leaf substance of the hosta. The thicker and heavier the leaves, the less appeal they are to slugs and snails.
Here at Sunset Hosta Farm, we sell a good variety of slug-resistant hostas. Click on this link to see our selection. Click here.
Whether you buy slug-resistant hostas or use the above tips for the ones you have, your hostas will thank you by looking great throughout the season.
Where to go next!