What Is Eating Holes In My Hostas? Causes & Solutions

Everyone loves to brighten up the shady corners of their gardens and rooms. Hostas can fulfill their needs with their colorful and beautiful foliage. Hostas are very diverse and come with different leaf patterns, colors, and sizes, but all that can be turned into a nightmare by some pest insects that frequently attack hosta plants. Read on to find out more what is eating my hostas and learn about the pests and animals involved and how to protect your hostas from them.

what is eating my hostas

Photo Credit Slugs or snails are essentially to blame when you see damage to your hostas.

Hostas Overview

ColorsFrom blue to green to yellow & different shades of white
FlowersLavender or purple that grows on tall white-colored spikes
Some hostas have scented flowers
Height10 cm to 1.2 m
LeavesThin, strappy, and sometimes almost circular
Patterns On FoliageVariable

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So, What Is Eating My Hostas?

Hostas eaters can be easily divided into two groups, i.e., animals and insects, depending on where you keep the plant. If your plant is outdoors in the garden, both animals and insects can be involved. However, if they are indoors, insects are the main culprit. It is best to keep looking for leaf damage regularly. And, if you see signs of destroyed leaves, take control measures as quickly as possible, or the damage might become irreversible.

Outdoor Eaters

Outdoor eaters that can wreak havoc on your hostas include deer, squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, and voles. Continue reading to learn more!

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Deer

Deer - what is eating my hostas

Photo Credit Unfortunately, deer love to eat hostas, one of their favorite plants.

Deer are specialized herbivores, and hostas are one of their favorite foods. Deer will devour all the foliage and leave behind a naked stem. So, if you wake up in the morning and see your poor hostas without their beautiful lush leaves, the chances are pretty high that a deer had visited your garden last night.

Control

The best way is to set up a strong fence in front of your hostas to keep the deers out.

Squirrels

Squirrel

Photo Credit Squirrels dig up hosta roots or young, tender, recently planted hostas.

Squirrels usually aren’t fond of hostas and ignore them. The only time a squirrel will nibble on your hosta is when it is thirsty. Therefore, squirrel attacks on hostas plants are most common during a drought.

Control

Keep water away from hosta plants in your garden to keep squirrels from attacking hostas.

Rabbits

Rabbits - what is eating my hostas

Photo Credit Rabbits with a big appetite will leave no chance to gravitate towards hostas.

Rabbits love to eat shoots and flowers and not just hostas. So, watch out for rabbits during spring as hosta shoots are sprouting. Flowering hostas are quite inviting to rabbits in your garden as they love munching on the fresh blooms.

Control

Like deers, the best way to keep rabbits away from your garden is fencing while keeping rabbits’ tunnel-making and jumping habits in mind. The fence should be at least 4 feet long and 6 inches deep. Also, bend the top end away from the garden to prevent rabbits from jumping in and reaching your hostas.

Groundhogs

Groundhogs - what is eating my hostas

Photo Credit Groundhogs also eat hostas and cause irreparable damage.

Groundhog is another culprit behind eating your hostas! Groundhogs are rodents from the squirrel family. Unlike squirrels, groundhogs have an appetite for hostas. They eat the foliage as well as the stem of your hostas, leaving nothing behind.

Control

Protecting your hostas from groundhogs is quite challenging as they are very good diggers and can dig under the fence and reach your plants.

The best you can do to protect your hostas from groundhogs is to set up a fence around your hostas, which is at least 12 inches deep, which may prevent groundhogs from digging under the fence and reaching the plants.

Chipmunks

Photo Credit The fact that hosta leaves retain a lot of water is one of the main reasons chipmunks eat them.

The leaves of the hosta plant are a favorite food of chipmunks. However, this does not necessarily mean that they will consume your hostas. Some gardeners claim that chipmunks do not cause them any trouble. Nevertheless, if you live in the suburbs, you must be ready to defend yourself against this nuisance.

Control

Given the size of these creatures, it seems unlikely that the fence will be of any assistance here. Moth Balls placed under the bushes are the most effective method for warding off these pests. The stench is offensive to chipmunks. Therefore, they will avoid it. 

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Indoor Eaters

Indoor eaters who feed on hostas are usually insects, including a special type of nematodes as well as garden snails and slugs.

Foliar Nematodes

Foliar Nematodes - what is eating my hostas

Photo Credit Foliar nematodes are microscopic worm-like organisms in the genus Aphelenchoides.

Nematodes are non-segmented worms typically hard to see, around 1 mm in length. Nematodes usually live in the soil and attack the roots of the plants, but this specific type, the foliar nematodes, goes for the foliage! 

They get into roots and reach the leaves by swimming up the stem. Upon reaching the leaves, they prefer to stay in the veins, making it easier for them to swim around and access the whole leaf.

Control

If you see water lesions near the leaf veins, know that foliar nematodes are damaging your hostas. The area with lesions often turns yellow, then brown, ultimately killing the leaves. In addition, foliar nematodes have a very fast reproduction rate supported by moist soil. Therefore, dead leaves falling from your hostas into the moist soil can prove disastrous as they can infect new growth in that soil.

To avoid that, keep your soil clean of the dead leaves and do not use that soil to fertilize other pots.

Slugs & Snails

Slugs & Snails - what is eating my hostas

Photo Credit Slugs and snails prefer some hostas over others; however, no type is immune.

As discussed earlier, hostas love the shade, as do slugs and snails. Moist, dark conditions, and warm weather is ideal for slugs and snails to lay eggs, which only take two weeks to hatch. Snails and slugs then become active during the spring and attack these nutrient-rich hostas at night when the temperature is low. They eat on hostas by punching huge holes in leaves, plaguing them for the rest of the season.

Control

Don’t get disheartened. There are ways you can protect your hostas from these slugs and snails. The best way to get rid of them is to drown them in your beer! Yes, you read it right. Slugs are attracted to the smell of a beer, possibly because of the yeast present in it. 

Keep containers with beer around your hostas. Slugs will climb the containers and drown in them. Not a happy ending, I know, but imagine big holes in your hostas for the rest of the season!

Another way to protect your hostas from snails and slugs is to use molluscicides, also known as slug baits. Slug baits are pesticide pellets. It kills these pests when they feed on them.

Diatomaceous earth is another alternative for getting rid of slugs. Its sharp particles pierce the slug’s body, resulting in severe dehydration and death.

Final Thoughts

Hostas can grow in conditions ranging from light to medium shade and are attractive in a variety of settings, including shaded areas, along walkways, in mixed beds, and containers. However, they also appeal to many pests that will eat the leaves and make holes in the foliage.

Therefore, you should check your hostas regularly, particularly any recently bought ones. If there is any telltale evidence that a leaf has been eaten, continue your search until you discover the creature responsible. 

You can also try growing larger-leaved and blue-green forms of hosta. These types of hosta have thicker and more durable leaves, making them supposedly more resistant to slugs and snails.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I protect my hostas from being eaten by slugs?

You can take several approaches to prevent slugs from devouring your hostas. For instance, you can protect them by encircling them with a ring made of crushed eggshells, which are too jagged for the slugs to move over. Another way is to keep beer traps buried near the hostas.

What to spray on hostas for slugs?

Slugs on your hostas can be killed with ammonia. This method of slug eradication is widely used. Spray a 10 to 1 mixture of water and ammonia straight on the hosta leaves and slugs. This mixture will also function as a nitrogen-containing fertilizer.

What does Epsom salt do for hostas?

When applied to hostas, Epsom salt helps decrease stunted growth and increases chlorophyll levels, resulting in more substantial leaf growth. Additionally, it promotes bushier plant growth and increases their resilience to diseases and pests.

Are coffee grounds good for hostas?

Slugs and snails are attracted to certain plants, such as lilies, hostas, and ligularias. These plants can be protected by using coffee grounds as mulch. You can even give them a shot with daffodils and other spring bulbs as well.

Why are my hosta leaves turning yellow?

Both overwatering and insufficient watering will cause the hosta leaves to become dry, brown, and yellow. This process will typically begin at the tip of the leaf. Most hostas require consistently moist soil. However, they cannot survive in saturated soils.

Sources For Further Reading

Hosta Diseases. (2022). Retrieved 24 July 2022, from https://extension.psu.edu/hosta-diseases

Hosta…one of my favorite plants. | K-State Turf and Landscape Blog. (2019). Retrieved 24 July 2022, from https://blogs.k-state.edu/turf/hosta-one-of-my-favorite-plants/

Growing Hostas | UGA Cooperative Extension. (2022). Retrieved 24 July 2022, from https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C955&title=Growing%20Hostas

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