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The Plant Doctor: ‘Plantain Lily’ offers every gardener’s dream

WANTED — a plant that can be used as edging for the lawn. The plant must be a perennial, so the job doesn’t have to be repeated year after year. The plant must be a shade lover and grow in well-drained soil. Also, it should come in a variety of leaf colors and produce different colored flowers. Applicants can send a picture.

Have we met every gardener's dream? Imagine a plant that is easy to grow, loves shade, produces flowers and scent, and comes back each year. Well, the plant is as close as your local nursery.

Hosta, also known as Plantain Lily, is superb as ground cover, edging or as a decorative addition to any lawn. Varieties include Hosta Janet, with variegated leaves and lavender flowers that bloom in late summer. Another variety, the Seibold Hosta, has large greenish blue leaves. This plant produces white flowers with a hint of lavender and blooms in early spring. There are at least a dozen common varieties and cultivars available for this zone ... all of them are hardy growers that prefer partial to full shade.

The Hosta is as close to a “plant them and forget them” variety that you can grow. However, to ensure constant healthy growth, you should amend the loam soil with a healthy dose of organic fertilizer, and be sure to plant the specimens in an area where the soil is well drained. Hosta, while resistant to a host of environment insults, is easily destroyed in waterlogged soil.

Propagation can be done in early spring when the leaves are still curled. Simply divide the plant and plant it in other locations.

Slugs and snails, general pests to most pants, are also attracted to Hosta. General hygiene of the area, eliminating the hiding places of these pests, will slow down or even prevent further infestation.

Most species of Hosta are native to Japan, and a few come from China and Korea. New cultivars take many years to develop, and some appear on the scene each year. However, you may wish to be a bit selective as newer cultivars are often expensive and may not be as stable as the older but tested varieties.

Plant them now as ground cover, edging plants, mixed in the perennial or shrub corner. enjoy absolutely endless possibilities with this very versatile plant.

Grub alert:

Grubs are the larval form of several varieties of beetles, including June bugs, Japanese beetles, Scarab beetles and Chafers. These nasty pests developed in your lawn after the adult beetle deposited her eggs in the grassy area of your neatly kept garden.

If you notice patches of dead grass, or observe lawn damage from birds or raccoons, all of which feed on grubs, you probably have these lawn pests.

Cut a section of lawn about one foot square and six inches deep. Gently shake the sod to remove some of the loose soil. If you spot creamy white colored objects that are moving on their own accord, you had better take action. These pests don’t damage the blade of the grass, but they certainly do a number on the roots of plants.

Biological treatment includes a variety of beneficial nematodes (round worms), a product called neem oil, and a fungus called milky spore. Chemical control products are available in your local nursery. Some products are already, mixed with lawn fertilizer. A word of caution: chemical treatment is poisonous. You may have to post notice of application if you are spreading the insecticide on a lawn area that may be used by your neighbors, their children or their pets. The pest does not go away until the larvae changes to an adult. then the problem starts all over again.

Questions or comments on gardening and plant care can be addressed to: The Plant Doctor, c/o Queens Publishing Company, 41-02 Bell Blvd. Bayside, N.Y. 11361 or e-mail :

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