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Hosta Virus X

  • Hosta Virus X

There is panic in the world of Hostas! Actually there has been for some time. Slugs and snail (primarily snails as a rule) are the pest that is automatically associated with Hostas, but in practice that is very subjective. I grow thousands of Hostas in the ground and very rarely are they completely tatty by the end of the season, and that is without any treatment for molluscs at all. No, the real long term menace to Hostas are a number of viruses that they a prone to.
Most of the viruses we don't see very often, various ring spot and mosaic types, but the big one is Hosta Virus X, HVX for short. This is currently rife in the trade, it is highly likely that your local garden centre has it, and also probable that the plant manager there has never heard of it either. It is generally a mottled discolouration of the leaves, often starting off as a darkening or a lightening along the leaf veins. Eventually it gets stronger, and the Hosta gets weaker, until there is no more Hosta! It spreads readily from plant to plant via the sap. The main source of it is stock imported dormant from the continent during the winter, then potted up over here and sold on in the spring, often before it shows the problem, and often by people who wouldn't recognise it if they saw it. These plants are grown in large quantities, and the virus spreads invisibly between them through digging, cleaning and dividing tools. There is even a daft idea in Holland that it is ok for a nursery to have 'only 5% infected' stock! it is not ok at all, it is either on a nursery or not, and would be just about impossible to stop it spreading on a large commercial place employing lots of casual staff.
If it is in a plant in your border, it needs to be dug up, with all the soil around it, and the whole lot put in a skip. And the spade you dig it up with must be carefully cleaned and disinfected too, making sure not to spread a single microscopic bit of plant or sap back onto the garden. And then, as Hosta roots take a very long time to rot, you mustn't plant any Hostas near the infected spot for at least five years.
There aren't many sources of clean Hosta stock now, a few specialist nurseries like myself, and those that have propagated the old varieties for a long time here and not imported any infected new varieties. Generally plants from tissue culture (TC, as us growers call it), initiated in the laboratory, from carefully chosen mother stock, is ok too.
So, if you spot any dodgy looking Hostas at your local centre, point them out to the manager. The only way we can stop this is to have zero tolerance. If you think you have it, or your local garden centre or nursery has it, you are welcome to send me a photograph to check.

Comments (3)

  1. Grower

    Kathy Peck

    Thanks for the information, I've never heard of it but I'll certainly be on the look out from now on and be very careful where I buy any more hostas from, off to check mine now as I bought a couple of new ones a few weeks ago.

  2. Grower

    Good Earth Gardens

    Does this picture above show an infected Hosta? It would be useful to have a close-up picture of a leaf showing how the virus affects the plant.

  3. Grower

    Stafford Lake Nursery

    The Hosta in the photograph is infected, the centres should be clear yellow, not mottled. Also showing that molluscs have dined on the leaves too! I only use pellets in enclosed tunnels incidentally, and even then only sparingly, I don't approve of broadcasting them outside. There are plenty of photographs ov HVX on the net, the plant in the photograph was a picture somebody sent me recently, obviously there isn't any on my nursery!

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