Hosta ‘Undulata Albomarginata’ is a fast-growing, thin-leaved, inexpensive hosta that slugs will adore. Photo: http://www.gardenworld.co.uk
Question: I’ve heard that only so-called collector’s item hostas are resistant to slugs; that is, that slugs won’t eat expensive hostas, only cheap ones. Is this a myth?
Answer: There is some truth to this belief, but it comes mainly from the fact that, in general, hostas that reproduce quickly cost less to produce and this windfall is passed on to the gardener. However, these fast-growing varieties, such as ‘Undulata Albomarginata’, ‘Undulata Mediovariegata’ and ‘Undulata Erromena’, have thin leaves that slugs adore. (With hostas, growth rate and slug sensitivity seem to go hand in hand.) So, in a sense, yes, very cheap hostas are also very likely to be susceptible to slugs.
On the other hand, it’s not only among the most expensive varieties (in general, new introductions, which can be very expensive for a few years given their limited availability) that slug-resistant hostas are found. Many older, widely available hostas like ‘Frances Williams’, ‘Krossa Regal’ and ‘Halcyon’ are slug resistant and are offered at reasonable prices.
In large part, it’s the thickness of the leaf that makes the difference—hostas with thick leaves tend to be slug-resistant—rather than the price.
So, between the cheap, thin-leaved hostas full of holes and the most recent introductions with intact leaves but a hefty price tag, there is a still a wide range of hostas at quite reasonable prices that slugs tend to avoid. (For your further information, here is a list of 200 slug-resistant hostas.)
Of course, a cheap hosta that will require repeated and expensive treatments to control slugs really isn’t cheap, is it? Filling your shade garden with modestly priced slug-resistant hostas is actually likely the cheaper option.