Take a close look at the mottled colour on this hosta leaf, a pattern known as inkbleed. It’s one of the first signs that a hosta has been infected by Hosta Virus X (HVX), for which there is no cure.
Photos of other telltale symptoms of this disease – which has become a silent epidemic in the hosta world – can be seen on this page from HostaLibrary.org. Follow the link to more info at the bottom of that page. I stumbled on their info a year ago when researching hosta varieties. That’s how I was able to recognize it yesterday on the leaves of my Hosta ‘Janet’. To my great alarm.
HVX is spread by contact with sap from other hostas, but can take years to develop. Likely my ‘Janet’ came into the garden already infected. Simple garden chores, like cutting off spent flower scapes, can spread HVX from plant to plant. As I said, there is no cure. My only option is to carefully dig up ‘Janet’, with all her roots, and destroy her. Sob.
That will leave a massive hole in my small, shady garden. Now I’ll watch the other hostas like a hawk for signs of HVX. My collection includes known infected varieties, such as ‘June’ and ‘Striptease.’ And ‘Janet’.
But I do denial well. She is one big, beautiful hosta at the moment, and the infection only shows on a couple of leaves. Before getting rid of her, I’ll be looking around, desperately, for alternatives. Sadly, I doubt I’ll find any.
For more reading on HVX, check out this
article from Reilly’s Country Gardens [Update: in 2016, this link is now a dead end] and this article from Dave’s Garden, which adds to the details from the Hosta Library.
Sorry about 'Janet.' Have you purchased a Hosta Virus X test kit? Then you can determine if any others of your Hostas are infected. I had thought several of mine had it. I bought the kit & tested them, and found out they were ok. (I overreacted.)
That's so sad. It's tough to lose a plant.
I had never heard of hosta virus before! How sad to find that these almost indestructible plants have a fatal weakness. Now I'll be examining mine for symptoms.
This is amazing. I never heard of it. I will check my Hostas this evening after work. I have so many older ones and it would be a shame to know I have this as well. I hope it is a Toronto problem and not a Falls one as well. I hope That Mr. McGregor's Daughter has the solution and it is not what it may seem to be.
Another amazing tip from you two. Never heard of it before. It's a shame it's a disease because it looks quite lovely in your phot. Sorry to hear about "Janet". Can you cut off the diseased leaves and save her?
Sorry to hear you have to destroy Janet. Damn Virus!
That is sad/bad news! I've gotten so I don't buy hostas anymore! I like MMD's suggestion and may get a test kit! gail
ME TOO! I'm finding a whole group I bought from one pot and divided last year must've had it, who knows what others it infected? I planted, moved and deadheaded a lot of hostas last year, so much so that I suspect my garden will be hostaless at some point. Now I'm soaking my trowel in a 10% bleach solution before I dig or move any of them, and that is, shall we say, inconvenient?