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.