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Hosta Problems

If you have damage on a hosta and wonder what has caused it, the pictures and text below may help you identify the problem. Scroll through the page to identify your problem. Click on titles for expanded detail.

Special thanks to the Missouri Botanical Garden for their generosity in sharing this beneficial information. All copy and images used with permission. See note at bottom of page.

Slug and Snail Damage

These mollusks love hosta leaves. Since slugs are nocturnal and hide during the day, gardeners may not see the slugs themselves but only the evidence of their feeding. Look for smooth but irregular holes along leaf edges or between veins. Sometimes, entire leaves are sheared off at the stem. Shiny slime trails may be found on the leaves and ground around plants.

Chewing Insects

Many insects may chew hosta leaves and stems, but the only way to determine the culprit is to catch it in the act. Although not in the picture, blister beetles, were seen chewing this hosta. Grasshoppers and cutworms are also known pests of hostas.


Signs of rabbit presence are clean-cut clipping of young stems and leaves, dropped leaves and distinct round droppings.


Browsing deer can quickly defoliate hostas, as shown in the picture on the above. They eat leaves, leaving behind stalks with ragged cut edges from their habit of yanking leaves as they bite into them.


Voles, also called meadow mice, often tunnel into mulch, loose soil or lawns forming runs similar to mole runs but much smaller. From their hidden position in their tunnels, their presence can go unnoticed, but their damage is usually very noticeable. Look for wilted plants with missing roots or root hairs. Entire plants or sections of a plant will often collapse without a supporting root system.

Frost Damage

Flower buds, vegetative buds, stems, crowns, or whole plants may be injured. For confirmation examine other plants in the area. The damage affects the soft, actively growing tissues, such as, new leaves and tender shoots. As the leaves expand, damaged areas are revealed as pleated slices of jagged missing tissue (top image). Edges of damaged areas later brown and damaged tissue dies (bottom image). Damage to stems can remain hidden until active spring growth starts. In severe frosts, entire plants can become limp, blackened, and/or distorted.

Scortch, Sunburn or Heat Stress

The symptoms of scorch are the browning of leaf margins and/or yellowing or darkening of the areas between the main leaf veins. Leaves may dry, turn brown, and become brittle. Sunburn can result in the same symptoms but on the section of the leaves closest to the sun, rather than just on leaf edges. Also, sunburned areas are often bleached at first, then later turn brown and drop out. Planting hostas in direct sunlight may result in sunburn, especially in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6 and above.

Hosta Leaf Nematodes

Hosta leaf nematodes are microscopic roundworms that live, feed and reproduce inside the tender tissue of hosta leaves. Typical symptoms begin as yellow discoloration in late June, indicating that the nematodes are feeding. Later the affected areas develop into chocolate brown streaks, islands or wedges bordered by veins. Note that the yellow and brown areas occur only BETWEEN veins and that the brown color can be seen on both the front and backside of the leaf. Eventually the entire leaf turns brown and dries up; typically the youngest leaves at the shoot tips are free of infestations, but the older leaves show progressively more severe damage.

Hosta Virus X

Early symptoms may be blue or green colored spots on the gold part of hosta leaves. These markings may bleed into the leaf giving it a mottled appearance. Leaves may appear lumpy. However, symptoms vary according to cultivar. Other symptoms include ringspots, stunting, puckering, distortion, leaf twisting and death. There is no cure for this disease. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of hosta virus X are desirable traits in healthy hostas. The virus has been unintentionally spread by propagating, sharing, and selling diseased hostas under the mistaken belief that the symptoms of hosta virus X are naturally occurring mutated forms (sports).

Southern Blight

Southern blight is a fungal disease that causes the base of the leaves to rot, which in turn causes leaves to turn yellow, collapse, and die (top image). When the temperature exceeds 70 degrees F, infected plants develop discolored, water-soaked stem lesions near the soil line. When tugged, leaves will come off. During periods of high humidity, coarse cottony webbing (mycelium) develops and fans out over the stem base and surrounding soil (bottom image). Sclerotia, which resemble mustard seeds and vary from white to reddish tan to light brown in color, develop at the base of the plant (bottom image). Enough sclerotia may form to create a crust on the soil.

Click here to identify other hosta problems.


NOTE: With permission from the Missouri Botanical Garden, we are pleased to offer this information and photography for educational purposes in accordance with their Conditions of Use. Please visit the Missouri Botanical Garden website to learn more about their programming, gardens and gardening, plant science, and so much more.