January 15, 2008
By Josh Spece
In the Country Garden and Gifts

Hosta virus X (HVX) affects hosta cultivars in different ways, so it is impossible to give a definitive description of symptoms. The most common visual symptom is blue or green markings on a light coloured leaf. These markings usually follow the leaf veins and bleed out into the surrounding tissue, giving the plant a mottled appearance. The tissue often appears lumpy, puckered and a different thickness or texture than normal coloured tissue. Less common symptoms include dried brown spots and twisted, deformed leaves. It is difficult to detect off-coloured mottling on dark, solid coloured leaves. Some green tissue will show lighter coloured mottling along the veins, but it is not as pronounced as the markings on gold tissue. To make matters worse, some hosta cultivars don’t seem to show any visible symptoms of being infected with HVX and it may take a year for symptoms to show after a plant has been infected.

Prevent hosta virus X from spreading

The best way to prevent HVX from infecting your collection is to simply not grow infected plants. Always avoid strangely spotted or mottled plants. Not all infected plants show visible symptoms though, so if one plant in a group shows symptoms, do not buy healthy-looking plants in the same group. If one has it, it is very possible some, and maybe all of the others do. Any plants that came from large bulk wholesalers should be considered “on probation” for the next two years. This includes most hostas found at the big box stores.

Watch for signs of HVX. Don’t cut them and throw them out in the compost if any suspicious symptoms appear. Whenever dividing or trimming plants, always sterilize your tools with bleach, rubbing alcohol or ammonia between each plant.

Dealing with HVX-infected plants

Hosta virus X-infected plants will not recover, so they must be prevented from spreading the disease to healthy hostas. If you have a virus-infected hosta in your garden, it should be destroyed. Dig up the plant and send it to the landfill or burn it. HVX cannot survive in the soil, so as soon as the infected roots remaining in the garden have decomposed, you can safely plant another hosta in the same location.

For more detailed information on HVX, visit this website: www.inthecountrygardenandgifts.com/articles/hosta_virus_x.shtml.

Caption: Infected ‘Striptease’. Photo courtesy: Hosta Choice Nursery and Gardens