Hosta Plants

Asked May 22, 2020, 9:18 PM EDT

I’ve looked online to no avail for concrete answers on how to get rid of slugs from Hosta plants. Today for first time this season put Sluggo on all Hostas. New ones planted last year in same location have slug bites all over. Even found two slugs as I applied the Sluggo. I went to a well respected landscape store in our area but didn’t have copper wires. What should I use and do? Thanks so much.

Wayne County Michigan

1 Response

Slugs do love hosta!

Sluggo and other baits containing iron are rated as highly effective. They do have to be reapplied frequently such as after it rains.

I have had experience with slugs and found the only solution that worked for me long term was to correct the conditions so the slugs didn't set up house. Keep the area around and under the plants debris and pull mulch away from the base of the plant. Slugs thrive in shady damp areas. If you have this type of condition plant hosta so there is enough space between them to allow for more air circulation. With all the rain and humidity this can be a challenge to try to dry the area out.

I looked for Hosta Society websites to see what the Hosta experts would suggest. The following is from the Delaware Valley Hosta Society:

The gray garden slug (classic slug of the eastern US, not the leopard slug, which has spots) is a serious pest for hostas. There are several ways to control them. One is a commercial “pellet” poison based either on a chelated iron phosphate (not as animal-friendly as the product claims to be) or on metaldehyde (harder to find now, and not very animal-friendly either). If you have animals that like to eat out of your garden, the toxicity of these product can be of concern, especially if you spread the product too thickly. Spread thinly and you’re not likely to have any collateral damage to animal life. The current version of "Bug-geta" uses ground sulfur instead, but I don't know how effective it is.
Another control method is to spray into and around the plants with a diluted ammonia solution. This can kill slug eggs as well, but the solution has to contact the slugs and/or eggs directly. Try spraying at night when they’re active. A third classic control is to set shallow dishes filled with beer into the ground. Slugs crawl in and drown, and you pick them out the next day (ewww). A similar treatment is to simply put tender lettuce on the ground at night and pick up the slug-covered leaves early the next morning (still alive, of course). Some people claim that orange and grapefruit peels have a similar attractive effect and might even kill them.
Stories of repelling or killing slugs with coffee grounds, egg shells, grapefruit rinds, and the like are simply wives' tales. They are not a serious way to address a serious problem.
Note that the leopard slug (the big one with obvious dark spots) is not your enemy. It only eats decaying plant matter (stuff on the ground) and as a bonus, eats the eggs of other slugs! Unfortunately it’s very challenging to kill off the bad slugs and leave the good ones around, unless you use the night-time seek and spray method above.
Here is the link to thier website: https://www.delvalhosta.org/faqs-part-ii

The use of beer (or milk) traps was repeated in almost every website I looked at. I have also heard this method mentioned in conversations among gardening pals.
You will need to bury a soup can so the lip is at soil level - the slugs are attracted to the beer - slide in and cannot get back out. Another common method is to place a rolled up newspaper that is just damp in between the plants. The slugs crawl in and the in the morning you collect the newspaper and throw it and the slugs away.

MSU Extention Senior Horticulture Educator Rebecca Finneran has written this article with tips and tricks - here is the link: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/slugs_are_making_tracks_on_my_garden_favorites

It is frustrating to spend time and money on plants you love only to have slugs ruin the beauty of them. I wish you luck and hope this information is helpful.