Is the hosta disease, HVX, a problem in Maine?


Is the hosta disease, HVX, a problem in Maine?


Jonathan Foster, Special Project Assistant 

As you may know, Hosta Virus X is a contagious pathogen among hostas that causes disfiguring/unsightly leaf mottling, texturing, and, in extreme cases, tissue death. Not all cultivars are equally susceptible, and symptoms can be subtle in some hostas, but the virus transmits freely among them (so an infected, but healthy looking plant can still be a carrier).

Regrettably, Hosta Virus X (HVX) is present in our own Maine

More information here on the UWiscon Coop Ext page on the virus.

The virus is transmitted primarily through contaminated sap passing from one plant to the next, with garden tools and some chewing insects (e.g., thrips, caterpillars) being common vectors. Because there is currently no cure for HVX, the consensus best practice is to either carefully pull and destroy infected plants, or if you choose to cut off the affected tissue, to *thoroughly* clean and sanitize the tool immediately after, to avoid the risk of introducing the pathogen to another plant. As you will read in resources above, the individual plant will remain infected for the remainder of its life and with hostas being perennials, I would advise removing infected plants to avoid longer term risk. If you suspect you have an infected specimen and want to be completely certain before acting, you can always request a sample analysis (most conclusive) or digital identification (less conclusive) from the UMaine Coop Ext Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab.

Sorry to be the bearer of that particular bit of bad news, but the silver lining is that if you do not currently have the virus, your hostas are unlikely to get it as long as you follow the above advice, monitor your plants’ overall health end environment and be mindful of planting new ones (which might be infected prior to sale) unless you are certain they are uninfected.