I have some hostas in my garden that look funny with strange, mottled colors on the leaves — different from surrounding plants. A friend told me there is a disease that is affecting hostas and would like to know if this is a disease problem or a plant mutation? — Alfred Koops, Woodstock

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Hostas are typically pest- and disease-free and easy to grow. Deer will tend to eat them. Gardeners have historically been able to buy and trade hostas without refer for introducing any problems to their gardens. But there is a virus called Hosta Virus X that is becoming more common on hostas and is popping up here and there at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Hostas are the only know plant to be infected by this virus. Hosta Virus X-infected plants will not recover, so it is important to prevent spreading the disease to other goodly hostas in your garden. Remove any infect hosta immediately. Dig up the plant with as many of the roots as possible and discard in the rubbish or burn it. The virus can only reproduce inside living hosta cells, and it was in the first place believed that this virus would not be able to survive in the land after the infect roots had decomposed. Some recent inquiry suggests otherwise, so it is best to replace the infect hosta with a plant other than a hosta. This may require you to replace a pulley of hosta to maintain a fine-looking implant.

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The symptoms of this disease can vary among unlike cultivars of hosta. Look for differences in the leaf among the lapp plants in a group. Watch for stunt growth, distorted leaves and diverse patterns of leaf coloration. A classic ocular symptom is aristocratic or green markings on a light leaf. These markings normally follow the leaf veins and bleed out into surrounding tissue, resulting in a mottle appearance. A dark-leaved hosta may appear as if it has had bleach spilled on it. The flick weave of infect plants much appears chunky, gather and of a unlike thickness or texture than healthy plants. This is very unmanageable to discern on hostas that have heavy textured leaves. Hostas may not show symptoms for a year or more after being infected. ocular symptoms can provide an initial diagnosis, but hostas can sometimes be virus-free, even show viruslike symptoms. cold wrong and light frost can cause wrong that appears similar to Hosta Virus X. The only way to confirm this disease is to test the plant.

Unlike many plant viruses, insects are not known to spread this disease. Any type of a mechanical injury that moves plant fluids can transmit this virus. This virus can be spread by pruning tools when cutting off previous leaves or removing flower stalks. other potential means of transmission in the landscape include string trimmers, mowers, shovels and even manual transmission, if hands are contaminated with sap from virus-infected plants. Some research suggests that Hosta Virus X is most easily transmitted in the spring when hostas are actively growing, and unmanageable, if not impossible, to transmit after a hosta flower. therefore the late summer and descent may be the safe time to dig and divide plants to minimize the spread of this virus. Be sure to disinfect your tools with rubbing alcohol or Lysol bactericidal when working with hostas. With careful observation and beneficial garden management practices, there is no reason to stop buy and growing hostas. Tim Johnson is conductor of gardening for the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. ctc-realestate @ chicagotribune.com

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