Table of Contents
- Expert Tips to an Ultimate Hosta Garden
- When to Divide Hostas
- Where to Plant Hostas
- How to Divide Hostas
- Basic Hosta Plant Care
- Pruning Hostas
- Dividing Hostas
- When To Divide Hostas
- How You Can Optimize The Growing Conditions For GIANT Hosta
- Where And How Do You Use GIANT Hostas?
- How to Grow Hostas
- Hosta Planting Guide
- Choosing a Growing Site
- Soil Prep
- When to Plant
- How to Plant Dormant Bareroot Hostas
- During the Season
- Insider Tips
- Hostas: plant, care & variety guide
- Tips for Growing Hostas
- Growing Hostas: How To Care For A Hosta Plant
- Where and How to Grow Hostas
- Tips for Hosta Care
- The Hosta Gardening Calendar
- Winter (Period of dormancy): December-January-February-March
- Spring (Foliage emergence begins): March-April-early May
- Late Spring (Period of rapid foliage and root growth): May-June
- Summer (Period of bloom and seed set) June-July-August
- Late Summer (Growth of buds for next year) late-August-September
- Fall (Maturation of seeds and onset of dormancy) late September-October-November
Expert Tips to an Ultimate Hosta Garden
Hostas are one of the most commonly grown shade plants. Gardeners love them because they’re among the easiest plants to grow and are a perfect addition to any garden. Follow these tips from the experts on everything involving hosta plant care: when and where to plant hostas, how to divide hostas, caring for hostas, and pruning hostas.
When to Divide Hostas
The best time of year to divide hostas is late summer (August or early September). But don’t worry if you forget—you can divide hostas any time from spring to fall.
Dividing Hostas in the Spring
You’ll have about a four-week window to divide your hostas. Dividing hostas in the spring is best before they have fully developed and when the hosta eyes are starting to grow up.
Dividing Hostas in the Fall
Fall division is also about a four-week window. September to October is the ideal time, especially in northern climates—the farther north you are, the earlier you divide. Make sure to allow at least three or four weeks for the hostas to become established before the soil freezes solid. A cooler, humid climate is best for dividing hostas.
Here’s a hint: If you need to divide your hostas in the summer, be sure to keep them well-watered for a few weeks to help them get through the shock of being transplanted.
You’ll know your hostas need to be divided when they get too crowded and the center of a clump starts to die out. As a general rule, count on dividing the plants every three to four years to keep them at their healthiest. Some slow-growing varieties may need more time before they’re ready for division. You may be able to divide fast-growing varieties every two or three years.
Where to Plant Hostas
Making sure your hostas are planted in the correct location is key to their survival. Choose shady areas with low levels of sunlight. Hostas love moisture, so staying away from the sun and its damaging rays is an ideal part of hosta care.
You will want to plant hostas with fresh, organic matter. This way, your hosta garden will retain as much water as possible. Fresh soil also helps in disease control.
How to Divide Hostas
Every three to four years, divide hostas to keep your garden alive and well.
If your hostas aren’t too large, dig out the entire clump.
- Dig around the hosta clump in a circle, then use your shovel as a lever to lift the clump out of the ground.
- Once it’s out of the ground, you should notice that the clump is made up of many individual plants. If there’s still a lot of soil around the plant, wash it off so you can see the hosta crowns.
- Carefully break apart the clumps into divisions made up of at least three sets of shoots coming out of a crown.
If your hostas are too large, use your shovel to cut the clump into divisions.
- Carefully dig out the sections from the original hole.
- Replant themin a low light or shady area.
Here’s a hint: Many gardeners find that it’s easiest to divide hostas using a garden fork or flat spade.
Basic Hosta Plant Care
Once your hostas are planted, maintenance is the easy part. Water hostas frequently—they thrive on moisture and humid climates. Too much sun dries out hostas and interrupts their growth. Although hostas are typically not disease-prone, slugs are a difficulty you may face. There are a number of different “slug traps” to rid your garden of these pests, one of which includes beer (you heard us right—beer!). Fill a shallow dish with beer and place next to your hostas. Slugs are attracted to yeast, so they’ll steer away from your hostas and toward the beer trap. Also try spreading eggshells or coffee grounds around your hosta plant—both of these are fatal barriers to slugs.
Pruning your plants, or cutting away dead or overgrown plant matter, is necessary in order to keep your plant alive—and pruning hostas is no different.
Simply cut off all the yellow, damaged, or dead leaves. Make sure to remove these leaves at their root or the point where they start to emerge from the main plant. Be sure to throw away all unwanted scraps to decrease the likelihood of disease development.
How to properly divide your hostas. Watch Richard Merritt of New Hampshire Hostas as he shows you step-by-step how to propagate your hostas. Richard talks about the best time of year to transplant hostas, the tools to use and the soil and type of compost he uses at New Hampshire Hostas.
When To Divide Hostas
There are two ideal times to divide your hosta: Spring and Fall.
The reasons are simple:
- There is reduced demand by the foliage for water.
- There is usually more moisture available than during summer.
Inevitably, when you divide plants, you are losing some of the root system.
Hosta Division In The Spring
Spring division is about a four week window. Once the hosta eyes are popping up and before they have begun to unfurl is the window of opportunity to make your move.
Hosta Division In The Fall
Fall division is also an approximately four week window. In the northern climates this is going to be the month of September and, as you go south, that window for dividing hostas moves later into October. Cool moist weather is what you want. Make your decision based on the long range weather forecasts.
What You Need To Know
Generally, lifting and dividing hostas is setting them back several years in maturity. How far you set them back depends on how much root system is lost in the process. So, the question that you should be asking yourself before you proceed to divide your hostas is this: How many plants do you need and how far back in maturity are you willing to set them?
Why Are You Dividing Your Hostas?
Why do you divide hosta? I bring this up because I get the sense from some customers that they divide them too often.
Hosta Plants Only Improve With Age When They Are In The Right Location.
Some of the giant or jumbo hosta cultivars do not reach maturity for five years and they continue to improve in appearance as the overall clump expands. Hostas may reach a space limit and slow down in growth, but they rarely decline from space constriction. If they are in decline, it is more likely a poor site for that cultivar. They should be relocated to a more suitable location.
Adding To Your Garden Design
If you want more plants of a particular hosta cultivar to meet your garden design needs, there are several ways to do this.
- One thing that I frequently do is lift a clump and divide it into quarters or thirds.
- I then reset it in the same location with a slightly wider spacing.
- It provides me with a larger appearance of this hosta and, by summer, you are not able to tell it was divided.
Sharing Your Hosta With A Friend
If you are looking to give a friend a piece of your favorite hosta plant, you can often times cut off one of the outermost eyes without disturbing the primary clump.
How To Divide Hostas
- If the soil is not moist from rainfall, it’s helpful to water the day before you’re going to divide your hostas.
- Remember that the fewer roots you cut off the better the transplant is going to go.
- Depending on the size of the clump, sink your spade into the ground all the way around the clump far enough away to not be cutting off much root.
- Depth may be 8 inches or eighteen inches depending on the cultivar of hosta.
- From one or more sides, cut under the clump and pry it out of the hole.
- I like to set a tarp on the ground near by to place the clump on. This provides for an easy clean up after dividing clumps.
How To Approach Dividing Hostas
Assuming that you have lifted a fairly substantial clump of, say, 30 eyes, you can approach it in several ways.
- Use A Straight Spade
- If you halve, third or quarter a large clump, you can do this without setting your hosta back hardly at all.
- Place the hosta on a board for a firm surface.
- Using a straight spade, make your cuts. Try to slice as few eyes as possible.
- Shake & Pull
- If you have the patience, you can gradually shake off soil and eventually either pull the clump apart or get a heavy knife into the clump and not lose any hosta eyes.
- Certain cultivars pull apart easier than others, but most need to be cut.
So, do you cut a clump of 30 eyes into 3 pieces or 30? To each their own according to their needs. If you are cutting hosta into individual eyes, I use old kitchen knives. If you are halving or quartering, I use a heavy straight spade.
Planting Your Divisions
When you are resetting your hosta plant divisions, they should be the same depth that they were prior to division. This is the ideal time to enrich your soil with ample amounts of compost – and don’t forget to soak them after planting. This will help to eliminate air pockets as well as insure that the now reduced root system is in contact with moisture.
The American Hosta Growers Association defines giant hosta as those that exceed 30 inches in height. There are several cultivars now that are in the 48 inch range. The size GIANT Hostas can achieve in your garden is determined by the light exposure, the available water and the depth and quality of the soil. All three factors need to be optimum to achieve maximum size.
How You Can Optimize The Growing Conditions For GIANT Hosta
Key West Hosta forms an impressive mound of bright gold foliage 80 inches wide.
I like to use the analogy of comparing the needs of mice vs. elephants to the needs of miniature hosta vs. giant hosta.
On a small amount of food and water, mice can reach maturity in a matter of months.Compare that to an elephant. An elephant takes huge amounts of food and water to reach maturity over 15 to 20 years!
With good conditions the giant hosta will reach maturity in 5 to 6 years.
Liberty Hosta, a Giant hosta plant will brighten up any garden.
The optimal light for hostas as a general rule is:
- dark greens and blues in less sun
- yellows in more sun
- variegated generally in mixed light
The ideal lighting is tree cover that has the hosta in and out of the sun as the sun travels through the sky.
Hostas Need Water
The wavy green leaves of Empress Wu are said to be the biggest hosta leaves ever!
Availability of water to the giant hostas is a very important factor. Most hostas receive about 60 inches of rainfall annually in their native habitat of East Asia.
When water is withheld, the hostas will stop growth. It will not be able to store as much food in the crown, which will then reduce the size of the plant the following spring.
Location, location, location is the largest factor in determining available water. If you have been gardening in the same location for several years you know where the moist spots are.
Moist areas are the ideal spot for the giants. We’re not talking about standing water that has no oxygen in the soil. The best spot has soil that is likely to still be moist in the hot summer months.
The Depth and Quality of the Soil
A Healthy Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ Growing in Our Garden.
Deep rich soil is very much a factor in how large your giant hosta can grow. Here in New England we think 10 inches of loam is deep. If you are in Iowa, that is considered poor shallow soil. Ten inches of topsoil is fine. The higher the organic matter content is the better the soil will be. Incorporating 50% compost to the mix you backfill with is optimal. You can maintain a high organic content through the years by allowing a mulch to rot in place. Besides retaining and making nutrients available to your giant hostas, the organic matter also allows better water penetration and retention in your garden soil.
Obviously, not everyone has the “perfect” location to grow giant hostas to their potential. The solution is to amend the soil to help create a desirable site. Adding organic matter and peat moss will help with water retention. After that it is up to us to water the hostas when Mother Nature doesn’t do her part.
Giving hostas, and especially giant hostas, about 1 inch of water a week will greatly improve the chances of growing a massive clump.
Now you know what GIANT Hostas need to be all that they can be!
Where And How Do You Use GIANT Hostas?
There are so many giant hosta cultivars today that the ways to use them is endless, limited only by your imagination.
A serene landscape featuring Giant Hostas. From our employee Sherri’s garden.
The giant hostas make tremendous focal points whether planted alone as a specimen or planted in a mass for large area coverage. Hosta ‘Key West’ or Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ can make a great focal point in a sunnier location. They both have a brilliant yellow foliage that is a great accent against surrounding green foliage. With less sun you will see them go on the greener side.
Hosta ‘Blueberry Waffles’ or Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ can be used as focal points in the shadier parts of your garden.
The variegation on Hosta ‘Bridal Falls’ and Hosta ‘Liberty’ are absolutely stunning when shown off as a mature clump!
If you have a large scale garden, the giants can be massed to great effect. Planted close enough to each other, they form a weed barrier by eliminating all light to any weeds that would try to grow below their canopy.
We often get asked what hostas we would recommend and, of course, our answer is “All of Them!” We hope you have a really big yard. It is always a hard question to answer as everyone’s opinions are different. We tend to lean towards the dependable growers that grab our attention in the garden.
Here are a few (or more!) hostas that we think everyone should have in their perennial garden.
American Hosta Growers Hosta of the Year 2017
American Hosta Growers Host of the Year 2012
American Hosta Growers Hosta of the Year 2015
Hostas are native to Japan, China, and Korea, where they grow in moist woodlands, open grasslands, and along stream banks and rivers. A foliage plant with summer and fall bloom, other common names include plantain lily and funkia.
Learn more about growing these versatile shade garden plants:
How to Grow Hostas
Plant hostas in evenly moist, humus-rich soil in light to full shade. Hostas are tough, versatile, and adaptable. Filtered sun is best for the colorful varieties to reach their full potential, especially gold and blue forms.
The green-leaved varieties are the most shade tolerant. Most species need protection from too much direct sunshine, especially hot afternoon sun when temperatures are high. Variegated varieties, especially those with a lot of white in the leaves, burn very easily. Blue-leaved varieties will bleach to green with too much direct sun. Plants with thick and waxy leaves are better adapted to dry soil conditions than thin-leaved ones, but none will thrive or even survive with dry or thin soil.
Hostas emerge late in the season but quickly unfurl to fill their allotted space. They grow slowly and may take two to four years to attain their full size, longer for the largest species and cultivars. Allow plenty of room when you plant to accommodate for their mature size. Small varieties spread three times as wide as they are tall. Medium-size varieties spread twice their height, and the larger varieties are at least as wide as they are tall.
Hostas are disease-resistant, but their succulent leaves are no match for slugs and snails. Keep a watchful eye on the emerging leaves and pick off the assailants as you find them. In moist, humid climates, use exclusion techniques such as rings of ash around the plants, or use saucers of beer as bait.
Hostas are the mainstays of the shade garden. Their luscious foliage is unparalleled for accent and groundcover effect. Plant hostas with ferns, wildflowers, and shade perennials on the north side of a house or under the canopy of large trees. Use them as specimens or accents on the shaded side of a shrub border or under flowering trees. In the darkest recesses between buildings, under carports, or in narrow passages, hostas will grow and thrive if the soil is rich and moist.
Take advantage of the fact that hostas emerge late and plant the large open expanses with spring-flowering bulbs and ephemeral wildflowers such as toothworts (Dentaria), spring beauties (Claytonia), and trout lilies (Erythronium). As the early bloomers die away, the newly emerging hosta leaves will hide them from sight. Snowdrops, miniature daffodils, and winter aconites (Eranthis) are good bulb companions.
Combine the lovely foliage with sedges (Carex); ferns such as ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) and lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina); and foliage perennials such as lungworts (Pulmonaria), Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla), and wild gingers (Asarum).
In cooler areas, combine white-flowered H. plantaginea with variegated Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Cabaret’), garden phlox, and other perennials in borders protected from the hottest afternoon sun. Use the medium-size varieties as groundcovers in front of flowering shrubs or in mass plantings of mixed leaf colors and shapes under shade trees. Plant the small-leaved selections in rock gardens or in containers.
Hosta Planting Guide
Hostas are go-to plants for shady areas because they are very dependable and offer a wide range of foliage color, form and patterns. The plants are long lived, can be divided every few years to increase stock and many hostas are quite reasonably priced. The ones found here include a number of cultivars singled out by the Royal Horticultural Society for the Award of Garden Merit. (This award is given to plants that have demonstrated excellent performance in a wide variety of garden settlings and geographic loactions.)
While rarely mentioned and often overlooked, the fact is all hosta varieties bloom. The stems of white or soft purple trumpet shaped blossoms appear in summer. Some varieties offer blooms that are fragrant. Both the foliage and the flowers are unexpected, and welcome, additions to summer bouquets.
Choosing a Growing Site
Hostas prefer shade and are happy with a range of light from dabbled sunlight to moderately shady to the shade that’s found on the north side of buildings. These perennials mature to plants in an array of heights from under a foot wide to a gigantic 6 feet across. Consider the expected size of your chosen cultivar at maturity when you’re selecting a site.
Light to moderate feeders, hostas grow well in average, well-drained soil and don’t require rich, perfect loam. Compost, dug in when planting or added as a top dressing later, provides a light supply of nutrients. One to two inches of compost mixed into the top 6-8 inches of soil is a good amount.
When to Plant
Plant outdoors when frost danger has past. Hostas are hardy perennials and can take freezing without ill effects once established. For fall planting, get your hostas in the ground at least 6 weeks before hard frosts typically arrive in your region. This gives the plants time to develop sufficient roots before heading into winter’s cold and helps avoid frost heave.
How to Plant Dormant Bareroot Hostas
Your hostas will be shipped bareroot, in a dormant state. Dormancy means the plant is not in actively growing; it’s been held in a cool, dark setting similar to winter garden conditions and is “sleeping”. The bareroot term means that the soil has been washed from the roots; there is no risk of introducing any soil-borne diseases into your garden, and the plants are lighter and cleaner to ship. When you plant your hostas, adding light and moisture, they’ll wake up.
If your hoasta seem a bit dry upon receipt, feel free to soak them in room temperature water for an hour. Then plant. Roots will start growing in a few days and top growth will be visible in 1-3 weeks. Fall planted hostas develop roots in the cool, but not frozen, soil and sprout top growth in spring.
Dig a hole a bit bigger than the root ball and mix in a couple scoops of compost. Fan out the roots in your planting hole and place the crown (area from which leaves will sprout) a half inch below soil level. Refill around plant with soil, tap down to eliminate any big air pockets and water well.
In the garden, space your plants so they have enough room to grow without crowding. Allow 18-36” between plants for full size hostas (we don’t have any 6’ varieties here) and 12-16” for smaller varieties.
During the Season
Hostas require little care during the growing season. During their first season, while they are settling in, make sure they receive 1-2” of water, from rain or irrigation, per week. From their second season on, they’ll be fine with about the same or a little less.
- Where happy, hostas will readily grow into sizeable clumps. Divide every 3 to 4 years by lifting in the spring when you see new growth and pulling/cutting apart sections. Replant the new hostas at soil level and water to settle in. Or share with friends!
- Slugs like hostas. Use slug baits or diatomaceous earth to protect your plants particularly when they are young and most vulnerable.
- Deer also like hostas. If deer are a problem in your area, consider planting astilbes instead of hostas. The plants both prefer shady sites and the astilbes are much less interesting to the deer.
Hostas: plant, care & variety guide
Hostas: why gardeners love them
When I moved to the Hunua Ranges, a little over seven years ago, I was chuffed to get my green fingers into a country garden dotted with youthful deciduous trees.
The adolescent English oaks beside our lawn still let enough light through their branches to grow rows of vegetables at their roots and waist-high delphiniums around the drip line, while bluebells, carpet roses and daffodils snuggled around the silver birches.
A few years on, the bluebells are still flourishing but the daffodils died out and the straggly roses have made way for rhododendrons, pieris, hellebores, cyclamen and a clutch of showy South African scadoxus bulbs that send up their fireball flowers right on cue for the Heroic Garden Festival this month (my garden is open from February 9-11).
In the dry, acidic shade of the oaks, however, it has proved a struggle to get anything much to thrive. There are several reasons why. For starters, tree roots are invasive and thirsty, robbing the soil of nutrients and mining every hint of moisture.
JULIETPHOTOGRAPHY/123RF Hostas are famous for doing well in shade.
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Come autumn, when deciduous trees lose their leaves, underplantings can be suffocated under a wet blanket of fallen foliage, unless you are an assiduous raker-upper. And when the leaves come down, there’s no longer an overhead canopy affording protection from hard winter frosts, ruling out many of the dry-loving subtropicals and elegant ferns I used to grow in the shady corners of my former city garden.
When experimenting in the shade, I hadn’t thought to plant shade-loving hostas – those bold-leafed beauties prized for their crinkled and crimped foliage in shades of chartreuse, silver, blue, green and gold – because everyone knows they prefer moist soil to bone-dry, barren dust, right?
WHAT HOSTAS NEED TO GROW
Experience has taught me that if you’re prepared to pamper your hostas on planting, nestling each plant into the soil along with a generous bucket of rich compost, offering regular deep soakings during their first summer and mulching the ground around them heavily to hold moisture, they don’t mind the dry one iota.
Regardless of your soil conditions, hostas need quite a bit of shade. Even in partial sun, their lush leaves will scorch and shrivel in the sun’s midsummer rays.
* The yellow forms, and varieties of Hosta plantaginea, are notably more heat-tolerant.
* In my own garden, the only hosta that can take full sun and still look attractive is ‘Purple Heart’, which has pointy green leaves atop dark stems.
SALLY TAGG / NZ GARDENER Hosta ‘Purple Heart’ can handle full sun. Here it’s grouped around wine barrels planted with burgundy Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’.
Hostas range in foliage colour from eerie shades of silvery-blue and grey to buttery gold and every shade of green from lime to classic Landrover green. Some have smooth thin leaves; others are thick and crimped, crinkled or corrugated. Some have a graceful form with cascading foliage, while others are more upright or vase-shaped.
There are thousands of cultivars, many with variegated accents, be they splotched golden hearts, white streaks or neatly rimmed edges of cream.
GROWTH & PROPAGATION
As foliage plants, hostas range in size from dinky miniatures to paddle-leafed giants, such as ‘Empress Wu’, marketed as the world’s biggest hosta.
SALLY TAGG / NZ GARDENER When the self-sown forget-me-nots die down, hostas and ‘Britt-Marie Crawford’ ligularias pop up in my boardwalk garden.
‘Empress Wu’ is said to form mounds at least 1.2m tall and wide and, while my two-year-old plants aren’t quite that lofty yet, they have doubled in size in one year. Having planted them 50cm apart, I suspect one of next year’s jobs will be uprooting half of them to allow extra elbow room for the rest.
Hostas are easily propagated by division in spring, but wait at least three years before you start hacking up established clumps.
CARING FOR HOSTAS
I adore all hostas. So do slobbery slugs and snails. Here in Hunua, wild birds keep these slimy interlopers at bay, but suburban gardeners are advised to keep a box of slug bait handy.
Without protection in October, when the new shoots start to emerge from the winter-dormant rhizomes, the striking foliage of hostas can be blighted for the entire season.
SALLY TAGG Hostas are most famous for their foliage but don’t overlook their flowering merits.
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Tips for Growing Hostas
Last Updated: May 15, 2015 | by Mike McGroarty
Hostas are very popular landscape plants that are grown mainly for their attractive, lush foliage. Hostas are also very forgiving plants that will grow in areas where other landscape plants fear to tread. Growing hostas is something that can be done successfully even by those new to gardening and by those who proclaim to lack a green thumb.
There are hundreds of varieties of hostas available, with more new introductions being offered each year. Hostas are also sometimes called plantain lilies, although they are not in the same family as lilies. Just about anyone can be growing hostas as these lovely perennials are hardy in Zones 3 through 8, with a few varieties that will tolerate the heat in Zone 9.
Hostas can be found for sale at most nurseries, and a few nurseries are growing hostas exclusively. It is at nurseries that specialize in growing hostas where you will find the more exotic varieties, but the more rare hostas and those that are recent introductions will fetch a higher price than the more common varieties. Expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $10 for the older, more common cultivars. Hosta collectors will pay $15 to $35 or more for rare varieties that they simply must have for their collections.
Wanted! People who would like to work at home
making and selling rooted cuttings.
Hostas do produce flowers, but most gardeners are growing hostas so they can enjoy the wide variety of foliage colors and textures that hostas exhibit. You can find hostas with rounded leaves, heart-shaped leaves or lance-shaped leaves. Some hostas have light green leaves, others have blue leaves, while still others have green leaves streaked with white or yellow.
Some hostas produce smooth leaves, some have puckered leaves, and others have ridged leaves. There are even miniature hostas that are suitable for containers or small spaces. A mini hosta by definition must have leaves that are no longer than 4.5 inches, while some of the jumbo hostas have leaves much, much bigger than your head.
Once a hosta is planted, it requires very little care. Choosing a suitable planting location is crucial when growing hostas. A hosta that is growing in a suitable location will be much easier to care for than one that is poorly located.
Hostas are generally thought of as shade-loving plants. It is true that most hostas are shade tolerant, but it is possible to start growing hostas in a more sunny environment.
As a general rule, you’ll have the best luck growing hostas where they can receive morning sun and afternoon shade. Hostas can’t handle a lot of hot afternoon sun because their large leaves lose a lot of moisture in the heat. Variegated hostas that have more yellow or white in their leaves are more tolerant of morning sunshine, while the darker green or blue hostas prefer more shade. Hostas that produce fragrant flowers generally like to grow in sunnier spots as they need sunshine to bloom well.
If you are growing hostas in a sunny garden, they will perform better if they are given more water. The additional moisture helps them tolerate the higher levels of light.
In their native environment, hostas receive over 60 inches of rainfall each year. To keep growing hostas that are lush and beautiful, give them at least an inch of moisture each week during the growing season. Hostas will be even happier and perform better if they receive an inch and a half of moisture each week, but don’t give them this water all at once. Give them a good drink twice a week and they’ll reward you by growing vigorously.
Always water hostas deeply. Hosta roots can grow as much as 18 inches deep or more, so shallow watering won’t reach these deep roots and the plants will perform poorly. Water the plants deeply so all of the roots remain moist.
You can begin growing hostas at any time during the growing season. Most gardeners want to get their planting done in the spring, but if a particularly beautiful hosta calls out to you in July and begs to go home with you, go ahead and plant it in midsummer. Keep in mind that the later a hosta is planted in the growing season, the more important it is to keep it watered well while it establishes itself.
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When planting a hosta, give it a good home by mixing in some good rich compost and a bit of slow-release fertilizer in the planting hole. Plant the hosta at the same depth it was planted in the nursery pot, then add a couple inches of mulch around it to help maintain soil moisture.
Once you begin growing hostas in your garden, you’ll want to grow even more of them. Once your friends and neighbors see how beautiful your hostas are, they’ll want to grow them too. Hostas are easily divided so you can have plenty to share.
Hostas can be divided at any time you can dig in the soil. Dividing the plants in the midst of the growing season can risk shocking the plants however, so the preferred time for dividing a hosta is in the spring. There are some advantages to dividing a hosta in the spring, but the lack of foliage is the main reason why spring division is ideal. Once the plant has fully leafed out, it can be difficult to see where to dig around the plant.
To divide a hosta, begin by digging up the entire plant. Large hostas will have huge root systems, so carefully dig all around the plant, then begin digging under it until you can lever out the entire clump with your garden spade.
Next, use a garden hose to wash all the soil from above the plant’s basal plate. The basal plate is the woody layer of growth that is above the roots and beneath the foliage or growing points. Do not wash the soil off the roots as that soil will protect the roots from drying.
Once the soil is washed from the basal plate, work the clump a bit with your hands to see if any small divisions will naturally separate from the parent plant.
If the clump needs further division, use a sharp knife to divide the plant into smaller clumps. Examine the clump closely to see the growing points or eyes, and locate areas where the clump can easily be divided between eyes, then use your knife to slice through the clump.
To avoid spreading disease, disinfect your knife between each cut. Dip the knife into a solution of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water to disinfect it. Some growers also paint this disinfectant solution onto the cuts in the plant as a further disease preventative.
Replant the new divisions immediately, and do not allow the roots to dry out while you are working. If the divisions cannot be replanted immediately, place them in a shaded area and cover them with damp newspaper or a wet sheet until they can be replanted later in the day.
You may think you are growing hostas for your own pleasure, but if there are any deer in your neighborhood, they will think those hostas were planted just for their benefit. Deer love to eat hostas. To learn how to protect your gorgeous hostas from gangs of marauding deer, go to http://freeplants.com/deer-resistant-plants.htm
Slugs are also known to be avid destroyers of hostas. Slugs will eat large holes in hosta leaves overnight while you’re not looking, then they slink away and hide during the day. To learn how to prevent hosta damage from slimy slugs, go to http://freeplants.com/slugs.htm
Gardeners new to growing hostas often ask what they should do with the flower stalks that hostas produce. Some folks enjoy hosta flowers, but others think the flowers distract from the beauty of the foliage. Whether or not to leave the flowers on the plant is a matter of taste. The hosta won’t be damaged if the flower stalks, known as scapes, are removed. Producing a flower takes a lot of energy from the plant, so if you are more interested in growing hostas as foliage plants, the scapes can be removed at any time. Hummingbirds are attracted to hosta flowers, so if you like to watch hummingbirds buzzing about in your garden, you may want to leave the scapes on the plant until the flowers have faded.
Hostas are perennials and they will die back after a hard freeze and grow back from the roots in the spring. What should you do with the wilted foliage after a hard freeze? Again, this is mostly a matter of taste. The leaves will decompose over winter so they can be left in place. The decomposing leaves do tend to provide a hiding place for slugs, so if slugs are a problem in your garden you may wish to remove the wilted leaves and add them to your compost pile. If you feel that your hostas have been infected by a disease however, the leaves should be thrown away. Do not risk spreading an infection by adding diseased leaves to a compost pile.
Try your hand at growing hostas in your own garden. You’ll be surprised by how much this foliage plant can brighten up a shady corner of your garden.
Questions? I do my best to answer all questions on my blog…
Growing Hostas: How To Care For A Hosta Plant
Hosta plants are a perennial favorite among gardeners. Their lush foliage and easy care make them ideal for a low maintenance garden. Originating in the Orient and brought to the Europe in the 1700s, today there are over 2,500 cultivars with such variety in leaf shape, size and texture, that an entire garden could be devoted to growing hostas alone. While hosta care is considered easy, it helps to know a little bit about how to grow hostas to help the plants reach their full garden potential.
Where and How to Grow Hostas
Although hosta plants are touted as shade lovers, their sunlight requirements vary widely. Successfully growing hostas in the shade depends on color. Hosta leaves come in a variety of greens, ranging from a color so deep it’s called blue to a light chartreuse to a soft creamy white.
A good rule of thumb for the placement and care of hostas is the lighter the foliage, the brighter the sun. The deeper darker foliage retains it color best in moderate shade. The variegated varieties need more sunlight to keep their white and gold stripes. All hostas need some shade and few, if any, will do well in strong direct sunlight. They will fully mature in four to eight years.
For the best care of hostas, plant them in rich organic soil with a slightly acidic pH. You’ll only have to do it once. Dig the planting hole about a foot deep, and wide enough to accommodate the spread of a full sized plant. This will make it easier for the roots to establish a foothold and begin their horizontal spread.
In spite of their almost tropical look, hostas are rugged and once established, they tolerate almost any soil and will grow for years.
When discussing how to grow hostas, drainage is most important. Dormant season crown rot is one of the few diseases that attack these plants. Good hosta care requires good drainage. When newly planted, keep the roots moist, not wet. Once established, hosta plants aren’t fussy and are very tolerant of summer drought.
Tips for Hosta Care
Once your plant is established, hosta care becomes a matter of simple maintenance. To keep your growing hostas healthy, fertilize them each spring with an all-purpose garden fertilizer. Additional summer fertilizing may be helpful, but not necessary. Granular fertilizers should never sit on the leaves.
With the exception of crown rot and leaf rot, Hosta plants are relatively disease free. Deer find the tasty and if deer are a problem in your neighborhood, you might try planting daffodils around your hosta to keep them away from the emerging shoots.
Another difficulty in hosta care is slugs, which leave unsightly holes in the leaves. A light scattering of sand around your plants will help keep them away.
Hosta plants are a beautiful addition to any garden and fit well in a variety of spaces, ranging from a few inches to four feet across. Care of hostas is easy and now you’ve discovered the basics of how to grow hostas, you’ll find them a welcome addition to your yard.
The Hosta Gardening Calendar
Winter (Period of dormancy): December-January-February-March
In winter, hostas are dormant, they do not grow at all. There is no winter root growth as in other perennials. Most hostas need 600-700 hours below 40 degrees F of cold dormancy, but they will emerge as stronger plants if their dormancy is extended beyond the minimum required.
Labeling: Make new permanent labels.
Light: Full sun, under deciduous trees, but very weak intensity.
Nutrients: None needed
Pests: Check for fresh vole runs, especially after the snow melts. Bait runs or set traps as necessary.
Protection: If the garden was not mulched in fall, this is an easy time to touch up that 1” layer of coarse mulch.
Water: Usually no extra watering is needed. In very dry winters, especially in areas that usually do not have snow, watering once or twice throughout the winter may be needed or emergence of the foliage may be delayed and the plants will be smaller.
Fun! Surf the Internet for hosta information. Make want lists of new hostas from hosta catalogues received in the mail and on your favorite websites. Many nurseries have “Early Bird” specials in January. Catch up on reading The Hosta Journal. Visit www.Hosta.org.
Spring (Foliage emergence begins): March-April-early May
As the ground warms under spring’s ever increasing light intensities, the dormant buds of the hostas begin to swell and break through the mulch, looking like bullets coming out of the ground. The small bud scales that protect the true leaves open and recurve allowing a cigar-shaped flush of usually three to four leaves to emerge well above the ground. Soil temperature and moisture seem to effect the timing of the emergence of hostas the most. In very dry winters the emergence of hostas will be delayed unless the garden is irrigated. As the new hosta leaves expand, ample water is also needed for them to gain maximum size.
Labeling: Check for lost labels and replace as needed.
Light: Full sun, moderate intensity. Usually no shading necessary.
Nutrients: Apply slow release fertilizer (e.g. Osmocote, Nutricote, organic fertilizers) or 10-10-10 granular fertilizer around clumps as the hostas emerge. If you only use a liquid fertilizer, then apply weekly beginning as the first leaves start to unfurl.
Pests: Begin slug control before hosta leaves emerge. The slugs will be active on warm nights before the hostas will. Try to limit their populations before they hide in the hosta foliage. If early attacks by deer are a problem, spray a repellent. Little is needed at this time but it may need to be repeated every 10 days as the hostas enlarge. Stay on vole patrol.
Protection: Finish your spring clean-up of fallen branches, old hosta foliage and scapes. Last chance to mulch. Pull mulch away from emerging hosta shoots to reduce the risk of petiole rot, especially if hardwood bark is used as mulch. Protect from late freezes with frost cloth, nursery pots, boxes, lightweight bed sheets or newspaper. Hostas with unfurled leaves can be protected by covering with mulch.
Propagation: Hostas may be divided in half or quarters as they begin to emerge. Be prepared to provide them with extra water and care as they will have oversized leaves for their recently reduced root system. New roots will not begin forming until the first set of new leaves are almost fully expanded, several weeks after division. Save drastic division for late summer.
Water: Keep the soil evenly moist. Fresh hostas are mostly water, make sure plenty is available as they expand. Beautiful spring days with bright light, low humidity and brisk winds dehydrate new hosta leaves quickly, do not be afraid to irrigate generously.
Fun! This is the best hosta season of the year! Go out several times a day and watch your hostas spring from the earth. You can almost see them grow! Count the number of new shoots and calculate how much your hosta investment has increased. A one division hosta purchased for $25 last fall, with its three new shoots, has now tripled in value to $75. Drag you neighbors over to see your hostas do their magic act. This is the time of year when everything is right in the hosta world. Go to a local hosta meeting.
Late Spring (Period of rapid foliage and root growth): May-June
Most hostas, except the fragrant flowered ones which produce new flushes of leaves into July, produce all their leaves in about 6-8 weeks. This occurs in usually one or two flushes of 3-4 leaves per shoot, (division). These leaves are at first “soft”, expanding rapidly, metabolizing, (growing) at a high rate. As they reach their mature size they “harden off” and stop expanding, slowing their production of white wax and purple pigments, (anthocyanins). At this time fresh new white roots emerge from the shoot above last year’s roots and lengthen rapidly. Soon the second flush of 3-4 leaves will appear and mature, followed by another period of root initiation. Hostas need abundant water and nutrients, especially nitrogen, during this period of rapid leaf and root growth.
Labeling: Pull labels further out from under the expanding hosta clumps. Notice how much bigger your hostas are than they were last year. Congratulate yourself and give your hostas praise.
Light: Shade fills the garden as the trees leaf out. Watch for bleaching of early rising yellow hostas. They may need to be moved.
Nutrients: Reapply 10-10-10 after 4-6 weeks depending on the amount of heavy rainfall. Continue your liquid feed program. If you want your hostas to be the biggest on your block, (and who doesn’t?), supplement granular fertilizers with a foliar liquid feed of a high nitrogen fertilizer with added magnesium every two weeks (e.g. Miracle-Gro Tomato Plant Food 18-18-21, Peters 20-20-20 with a pinch of Epsom salts per gallon of water added.)
Pests: Check hostas for evidence of Hosta Virus X. Unlike foliar nematodes, HVX symptoms will show early in the growing season. Remove and dispose of any infected plants!!! Watch for slug and vole damage. If a hosta does not come up, go digging around looking for it. It may have become vole food, so check the hostas around it for vole damage by pulling gently on the foliage and seeing if they are firmly rooted in the ground. If they too have been nibbled, you may need to pot them up and regrow their roots. Bait or set traps. If a hosta comes up much smaller than last year, it may have become a victim of tree roots and need to be potted also. Remove all the rotted roots and soft parts of the crown and rinse it in a 10% bleach solution before potting. Make a note, that hosta bed may need reworking in late summer. Ugh!
Protection: Deter deer!
Propagation: Do not divide hostas with soft foliage. Once they harden off, you can move entire clumps safely, being careful not to damage the roots. Use a digging fork, not a shovel if you can so you do not cut off the root tips. Wait until late summer to divide drastically.
Water: Water, Water, Water! Especially if it is a dry spring. Fill your hostas to the brim with water.
Fun! Plant those hostas that you ordered in the winter. Happiness is a new hosta bed! Visit local nurseries and raid the big box stores; hunt for bargains and maybe do a little hosta sport fishing with your hosta buddy. Take pride in your perfect hostas, all fresh and free from holes. Show them off. Visit them daily and choose your favorites.
Summer (Period of bloom and seed set) June-July-August
The time of bloom in hosta species and their cultivars varies from late May or June to September. A particular hosta will normally bloom once for about 3 weeks during the summer, producing a flower scape from the growing bud that just finished producing the flushes of leaves. The scape has a number of lily-like flowers that are open for one day only and are bee pollinated. (H. plantaginea opens in the evening and may be moth pollinated.) Seed pods are formed from fertilized ovaries at the base of the pistil and swell in size. Black, single-winged seeds are usually ripe in 6-8 weeks.
Labeling: Replace the labels that the squirrels have pulled up.
Light: This is the brightest and more importantly, hottest light of the year. The sun is at its maximum height in the sky and often beds that were bathed in shade in early May are now in full sun. Hostas can tolerate direct light but they hate heat! If leaf margins begin to brown, it may be time to move that hosta to a cooler spot in the garden. On the other hand, year by year shade gardens become shadier. Consider removing a branch here or there during the summer to create spotlights of bright light in the garden. Maybe even consider removing an entire tree, but that should probably wait until winter.
Nutrients: Blooming hostas still need nutrients to maintain their foliage and produce seeds but not a high nitrogen diet. If you are liquid feeding weekly, continue if there is ample rain. In times of drought reduce feeding to every other week. Discontinue any supplemental foliar feeding; hosta leaves have expanded to their maximum by now. Remember if it doesn’t rain, then your slow release fertilizer is not being released. Irrigation may be a good idea.
Pests: If it turns dry, the deer will show up looking for some lush hosta foliage full of water. Spray deer repellent every 3 weeks or more often and rotate your favorite brands. Leave the electric fence on at all times. Be on the look out for the symptoms of foliar nematodes, those nasty brown streaks. If you have a major problem, remove the most highly infected hostas and water less and feed less. Starve the hostas and stress the worms. Quarantine your garden. If you have a minor issue, remove infected hostas and all the ones touching them. A few years of this may eliminate the problem almost completely.
Protection: Watch for petiole rot. This fungus attacks the base of hosta petioles, secreting a substance that eats through the plant tissue causing the leaves to fall on the ground. This usually occurs in the first hot dry weather of the summer. Pull back mulch. Treat with 10% bleach solution immediately and retreat if necessary. There are also fungicides (e.g. Terrachlor) that can be applied. Other fungi may attack the hosta leaves, especially in hot, humid climates in wet summers. Apply fungicides (e.g. Daconil) as a preventative in late June every 2 weeks as necessary. Rotate fungicides.
Propagation: Divide hostas as the heat of summer passes. August is the best time to drastically divide and plant or pot hostas. Try to give your hostas 6 weeks before the first frost to establish new roots in their new home.
Water: Like nutrients, a hosta’s demands for water are reduced after their leaves are mature. Increased temperatures however, increase the transpiration rate, the rate at which the water is pulled out of the hosta leaves, requiring more water to replace it. Transpiration affects trees to an even greater degree as they pump water up and out of the garden soil. In hot weather sometimes keeping your hostas full of water all day long is a constant battle. Continue the fight. Dry soil may cause your hostas to go heat dormant or worse, dry rot at the bottom of the crown. In heavily shaded gardens, irrigation during the day can cool those hot leaves.
Fun! Cut some scapes after a couple of flowers have opened and bring them inside to enjoy for two or more weeks. Cut and remove the other scapes when 75% of the flowers have opened, unless you wish to save the seeds. Take in a hosta convention, regional events are inexpensive and allow plenty of time to socialize. Visit other local gardens and get some new ideas. Remember to bring a hosta along as a gift. Begin to plant new acquisitions.
Late Summer (Growth of buds for next year) late-August-September
With the full extension of the flowering inflorescence, the growing tip, (meristem), of the hosta shoot is carried high into the air, at the end of the scape. New “dormant” buds now begin to form at the base of the scape, that will go through cold dormancy and produce the new shoots and leaves of the plant in the next spring. Ideally, three buds are formed, but frequently less are formed by large hosta cultivars. In some early flowering hostas, these buds may produce a second growth of new shoots, leaves, flower scapes and more dormant buds the same summer, especially if they are grown in areas where the growing season is long, as in the Southeastern US.
Labeling: Place plant labels, temporary or permanent, with each new hosta. Bury a plastic label with the plant name in pencil in the same position for each hosta. Map garden if you are so inclined.
Light: Days begin to shorten, hostas begin to look tired.
Nutrients: Fertilize newly planted hostas with 10-10-10 or a little slow release fertilizer. If some hostas make a few new leaves then liquid feed once in August.
Pests: Check for voles moving into the garden. Check for foliar nematodes, again. Check the oldest leaves. If the deer still want your hostas, then at some point, open the gate and let them clean up the garden for you.
Protection: Mulch newly worked areas.
Propagation: Continue to divide hostas. Try to get them finished 6 weeks before the first frost. You can do it later but remember hostas do not grow roots over the winter.
Water: Turn off the irrigation and put the hoses away. Lack of water will encourage dormancy. Of course, continue to water your new plantings. I use a watering can.
Fun! Look for fall specials from your favorite hosta nurseries. Hostas planted in the fall will look a year older than the ones you buy next spring. Continue to plant new acquisitions. Start collecting seeds from early flowering hostas.
Fall (Maturation of seeds and onset of dormancy) late September-October-November
As the days shorten toward winter, hostas prepare for dormancy. As the chloroplasts begin to break down and the bright yellows of hidden pigments, caroteins and xanthrophylls, begin to appear, green hosta leaves turn to gold. The leaves then begin to dry and petioles weaken and droop. The dry air helps the ripe seed pods to spring open, allowing the seeds to fly away on the wind. Usually it takes two or three hard freezes to knock the shriveled hosta foliage to the ground, while the flower scapes will persist intact through the first snows of winter.
Labeling: Make sure every hosta has a label before it becomes unidentifiable. The ones in pots probably need a new label as well. They tend to fade over the winter.
Light: The leaves are falling and the light continues to fade never the less. The days shorten inducing dormancy.
Nutrients: None needed.
Pests: Only the voles are a problem now. Begin to bait and trap again.
Protection: Remove tree leaves from the garden to discourage the voles from moving in. I use a leaf blower and not a rake. Finish cutting flower scapes. Apply mulch to your new plantings and touch up as needed.
Propagation: Hurry up! It is almost too late.
Water: Make sure your hostas are full of water the night before the first hard freeze. Usually rain comes with the first real cold front of the season, but if the fall has been dry you might need to soak the garden one more time before you lock the pump house for the winter.
Fun! Collect a few seeds and plant them right away. They will be up in 2-3 weeks and you will have a few hostas to play with all winter. Cheer up. I know your hostas look terrible now, tired from another full turn of their life cycle. This last sad memory of them as they retire for the year, I believe, just makes them look that much more perfect when they emerge with their fresh leaves next spring. Take a break, you have earned it!