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
- Where to Plant Hostas
- 7 tips to take care of Giant Hostas better
- Hosta Planting Guide
- Choosing a Growing Site
- Soil Prep
- When to Plant
- How to Plant Dormant Bareroot Hostas
- During the Season
- Insider Tips
- Breaking news
- How to grow hostas
- Great hostas to grow:
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.
Where to Plant Hostas
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.
7 tips to take care of Giant Hostas better
7 tips to take care of Giant Hostas better
Whether you already have hostas in your yard or want to add them in order to round out your landscaping, there are several things that you need to know about hosta plants. In general, hostas are very hardy plants that can withstand quite a bit.
They can be split up, transplanted, and more, and will keep coming back year after year. If left to their own devices, these plants can become quite gigantic. Here’s what you need to know in order to properly care for your giant hostas.
1) Plant them in the Right Location
If the words “location, location, location” don’t mean much to you, then you need to learn more about plants and plant care in general. Hostas need to be planted in places where they get enough sun, but not too much sun, unless they are one of the varietals that can tolerate full sun.
In general, however, giant hostas need some shade, and they can even grow fairly well in full shade. Basically, when describing the “right location” for hostas, it’s important to note that just about anywhere will suffice.
2) Make Sure That the Soil is Adequate
Although hostas will grow in a number of different light conditions, they do need to right type of soil. They aren’t overly picky, so as long as the soil drains well and the roots are planted deeply enough, they should be fine.
Make sure to add some compost or other organic material to the soil before planting your giant hostas, just to give them an additional boost of nutrients. This ensures that they’ll grow properly and produce flowers when the time is right.
3) Give Them Enough Water
Hostas need plenty of water. They don’t need a lot of sunlight, but they do need that good old H2O. Before watering your hostas, check their soil by pressing your index finger into the ground.
The soil should feel damp at the two-inch mark. If it doesn’t, then you’ll need to add some additional water. Also, note that the more sun the plant gets, the more water it will need.
4) Fertilize Them When Necessary
Although giant hostas are incredibly hardy and versatile, they do need a little bit of fertilizer. You’ll need to use a water-soluble fertilizer and apply it several times throughout the spring and early summer. Never fertilize your hosta in the fall when it begins to die off for the year. This will damage the plant.
5) Know When and How To Divide Them
Did you know that you can divide your hostas in multiple plants? Yes, even the giant ones can be turned into multiples. This process involves carefully digging up the plants and being very careful when dividing them into one or more chunks.
Be very gentle with their root systems, as you don’t want to damage them. Once you’ve divided your hostas (and note that springtime is the best time of year for this) transplant them in your yard and then give them plenty of water.
Hostas are very hardy plants who will be able to handle this process well. Don’t be surprised if those divided plants spring back to life and begin to expand with days of being transplanted.
6) Add Mulch to Their Soil
Your hostas will need a little bit of mulch in order to keep their soil moist and prevent pests and weeds from growing around them. Around two inches of mulch is enough to provide proper insulation.
Before you lay down the mulch water your giant hostas well and remove any weeds that are growing in the area. Then, apply the mulch and watch your plants grow and expand. They’ll appreciate your efforts. (Also, remember that wood chips make the best mulch for hostas.)
7) Handle General Maintenance
Hostas need some general maintenance, just like other plants. You’ll need to keep an eye on them to ensure that they aren’t receiving too much sunlight (signs of this are fading leaves, spots on the leaves, and even leaves that brown or curl up at the edges) and that they have enough water.
If you notice that the leaves are damaged in any way, trim the damaged parts off of them. You can even cut off any flowers that have already bloomed and wilted. All of this maintenance is necessary in order to ensure that the plants remain healthy and continue to grow.
Remember that after you remove the old hosta leaves and flowers in the fall after the entire plant has begun to wilt due to weather changes, you should place them in the trash. You never want to compost your hostas, as they will actually begin to grow in your compost bin. These plants are very hardy and resilient!
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: 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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How to grow hostas
Hostas are prized primarily for their foliage but they also have attractive, often scented, July or August flowers. These hardy clump-forming perennials are popular with container gardeners and are unbeatable for low-growing foliage interest in spring and summer. Thriving in light and medium shade they are incredibly useful plants.
Following our expert advice on growing hostas, below.
Hosta ‘Hanky Panky’
Where to grow hostas
Hostas enjoy a water-retentive, fertile soil. Very heavy clay and sandy soils should be improved by digging in plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Ideally the pH of the soil should be 6.5 but they’re still worth growing in acid or alkaline soils.
Choose a position of light- or semi-shade. Hostas are very hardy so they’ll thrive in a north-facing garden or frost pocket.
As hostas enjoy a water-retentive soil they’re ideal for planting in a bog garden, but they shouldn’t be treated as an aquatic. For this reason they’re often planted by, but never in, a pond.
When growing hostas in pots, plant in a container with plenty of drainage holes as a waterlogged soil will kill the plant. Avoid metal containers, which heat up quickly in the sun, as the roots need to be kept cool. Avoid small pots as these will dry out too quickly.
Planting a hosta
Before planting hostas, improve the soil by digging in well-rotted organic matter. Using a small garden spade to dig a hole the size of the root ball. Remove the plant from the pot and put the plant into the hole. Back fill with soil and firm in place. Water in well.
Dividing a congested hosta plant
Propagaton: dividing hostas
Hostas that are happy in their growing environment will bulk up quickly. To increase your stock of plants simply lift the plant carefully in autumn or spring with a garden fork. Be careful not to damage the growing points when working. Place the plant on a potting bench and using a sharp knife cut the plant into two. You can also use a spade to divide clumps in two. Very large hostas can be divided into more, but ensure that you have about two healthy shoots on each division.
Some varieties have more fibrous roots and these can be pulled apart, rather than cut apart.
Ideally, replant the division and the parent plant back in the garden straight away. If this isn’t possible pot the divisions on. When planting in pots or the garden ensure that they’re planted at the original depth.
Hostas grown in pots will quickly fill the space given so it’s wise to divide them every third year or move them to a larger pot.
Deterring slugs with copper band at the base of a hosta plant
Hostas: problem solving
Slugs and snails are the number one enemy of the hosta. In early spring, as the dramatic spears of new foliage push their way out of the ground, be on red alert. A light sprinkling of slug pellets in early March will help reduce their numbers.
However, you’ll never eradicate the problem completely, so a two-pronged attack is sensible. Organic gardeners should look for a slug pellet with the active ingredient of ferric phosphate, as those containing metaldehyde can be detrimental to animals. Never apply more pellets than recommended.
The biological control Nemaslug is a popular option with environmentally aware gardeners. Alternatively put copper bands around containers, try beer traps in the garden or mulch the area with sharp gravel and you might be able to avoid slug pellets completely.
Remove as many slugs and snails by hand as possible, remembering that they are more active at night.
Watering a hosta in a container
Caring for hostas
Hostas will look after themselves once established and happy in their growing environment. In containers don’t allow them to dry out and every spring apply a slow-release feed to the compost.
Remove faded foliage in autumn, cutting back hard. The July or August flower spikes can be cut back once faded.
Hostas for cutting
Hosta foliage is perfect for cutting. With so many different colours and textures available in the genus you can add silver, variegated, heart-shapes, crinkly or smooth leaves to flower arrangements.
Great hostas to grow:
- Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans – silver/blue heart-shaped foliage offering pale-blue flowers in July. Reaches 65cm in height with a 75cm spread
- Hosta ‘Halcyon’ – a popular plant with blue/green foliage and lavender flowers in July and August. Height 40cm with a spread of 70cm
- Hosta ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’ – a compact, mound-forming hosta that only reaches the height of 20cm. Lavender blue flowers in July or August. Green foliage with a lime-green edging
- Hosta ‘Patriot’ – a strong plant with green foliage and an almost white edging. Lavender-blue flowers in July or August. Height 55cm with a spread of 1m
- Hosta ‘Big Daddy’ – giant, heavily quilted sliver-blue foliage. Height 65cm, spread 120cm. Pale-blue flowers in July or August
The easy answer to this question is that they are the most popular, bestselling perennial in the world. That being said, let me give my two cents into why this is true.
Hostas are shade tolerant perennials that are extremely hardy and require very little maintenance. They are shade tolerant, not shade loving. Most hostas prefer a bright east facing area with a few hours of direct morning sun. Hostas do very well in a filtered light situation under the canopies of trees and shrubs and not in a dark area with little light. They do not like to be placed in a heavily rooted area, especially with a lot of surface roots from trees where they will fight for moisture and nutrients. Some hosta cultivars depending on their lineage can handle quite a bit of sun. Fragrant hostas are good for sunnier locations because they have the species Hosta plantagenea in their genes. If you want to grow hostas in a mostly sunny location then you should amend the soil with compost and peat moss and supply adequate moisture for best results. We recommend amending the soil with compost and peat wherever you plant them as they love a nice fertile soil to thrive and achieve their true potential.
One of our hosta gardens
My favorite part of growing hostas in a shaded area is the absence of noxious weeds. I have shade gardens that I might weed three times a season and sunnier gardens that need it weekly. I love walking through the shade gardens or sitting in a chair in the shade gardens on a nice summer day where the shade keeps you cool from the hot summer sun. A major pet peeve of mine or maybe just more of a disappointment is driving by a house with a large shaded area that is either barren or just mulched. This is a perfect area for hostas and companion plants. With a little bit of work you will be rewarded with a mass of reliable color and texture instead of weeds, leaves or just plain bark mulch. The goal should be to have people stop in front of your house to see the colors and textures of a beautiful hosta garden.
Garden picture from our employee Sherri’s yard
Hostas are incredibly versatile plants as previously noted above but also because of the large range of colors and leaf shapes they offer. Hostas come in multiple variations of blue, green, gold, white and even red. Clump sizes can be as small as 2-3 inches tall and as tall as 4 feet. Hosta leaves come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and forms. Just look at the amount of adjectives used to describe hosta leaves and clumps on our website. From giant to miniature, cupped, flat, heart-shaped, lance-shaped, vase-shaped, corrugated, deeply veined, folded, rippled, glaucous, misted, streaked and twisted to name a few. A good hosta garden has a never ending array of colors and attributes. I love when you talk to someone about hostas and their reply is, “Oh, those green and white things?”. These people have no idea of the magnitude to what the species of hosta is capable of!