Grow Guide for Hostas
What’s not to like about hostas aka plantain lilies? Hosta plants are big, beautiful perennials that thrive in shade and brighten the landscape with their striking blue green foliage. As a bonus, they even have hosta flowers blooming in early summer and often again in the fall. Hosta plants are relatively carefree and easy to maintain. Growing hostas can be attained with just a few planting tips in this guide. They are perfect for any woodland garden!
Our Types of Hostas for Sale
Perfect Plants offers three different hosta varieties. Hosta Blue Cadet has green leaves with a distinctive bluish tinge, gets 16-18 inches tall, and is hardy in United States Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3-8. The green margins of this blue hosta plant shoot out lavender blooms in the spring. Hosta Francee has olive-green leaves with creamy white margins, blue purple flowers, gets 12-18 inches tall. This narrow white variegated hosta is hardy in zones 4-8. Hosta Patriot tolerates heat better than most and is hardy in zones 4-9. Patriot hostas have olive green colored leaves with grayish splashes and white margins giving it nice variegated leaves. These larger hostas get up to 22 inches tall and have pale lavender flowers. Our green hosta varieties do not ship bare root.
There are thousands of other varieties of hostas out there in several different types of species. Do your research for USDA zones to see which ones will thrive best in your planting location. You can even choose plants with different leaf colors and flower colors. They each have different colors and textures. Also, look into the mature size of hostas. Each plant grows differently and there are miniature hostas, such as the ones we sell, as well as large hostas that will need more room to thrive.
When and Where to Plant Hostas
Hostas grow well in almost any soil, but they are at their best in humus-rich soils that are slightly moist but well drained soils. Hostas do not tolerate full sun. They do best where they get filtered sun all day or a combination with sun in the morning and part shade in the afternoon.
The soil should be fertile and rich in organic matter. Heavy clay soils have poor drainage and should be avoided or improved by mixing in some commercial garden soil, leaf mold, or aged compost.
Hostas grow slowly and can take up to three or four years to reach full size. Don’t plant them too close together.
The best time to plant hostas is in spring or fall.
Landscaping with Hostas Around Trees
Hostas pair well with ferns and other shade loving woodland perennial plants. Position them under big shade trees like pine trees or maple trees, along the north side of the house, or between buildings where shade dominates. Shade gardens or herbaceous perennial gardens are perfect planting spots for these small plants. Get creative with your garden design for hostas. These shade plants are the perfect companion plant for virtually any other shade tolerant plant. Because of their shallow root systems, they successfully grow under trees. When planting under trees, avoid damaging fibrous roots and feeder roots of the tree. This can cause the health of the tree to decline.
Hostas need a fair amount of water and should get supplemental water during dry spells. They benefit from a layer of organic mulch which helps to retain moisture and improve the surrounding soil as it decomposes.
Apply a complete, balanced slow release fertilizer each spring, according to label directions. We recommend a granular fertilizer for newly planted hostas instead of liquid fertilizer because there is less room for error. Feed your hostas after the last frost so you do not encourage new growth while there is still a chance for freezing temperatures. Sismply sprinkle fertilizer into the soil when it is time to feed. When you want more plants, you can divide hostas easily.
Watch for snails and slugs especially on newly emerging hosta leaves in spring. Pick them off when you see them. You also can attract them to their demise with a saucer of beer. A ring of wood ash around the plant will deter the little slimeys. If snails or slugs become a more serious problem, control with a commercial slug bait. Some hostas may be slug resistant too. Slugs and other bugs will devastate the heart shaped leaves of the hostas in a matter of days.
Most hostas are deer resistant but you may need to spray deer repellent if they are munching on your shade tolerant plants.
Hostas in Winter
Up North, hostas will need to be protected from extreme winter cold with a layer of mulch.
During freezing temperatures, hosta plants will lose their leaves or have dead leaves down to the ground after the first frost. This is totally normal.
Hostas in Pots
You can also keep small hostas in pots if they have good drainage. Choose a pot a couple of inches bigger than the one the hosta came in. Growing hostas in pots is a great option for those who want year round color or do not have a yard to plant in.
Choose a container with a drainage hole in the bottom and potting soil that has lots of nutrients to supply to your perennial shade plants. Move the potted hosta plant into a sunroom or unheated garage during the winter months.
If practical, set out your hostas in early spring so they will have an entire growing season to get established. In the south, where winters are mild, fall planting is OK. Choose a site that gets filtered sunlight all day or one with morning sun and full shade or partial shade in the afternoons.
For specimen plants, position hostas 2-4 feet apart, depending on their eventual mature size. Place them closer together for a hosta ground cover.
How to Plant Hostas
Dig a hole about the same depth and a little wider than the pot your hosta came in. Place the plant in the hole so that it is at the same depth as it was in the original pot and just as deep as the root ball. Be sure the stem is above the soil line. Fill the hole in and water deeply.
Apply a 3-6 inch layer of organic mulch over the root zone, but not touching the stem. This helps to retain soil moisture and prevents weeds from getting a foothold. We like hay, pine straw, bark chips, aged compost, or shredded leaves.
Once established, the large leaves of a hosta plant will shade the soil over its own roots, reducing evaporation and stifling any weeds that might attempt to infringe. Once you get the hang of it, hosta plant care
Hostas need consistent moisture, especially in their first growing season. After that, normal rainfall is usually sufficient, except during extended droughts. Hostas should get at least one inch of water per week. The soil can be especially dry under big water-hogging trees, so pay attention, and water when the soil becomes dry in the top one inch. It’s better to water less often but deeply, than to water frequently and shallow.
To discourage slugs, snails, mold, and mildew, water in the mornings, and minimize wetting the leaves. Hostas should not get supplemental water during the winter when they are dormant; it could cause the hosta roots to rot.
Remove spent flowers and fragrant flower stalks after they have faded. Hostas go dormant during the winter. In very cold locations you should cut the plants to the ground and cover the root zone with organic mulch to protect from extreme freezes.
How and When to Divide Hostas
Hostas grow slowly and some varieties can take 3-5 years to reach maturity. Eventually, you may want to divide your hostas in order to start new ones. Do this in spring or early fall when it isn’t too hot and has the proper growing conditions. Smaller plants (offsets) that pop up around the main clump can be dug up and moved. Large hostas can be dug up and the rootball teased apart or cut with a spade or knife into smaller sections (with leaves), which then can be replanted. Don’t let the root systems dry out: replant immediately if possible. Spring is best but you can perform a fall division if you have a long growing season. Only divide mature hostas.
If your beautiful hostas seem to be getting too much sun, or not looking very healthy, move them to a better spot. Fortunately, these shade lovers are very forgiving about being dug up and transplanted. The best time of year to transplant hostas is in spring so they have the whole growing season to recover. Water after planting.
Hostas are relatively disease free if properly cared for. They may have yellowing leaves which is a sign of a fungal problem called petiole rot. The first signs and symptoms include yellowing or browning of the leaves. This is from the fungus Sclerotium rolfsii and it can thrive in warm wet weather. Inspect plants when they are young for this. This is the only fix to this incurable disease on infected plants.
Other diseases that may affect these normally care free plants are crown rot and southern blight.
When learning how to grow hostas, this guide has everything you need to know to keep them thriving. They are easy to grow and care for plants that look great in any shade garden.