Skip to Content

How to Grow Hostas

How To Grow Hosta Banner

Hosta is considered the queen of the shade garden plants. With so many different sized, shaped and colored varieties available, you can create a stunning garden just from this one plant.

While they thrive in cool, moist shady conditions, some varieties can tolerant morning sun. The leaves range from small and serrated, to large and smooth. Many have variegated leaves: yellow, blue and white mixed with green.

When & Where to Plant Hostas

Light: While Hostas are known as shade lovers, the best light conditions for growth is dappled light for much of the day. Yellow and gold varieties actually benefit from 2 to 3 hours of morning sun for the best color.

Soil Conditions: Hostas can survive in a wide range of soils but prefer a rich, moist soil, high in organic matter.

Correct Spacing: Depending the variety, space plants 1 to 4 feet apart. Planting closer with allow the plants to fill in faster creating a ground cover of hosta.

Timing (planting): Plant hostas anytime during the growing season. In the North, spring is best to allow plants to get established before summer. In the South, fall is a good time because of the cooler weather. Planting in summer is possible, but plants will need more water than normal to survive the heat.

Collection of Hosta varieties shine after just being watered.
Collection of Hosta varieties shine after just being watered.

How to Grow Hostas Throughout the Season

Growth Habit: Hostas grow from 4 inches to 5 feet wide. The plant heights can vary from 4 inches to 3 feet tall with flower scapes potentially reaching another few feet above the foliage when in bloom. The leaves range from narrow to almost rounded with varying degrees of serration and ribbing.

Staking: Hostas are a bushy plant and don't need staking

Watering: Since most hosta varieties have large leaves that transpire moisture readily, watering is critical. Keep young plants well watered and water established plants with at least 1 inch of water a week. Particular attention should be paid to hostas in dry shade (ie: under trees). Extra water may be needed to keep hostas growing strong while competing with trees.

Hosta Root System
Our hostas ship bare-root, and likely will look similar to this. Expect a vibrant, light, healthy root system.
Planting hosta
The crown of the plant should rest just at or above the soil surface once watered in.

Fertilizing: Fertilize hosta in spring with a 2-inch thick layer of compost and an all-purpose organic product such as 5-5-5 based on a soil test. Don't get granular fertilizer on the leaves and stuck in leaf crotches or it can burn the leaves.

Deadheading/ Trimming/ Pruning: Deadhead spent flower scapes in summer and early fall after blooms have faded. This will not only make the bed neater, it will prevent seeds from forming that will take energy away from the hosta plant.Some gardeners grow hostas just for the leaves and will cut out flower scapes before they bloom. That's a personal preference. Hostas need little trimming and shaping since they naturally have an attractive rounded plant form. Remove any yellow or damaged leaves in summer as needed.

In fall as the leaves yellow, cut back the plants to the ground and compost the leaves. This will reduce the number of insects and diseases around hostas and allow you to weed between plants easier.

Mulching: Since hosta like evenly moist soil high in organic matter, mulch around young plants or in newly planted beds with a 2-inch thick layer of bark mulch in spring. Not only will this keep the soil cool and moist, but will help prevent weeds from getting established.Once established, a mature hosta patch may not need mulch or more than one spring weeding since the large leaves will shade the soil keeping it cool and moist and prevent weeds from germinating.

Hostas: End of Season Care

Hosta Planted in Bulk
Plant hosta in mass to create a show-stealing display (Customer Photo by Cathy B.)

Dividing & Transplanting:Hostas are easy to grow, divide and transplant. They don't need to be transplanted for plant health or to flower better. Mostly gardeners transplant hostas to make more plants or to move them. The best time of year to divide and transplant is in the spring, but can also be done in the early fall.

That being said, hostas are very forgiving of being transplanted from spring to fall because their fleshy roots hold moisture. They will need more watering if moved during warm weather. In spring, once the leaves or eyes start poking through the soil, dig up the hosta plant and divide it into at least 1-foot diameter sections with a sharp spade or knife. Smaller hostas may be able to be divided just by teasing the roots apart by hand. The larger the division, the sooner the plants will fill in and flower.

Pests/ Disease: The two biggest pests of hosta are deer and slugs. Hosta has the nickname “deer lettuce” for a reason. Deer love the succulent, crunchy leaves. They are actually edible for humans, too, when the leaves are young.

To thwart deer, consider growing hosta in a protected space behind a fence. Erect the fence before the deer know hosta are there to eat, or they will try extra hard to jump the fence to get to their favorite dish. A seven-foot-tall fence may have to be erected around the garden to keep deer away in high-pressure areas.

The other option is repellent sprays. Rotate 2 to 3 different sprays containing active ingredients such as garlic, cayenne, rotten eggs and slaughterhouse waste. The different sprays will confuse the deer. Spray weekly during spring and summer to protect new foliage.

Slugs also love the conditions where hosta like to grow; cool and wet. If slugs and snails are big problems, don't mulch with bark (it provides a place for slugs and snails to hide) but try sharp stones, crushed shells, or raw sheep's wool. The wool has tannins and is scratchy. Both things slugs don't like.

Slugs traps using beer will work and organic baits with the active ingredient of iron phosphate has proven effective. Sprinkle the bait around plants and reapply after a heavy rain. The bait is safe for wildlife, pets and people, but the iron phosphate is toxic to slugs.

For hostas in containers or raised beds, place copper strips around the edge of the container or bed. Slugs and snails don't like crossing copper and will avoid the plants. Some varieties of hostas with thick leaves such as 'Sum and Substance' are less likely to be damaged by slugs.

Hosta Jurassic Park with Coral Bells
Use Hosta and other foliage-happy plants (like Coral Bells) and create a foliage oasis in a shady corner of your garden

Hostas: Extra Info

Hostas are a problem-solving plant for shady places. Plant in groups as a ground cover, mixed with other perennials in a part shade garden, individually in containers and close to the house to enjoy the fragrant flowers.

To learn more about the plants we sell and how to grow them in your garden beds and patio containers, sign up for our inspiring emails.