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Growing Hostas

Category Perennials
As foliage plants, hostas offer an unmatched range of patterns, colors, and sizes of plants. This guide is about growing hostas.
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5 found this helpful
February 16, 2011

Hostas are one of the most popular and versatile perennial plants you can have in your shade garden. As foliage plants, they offer an unmatched range of patterns, colors, and sizes and their leaves and delicate spiked flower stalked are stunning when mixed in with arrangements. Here are some tips for buying and growing hostas.
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Buying Hostas

If you're looking for a specific variety of hosta, well-established leafed-out plants are much easier to identify correctly, as immature plants often change dramatically in appearance by the time they grow into adults and are prone to mislabeling. A good resource for identifying varieties is at: www.hostalibrary.org

Two diseases to watch for when buying hostas are the Hosta X virus (HVX) and foliar nematodes. When unknowingly introducing infected plants, the first can kill off your entire hosta collection and the second can wreak havoc on your entire garden. Big box retailers tend not to be overly concerned about "trafficking" these types of diseases, so if you buy from them, proceed with caution and keep in mind that at least in the case of nematodes, the brown streaky leaves may not show up until later in the season.

Ideally, your retailer should be able to certify and guarantee that the hostas they are selling to you have been inspected for viruses and foliar nematodes. Find a reputable vendor and stick with them. For a list of vendors recommended by the American Hosta Society, visit: www.americanhostasociety.org

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For more information on HVX: www.extension.iastate.edu

Growing Hostas

There are hundreds of kinds of hostas from light green to dark green, blue, silver, gold, variegated, and even white. There are also different sizes (miniature to giant) and leaf shapes (round to narrow), some have shiny leaves, others are dull. Here are 6 popular varieties to try:

Uses: Accent plants, groundcovers, rock gardens, edgings, front borders.

Planting: Plant in the spring. The planting hole should be large enough to take all of the hosta roots and spread them out, with 12-24 inches between holes. Buds should be 1 inch below the soil. Pack the soil and moisten well.

Soil: Hostas are very tolerant of a wide range of soils, but grow best in rich, moist soil. Mulch around the base of plants to conserve moisture and prevent mud splashes during rainy weather.

Dividing: A hosta plant grows slowly and is one of the last perennials to peak through in the spring especially in deep shade. It can be allowed to spread without ever being divided, or once well-established, can be divided into two or more plants depending on the size. Large plants should be sliced and divided with a sharp spade. As long as there's an eye (crown) when you divide, it will grow. Use a sharp knife to divide smaller plants.

Growing Conditions: While most hostas prefer full to partial shade, many will also tolerate sun. Keep in mind that light conditions may have an influence the leaf color (cause them to fade). Light or dappled shade works well for most varieties.

Climate: Hostas need a dormancy period of somewhat colder weather. They grow best throughout the Mid-Atlantic, East Coast, Midwest, Northwest, and the Southeastern parts of the United States. Most hostas will not survive in tropical or subtropical climates.

Discouraging Slugs: Place shallow dishes of beer around your garden in areas that slugs tend to frequent. Slugs are attracted to the beer but they cannot get out again and drown. An alternative is to sprinkle crushed eggshells or diatomaceous earth around the base of plants. Slugs won't cross sharp barriers that risk injury to their skin.

Winter care: If slugs have been a problem, trim the dead foliage back in the fall. If not, leave the foliage undisturbed going into winter. While the ground is still frozen, rake off all of last season's decayed leaves. In harsh winter climates the freeze/thaw cycle may cause hostas to heave, so cover plants with a couple of inches of compost (or peat moss) to protect them going into winter. In early spring before the leaves start to emerge, gently rake off the compost.

Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.

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Comment Was this helpful? 5

0 found this helpful
March 15, 2006

Botanical Name:

Hosta

Life Cycle:

perennial

Planting Time:

spring or fall

Height:

2 inches to 4 feet

Exposure:

light to full shade

Soil:

rich, evenly moist soil

Hardiness:

generally hardy to zones 3-9

Bloom Time:

summer

Flower:

lavender, purple or white flowers on spikes; generally grown for foliage

Foliage:

blue, yellow, green, spotted, splashed or striped leaves

Propagation:

division

Suggested Use:

shade beds, borders, edging, and containers

Growing Hints:

Purchase plants in spring or fall and place in deep holes supplemented with nutrient compost to encourage roots to spread. Hostas take two to four years to reach their full size so make sure you give each plant enough room to spread. Certain varieties are known to grow at faster rates and tend to be less expensive. If division becomes necessary due to plants outgrowing their space, use a sharp spade or knife to cut off and relocate some of the small suckers around the plant's main clump.
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Interesting Facts:

Slugs are common pests to Hostas and can munch large, unsightly holes in their leaves. Creating a barrier of coarsely crushed eggshells around the base of plants will make slugs think twice about crossing. Varieties with thick textured leaves also tend to have fewer problems with slugs.
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August 1, 20120 found this helpful

I have a cheaper method I like to use sawdust shavings and perfect fix even if it rains. I started out about 5 or 6 years ago doing this and now sometime in the spring I have a problem and I get the saw dust out and sprinkle it around (actually I just sling it everywhere and it works beautifully for no cost). I have used cedar saw dust also or coarse cornmeal in a pinch.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
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April 12, 2017

Give Hosta Its Own Niche - green and white hosta growing next to tree trunk

Hosta is said to be a shade loving plant. However, it will grow in full sun, sometimes producing large plants. I've seen long rows of huge plants placed where they get full sun all day.

Read More...

May 3, 20160 found this helpful

Dividing Small Clumps Of Hosta

This is a guide about dividing hosta. Like many perennials hosta can be divided to give you multiple new plants to spread throughout your garden.

Read More...

Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

July 7, 20120 found this helpful

How do I grow hostas from seed?

By Amanda

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
July 9, 20120 found this helpful
Best Answer

Wow. Have never seen hosta's in seed form, however, I know once you have the plants growing in the spring or fall, you can dig them up and you will find that the roots have multiplied, and can keep spreading as many times as you want to. I bought some small ones at Mernards 2 - 3 years ago at the end of the season, when they were 1/2 price and planted them along the entrance sidewalk to my office because as I'm getting older, I needed something that would return each year. Well they do, and are bigger each year and are absolutely beautiful.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
July 11, 20120 found this helpful
Best Answer

Why would you want to? Just find someone with hostas and ask if you can have some when they divide them. Hostas are supposed to be split every few years. The last time I dug mine up, the person I gave my thinnings to lined their 300+ foot driveway with them. Given good soil, they grow very fast. I'd gladly give you some!

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0 found this helpful
October 12, 2015

In the fall do I need to cut them back?

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
October 12, 20150 found this helpful

I never cut back my hostas and they always grow back bigger than ever in the spring. They will die back to nothing, like peonies do.

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October 12, 20150 found this helpful

nope

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June 17, 20060 found this helpful
Q: A deer has sheared of all my hosta leaves, leaving just the stalks. Will the leaves grow back this year?

Hardiness Zone: 5a

Thank you,
Jean from West Dundee, IL

A: Jean,

As long as the deer left some stems, it's still early enough in the season that you'll probably see some leaves emerge in a few weeks. When they come back, they may not be as large as your originals were, but they will re-emerge next year as big as ever. Many hosta leaves suffer damage from things like slugs and hail storms during the summer. There are two schools of thought as to what you should do if your hosta leaves become damaged. Some sources suggest leaving whatever is left of the damaged leaves intact, not matter how unsightly, because they will help keep producing food for the hosta until its new leaves emerge. Other sources suggest cutting damaged leaves back to the stems (the stems will also continue to help produce food) as a way to "shock" the hosta into replacing its leaves more quickly. As long as the majority of the stem remains, both methods will work. How fast or if the leaves return is more dependant on how healthy the plant was to begin with and environmental factors like the availability of nutrients and water. You might also consider giving damaged plants a shot of alfalfa tea. Buy alfalfa pellets used for animal food at a local feed store. Dissolve 500mg to 600mg of pellets in a gallon of water for 48 hours (it will smell) and then pour it around your plants. The alfalfa contains triacontanol, which is a growth stimulant. You can use this tea on all of your plants every few weeks throughout the season. Hosta really seem to love it!

Ellen

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
June 18, 20060 found this helpful

You may get more leaves but why not spray all your plants with a solution of 1 egg in 4 litres of water. This protein smelling solution makes the deer avoid all plants sprayed with it. Easy to make, cheap to make and you still have your plants.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
June 20, 20060 found this helpful

I'm not sure if your leaves will grow back. However, I had the same problem with day lillies--and I sprayed them with milk. So far, it has worked. When I first heard this idea from our local garden column, I was skeptical. Now, my grandson and I

"milk" our flowers and haven't had any problems.

any milk will do. I use dated milk or look for markdown to buy. 1 spray lasts a long time.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
June 20, 20060 found this helpful

Leaves probably won't come back this year, as long as the root system isn't dug up & chewed as well. Try human hair (cuttings from a hair salon) sprinkled around the plants. Human scent may deter them.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
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0 found this helpful
January 14, 2015

I have some hostas that are 2-3 years old. They come up each year, but never get any bigger. I have 3 different kinds and they all act the same so I don't think it is the type. They grow in constant shade between a large pine tree and the house. I have a feeling that the pine or cedar trees have something to do with it.

I have mulched them, fertilized them, even put new compost around and turned over the dirt. Last year they just didn't look very good, but they did not die. I have a friend that gave me some from her yard last year. They are in a different place, but there is a cedar tree there too.

By Vicki

Answer Was this helpful? Yes

November 30, 20140 found this helpful

My new hosts were planted 4 weeks ago and are shooting about 2in high now. Should I take them in for the winter? I'm new to gardening so will be glad of any help.
Cheers

By Paul from Portsmouth, UK

Answer Was this helpful? Yes

June 19, 20140 found this helpful

Something is biting off my hosta leaves at the base but not eating them. Any ideas and suggestions of what to do?

By Kathleen J

Answer Was this helpful? Yes

0 found this helpful
May 11, 2011

I planted hosta bulbs this year and they are all coming up great expect it looks like something is eating the leaves. They look light brown and see through. Does this mean something else? Thanks for any help!

By Kathy

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
May 16, 20110 found this helpful

It's probably slugs. Try putting a dish of Beer next to the plant. If you find snail like creatures in the Beer that's your problem. Using a hose end sprayer containing a can of beer, an ounce of dishwashing liquid and 2 ounces of listerene mouthwash spray until dripping. Good luck.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

June 5, 20120 found this helpful

Is a raspberry splash too tall to plant in front of a hosta Francee?

By Tricia from Moose Jaw, SK

Answer Was this helpful? Yes

Photos

Share on ThriftyFunCheck out these photographs. Click at right to share your own photo in this guide.

5 found this helpful
May 27, 2010

I took the photo of these Hostas one day when it was cloudy. The cloudiness really brought out the colors in the plants.

By Cheryl

Garden: Hostas

Comment Like this photo? 5
July 15, 20101 found this helpful

I call this my nursery bed. It is a place where I start hosta. As you can see, I had separated one huge Blue Hosta and this is what the planting site looked like this spring.

Now, the plants are much larger and by next spring, they will be large enough to move.

Reply Like this photo? 1
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August 4, 2015

Photo Description
I guess you can tell. I do enjoy Nature.

Photo Location
My home in NC

Comment Like this photo? 3
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