How to Grow Hostas - Beautiful Shade Tolerant Plants

Hosta are the Perfect Plants for Shade Gardens

Francis Williams Hosta
Francis Williams Hosta | Source

The Hosta or "Plantain Lily"

The hostas, also known as the "plantain lilies", are one of the most popular herbaceous shade tolerant perennials in the US. There are at least 2,500 different cultivated varieties of hostas today. Most hosta varieties are hardy in zones 2-10. Here is some information on how to grow, divide and care for your hostas.

Hosta History

Hostas are native to China, Japan and Korea. They were first introduced to England in the 1700's and came to the US in the mid 1800's. Hostas can be grown from seeds, but the germination rates are very low. Unless you are an expert grower, hostas are best purchased as potted plants and then transplanted. Most hostas today are hybrids that have been cultivated to better adapt to a wider range of temperature and soil conditions.

Hosta Varieties

There are more than 2,500 different varieties of hostas today. The colors of the hosta include green, white, gold, blue and variegated. Their leaves can be round, oval, heart or lance shaped. They also come in a variety of textures such as smooth, cupped, glossy, rippled or seer-suckered. Some hostas stand upright, while others form beautiful mounds. Smaller hostas may be only 2 inches in height, while others can reach 36 inches or more.

There are literally thousands of hosta variations. Hostas are generally not purchased for their flowers, however they do bloom. The flowers are small, bell-shaped flowers that appear atop a spike emerging from the center of the plant. They vary in colors from white to lavender and even purple. There are also varieties that are fragrant, such as "Honeybells", "Summer Fragrance" and "Fragrant Bouquet". With such a wide variety to choose from, you will be able to find the perfect hosta for your landscaping needs, be it edging, background, or specimen planting.

Planting Hostas

Hostas prefer rich, loose, well drained soil that is slightly acidic. Loosen your soil to a depth of approximately 12 to 18 inches deep and as wide as the width that the plant should attain. This is because hosta's roots grow out more than down, so wider is better than deeper. Now amend the soil with compost or peat moss to keep it loose and draining well. Make sure the root clump is level with the ground. Mulch your hostas with at least 1 to 2 inches of mulch to help them retain the much needed moisture and reduce weed growth. Pine straw is probably the best as it helps keeps away slugs and snails, which tend to be a problem with hostas.

Light

Hostas are considered to be shade tolerant plants, not shade loving. Your hostas will grow best with at least a couple of hours of morning sun, but need shade during the hot afternoons. Some hostas are more "sun tolerant" than others. Watch your plant's leaves, if the begin to looked scorched, you know they are getting to much sun and you will want to transplant them to an area with less afternoon sun. Some examples of "sun tolerant" hostas are "August Moon", "Guacamole" and "Fried Green Tomatoes".

Hosta - Bressingham Blue
Hosta - Bressingham Blue

Watering Your Hosta

Hostas do best with plenty of water. A good "rule of thumb" to remember is the larger the leaves of the hosta, the more water it will require. Keeping them moist will also help against leaf scorching. Most varieties can withstand drying out completely, but I suggest watering your hostas thoroughly every 2 to 3 days. Be sure they have good drainage or the roots can become soggy and rot. It is best to water your hostas early in the morning to prevent the water drops from possibly scorching the leaves.

Dividing Hostas

The best time to divide your hostas is either in spring, just as the eyes are peeking up from the ground, or in fall, after their peak growing season. There are two ways to divide your hostas, depending on the size of your plants. First, dig around the plant as far out as the width of the plant. Remember, hosta's roots grow out more than down. If the plant is large and has a thick root system, lay the plant on the ground and using a sharp knife or a shovel, cut through the plant being sure that there is at least one stem growth point for each division. If you are dividing a smaller plant, you may be able to remove as much soil from the roots as possible, by either shaking the plant or rinsing the root ball with water and separate the plants by gently pulling them apart. Now you can replant one division in the original location and have a second plant to add beauty to another location.

Hostas and impatiens are very compatible.
Hostas and impatiens are very compatible.

Companion Plants for Hostas

As hostas are mainly planted for their beautiful gold, green or blue foliage, you may want to add a splash of color to your hosta bed. Hostas grow well with other "shade tolerant" plants. Some colorful companion perennial plants for hostas would be astilbe, bleeding hearts, hydrangeas and bell flowers. If you want to plant some annuals, which usually have a longer bloom time, impatiens, caladium and coleus work well. You may also want to plant some ferns for another interesting texture plant in your flower garden.

Are slugs eating holes in your hostas?
Are slugs eating holes in your hostas?

Hosta Pests

Slugs and snails are the most common hosta pests. There are several chemical applications you can use to control these pest, but if you prefer not to use toxic chemicals, here are a couple of suggestions. Try placing pennies around the outside perimiter of your hostas. Slugs and snails will not crawl across the pennies as the copper gives off a small electrical charge when they touch it. Place the pennies around the outside perimiter to keep these pest from crawling up any leaves that may be hanging down to the ground.

You can also pour your left over coffee grounds around the plants and this will even give them a little extra nutirents. Pine straw is an excellent choice for mulching your hostas with as the slugs and snails do not like the sharp needles.

To help keep away the deer and rabbits, try chopping or slicing up some Iris Spring bath soap. Don't be stingy with it, sprinkle it around your hosta plants. Deer and rabbits don't like the smell of the soap.


Hostas are wonderful plants and quite easy to grow with a little knowledge. They will add beauty and contrast to your yard, flower bed or any place you decide to plant them. One word of caution, hosta growing can become addictive!

Do You Grow Hostas Where You Live?

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© 2013 Sheila Brown

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Comments 56 comments

sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 19 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

It may be too hot for them where you live. I have a difficult time with mine "burning up" in the hot summer months here in Oklahoma. Of course, it would never hurt to try! Thank you for stopping by!


Rangoon House profile image

Rangoon House 19 months ago from Australia

I'm not sure how hostas will grow in my climate, but you have given such precise and helpful information that I'm finding it hard to resist trying them out.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 20 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you so much, Susie! I do love my hostas and they are starting to come up this year. I appreciate the visit and the link! I hope your hostas do well this year. Have a wonderful spring!!!


colorfulone profile image

colorfulone 20 months ago from Minnesota

I love my Hosta plants, and they really are a perfect hardy plant to grow in the shade or partial sun, Sheila.

I posted a link to this hub on "My Used Coffee Grounds Kills Slugs & Saves Hostas Plants on Zujava. - Thumbs-up on a very useful hub.


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 3 years ago

I generally prefer flowering plants but the leaves of these plants look interesting.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Thelma! I apologize for my delay in replying to your kind comment. I glad you enjoyed my hub. Thank you for the votes and share! :)


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

I love hostas. I have some of these hostas with different colours in my garden. Thanks for sharing the information. I learned a lot from this hub. Voted up, useful and shared.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Crafty! I once had deer eat on of my larger hostas down to the nub! I almost cried! It put on a few more leaves that season, but it still looked so sad. It did come back the next year, but I was very disappointed in the mean time. I notice a deer in one of my flower beds the other day, luckily she only munched on some monkey grass, but I quickly took a bar of Irish Spring soap and my potato peeler and shaved some soap around my hostas. I have done this in my vegetable garden and it has seemed to do some good.

Thank you for stopping by and I really enjoyed your comment. Have a wonderful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Suzie! I love my hostas. I have several varieties, some do good in our heat and some do not. It has definitely been a learning experience. I hope the coffee grounds and pennies work for you, let me know how it goes! Thank you for stopping in and ALL your support! Have a wonderful day! :)


CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

Great article! I have several hosta variety in my back yard. Some are planted under trees and have plenty of shade, while others are in direct sunlight and thrive just as lovely. Last year was disappointing because something came along and ate them down to the stalk. I thought it was my pot-belly pig Wilbur at first (but he likes tulips and roses mostly). I had big buck deer in my back yard though so I think I know who the culprit was. This year they've grown perfectly once again and whatever ate them last year didn't the plants from coming back or flowering.


Suzie HQ profile image

Suzie HQ 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

Hi Sheila,

Lovely write on Hostas which i too am a fan of. I love the different foliage varieties they always add great color and contrast to the garden. What a great tip about coffee grounds and pennies we always have problems with slugs and snails so must give those a try, thanks!

Up, useful, interesting, shared and pinned!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Imogen! That sounds like just the perfect place for hostas, plenty of moisture and some shade. Mine are all doing very well this year, but we are just now hitting the 100 degree mark in temperature. This is when I have to stay on top of watering and perhaps move some that are getting too much sun. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I always enjoy hearing from you! :)


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 3 years ago from Southwest England

I do love the lush decorative foliage that hostas add to a mixed border. Mine do especially well on the edge of my pond under the shade of a larger shrub. Which reminds me - I must divide them up this year! Thanks for all the info.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Dolores! I love hostas too, I have several varieties. My favorites are the large leaved ones too. 30 years, wow, I bet they are huge! I am always "sniffing" the flowers, I am going to suck up a bug one of these days! LOL Thank you for stopping by and commenting, it is always appreciated! Have a beautiful day! :)


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 3 years ago from East Coast, United States

Hi Sheila - I love hostas and would grow many kinds if I had room. I love the huge leaved ones with the bluish tinge. Right by my driveway, I have a bunch that have been growing there for 30 years. The scent is light and lovely and the aroma is stronger at night.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Chitrangada! I have read of people growing hostas in pots and they seem to do quite well. I have not tried this as of yet, but actually plan on purchasing a hosta to grow in a beautiful pot I recently purchased. We will see how it goes! Thank you for stopping by, your kind words and comment! Have a wonderful day! :)


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

Very helpful tips on growing Hostas plant! The pictures are beautiful. I love growing flowers, but have space for pot plants only.

Thanks for sharing!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Au fait! I have heard of people growing hostas in pots and they seem to do well. I think a varigated hosta will look great with some "birds foot" ivy hanging down out of the pot. That's a great idea! Let me know if you give it a try, I would be very interested to see how it goes. Thanks for stopping by, your kind words and votes! Have a wonderful day! :)


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

Great information for gardeners. I wonder if hostas would do well in pots indoors? I'm in an apartment and have no way to plant them directly in the ground. They seem like they would look nice with some companion flowering plants in the same pot. What do you think?

Voted up, useful, and beautiful! Great photos!!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Eddy! I am glad you found my hub interesting and useful. Thank you for your kind comment. :)


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Interesting and useful so thank you for sharing.

Eddy.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Heidi! I am going to put hubby on that very soon. I will let you know what we come up with! Thank you SO much for this great idea! Cheers to you! :)


heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

If you get hubby to try the copper tubing idea, let me know how it goes. I'm definitely thinking about doing it, but still have a LOT of spring cleanup work to do. Cheers!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Rebecca! I love my hostas! Thank you for your kind comment!. I'm glad you enjoyed my hub. Have a wonderful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Thelma! I had lots of beautiful hostas at the house before this one. When we moved out to the country, our soil is terrible and I had to do a lot of research and trial and error to get my hostas to grow as well as they did before. I am definitely going to give them some coffee grounds now too! Thanks for stopping by and giving me the suggestion of the coffee grounds. I will be reading your hub shortly. Have a wonderful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Lady Guinevere! I thought Heidi's idea of the copper tubing was excellent. Now if I can just figure out how to use that copper tubing to water them at the same time, that would be great. I am putting hubby's creativity on this right away! If we figure it out, I will add it to my hub. Have a good day "My Lady"! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Patricia! I'm glad to see you are a hosta lover too. I plan to planting some more this year. Thank you for stopping by and I am glad to hear about your "new babies"! Angels received and appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Thanks for the helpful tips on growing those pretty Hostas. I really love them, and you have all the best tips!


ThelmaC profile image

ThelmaC 3 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

I'm new to hostas. Planted my first hostas last summer and I can't believe how they came back so pretty this year. I recently wrote a hub about uses for coffee grounds and during the research I found out how much hostas like the grounds. I tried it and it really makes them lush. Thanks for a great hub.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 3 years ago from West Virginia

Thanks for that idea about the copper tubing as well. I might try that as well.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Heidi! I love my hostas too, the just get bigger year after year. You just gave me an idea...I wonder if we could use the copper tubing and punch little holes in it and use it to water them at the same time. I may have to put my husband on that idea and see what he can do. The copper tubing is a great idea! Thank you for stopping by, it is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

Hi Sheila

Love hosta...they add another layer of interest to our borders.

Two are now growing happily in my flower bed ...just born from bulbs and more are in the hot house waiting to be born.

Thanks for the tips especially about the pests.

Angels are on the way Shared :) ps


heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

I LOVE my hostas! So reliable and gorgeous year and year. Didn't know about the pennies for slugs. But I have dogs that love to dig and eat anything in the yard. Maybe I could try some copper tubing around the base. Thanks for sharing!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Blossom! I'm sorry you don't have room to grow your hostas any longer. I keep meaning to downsize my flower beds as it takes so long to keep them all watered, but instead I seem to keep adding to them! I think I am addicted! Thank you for stopping by and leaving your kind comment. Have a wonderful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello anglnwu! I think you will really enjoy growing hostas, I know I do. I'm glad you found my hub useful. Thank you for stopping by, commenting and voting. I hope you have a wonderful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Jackie. I'm glad to hear you have some huge hostas, they are so beautiful. I have heard about putting cut up hair around them to keep the slugs and snail away, but I haven't tried that one yet. I really haven't had much of a problem with slugs or snail, just the deer. Thank you for stopping by, I always enjoy hearing from you! Have a wonderful day! :)


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

Great hub about hostas. I couldn't answer your Quiz as I like them, and used to grow them, but don't any more as my garden now is much smaller. Good photos, too.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 3 years ago

I just moved into a new house and am considering planting hostas because I love their interesting foliage. I learn quite a lot from your hub and will keep these useful pointers in mind. Thanks for sharing and rated up.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

I love hostas and have several different ones, some huge already. Someone here said hair cut up around your plants of any kind kept slugs away and so far it is working for me. Good way to keep the brushes cleaned out, or maybe clip the cat or dog. lol I will try the pennies too though. Thanks!

^


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Audrey! If you like hostas, you should try to grow some. The problems I had in the beginning was putting them in too much afternoon sun. Then I realized that the soil was so heavy in clay they were not thriving. Once I remedied those problems, they do just wonderfully! Thank you for stopping by and commenting, it is always appreciated! Have a great day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Bill! So glad my timing was good, but it sounds like your wife knows what she is doing. Morning sun and afternoon shade. Just keep the watered good and you will have big beautiful hostas in no time. I love mine and am always finding new ones to plant. I don't think I have a tree in my backyard without a hosta under it somewhere! Thank you for stopping in and commenting, as well as the votes, share and pin! Have a wonderful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you for visiting, vertualit! I appreciate your support. Have a great day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Bravewarrior! I wish I could share one of my hostas with you! I am always transplanting "overgrow" flowers to another location. It's a good way to say money while adding more flowers to your yard. I share a lot of them with my daughter-in-laws too. I tried the beer dish once, my dogs loved it! I couldn't keep beer in it! Thanks for the suggestion. :) Thank you for stopping by and commenting, I always enjoy hearing from you! Have a wonderful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Lady Guinevere! I didn't know that deer don't like Bearded Iris. Now that I think about it, they have never nibbled on mine. I have lots of Bearded Iris here, I love them. I will have to combine my hostas and iris, great idea! The only problem with the beer, is that my dogs love it! I really don't have much of a problem with slugs or snails myself, just lucky I guess. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, it is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Bill! I love learning new things and I always learn something new and wonderful by reading your hubs! You better be careful about growing more hostas....they are truly addicting! Thank you for stopping by and commenting, I always enjoy hearing from you! :)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

I really like Hostas and have never tried growing them--great hub!!


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Sheila. What perfect timing for this hub. We planted some Hosta plants last year and I was just out there earlier today trimming the area around the plants. As you mention they seem to love shade. When my wife had me plant them in our back yard in the shadiest spot we have I was skeptical but she knew what she was doing. This spring they are doing really well so far. Where we have them they get morning sun and then shade all afternoon just as you pointed out. Thanks so much for sharing this. Great job as usual. Voted up, shared, pinned. Have a great weekend.


vertualit profile image

vertualit 3 years ago from Bangladesh

very informative. thanks for sharing...


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Peggy! I would just love to see your yard, I'm sure it is just beautiful! I have a lot of trees and that means a lot of shade, but I love growing things so, I have planted a lot of hostas. If this wind will ever die down here, I am planning a new hosta bed, but I can't get excited about getting it done while fighting the 20-40 mph winds! I'm sure my tips will work for other plants too. Thank you for the comment, votes, pin and share! Have a beautiful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Susan! I don't have a problem with snails or slugs, so far..but I am definitely buying more Irish Spring soap this year! The deer have already attacked the greens in my garden, I'm afraid my hostas may be next. Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate the votes, share and pin! Have a wonderful day! :)


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida

Shiela, I have an area in my back yard that would be perfect for hostas. I'll give it a shot when my finances allow. Right now I'm sprucing up my gardens by transplanting items that have over-seeded outside my plant beds. Recycling is an economic way of keeping the gardens pretty, plus it changes the arragement up a bit.

Another way of getting rid of slugs and snails is to put a shallow dish or lid to a jar filled with beer in the plant beds. Mollusks love to party and drink themselves to death; they literally drown themselves in beer.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 3 years ago from West Virginia

Also plant flowers and bulbs that deer don't like around them. This year I planted some naturalizing Daffodils between my Hostas. They also do not like Bearded Irises. Another slug control is a platter with beer in it. We have lots of snails and slugs around here. There are many snail shells you would think we lived near the water, but we live on a mountain. My favorite Hosta is my bright yellow one that turns to a bright green in the summer.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

I didn't know they were called "plantain lilies." See what I learn by reading one of your informative hubs. :) I have only grown hostas once and I really should grow more because I do love them.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

Hi Sheila,

Wonderful hub about growing and caring for Hostas. I don't have a bit of extra space left in our yard that is not already planted with many different plants. If I did, I would like growing Hostas. I have a good friend in the St. Louis area that has many different ones in her yard and they are beautiful. Good tip about what to use to repel slugs and snails and even deer and rabbits. Am sure those same tips would work for other plants as well. UUI votes and will pin and share.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I like that picture of the impatients with the hostas and I think I'll do that with a few of my hostas this year. Great tips for keeping the pests away. Now I know what to do with all these pennies I've been collecting.

Voted +++, sharing and pinning. Great hub!


lori brown 3 years ago

Thanks for sharing :-)

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