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.

Soil Prep

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.

Insider Tips

  1. 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!
  2. Slugs like hostas. Use slug baits or diatomaceous earth to protect your plants particularly when they are young and most vulnerable.
  3. 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.
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Success Snapshot

Light: Light to moderate shade

Soil: Fertile and well drained

Depth: Plant clumps at ground level

Water: Average moisture

Uses: Beds, accents and woodland gardens

Tip: Grow for foliage colors and patterns, and for mid-summer flowers

GUIDE: Hosta Planting Guide

They Start Out Looking Like This: