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Planting Hostas – The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Hostas

The Queen of Shadow – many people, call Hosta by this name. And indeed, for the shade, it is difficult to find a more elegant plant than Hosta. Its beauty lies in the tones of green and white.

I have been collecting these plants for several years, and I just want to say that not all varieties are easy to grow. Some of them require a lot of attention, so the Hostas collector needs a lot of patience.

Hostas came to us from Asia. As ornamental plants, they first began to be grown in Europe and spread throughout the world. This genus has more than twenty species, and the number of varieties is just huge.

I like dwarf varieties the most; among them, a special place in my garden is occupied by varieties of the Mouse series. Most varieties of this series have small round leaves that resemble mouse ears, i.e., the name is chosen very well.

The second type of Hostas, at the sight of which my breath freezes, is the Strike Hostas. Among them, I would single out Hosta Erotica and Hosta Winter Lightning. It’s hard for me to imagine how nature could have created something like this. Not symmetrical stripes of white, gray, and green colors that begin from the center of the leaf and extend to its edges create pictures of incredible beauty.

Breeders have also bred large varieties, which are worth only Hosta Big Mama or Hosta Elephant Ears or Hosta Empress Wu. Under their leaves, children can play hide and seek.

Let’s talk a little about growing. In fact, these plants can be grown even for a beginner; the main thing to start with simple varieties. They can be grown in 3-8 Hardiness Zones USDA. They also need generous watering, and of course, they need shade. I will tell you about all this in detail today in this article.

Brief Care Information

Name Hosta, Plantain Lilies, Funkia
Hardiness Zone 3-8
Season Spring-Fall
Light Shade, Partial Sun
Width 15-20 inches
Height  20 inch
Pests Nematodes, Snails, Deer, Rodents, Insects
Disease Anthracnose, Petiole rot, HVX
Water Requires frequent watering
Soil Moist soil, Ph 5.0-7.0

Inspect the plants well before buying.

The easiest way to grow healthy plants is to get them healthy and then keep them in that condition. Therefore, I strongly recommend that you check the plants well before buying them. Of course, you will not be able to look into the plant to see if there are nematodes, for example. But a general inspection needs to be done.

The first thing I recommend is to buy plants from honest and tidy sellers. The nursery or garden center should look well-groomed; there should be no accumulation of organic waste.

If you want to buy plants online, then first read the reviews about this online store.

Take a pot with a plant in your hands and carefully inspect the plant’s leaves and stems; they should not be damaged and traces of insects or diseases. One or two spots on the plant is not a reason to abandon the purchase. In fact, it is difficult to keep a large number of plants healthy. However, if the leaves are strewn with holes or spots from fungal diseases, I do not recommend buying plants there.

Next, you should carefully inspect the root system. The roots should be white and juicy. If it has brown spots and it is soft, then something is wrong with the plant. Also, there should be no eggs or larvae between the roots. Insects or snails love to lay their offspring in such places.

If the plants have passed all stages of inspection, you can buy them.

Next, place new Hostas in your yard at some distance from your plants. Watch new plants for one or two weeks. Very often, when changing the place of cultivation, diseases begin to develop intensively, which did not manifest themselves in the nursery.

Just recently, I had a situation; I bought a Japanese Maple and some other plants. Everything looked healthy and did not arouse any suspicion. I sprayed them immediately with fungicide and pesticide, but I noticed small white dust on all the plants a week later. It was a fungal disease, and even the initial treatment did not help. The treatment took a long time.

Therefore, I recommend after the purchase to put the plants apart from others. Spray them with pesticides and fungicides. Observe them for a while; if all is well, then you can plant them in your garden.

Planting time affects plant growth.

Season Recommendations
Spring best time
Summer not recommended but possible
Fall best time
Winter not recommended

A lot has been said about when it is better to plant Hostas, and not all information is useful. There are even claims that Hosta can be planted at any time. Let me share my experience and clarify this confusing question.

The first favorable period occurs in the second half of spring when the plants begin to wake up from hibernation. The main indicator that Hostas can be planted in the presence of young shoots that emerge from the ground in the form of long teeth. At this time, it is important to plant before the leaves open.

Spring is good because the soil is quite moist during this period, and the sun does not shine too much, i.e., there is no drought. If you plant the plants in time, they will take root before the summer heat.

The second but more favorable period for planting is the beginning of autumn. Here you need to hurry and plant Hostas before the leaves die. You need to focus on when you have the first frosts and plant at least 30 days before.

The beginning of autumn is better than spring because, at this time, the earth retains a lot of heat accumulated during the summer, and the sun is not so strong. Besides, the humidity in autumn is usually quite high, which is well suited for these plants.

The beginning and end of summer can also be a good time for planting. Here you should focus on the weather; if the sun is not too strong and enough moisture, then you can plant. Otherwise, wait for more favorable weather.

If it is hot in the middle of summer, I do not recommend planting these plants.

Another unfavorable period is winter. One day I planted a Hosta from a pot in the ground in the winter. I managed to catch the moment when there was no frost, and the ground was soft. From time to time, I checked it, everything was fine. In the spring, the plant woke up and began to grow.

Even though my winter planting experience was positive, I do not recommend doing it, at least at the beginning. When you gain experience, then you can experiment with plants yourself.

Where they grow best?

Choosing a place is quite a controversial issue that can be talked about for a long time. Some argue that Hostas can be grown in the sun; others say it can only be done in the shade. Let’s find out where the truth is.

It is best to plant Hostas in the filtered sun. This type of lighting is under not dense trees, such as maple. You can also stretch a shading net over your plants. Some of my Hostas grow just under the shading net.

For those who do not have such an opportunity, other options are available, such as the partial sun. You need to plant Hosta behind other tall plants, such as Irises or Peonies. These plants will shade your Hostas from the midday sun, and in the morning and evening, Hosta plants will be illuminated by direct sunlight.

For most varieties, this will be acceptable. In fact, varieties with yellow stripes or a yellow center will have a more intense color if they receive a few hours of direct sunlight daily.

Hosta Valley’s Glacier

However, this does not apply to blue Hostas; such varieties need full shade. Otherwise, their color will be pale.

I also want to say a few words about planting Hosta in full sun. Some varieties grow successfully in the sun, such as Hosta Sum and Substance or Hosta Sun Power. However, to grow them in such conditions still need experience (a little more watering, etc.).

Therefore, I still recommend planting all Hostas in the shade or partial shade and only with experience to buy varieties that can grow in the sun.

Also, at one time, I had a Hosta growing in the yard in full sun. It seems it was Hosta albomarginata. It produced beautiful green leaves every spring, but in summer, it lost color and became pale yellow-green. Also, it regularly burned out and dried up. Here we can conclude that Hostas in which most of the leaf has a bright green color are not suitable for growing in the sun.

The best soil for Hostas.

The best for Hosta is the soil that retains a lot of moisture. This recommendation is because these plants have grassy tissue and contain a lot of water. Besides, their leaves’ surface area is large, which means that these plants evaporate a lot of moisture.

In general, ordinary garden soil is good for growing these plants. The only thing you can do is fluff it up a bit. You can do this with compost or peat. I know that many gardeners prefer organic components; in fact, when using compost, plants grow more vigorously.

However, in compost, diseases can develop more. Therefore, I prefer peat; it, unlike compost, suppresses fungal diseases. Before planting, I mix a little peat with the ground, and that’s it. In addition, Hostas love acidic soil, and the peat just makes it so.

In acidic soils, Hosta have even brighter leaves. Many collectors recommend acidifying the soil for this.

In general, Hostas are tolerant of soil acidity and can grow in the range of 5.0-7.0 Ph.

I do not always have the opportunity to give Hostas the necessary substrate, so I plant some of them just in ordinary garden soil. So far, nothing terrible has happened. Of course, not all plants grow back after winter, but this is not necessarily related to the soil.

Dry sandy soil is not suitable for growing these plants. If this is the type of soil in your yard, then you need to add compost and water them more often.

Conversely, if you live in an area where clay soils predominate, then you need to add compost to the soil before planting.

They need a lot of space.

Size of Hosta Width of a mature plant Distance between plants
Miniature (Blue Mouse Ears, Praying Hands) 10-12 inches (25-30 cm) 12 inches (0.3 m)
Dwarf (White Feather, Fire Island, Autumn Frost) 18-20 inches (0.45-0.5 m) 20 inches (0.5 m)
Medium (Halcyon, June, First Frost, Stained Glass, Golden Tiara) 38-40 inches (0.95-1 m) 40 inches (1 m)
Large (Frances Williams, Francee, Sum and Substance) 50-60 inches (1.25-1.5 m) 60 inches (1.5 m)
Giant (Empress Wu) 70-80 inches (1.75-2 m) 80 inches (2 m)

Hostas are quite large plants and need a lot of space. Over time, they grow quite a lot, so if you do not plan to divide and transplant them, you should allocate enough space for them. The problem here is that its size is very diverse. Let’s find out how much free space is needed to grow different varieties of Hostas.

The average distance between Hosta bushes should be 20-40 inches. This is the distance from the center of one bush to the center of another. For most Hostas, this distance will be enough to grow in one place for several years. However, some varieties need more space and some less.

You can use a rule to calculate the distance. The distance between the two plants’ centers should not be less than the larger plant’s diameter.

Dwarf varieties such as Hosta Church Mouse or Hosta Cherish do not exceed 10 inches in diameter, so the distance between them can be 15-20 inches. I have them growing in 8×8 inch pots, and so far, they have enough space.

The next type of Hostas is medium in size. They already need more space. They should be planted at least 20 inches apart. At first, such a distance may seem great. However, after several years of cultivation, they will increase 2-3 times in size, and then everything will fall into place.

Varieties such as Hosta Emerald Tiara or Hosta France need even more space, although they are considered medium-sized varieties. I recommend planting them 40 inches apart.

Large and giant varieties need much more space. Varieties such as Hosta Parasol or Hosta Empress Wu need to allocate 80 inches of space. After 5-6 years of growing in one place, it may even turn out that this space will not be enough.

If you have allocated too little distance for your plants, it is not critical; after 2-3 years, they can be separated and transplanted to a new place. I also noticed that if they don’t have enough space, they slow down a bit.

Plant Hostas correctly.

So we got to the main chapter of this article – planting Hostas. I have already written about the time of year in which it is best to plant, also told about the soil and the place of planting, so we can move on.

I want to say a few more words about the time of planting. It is best to do this in cloudy weather. It would be good if it rained before, and the plants were saturated with moisture. If the weather is dry, water the plants well two days before planting. I usually start planting in the morning when the sun is still not very bright.

Dig a hole twice the size of the pot in which Hosta grows. Fill the pit halfway with the prepared soil. The pit should be twice the pot’s size because, in the first months, the plant will be easier to grow in light prepared soil, which we will fill this pit. As a result, the plant will establish itself faster and better.

Pull Hosta out of the pot with the soil, do not shake the soil from the roots, also try not to damage the roots. Arrange the plant so that the surface of the potting soil and your garden’s surface was on the same level.

Fill the hole with the plant prepared soil. Slightly compact the soil in the pit; add more soil if necessary.

After planting, you should water Hosta well. For this, it is best to use a hose with a sprayer. I recommend watering in two stages. The first time water immediately after planting a small amount of water, let the ground absorb water. After a few hours, pour more water again.

If you plant Hosta in rainy weather, then watering is not needed at all; the rain will do all the work for you. We will talk in more detail about watering below.

In some cases, after planting, it may happen that even if you water Hosta, it can still wilt a little. If this happens, do not worry; after a while, the plant will absorb moisture and recover. There is no need to fill it with a lot of water.

After planting, you can feed the plant with liquid fertilizer, and it stimulates Hosta to take root faster. Next, I will tell in more detail how I feed these plants.

They need enough moisture.

Hostas are considered moisture-loving plants, and I completely agree with that. Although this does not mean that they need to be watered five times a day, all you need to do is keep the soil around the plants moist but not wet.

In rainy weather, these plants do not need watering at all. If the weather becomes dry, start watching the plants; as soon as the soil dries, they immediately water them.

In cloudy weather, the soil dries more slowly, and watering can be done every ten days. Sometimes it is enough to water these plants twice a month.

However, when summer comes, watering is needed weekly, but I repeat this in the absence of rain. If the weather is dry and very hot, then you should water twice or thrice a week. There were times when I watered Hostas every two days; that’s how hot it was.

If you have many bushes, Hosta, I recommend arranging automatic watering, because manual watering almost daily is quite difficult.

I do not always have time to water my plants. Sometimes my Hostas did not get enough water, but there were no serious consequences. So if you water Hostas two days later than needed, nothing bad will happen.

I also want to say a few words about excess water. It is quite difficult to overwater these plants. For this, you have to water them daily, which I do not recommend. Improperly adjusted automatic watering can also cause an overwatering.

I had a situation where it rained heavily for more than thirty days every day. Part of my Hosta was under a shading net. Under the places where the net sagged, water accumulated, and the soil was very wet, and some plants rotted. From this, we can conclude that excess water can damage these plants.

Hostas like feeding.

If you provide Hostas with enough fertilizers, they will respond with vigorous growth and large size. There are two ways; the first is to feed these plants with organic fertilizer; the second is to use mineral fertilizers.

I have heard many reviews from experienced gardeners who have argued that feeding Hostas with compost can achieve outstanding results. Compost makes the soil looser and more nutritious. Yes, all this is true, but if you do not have experience in creating compost, I do not recommend using this type of fertilizer.

You need to have the experience to create the right compost. It is important that particles of plants that have been infected with serious diseases or viruses are not added to the compost. It must also rot well. I rarely use compost for my plants, and I add a small part of it when I do.

Many proponents of organic fertilizers claim that plants receive nutrients from the remains of other plants in nature. Yes, this is true, but in nature, there are no rare variegated varieties of Hosta. Such varieties will not be able to withstand the large number of fungal diseases that are in the forest.

Only strong species, such as Hosta sieboldiana, which has a lot of chlorophyll and is a strong plant, survive in the wild. Therefore, be careful when feeding these plants with compost, especially when it comes to rare variegated or miniature varieties.

The second type is mineral fertilizers. In my opinion, they are safer than the previous ones. The main thing here is not to overdo it. I use long-acting fertilizers that evenly provide the plants with nutrients throughout the season. In the spring, I add a little of this fertilizer, which’s enough for a whole year.

It is better to choose where there is a balanced formula of NPK.

For miniature varieties, I add 10-15 granules for medium and large 0.7-1.2 ounces.

How to reproduce them?

There are several ways you can increase the number of your Hostas. Some of them are more popular, some less, let’s talk about it in more detail.

The easiest way is to divide the rhizome into several parts. It should be divided into spring or early autumn. When dividing, at least three teeth should remain on each piece.

After separation, I recommend spray the wounds with an aqueous solution of fungicide and dust them with crushed ash. Also, use only a sharp tool that needs to be disinfected.

The larger the divided parts, the faster the new plants will start to grow. Water them sparingly; no need to make a swamp around them. Otherwise, fresh wounds may rot.

Divide Hostas when they become large enough. You should divide them no more than once every 2-3 years.

Separation of dwarf varieties is more difficult than others; here, you need to be very careful and use thinner tools. Also, further care for miniature Hostas is more difficult.

The second method of reproduction is by seed. This is a difficult but very interesting way. Breeders breed most of the varieties we have today with the help of seeds. I also tried several times to propagate Hostas by seeds.

Hosta blooms during the summer, then you need to collect the seeds and dry it well. Next spring, the seeds need to be sown. I use plastic containers with transparent lids. The lid must have ventilation holes and drainage holes at the bottom of the container.

Clean soil based on peat is best for sowing; it can be bought in every garden center. Next, fill the container, between the soil’s surface and the lid, should be a free space 1 inch high. The depth of the container should be at least 8 inches.

Put the seeds on the surface and sprinkle them with soil, no more than 0.5 inches. Next, cover the container with a lid and move it to the shade. In 10-15 days, young plants will appear. When they become larger, you can transplant them into separate containers.

There are several other reproduction methods, such as leaf propagation or tissue culture, but these are complex methods, and they are not suitable for beginners.

Hostas sometimes get sick.

Name of disease Symptoms Treatment
Anthracnose (Colletotrichum) Red-brown spots on leaves Prophylactic spraying with fungicides
Petiole rot (Sclerotium rolfsii) Yellowed leaves, broken petioles at the base Removal of the damaged part of the plant, treatment with fungicide
Fusarium root and crown rot (FRCR Fusarium hostae) The center of the crown and the rhizome are light brown Destroy the plant
Bacterial Soft Rot (Pectobacterium) The petioles and center of the crown become soft and watery, with a bad smell Remove the damaged part of the plant and treat with a fungicide
Hosta Virus X (HVX) Green spots on leaves, twisting leaves, slowing growth Remove infected plants
Nematodes (Aphelenchoides spp.) Dry stripes on the leaf Remove infected leaves

Hostas are considered disease-resistant plants, but even they can sometimes get sick. First, I will briefly describe all the major diseases and then give recommendations on how to avoid them and how to deal with them.

The most common Hosta disease is Anthracnose. Red-brown spots become visible on the leaves, and this is the result of the fungus. It develops mainly in humid and warm weather.

The next disease is Petiole rot. At first, it may not be noticed, the leaves gradually turn yellow, but if you look closer to the ground, you will notice that the stems are rotting at the base. If you do not react in time, the stems and leaves will lie on the ground, and the plant will be difficult to save.

Crown Rot manifests itself in the form of the rot of the center of the crown. Penetrates the plant through wounds, mainly when dividing the rhizome.

Bacterial Soft Rot is another disease that causes crown and rhizome rot. Quite similar to the previous one. Its feature is an unpleasant odor that occurs as a result of rot.

Now let’s talk a little bit about treatment. As I wrote above, it is best to buy healthy plants and keep them that way. The next thing to remember is when you work with Hostas, always disinfect the tool. Also, after separation or if the plant is damaged, always treat wounds with fungicides and dust with crushed ash.

Most diseases develop in high humidity, so do not overwater Hostas.

I recommend spraying the plants with fungicides at least twice a year. This will avoid most diseases.

If the infection has occurred, you need to dig up the plant, clean all the soil from it, and then wash it with water. Next, remove with a sharp, sterile knife all the damaged tissue, treat all wounds with a fungicide that is designed to combat this disease. Also, powder the wounds with crushed ash.

Next, place Hosta in pots and place undercover to control humidity. Depending on the extent of damage, the plant can recover for a long time. During this time, water it very sparingly.

In most cases, the plant will lose all its leaves, but the rhizome will remain alive. If young leaves appear from there, it is a sign that the plant is recovering, and you can gradually increase the amount of water.

The next thing I want to talk about is Hosta Virus X. This is a very serious disease from which there are no remedies. Infection occurs during vegetative reproduction or by insects.

HVX manifests itself in the form of variegated spots, and the leaves may change color or deform. This disease can become noticeable a year after infection. It does not completely kill the plant and gradually extracts juices from it.

Unfortunately, if your Hosta is infected with this disease, the only thing you can do is get rid of the plant so that the disease does not spread to all plants. Just dig up the plant and move it away from your yard.

Various pests can damage hosta.

Pest Control
Insects Neem Oil, Insecticides
Snails Iron Phosphate
Deer Fence, Repellents
Rodents Moth Flakes, Castor Oil

Pests are more dangerous for Hostas than diseases. What is worth only snails or deer, but let’s talk about it in order.

In my opinion, the biggest enemy of these plants are snails; this is a real scourge from which it is not so easy to defend. They appear mainly at night, but in rainy weather can crawl out of their hiding places during the day. After their visits, holes remain on the leaves, and the plant loses its appearance. They especially like soft young leaves.

The most effective method of their control is iron phosphate granules. I use this, and snails no longer bother my plants. There are other ways, such as beer traps or various folk methods, but their effectiveness is low, so I do not recommend spending time on it.

The next pest is deer; these animals are very harmful to Hostas. They completely eat all the leaves and leave only the stems. The plant is unlikely to die, but it will look awful. If your state has large populations of these animals, be on the lookout.

The best protection against these animals is a fence; it is not cheap but effective. You can also get a dog, and deer are unlikely to approach the yard with a dog.

Another effective method is repellents. You need to make a water mixture that will be unpleasant to smell, such as garlic powder and pepper. Next, spray Hostas with this repellent, and your plants will be safe for a while. After the rain, you need to renew the repellent.

Insects can also damage Hostas, although they pose less of a threat than the previous two. The most common are aphids, weevils, and some others. Neem Oil is good for fighting them; you need to dilute it in water and spray the plants. However, I only use systemic insecticides because they are more effective and last longer.

The most insidious enemy of Hosta is nematodes. These are invisible microscopic worms that penetrate the plant and feed on its juices from the inside. A sign that your plants are affected by nematodes is dry streaks on the leaves.

There is no remedy against them. The only thing you can do is cut the leaves in late summer when it has not yet turned yellow. Cut leaves should be burned or thrown away from your yard. Also, be sure to disinfect the tool afterward. In this way, you will dramatically reduce the number of these pests.

And finally, rodents, there are several types, and they all in one way or another threaten your Hostas. Against large rodents such as rabbits, the same methods are suitable as against deer. Against voles, you need to pour the ground around the plants with an aqueous solution of Castor Oil.

They need some care before winter.

Another important topic that I have to describe to you is preparing for winter.

As I wrote at the beginning, these are frost-resistant plants, and they do not need to be covered for the winter. The only thing I recommend is to pour a little soil on the rhizome. This is necessary because, over time, the earth settles and is washed away; as a result, the roots become visible. If this happens, add a little soil so that the roots are not on the surface in winter.

The next thing to do is prune the leaves along with the stems. If you have signs of nematode infestation, prune the leaves in late summer. If not, then do it when it starts to turn yellow. If you do not remove the yellowed leaves, it will fall off and rot, which can lead to negative consequences.

In addition to the leaves, I recommend cleaning everything around the plants from organic debris. I also do not recommend mulching Hosta with organic mulch, such as compost.

Before winter, I always spray the plants with a fungicide so that they do not rot in the cold season.

If the autumn is dry, water Hostas so that they receive enough moisture; even if they no longer have leaves and stems, it is necessary to saturate the plants with water for the winter.

Growing in containers.

Many new gardeners are wondering if these plants can grow in pots. Yes, they can, I have been growing them for several years, and everything is fine with them.

I live in Hardiness Zone 6, and here they do not freeze in containers. However, I do not recommend growing them this way if you live in zone 3 because it is already too cold there. Although maybe I’m wrong, you can try. Transfer one bush to a container and leave for the winter. Of course, there is a high probability that everything will be fine.

Hostas need more moist soil to grow in pots, so add a little compost there. You will also need to water them more often than plants growing in the garden.

You can place pots anywhere where there is shade. The only thing is not to bring them inside. It will be too dry for them in the house, and they will most likely die.

Moving Hostas.

Finally, I want to say a little about moving Hosta. If you need to transplant it to a new place, it is quite easy to do. Dig the rhizome together with the ground, try not to damage the roots and stems with leaves.

Then gently move to a new location. Dig a hole of the same size and plant it there. Then water the plant well.

You can move Hostas at any time of the year. I do it when I have time. However, in the hot summer, I would not recommend doing so. If you do not have experience in this, I recommend transplanting in spring or autumn.

That’s it. All the information written here will be enough for successful planting and growing Hostas. In fact, these are wonderful plants to take care of, which is a pleasure. I wish you success!