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Are Hostas Good Under Trees?

While the cool shade provided by trees initially appears perfect for shade-loving plants, gardeners often ponder whether it’s suitable to plant hostas beneath these trees.

Hostas, versatile in their light requirements, can flourish in conditions ranging from deep shade to almost full sunlight, making them excellent candidates for planting under trees.

Are Hostas Good Under Trees

Can hostas be cultivated around tree roots?

Hostas are capable of thriving close to the roots of many tree species. While their growth may vary under different trees, generally, it’s feasible to plant them in such locations. Adhering to specific guidelines can enhance their chances of success.

Maple trees, particularly the silver maple, possess dense, fibrous root systems, making them less ideal for planting hostas underneath.

However, red and Japanese maples are exceptions. Hostas can grow under these trees for extended periods without any adverse effects.

Oak trees and conifers are also suitable for growing hostas beneath. In these scenarios, hostas will require additional, specialized care, which will be discussed later.

A useful tip to remember is that younger trees generally allow for easier cultivation of plants beneath them.

Planting hostas under trees

hosta under tree

Elegans Hosta under large tree.

When planting hostas under trees, begin by positioning yourself at least one foot (30 cm) away from the trunk of young trees, or three feet for larger trees, before you start digging. Employ a high-quality, sharp shovel for this task.

Create a hole that’s twice the size of the hostas’ root ball. When encountering any of the tree’s roots, use a sharp knife or scissors to cut them, avoiding roots thicker than an inch.

Opt for hostas that have a robust rhizome for planting. These types of hostas are more adept at quickly occupying available space and effectively competing with the tree roots for nutrients and water.

How close to a tree can I plant hostas?

Hostas should be planted at a minimum distance of one foot from the trunk of a young tree. For older or larger trees, ensure to plant the hostas at least three feet away from the trunk.

When selecting a planting spot around the tree, look for areas with fewer roots. Be careful to avoid disturbing the larger roots which are crucial for the tree’s stability.

Select Vigorous Varieties

It’s advised to choose only vigorous, fast-growing hosta varieties for planting under trees. These varieties can occupy significant ground space, making it challenging for tree roots to compete.

The following large and medium varieties are recommended:

Sum and Substance
Frances Williams
Blue Cadet
Cross Regal
Green Fountain
Additionally, avoid planting variegated hostas, which have less green pigment, near trees. These varieties tend to be less robust and may struggle to thrive amidst the competition from tree roots.

Ensure Adequate Watering for Hostas

Effective watering is crucial for the successful cultivation of hostas under trees. Trees create a canopy that often limits the amount of rainwater reaching the ground below, and they also absorb a significant amount of water from the soil. This results in a condition known as dry shade.

Hostas prefer moist soil, so it’s important to provide them with ample water. During the first few months after planting, monitor the soil moisture regularly. If the top inch of the soil becomes dry, water the hostas immediately to maintain the necessary moisture levels.

Apply Mulch to Your Hostas

Mulching is a vital step in caring for your hostas. Applying mulch around the plants helps retain moisture in the soil, reducing the need for frequent watering.

Organic matter is the best choice for mulching. Compost is highly recommended, as it not only maintains soil moisture but also provides additional nutrients to the plants. However, ensure you use high-quality compost from trusted manufacturers. Avoid compost from unknown sources, as it may contain harmful substances.

Pine bark is another effective mulching material. It retains moisture well and lasts longer than compost, though its nutritional value is relatively low.

Apply a mulch layer that is 1-2 inches thick. A layer thicker than this can hinder air reaching the soil, while a thinner layer might not effectively retain moisture.

The mulch should encircle each plant and extend slightly beyond the hosta’s size.

Keep the mulch away from the stems, maintaining at least an inch gap between the mulch and the base of the hosta stems.