How to grow amazing Hostas

I never really wanted to grow Hostas. I mean, they look nice and all but I just wasn't the greenery type. I preferred plants that were full of blooms, useful herbs or ones that produced vegetables. Shade gardening was never really my thing either, till we moved. When you live in the middle of the woods though you have a lot of shady areas to plant in and what better plants to take up space than a hosta?

Grow beautiful hostas

The hostas were already here when we got here though! There were two different varieties of hostas in the one garden bed. One was all green and the other was green and white. I learned pretty quickly that they were easy to care for and filled in large spaces well. That was enough to let them stay when I redid the flower beds and they have remained there for 10 more years.

I also learned that hostas (also known as plantain lilies) are really easy to divide, transplant and move around. They do not require a delicate hand when doing such things although they will recover more quickly if you're gentle! 

Forgetting them in a bucket for a week after digging them out of the garden might not be their favorite activity, but they will survive! Not that I know anything about that. lol


The chickens largely leave the hostas alone which is great because they can quickly destroy just about any plant they want. The deer however, love them. I never thought I'd be defending hostas from the local deer yet here we are! 

If you're looking for an easy plant that fills in space well and tolerates shade, you need some hostas! 

Among the best-selling perennials in North America, hostas can range from less than two inches tall to huge with extra-large leaves the size of horses’ heads and flower scapes more than five feet tall! Planted as single specimens, as companions to other plants or as entire hosta gardens, these plants draw attention and don’t ask much in return.

Watering hostas for health

Where else can you find a plant that can enhance your garden architecture as well as carry so many different and interesting leaf descriptions? They come seersuckered, leathery, oval, puckered, irregularly margined, heart-shaped, abruptly tipped, crinkled, highly corrugated and ruffled. They range from dark green to almost white, and from yellow to rich gold. Though not known for their flowers, they do bloom every year and the flower scapes tower over the main plant.

Growing beautiful hostas is not without challenges. Deer and slugs prefer to eat hostas, not admire them as we do. For deer control, I use my hot pepper spray which is natural but will need reapplied often during the growing season. You can read about it in How to keep deer out of the garden. The deer got the one below while I was on vacation....

deer damaged hostas

When dealing with slugs, controls range from organic to chemical. You can use beer in your garden to drown slugs or sprinkle crushed egg shells on the ground around the hostas to deter them. I haven't had any slug damage since I started doing those 2 things.

How to grow Hostas


 I learned pretty early on to fertilize my hostas with Epsom salts as the plants are just start to break through the ground in spring. Mix 1 ounce of Epsom salt into one gallon of water and water plants liberally. This is definitely my most important tip to growing large, beautiful hostas!

• Hostas are shade-tolerant, but as with many plants, different varieties require different amounts of sun and shade to do well. Check tags when buying to be sure you have the right variety for your garden location

• Hostas grow best in rich, friable soil with a pH of about 6. 

• With good reason, successful hosta growers say enough water is absolutely essential, so keep the soil somewhat moist from spring until fall frosts approach. This is especially true with young plantings as they can dry out quite easily. I fertilize with epsom salt water as mentioned above.

• I have most of my hostas mulched with wood chips, but I have a few that are doing really well in my $20 landscape garden project under black plastic held down by pebble rock. In both instances the moisture in the soil is held in which really help their health and growth. They also like a soil rich with compost.

• Be patient! The attractive leaves and flower scapes require a well-developed root system. You’ll get a jump-start by purchasing or splitting plants with adult root systems, but even if you buy young seedlings in containers, they will be up to full size by year three.

Hostas are very easy to divide and transplant but I find that timing is everything! If you cannot divide them super early in the season (like when they're just starting to pop through the soil) then wait till fall. I made the mistake of dividing and transplanting my hostas in mid spring once and those poor things struggled all year. They barely managed a few pitiful leaves! 

The next spring though they came up much fuller and the following year they were perfect. Separating them in fall leaves just enough time for the roots to become established before winter and the winter break allows them to come back bigger and better in spring.

Choosing Hostas for your garden


As for choosing your hosta varieties, the sky really is the limit. You'll notice the same few available each year in home stores and nurseries, but so many more can be found online! Here are five great selections, that offer a range of appearances and usefulness in the garden:

1) ‘Halcyon’ — A medium-sized dusty blue hosta, it will hold its great color even in more sun than it cares for. In time, this hosta will clump to 30 inches wide with near-white flower scapes to 22 inches. Planted just within a border or at points where visitors stop to gaze, it’s an eye-catcher.

2) ‘Tokudama Flavocircinalis’ — The down- side of this plant is it takes it's good ole time to increase in size, but within four years the wait obviously will have been worth it. This plant’s slightly cupped leaves are medium blue with a wide, irregular yellowish margin that streaks back into the blue. The flower scape cluster is held just above the leaves. Plant it in light shade and the colors become stronger.

3) ‘Regal Splendor’ — Although many incredible new hostas are registered each year, some of the older varieties have qualities not to be forgotten. The leaves add creamy-white edges to an otherwise blue-gray look. It’s the vase shape and the tall flower scapes that make it so useful in broadening the dimensions of your landscape. Very common as it was the Hosta of the year winner for 2003.

4) ‘Little Sunspot’ — This is a smaller variety and the leaves have rich yellow centers with dark green margins and a subtle mix from the yellow to green. As the season progresses, the yellow fades to chartreuse and the seersuckering becomes more obvious. It looks bigger and more sophisticated than it actually is.

5) H. montana ‘Aureomarginata’ — Early emerging, large and spectacular, this cascading hosta becomes more magnificent each year. The dark green leaves have irregular golden yellow-creamy white margins and streaks to mid- leaf with a glossy finish.

While you can order many amazing varieties of hostas online, most of us get them from the garden store. If you're looking for a frugal way to acquire hostas though, ask if friends are splitting theirs in the fall. Many people like to split their hostas occasionally because they can grow too big for the area they're kept in. Get your new hostas in the ground before the last frost so they have time to get established before winter sets in. Mulch with leaves over winter and your hostas will pop up beautifully in spring! Enjoy!

Related reading: Want more information on gardening? Check out this collection of articles on flower gardening.

~L

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