The Ultimate Guide for Growing Hostas: Information and Tips

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The Hosta plant also goes by the name plantain lillies, gioshi, astilbe, golden hakone grass, lunwort or siberian gugloss.  The Hostas are very popular across gardens and backyards in America.  The Hostas are perennials that do especially well in the shade.

My parents have had hostas growing for many decades.  The same hostas plants are still going strong today with little care given.  They grow them in the shady areas around their house in Erie, Pennsylvania.  I called them before writing this article to give me any extra advice on this beautiful plant.  They said, “It is a very hardy plant.  It just comes up and does well on its own.”   Of course the soil, environment, and shading must be about perfect there for this hardy plant.

I wrote this article for anyone interested in getting their own Hostas started.  Once you get it established and thriving, it will be a plant that you can enjoy year after year.  The hostas will splash some color into your backyard’s shady areas.  It also makes a great habitat for rabbits and some birds.

Varieties of Hostas

There are hundreds of varieties of hostas.  Each species of hostas will vary in size.  Leaf colors will also vary among the species.  In the wild, green is the dominant color found in hostas.  The tiniest varieties are called miniatures.  The miniatures can be as small as 2 inches tall while the larger hostas can stand up to 4 feet tall.  Leaf texture can range from smooth to wrinkled.  Colors can range from blue to rose-colored.  The finished look of the leaves can be shiny or matte finish.  As you can start to tell, there are many different looks to the hosta plant.  The following are some of the most popular types of hostas.

Common Varieties of Hostas

  1. Elegas is the most common variety of hostas.  This type forms clumps that measure approximately 5 feet across.  It has heavily corrugated blue leaves.
  2. Sagae is another popular type of hostas.  This variety grows 31 inches high and 70 inches wide.  It has blue leaves with wavey white margins.  Though this hosta likes shade, it is sun tolerant.
  3. Sum and Substance is one of the giant types of hosta. Its leaves can grow up to 2 feet across.  The largest Sum and Substance hosta on record measures 114 inches across and 48 inches tall.
  4. Halcyon is a blue variety of hospice with thick, waxy leaves.  This type is slug resistant once mature. The halcyon grows 2 to 3 feet across and 1 to 1-1/2 feet high. In the summer the halcyon will have lavender blooms.
  5. Variegated Hostas are plants with unfurling leaves of several colors as the name “variegated” suggests.  The color combinations of the variegated varieties are usually green and gold, or cream and white.  Some common variegated types of hostas include the Hosta Whirlwind, Hosta Gold Standard, and Hosta Undulata.
  6. Filigree is a type of hosta with contrasting green veins in the foliage.   Noteworthy is that the pretty white leaves of the filigree gradually turn green in the weeks after opening.  The plant develops a lavender, funnel shaped flower that can grow to 20 inches tall.


Hostas thrive in soils that are moist.  Unless you have loamy soil, you may need to add organic matter to your soil before trying to grow hostas. The ideal pH range for growing hostas is 6.5 to 7.5 which will be a neutral soil.  On the slightly acidic side is best.  The plant normally grows very well in zones 4 through 9.  If you are creating a hostas soil because your soil does not measure up to what hostas prefer, then you should add about 6 inches of organic material.  Compost, leaf mold, seasoned manure, peat moss or composted pine bark should all work well.  This will also raise the bed and improve drainage.

Planting Hostas

Learning how to grow hostas is not difficult.  They are grown from rhizomes.  Hostas should be planted when the ground can be worked.  The very best times to plant hostas are when the roots are active and making more roots in the Spring and Summer, but hostas can also be planted in the Fall.

If planting in the Spring, you can plant the bare root. Simply soak the root in water for a few hours before planting.  Take your soaked roots to the area where you’d like to plant them.  Remember that most hostas like shade. There are newer varieties that can tolerate a bit more sun.  Make sure to find out what type of hostas you have before planting.  Or better yet, buy the type of hostas that will work well where you want to plant it.  In general hostas, all will do well in shade.  Plant your roots slightly below the soil surface.  Gently water the area where you planted the hosta’s roots.  The roots should start to grow immediately.

If planting in the fall when the roots are not as active, it will be easiest to plant a potted hosta rather than planting only roots.  In the Fall you may be able to find them at discounted rates at greenhouses or garden centers.  When planting in the Fall, make sure to time it out so that your hostas will have time to get established before the ground freezes.  They will need at least 3 or 4 weeks to get used to the new environment before the ground freezes.

Make sure that the site you choose is not too windy.  Hostas do not like winds over 35 miles an hour.

How To Care For Hostas

Hostas are very easy to care for.  They are considered a low-maintenance perennial.   Hostas should thrive in shady outdoor areas.  They need soil that drains well and soil that will stay evenly moist.  If you cover those areas, most likely you are on your way to a low maintenance hostas.

Water your hostas often unless it has been raining.  If the soil gets too dry, your hostas will start to wither and turn brown.  If the sun is out when you water your hostas, make sure to water at the base.  Watering the leaves in the sun may burn out the leaves.   Morning is a good time to water hostas because it will help it to be well hydrated before the hottest part of the day arrives.

Cut your hostas back before the first frost.  Because hostas don’t stay green all year long,  many people like to cut off the dead parts.  Hostas do not stay green in the winter, so the leaves will dry out and become brown.  Anytime after or right before the frost is a good time to cut back the hostas.  Use a good pair of sharp scissors or pruning shears to cut the hostas back.

In the Spring, you can help your hostas along by adding fertilizer and compost to the soil.  A layer of mulch will help the plants to retain moisture.  Make sure to water your hostas in the spring to get it to come out of the dormant period.

Dividing Your Hostas

After a few years, you may want to divide your hostas.  Because they are so durable, dividing is not hard on the plant.  My uncle divided up some hostas growing at his house and then shared them with family and friends.  Sharing hostas is a great way to thin your plants out while sharing the beauty of hostas with others.

To divide a hostas, simply lift the plant out of the ground and then separate some of the stems from their roots.  Dividing hostas is best done at the beginning of the growing season.  In the Spring the leaves are still curled.   If you have healthy hostas, you actually can divide them at any time of the year while they are still in active growth.  If you are looking at doubling or even tripling your hostas population, by dividing the roots instead of buying more plants, you will be saving lots of money.  You also could also sell hostas stems or plants at craft shows or at your local farmer’s market.


While the hostas plants are normally grown for ornamental purposes in the United States, they are also edible for humans.  In some Asian countries, the hostas is even grown as a common vegetable.  However, though they are safe for human consumption, the hostas are poisonous to horses, dogs and cats.  This is due to the saponins contained in the plant.  If your pet ingests a small amount they may have diarrhea and vomiting.  Larger amounts can be lethal.  Call your veterinarian if you suspect that your horse, dog or cat has eaten hostas.

Benefits of Hostas

Hosta roots can crowd out weeds.  Because of this quality, they are a great choice for ground cover.  Hostas are the number 1 selling perennial, according to the Perennial Plant Association.   They are pretty on their own, mixed into a shrub border, or used as background plants.  Hostas make great ground covers and also edging plants.  People who have architectural obstacles often like to use hostas to soften the look.  Trees and pathways can be encircled with hostas to create a naturally pleasing look.

Where Can I Buy Hostas?

You should be able to buy hostas at your local greenhouse or garden supply center.  Remember family or friends may also be very happy to share some of their hostas with you.  You can also go online and buy hostas. I’ll list some suppliers with links below:

  1.   This Vermont nursery has hosta available year round.  They are one of the largest suppliers of this very popular plant.  Green Mountain Hostas has 15 years experience of raising hostas. Green Mountain Hosta guarantees that all of their varieties of hostas are free of virus and harmful nematodes.
  2. Direct Gardening.  Direct Gardening is one of the largest producers and distributors of many gardening products.  They mainly sell through internet sales.  This nursery offers a wide range of quality gardening plants, seeds, bulbs, and supplies at low prices.
  3. Made in the Shade Gardens also known as the Hostas Guy has over 500 varieties of hostas available.  This Kansas nursery specializes in hostas.  Made in the Shade Gardens is a home-based business founded in 2000.  It is owned by Rob Mortko and his wife Sheri.

Controlling Pests

Deer, snails, weevil, and slugs all love hostas.  There are some things that you can do to help your hostas not have to deal with these pests.

  1.  Use a fence to keep deer away.  Some people like to install a hot wire strung around their hostas to keep out deer.  But if you are in an area where children may grab the wire, you may not want to use a hot wire.   Regular woven wire or wooden fencing around the hostas should also protect it from deer.  Remember to make the fence higher than deer can reach in and nibble from it.
  2. Insecticide soap and cans of beer laying around the hostas are all said to keep slugs and vine weevils away.
  3. Remove overly wet leaves to prevent nematodes.  These small insects look like roundworms and will feed on the leaves.  Make sure to remove plant parts or entire plants if you see they are infected with nematodes.  It’s better to take out the sick than to lose your whole crop of hostas.

Protecting Your Hostas From Diseases

  1.  Make sure to properly water your hostas.  Also, add mulch and keep the conditions correct in order to have healthy plants.
  2. Use a fungal spray if you notice large spots with dark borders on your hostas.  This could mean that anthracnose has invaded your plants.  To prevent your hostas from anthracnose, make sure your plants don’t get too wet.
  3. Sclerofium Blight is another disease common to hostas.  If you notice any brown leaves with white masses on the plant, pull away the mulch around the plant.  This may be causing the Sclerofium Blight.
  4. Crown Rot can take over if you over water your hostas.  Fight this type of rot by cutting back on the amount you are watering.

In Conclusion

I hope this ultimate guide to growing hostas has motivated and helped you to try growing this versatile plant.  Once you put in the initial work of getting your hostas established, it should be one of the easiest plants to maintain.



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