Successful Hosta Growing Tips

August 1, 2023

Hostas are known as the friendship plant, so chances are you’ve gotten a division from someone you know. Or, maybe you want to expand your hosta garden and aren’t sure how to amend the soil, whether you should mulch, how to divide established plants, or simply where to find unusual varieties. Well, you’re in luck! Keep reading for some helpful hosta growing tips!

I am just getting started, which hostas do you suggest I get first?

A good guideline to use is the American Hosta Society Popularity Poll or the list of Benedict Garden Performance Awards.

How do I obtain hostas?

Most nursery and garden centers now sell hosta. As you learn more about this wonderful plant you will seek out growers who specialize in this genus in an effort to find the perfect hosta for your garden. We recommend buying from reputable garden centers who practice good plant hygiene and do not purchase from overseas wholesalers. Unfortunately, many big box stores and some garden centers purchase from unreputable wholesalers that sell plants infected with HVX and other diseases.

Visit our commercial sponsors listed on the Hosta Vendors page for a list of reputable sellers.

How much do hostas cost?

You can find a hosta for as little as a few dollars to as much as several hundred dollars. Many of the older cultivars are available in the $5 to $10 range while the newer introductions can be found for $15 to $35. Local nursery prices will vary depending on your area. The price of unusual cultivars or one-of-a-kind hostas like streaked plants are more expensive depending on availability and demand.

How do I care for hostas?

After they are planted, your hostas will require very little care. Because hostas are usually grown under trees that compete for moisture, make sure your plants get enough water during the growing season. A layer of mulch will help keep the roots at an even temperature and prevent competition from weeds. An annual feeding of slow release fertilizer will keep your hostas happy.

How should I prepare the soil before planting hostas?

The answer to this question can depend upon where you live, how long it has been since the land was cleared, and the manner in which it was cleared prior to construction, as well as a number of other variables. However, as the result of discussions at various local and national meetings and responses to questionnaires, it appears that a majority of persons rototill the soil down 12-18 inches and amend it with peat humus, larger size organic material and some coarse sand. However, in heavy clay soil, do not use sand alone as it will actually make the soil harder than it already is, stunting root development.

A mixture that seems quite common is:

1/3 native soil (the stuff already in the hole)
1/3 peat humus (some use ProMix as an alternative to the peat humus)
1/3 pine bark fines (some use other larger material)

The purpose of the larger organic material is to improve aeration of the soil; the peat humus aids in water retention. (See also W. George Schmid’s The Genus Hosta, Appendix F)

When (and with what) should I mulch?

The easy answer to timing is anytime, but you also may want to watch your garden in the winter. Some hostas may appear to be “crawling” out of the ground. This problem results when the ground heaves (goes through repeated freeze/thaw cycles). Most people keep an eye on the problem and put additional mulch around the hosta as it “climbs” its way out. Another problem arises in early spring. Some hostas are more eager to begin yearly growth than others — for example, H. montana `Aureomarginata’. Some people find it useful to mulch the eyes of these hostas if there is a late frost predicted. If the plant has begun leafing out others have suggested placing large plastic pots over the plant, but do not let the leaves touch the pot as they will melt where they touch if the temperature gets low enough. Frost cloth, like the row covers used on vegetable beds, can also protect from light frosts.

Another favorite topic of debate is what mulch to use with hosta. There are some well-known “hostarians” who use no mulch at all; they simply weed the areas until the hostas come up and the hosta itself prevents the further development of weeds. Some use pine straw or cocoa mulch, as they both tend to diminish slug problems and do not break down as quickly as other mulches. Others find that double shredded hardwood mulch works best because of its water retention capabilities. Others use shredded leaves as mulch, but some have also found that this increases their slug problems. Thus, the gardener must make a determination based upon the specific needs of the garden and their aesthetic desires. Regardless of the type of mulch you choose to use, do not mulch deeper than 2-3 inches! In many cases over-mulching has lead to vole problems by providing a nice warm medium that is easy to tunnel through, so be alert!

How often should I water hosta?

Hostas love plenty of water. Research by George Schmid presented in his book, The Genus Hosta, indicates that in their native habitat hosta receive over 60 inches of rainfall annually. In most of the United States this is well above the rainfall levels experienced. As a consequence, it is essential that we supplement nature and ensure that the plant receives a minimum of one (1) inch per week during the growing season for adequate growth. In most cases, people who have achieved maximum growth conditions provide 1.5 inches per week, spread out over the week; e.g. 3/4 inch every 3-4 days. In addition, hostas have a very high transpiration rate conditions due in part to their leaf size, and mulching can help allow for optimum water retention.

Are there plants near which hosta should not be grown?

Hostas have been known to have trouble competing with shallow-rooted trees and shrubs. Where there are limited planting areas and you want to keep the trees, some have dealt with this problem by planting the hosta in a container large enough to accommodate growth. This container planting also has been recommended in those cases where voles are an extreme hosta “predator”. If you use the container method you need to drill or cut holes in the bottom to ensure good drainage.

When is the best time to plant, and/or divide hosta?

Hostas can be planted at any time during the growing season, although most people try to plant hosta in the spring. The later in the season you plant a hosta; the more important it is to keep the plant adequately watered.

Hostas may also be divided or moved at any time. However, given the increased shock to the plant caused by dividing or digging it up to be moved, spring is much preferred. In fact, it is recommended that dividing occur before the plant begins any substantial spring growth. Once the eyes are evident, the plant should be dug and divided by using a sharp knife or dug up completely and separated, depending on its size. It is also recommended that the knife be dipped in a fungicide (e.g., 10% Clorox-water solution is a good substitute) before making the cut, and that the cut surface be dusted (or washed if using bleach) after the cut is made.

We hope these hosta growing tips have been helpful!