Hostas are a favorite of avid and amateur gardeners for their stylish appearance and ease of care in almost any climate. Though they're primarily thought of as greenery, some hostas produce blooms in summer and early fall and might even attract hummingbirds.
With the right combination of water and sunlight, hostas can thrive for years and even be propagated throughout your yard.
Buying hostas in spring or fall is optimal because it requires less work to introduce them to your garden. You should be able to find these plants at your local garden center without much of a hassle. If you'd like, you can germinate hosta seeds—sprout them indoors at temperatures between 60 to 70F.
Planting and maintaining a thriving hosta is not complicated. Plant yours in a spot with fertile soil and partial to full shade. A bit of morning sun is ok for hostas, generally, but one of the wonderful things about them is they'll grow in areas where more sun-loving plants might have died in the past.
Hostas do not require a large hole. If you are planting divided plants, you will want the crown of the plant to be even with the soil around it. You should easily be able to see any growing tips at the surface. If you are planting a potted hosta, dig the hole to match the width and depth of the pot and plop the plant evenly into the soil.
Hostas do not require much sunlight to thrive. Experienced green thumbs recommend planting them in areas that receive partial sun, but they can also thrive in shady locations. The large leaves make lots of sun problematic, but if you water on a regular basis and fertilize the soil, you might succeed in keeping your plant alive in a sunny spot.
The amount of water your hostas require depends on when you plant them and where you live. Hostas planted later in the season require more water to combat the summer heat. In general, plan to water your plants every three to four days in their first year if they do not receive any natural rainfall.
A simple touch of the soil should help you determine if you need to grab the watering can. If it's still quite damp, wait another day or so.
Hostas need nutrient-rich soil that holds water well and has a pH of 6.5 to 7.5—this is nothing unusual. Most of the soil in your garden will be pretty alkaline. Loam soil is a good option because its clay content retains nitrogen and potassium.
The medium should be porous and well-draining. Manure and compost can boost the nutrients in regular soil, and you can add fertilizer in spring.
Hostas are pretty capable plants, and you should be able to grow them in zones 3 through 8. Some varieties can handle zone 9, as well. That means you're probably good to go pretty much wherever you live in the U.S. The only picky requirement is a period of wet, cold weather. Without this, the hosta may not thrive, and this factors out some desert regions of the country.
Propagation is always an option for oversized hostas (see section 9); the most common reason to prune your plant is to prepare it for winter. Watch for when the leaves start to yellow and droop once the summer is over. Cutting away these leaves makes room for new growth in the spring. If some of the leaves are still green, you can leave them a while longer so the plant can keep storing energy from the sunlight.
If the first frost hits and you haven't pruned or cut back your hosta, now's the time to do so.
To help your hosta prep for the cooler seasons, discontinue fertilizing in early fall. You won't need to worry too much about winter protection—hostas are hardy. Some extra mulch around the roots is helpful, but wait until the ground is frozen to lay it on.
If it gets icy where you live, you may want to bury and add mulch to container-grown hostas. When winter is over, get rid of superfluous mulch or your hostas may develop crown rot as the weather warms.
Hostas need to be divided every three to four years in order to stay healthy and thrive. If you notice the middle of your hosta is dying, and new shoots are only forming around the edges of the plant, it is time to propagate it. You can divide a hosta at any time of year, but if you do so during the summer, prepare to water it more to ensure survival.
To propagate your hosta, you'll need a garden spade or fork and a dull knife to help split the root structure. Make sure the soil is damp, then dig the plant out and place it on a tarp. Use your knife or shovel to split the roots into halves or thirds, then replant the initial hosta and rehome the divided portions.
Hostas are most susceptible to fungal diseases during the summer or late spring months when the weather is warm and wet. The most common problem is anthracnose, which can be identified by large, irregular spots on the leaves of the plant. The spots will eventually fall away, causing the leaves to look torn or eaten.
The best way to prevent anthracnose is by watering your hostas around the roots, so the leaves don't get wet.
Unfortunately, hostas are attractive to several common pests. Small, irregular holes around the edges of leaves indicate that snails or slugs may be enjoying your plant. Plucking the brown leaves off is a great way to deter future visitors. Deer and rabbits also enjoy munching on the inviting leaves of this plant.
Odor-based sprays are a great repellent, as the unpleasant scent will deter animals without harming them or the plant. A motion-sensitive sprinkler system is another way to ward off hungry predators that don't enjoy getting a shower with their meal.
Look for spots in your garden with partial shade. You can plant your hostas along borders and pathways, and they also look great in large pots with 1-foot diameters. Mini hostas make a fabulous addition to rock gardens and troughs. They're the perfect filler plants to add lushness to your backyard.
So you want a shade-loving plant that's easy to grow, but you're not sold on the hosta. Take a look at the lenten rose, a type of hellebore—it's a favorite with folks who love buttercup bouquets. There's also the coral bell, another excellent foliage plant that flowers beautifully and is a great space-filler.
Hostas are safe for humans, but if you've got pets, pay attention. These plants are hazardous to cats, dogs, and horses because it contains saponin, a chemical that helps it fend off herbivores and insects. If your dog has a snack, they may have a poor appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea and need to see the vet.
There's a risk not just from ingestion but from contact with the skin. To minimize the possibility of poisoning, plant your hostas in hard-to-reach pots or apply lemon juice repellents to them.
Hostas differ in size, color, and leaf shape—there are hundreds of varieties. Consider the conditions in your garden; yellow-leaved hostas like a bit of sun, and blue-leaved varieties prefer light shade. You'd do well to put the Pandora's Box or Blue Mouse Ear varieties in your pots.
The Frances William hosta is a popular pick in zones 3 to 9 and is relatively slug-resistant.