Hostas, also known as plantain lilies, are one of the most popular perennials for the shade garden. They are grown for their large, often variegated leaves and their ability to tolerate a wide range of growing conditions.
Hostas are a member of the asparagus family, though they were previously members of the lily family. There are many varieties of hostas (100s!), and they come in a wide range of colors and sizes.
Hostas are relatively easy to care for, and they make a great addition to any garden. They are tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions and they do not require a lot of maintenance.
Great reasons to grow hostas
- They are very easy to find in nurseries. You can even check with a friend or family member if they have hostas they are willing to divide. Many people even give them away for free! (Check Facebook marketplace).
- They are very forgiving and low-maintenance
- Hostas are a good way to add greenery and color to a shade garden
- There are hundreds of varieties to choose from
- Hosta flowers are fragrant and will attract bees and hummingbirds to your garden
- They are a great investment for the garden. They last for years, are easy to care for, and add a lot to a shady space.
- Suitable for a wide range of zones (3-9)
How to plant hostas
It is best to plant hostas in the springtime. They do very well in the shade and they love cool, moist roots. Keep this in mind when deciding where to plant your hostas. Plant them in a place that can be easily watered.
The larger the leaf of the mature hosta, the more shade it will prefer. Blue hostas prefer a shadier site, where yellow hosta varieties will like a few hours of sun in the morning. Hostas are susceptible to sunscald if they are exposed to too much sunlight.
What kind of soil do hostas like?
While hostas are pretty tough and can tolerate a wide range of soil types, they do prefer a moist, well-drained soil. Mix some compost in with your soil to help them thrive. We always recommend performing a soil test to see what your soil may be lacking. It is worth mentioning that hostas are drought tolerant and very forgiving. So, even if you don’t have the best soil, they will probably do just fine.
Planting hostas from bulb:
- Soak the roots until they are well moistened and easy to work with. Often, the roots will be very dry and brittle which makes them susceptible to breaking.
- Find a good spot for your hosta. Hostas do best in the shade with dappled sunlight.
- Dig out a nice wide area that is not too deep and spread the roots out. Allow the stem to poke through the soil.
- Cover all the roots in soil. If you do not have ideal soil for planting, you can supplement the soil with added compost.
- Give the whole area a good watering.
Planting hostas from a container:
- Decide on a good spot to plant your hosta. Ideally, somewhere with shade or limited sunlight.
- Dig an area that is twice as wide as the hosta container. The hole should be just as deep as the container, or a few inches deeper.
- If your soil is not ideal, supplement your hole with compost or organic matter.
- Remove the hosta from the container and gently massage the roots, being sure not to disturb them too much.
- Place the hosta in the hole and backfill with soil. Be sure the leaves are not buried.
- Give the hosta a good watering at the base of the plant.
- You can mulch the area with leaves or shredded wood to help retain moisture
What is eating your hostas?
If you notice holes in your hostas, it is probably due to slugs or snails. The best way to control these pests is to handpick them off of your plants or use traps. You can also plant varieties that are more slug-resistant (such as the June hosta).
Deer and rabbits also love to munch on hostas. We have a video about how to deter deer and rabbits from your garden. You can use a homemade deterrent, or you can consider using fencing to keep the deer out.
Hosta virus X (HVX)
Hosta virus X (HVX) is a devastating virus that affects all species of hostas. There is no cure for HVX, and affected plants should be removed and destroyed. Do not compost hostas that are affected by HVX. If you’re unsure whether your hosta is affected, you can send it away for testing to be sure. Check your local universities for soil testing. There are also many plant identification apps that can help diagnose disease.
Before much was known about HVX, some infected plants were even pronounced as new varieties. Infected plants have mottled leaves, so sometimes the damage can be mistaken for a normal pattern.
How far apart to plant hostas
When deciding how far apart to plant your hostas, it will greatly depend on the variety. Hostas should be planted at least 1-3 feet apart. If you are planting a larger variety, you will need more space. Do an online search or check with your local nursery to determine how large your variety will be at its mature size.
How to make hostas grow bigger
It can take several years for hostas to reach their mature size, so it is important to exercise some patience when growing them. Hostas love good soil and plenty of water. If you’re trying to make your hostas grow bigger, be sure they are planted with compost or nutrient-rich soil. You’ll also want to be sure they are receiving plenty of water.
Hosta size chart
|Variety||Aprroximate height at maturity|
|First Frost||15 inches|
|Gold Standard||20-23 inches|
|Little Treasure||6-10 inches|
|Real Splendor||30-36 inches|
|Stained Glass||15 inches|
|Dancing Queen||18-20 inches|
|Curly Fries||5-8 inches|
|Cutting Edge||18-22 inches|
|Blue Angel||32-36 inches|
|Big Daddy||25-28 inches|
Perennial plants that go with hostas
There are many perennial plants that go very well with hostas. Bleeding heart, astilbe, and ferns are just a few. Be sure to do some research on plants that do well in your USDA Hardiness Zone.
Let us know what your favorite hosta varieties are and what you are growing in your garden! We love learning about new varieties or tips that have worked well for you.