Contents

How To Grow Hostas In Containers

By: Sandra O’Hare

Hostas make a lovely shade garden plant but there is no reason that these hardy and versatile foliage plants need to remain tucked away in your shade garden. Hostas will also thrive in containers and look wonderful accenting a shady patio or porch. Also, if you have serious trouble with slugs in your garden, container gardening with your hostas may be the answer.

How to Plant Hosta Plants in Containers

To plant your hostas in containers:

  1. Fill the base of the pot you’ve chosen with rocks for drainage. One or two inches will do.
  2. Fill the pot with your choice of soil mix. Don’t fill it completely just yet, though.
  3. Place a handful of slow release fertilizer in the container.
  4. Add a little bit of soil to the fertilizer, mix it up well and then put the hosta on top of that.
  5. Remove the hosta from its growing pot and fork over the rootball to help free the roots. This will help the plant establish quickly in the new container, but will not damage the roots.
  6. Center the hosta in the pot and then fill the container with more soil.
  7. Make sure you water the plant carefully.
  8. Finally, cover the surface of the container with a thick layer of small pebbles. This stops any slugs and will help keep the roots of your hosta cool. It’s also going to prevent the soil from drying quickly.

Remember that hostas in containers need water regularly. Make sure you water them below the leaf canopy and around the crowns. Excessive wetting can mark the leaves. At the same time, make sure that the container you plant your hostas in has good drainage. This is important to keep root rot from setting in.

You can tuck in a few other shade loving flowers and plants as well. Hostas make a wonderful backdrop to help make the colors of the flowers pop. Even on their own, hostas can help add a tropical feel to a shady but soilless area in your garden.

When you don’t want the bother of replacing bedding plants every season, hostas are an excellent choice for all-year-round tubs. They look cool and sophisticated, with showy foliage and some flowers. And in tubs, it’s easy to defend them from slugs, so you see them at their very best.

Preparation

Choose a high-quality container that can be left outside without risk of shattering if it freezes in winter – a frost-resistant terracotta or ceramic tub, or a wooden half barrel is ideal. A 12-inch tub is big enough for one single hosta, but use a 15 to 18-inch tub for a group of three plants.

Prepare your own moisture lovers’ compost by mixing John Innes No 3 and peat-free multipurpose compost 50:50, then adding some made-up water-retaining gel. Add the granules to water, stir and wait until they turn to a wallpaper paste-like consistency before mixing the goo into the compost.

Choose hostas with strong, healthy, intact leaves. Big, blue-green varieties with large, waxy leaves look impressive in containers; if you choose variegated kinds, make sure each leaf has a pronounced pattern. If you want a trio for one tub, choose one blue-green, one variegated and one gold-leafed variety. For a more mixed scheme, team hostas with moisture-loving flowering plants such as mimulus.

Hosta Plant Care

Hostas are perennial plants that provide attractive foliage from spring until frost. They are easy to grow, require little maintenance, and can live indefinitely. Every year they will increase in size, and beauty. Hostas rarely if ever need division, and achieve their best appearance when left undisturbed.

Placement

Hostas grow best in partial shade, and can tolerate very shady areas. Except for a few varieties they need protection from the heat of afternoon sun. Hostas are shade loving plants and for best results should always be planted in an area that is protected from hot afternoon sun. The best spot to plant Hostas is one that receives some morning sun but becomes shaded by the middle of the day before the sun gets to hot. Morning sun will help bring out leaf coloration, especially the golden yellows. Too much sun will cause the leaves to burn. If you are determined to plant Hostas in full sun the most important thing to remember is to make sure they have adequate moisture available to prevent leaf scald. Hostas are heavy drinkers their large leaves absorb water quickly and require plenty of water. If you can keep up with their water demands the Hostas that are considered to be sun tolerant often to great in full sun. Also use plenty of mulch to help conserve soil moisture and keep roots cool.

Planting

Hostas prefer loose well-drained soil, usually garden soil amended with compost or soil conditioners. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the current roots and to accommodate future growth. When in doubt dig 10-12 inches deep and about 18 inches in diameter. Form a mound of soil in the center of the hole and spread the roots over the mound, adjust the height of the mound to provide the proper planting depth. If roots are tangled they must be untangled. Planting depth is ½ to 1 inch from the top of the roots or crown of the plant. Do not plant too deep. The roots should be covered with soil and the place on the stem where the individual leaves branch off should be above the ground. Fill to ground level with amended soil. Check planting depth and make sure the roots remain covered after ground has settled. This is especially important shortly after planting and during the first winter after planting.

Watering

Keep well watered. Hostas are often referred to as being drought tolerant. To some extent that is true, especially for mature plants. Most hostas can survive quite well with the normal rainfall and only a little supplemental watering, but that doesn’t mean that they will grow well. If you want your hostas to grow well, have lush foliage, then watering is the best thing you can do. We recommend 1½ inch per week for hostas grown in part shade. Those in sunnier spots will need more water.

Fertilizer

Application of fertilizer in the spring through early summer when the hostas are actively growing is beneficial. We recommend feeding with water-soluble fertilizer at one half strength or use as directed for continuous feeding. We also recommend that you do not fertilize in the fall.

Dividing

To learn about dividing Hostas read our garden guide to Dividing Hosta

Mulch

Mulch is an excellent way to make the most of your watering and to reduce weeds. It is important not to mulch too deep,especially right next to hostas. One to two inches of mulch is adequate and the mulch should be several inches away from the hosta crown and shoots. Mulching up to the stems is not good for the hostas.

Potting

If you plan to grow your Hostas in pots or containers we recommend using a good high quality nursery type potting mix. This same mix is perfect for amending heavy clay soils. This soil mix is considered “soiless” and will not have any nutrients in it so it is important that you feed the plants regularly. Since the soil mix is also considered “sterile” there are no micro-organisms available to help break down any organic fertilizers you may add so we always add a shovel full of compost to the mix.

Maintenance

Trim damaged leaves and faded flower stalks. The spent flowers can be can be cut off as far down into the foliage as you can reach immediately after they have finished blooming.
You can allow the seed to mature and self-sow. You ’ll get new baby plants but understand they will not come true from seed and rarely look like the hybrid mother plant.
In the fall, after the foliage dies back for the winter, remove the old foliage. Although the foliage may be left in place until spring, we recommend removing hosta foliage in the fall. To help prevent pests and disease. Hosta foliage should not be composted. If needed, begin slug and snail control as hostas emerge in the spring.

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More Information About Hosta

For easier shopping, check out these Hosta sub-categories:

Blue Hosta

Miniature Hosta New Hosta

Hosta with Purple Flowers

White Hosta Large Hostas PDN Hosta Introductions

Hosta with White Flowers

Yellow Hosta Tony’s Favorite Hostas Fragrant Hosta
Variegated Hosta

Sun Hostas

Green Hosta

Top tips on how grow Hosta

  • General – Hostas are incredibly tough plants and will get along fine in almost any garden…but they look their absolute best with just a little extra attention.
  • Sun – Hostas prefer woodland garden conditions…light shade or a couple of hours of morning sun. Those who live in the north can get away with growing hostas more sun than us here in the south. Hosta leaf colors are preserved longer into the season with shade…so if you want to preserve that nice blue leaf or yellow leaf for as long as possible, choose more shade, preferably afternoon shade. The best sun hostas are the green cultivars.
  • Soil – Well amended soil is best…rich in organic matter and tilled to improve drainage and prevent winter crown rot. Slightly acidic pH.
  • Water – Hostas are drought tolerant but 1 inch per week will keep them looking tip-top.
  • Fertilizer – A fresh layer of compost once per year is plenty to keep a hosta supplied with all the nutrients it needs to look great.
  • Maintenance – Very low…If you want to ignore your hosta, it will not mind at all. But you can keep your garden looking tidy by removing the spent flower stalks in late summer and by cleaning up the dead foliage after a few hard freezes at the beginning of winter.
  • Pests – Deer love hostas and so do slugs, especially the newly emerging tender leaves. There are a variety of deer controls out there (fencing, predator urine, rotten eggs and hot peppers) but you can also control deer by interplanting hostas with plants that they do not like (e.g., Helleborus, Taxus, Vinca – Check out all our deer resistant plants). Slugs can be controlled with a variety of treatments but some non-toxic organic methods include collars, diatomaceous earth and sand around the plants.
  • Propagation – Hostas can be divided every 3-4 years by digging them up and carefully separating the slips. Make sure each slip has some roots. When is the best time to divide hosta? Fall is the best time, but hostas are such tough plants that I have had success dividing them (in Raleigh) in any month.
  • Design Tips – Inter-plant with evergreen or wintergreen plants to fill in when your hostas are dormant. Flowering in summer, the purple or white hosta flowers can be combined with other summer flowering plants with white or purple flowers. White, cream, and yellow variegated hostas stand out best when surrounded by solid green plants. Blue hostas stand out best when set off with complementary colors like pink and white flowers. Fine textured plants like carex and ferns play well with the bold texture of hostas leaves.

Hostas are often touted as the best shade-loving plants for the perennial garden, which is hard to dispute. In cultivation, hosta plants readily mutate and have produced thousands of novel colors and leaf forms (blue hosta, gold hosta, and variegated hostas are the most popular, but we also have green hosta, and white variegated hosta). Plant Delights Nursery has evaluated thousands of hostas and has assembled a large and diverse collection of the very best hostas for sale including a variety of hosta sizes (mini hostas, small hostas, large hostas, giant hostas, and huge hostas), hosta flower colors (purple flowering Hosta, and white flowering hosta), and fragrant hostas.

Plant Delights Nursery continually works with the country’s best hosta breeders to evaluate new introductions, choosing only those cultivars that have the very best and most unique traits. We also have our own hosta breeding program at Plant Delights Nursery and have released dozens of unique hosta varieties from the smallest to the largest hostas. Our hosta nursery is one of the top in the country for its wide selection of the best hostas on the market.

How are Plant Delights Nursery Hostas better than the competition?

Our hostas are all container-grown and unlike our competitors we sell large multiple-division plants…our price is for an entire container of 1-20 divisions. When you buy hostas from Plant Delights Nursery, you are often getting large plants (unless you buy a mini hosta which will be small but full) that you can immediately divide. Since we grow our hostas here, you are able to buy hostas direct from the grower.

Check out our articles on Hostas:

  • Fragrant Hostas
  • Hosta Breeders
  • Hosta Hosta Hosta
  • Hostas for Warm Climates
  • Paul Aden Hostas
  • Plant Delights Nursery Hosta Breeding Program
  • Tony’s Top Ten Hosta Myths

And check out our many blog posts about Hostas.

Watch our video of how we protect newly emerging Hostas from late freezes

Small and Miniature Hostas Plantain Lilies

The Kinsey Family Farm plant nursery has an assortment of perennial hosta plants and other perennials available for sale. Supplies are limited! Hosta are great plants for brightening your light to moderate shady areas in the garden and make wonderful companion plants with different perennials such as the showy color variations of Heuchera, a multitude of fern varieties, as well as Hellebores and Astilbe. And as you will see below recent efforts with breeding programs have really created a wide variety in color, size, and flowering in the Hosta community! So many “MUST HAVES” with this species now! Grow in part shade, full shade and part sun.

Autumn Frost Hosta – 10-12″ mid to small size, a Proven Winners plant. Autumn Frost is a colorful hosta forms a of showy, frosty blue leaves with extra wide, bright yellow margins. Over the season the edge color changes to cream white. Flowers are light lavender.

Blue Mouse Ears Hosta – 18″ mini, small size. Blue Mouse Ears is a dainty miniature with small, blue green foliage and lavender flowers. Leaves are thick and have a round shape, the plant forms an almost perfectly symmetrical mound and the flowers are white and bell shaped. A best pick for growing in a container, rock garden or miniature garden. The Blue Mouse Ears variety is an easy care perennial for shade where it will keep a good, silvery blue color. With more sun it will be a greener shade. Blue Mouse Ears is a favorite dwarf among hosta enthusiasts.

Cherry Berry Hosta – 10″ x 26″ small. Colorful, lance shaped foliage has a white center and dark green margins. The center is a golden yellow in early spring which will change to white later in the summer. Flower stems are cherry red topped with very erect bright violet blooms. Cherry Berry will shine when planted with red flowering perennials which will highlight the wonderful red scape tones. In the fall the seed pods are cherry red. The dwarf form makes it suitable for the front of a shady garden or as a small accent plant. One of our growers favorites!

Curly Fries Hosta – 10″ Hosta of the Year 2016. Curly Fries forms an arching, wavy clump of narrow, rippled leaves in a beautiful chartreuse green. The color develops best when planted in morning sun. In mid summer Curly Fries has lavender flowers. This small hosta is perfect for planting in pots, container gardens and small garden spaces.

Lakeside Cupcake Hosta – 5″ small. Lakeside Cupcake has lavender blooms in spring. The leaves are slightly cupped with gold centers and a green blue margin. In spring they will start out with an almost round shape which will become more pointed and cupped into the season. As summer progresses the center color changes to white with blue margins streaked with green in between the two. Lakeside Cupcake is best planted where it receives morning sun and some relief from our hot, Georgia afternoon sun to avoid burning in the later part of the summer.

Rainforest Sunrise Hosta – 2013 Hosta of the Year 8″ x 16″ small. The slightly cupped and highly corrugated leaves of Rainforest Sunrise have golden centers with narrow green margins. The bright summer color coupled with its compact height makes this an easy perennial to situate throughout the garden! Foliage will emerge a light chartreuse green in spring and quickly develop bright, golden centers with darker margins. Color deepens later in the season, a true chameleon for dappled shade. White to very pale lavender blooms. A best choice for container gardens. Light sun tolerant.

Raspberry Sundae Hosta – 10″ x 18″ small. A best pick for container gardens, Raspberry Sundae has bright green leaves with a creamy white variegation and rich red petioles. It earns the name with the slight variation in the foliage and bright red stems.

Waterslide Hosta – 15″. Proven Winners Shadowland Collection. Waterslide is a beautiful blue leaf hosta with heavily ruffled edges. The blue, wavy leaves on Waterslide retain their color well during the season. Lavender flowers.

Mid, Medium Size Hostas Plantain Lilies

August Moon Hosta – 20″ x 40″ medium large. A tried and true classic, August Moon is one of the oldest hosta cultivars. It is a medium size plant with large, golden yellow leaves. Fast growing and can create beautiful texture in a perennial garden. August Moon is one of the better chartreuse variegates for holding good color in the sun but like most sun tolerant varieties would prefer some shade during the hottest part of the day.

Abiqua Drinking Gourd Hosta – 2014 Hosta of the Year 22″ x 24″ medium large. Leaves matures to deep cup shape. Very unique with huge, blue green foliage which is heavily textured. The leaves will form a cup and twist into a unique display. After a rain Abiqua Drinking Gourd will collect small pools of water in the deeply cupped leaves. Shade loving, a best pick for a shady area in Georgia gardens. White flowers bloom mid summer. Requires shade and sufficient moisture. Prefers deep, fertile soil to preform at it’s best.

Ben Vernooy Hosta – 16″ x 28″ Ben Vernooij medium mid size. This tetraploid sport of First Frost has resulted in thick, blue green leaves with wide creamy yellow edges. Margins open in spring a bright yellow and change to a creamy ivory later in the season. A good selection to brighten a shade border or perennial garden. Flower color on Ben Vernooy is a light lavender on tall, elegant scapes. An easy care, slug resistant variety.

Coast to Coast Hosta – 30″ x 36″ medium large. Proven Winners Shadowland Collection. A striking hosta plant which forms a giant mound of puckered, thick, gold foliage with a distinct wavy edges. Gold color on Coast to Coast will be more pronounced if given morning sun. Flowers are pale violet.

El Nino Hosta – 14″ x 39″ In spring, El Nino has attractive blue green leaves with yellow edges. As the season progresses, this perennial plant will be green with pure white margins. El Nino has lavender flowers mid to late summer.

Elegans Hosta – 30″ x 30″ medium large. A handsome plant for your shade garden with striking, seersucker foliage in blue green metallic. Elegans will attract attention in your landscape design or plant in pots for a patio container garden.

Fire and Ice Hosta – 20″ x 30″ medium large. Fire and Ice has a pure white center leaf with deep green border, the foliage is pointed and slightly twisted. The dark green coloring on the edges contrasts beautifully with the white centers to really stand out in a perennial bed or shade border. It is the counterpart to Patriot. Fire and Ice tends to have a more upright shape than other types and looks stunning when planted in mass. Does well in our Georgia climate. Flower is lavender purple with white scapes and seed pods.

Fire Island Hosta – 12″ small to mid size cultivar with brilliant golden yellow foliage. The leaves accented by red petioles which continue into the base of the leaf. A wonderful shade perennial, Fire Island is a perfect compliment when planted against dark green shrubs.

First Frost – 2010 Hosta of the Year 16″ x 28″ medium. This sport of Halcyon has intense blue-green leaves with creamy yellow margins in spring which fade to white by summer. First Frost was named because it holds its beautiful foliage extremely well right up until the very first frost! Light lavender flowers bloom in mid summer.

Fragrant Bouquet – 20″ x 34″ medium large, 1998 Hosta of the Year. Lush apple green leaves on Fragrant Bouquet have a wide border of cream to pale yellow margins. In mid summer very fragrant white flowers appear on tall scapes.

June – 2001 Hosta of the Year 15″ x 20″ small to medium type. Leaves with a chartreuse center and blue green edges. June is a gardener’s favorite due to its extreme durability and ability to handle light sun.

Minuteman Hosta – 22″ x 30″ medium large type. This improvement of Patriot (1997 Hosta of the Year) has cup shaped foliage which is mid-green with a creamy white margin. Ideal for adding exuberant color to shady gardens. The leaves on Minuteman have an attractive, satiny finish. In late summer large, funnel shaped, pale lavender flowers appear on short stems just above the foliage. Light sun tolerance.

Praying Hands – 2011 Hosta of the Year 20″ x 30″ medium. Praying Hands is a very unique hosta with tall, straight up narrow leaves which fold together to resemble praying hands. It forms a large clump of erect foliage and looks great in a container under planted with other cascading perennials such as Creeping Jenny. The look is quite different and will stand out! Foliage is a dark green which will sometimes develop a thin creamy border. Lavender flowers.

Remember Me Hosta – 15″ x 25″ mid to small size. Sales of ‘Remember Me’ Hosta help fund the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation. This hosta is a Walters Garden introduction for an employee who lost her fight with the disease in 2001. Foliage emerges colorful yellow with blue margins in spring. Where the edges and center meet is a lighter green.

Stained Glass – 2006 Hosta of the Year 15″ x 30″ Fragrant, medium large hosta. Stained Glass is a sport of the Guacamole (2002 Hosta of the Year). It possesses a brighter variegation with a wide dark green margin. Variegation appears early in the season resulting in prominent veins throughout the foliage which gives this perennial the appearance of stained glass. Fragrant pale lavender blooms.

Sugar Daddy Hosta hosta – 20″ x 30″. A mid size variety, Sugar Daddy has slightly cupped leaves which are very thick and corrugated. The leaf color is powder blue with yellow margins that will lighten to creamy white later in the season. Flowers are white. Sugar Daddy is a best choice for slug resistance.

Large and Giant Hostas Plantain Lilies

Blue Angel Hosta – 2 1/2′ – 3′. Blue Angel is a giant hosta selection with huge leaves which will retain its blue color very well. It is a giant hosta type which will form a large mound perfect as a specimen plant. Leaf petioles on Blue Angel stand upright to hold the leaves horizontally, so the leaf will cascade down to form an elegant mound of foliage. Slug resistant, shade loving.

Dancing Queen Hosta – 22″ x 40″. Spring color on this hosta is bright yellow green. The edges of Dancing Queen are ruffled and add texture to your garden. Needs a little sun to hold the chartreuse color.

Dream Queen Hosta – 28″ x 60″ large, giant variety. A beautiful variety which has nearly round, blue green leaves and a white cream center. Foliage is lightly corrugated. Dream Queen is a best pick for under plantings or as an accent. Slug resistant. Can handle light sun with sufficient water but prefers shade.

Empress Wu Hosta – 4′ x 5′. The world’s largest hosta. ‘Empress Wu’ is a large, medium green, shade loving perennial known for it’s large leaves. As the world’s largest hosta, Empress Wu will make a dramatic statement in a shade garden. A must have for the plant collector. Flowers are lavender pink.

Earth Angel Hosta – 2009 Hosta of the Year 30″ x 40″ giant. Large heart shaped blue green leaves with a creamy white margin and pointed tips, Earth Angel forms a stunning, large clump. The cream margin will grow wider as the plant gets older. Has been recorded growing to outstanding clumps up to 5 feet across! A sport of Blue Angel with pale lavender blooms. Shade tolerant.

Guacamole Hosta – 2′ x 4′ Fragrant, giant hosta. Leaves have an apple green center bordered by dark green margins. One of our favorite of the large types for both color and fragrance. Flowers on Guacamole are large and white. Prefers shade.

Guardian Angel Hosta – 28″ x 38″ large. Unique giant hosta has ruffled leaves which emerge a blue green color with an ivory center in spring. Later in the summer the foliage on Guardian Angel turns almost completely blue green. Shade to dappled shade.

Liberty Hosta – 28″ x 58″ large. Thick green leaves with a wide yellow margin, Liberty is a lovely giant hosta that will brighten up a shade garden. Occasional light cream tones run through the textured leaves. Light sun tolerant.

Olive Bailey Langdon Hosta – 3′ – 5′ Giant large size. Dark green foliage with wide light green margins. Leaves on Olive Bailey Langdon cup slightly, and feature wavy margins. The foliage has a deep, corrugated texture. Olive Bailey Langdon is an improved version of the Frances Williams hosta. It is resistant to the spring dessication that Frances Williams can suffer from. Perfect for a woodland planting.

Paul’s Glory Hosta – 25″ x 55″ Hosta of the Year 1999. A classic large growing hosta best known for its gold and green foliage. In spring the leaves have wide chartreuse center markings surrounded by bright green. Foliage on Paul’s Glory matures to a bright yellow center and deep green edges. Flowers are lavender on tall scapes.

Regal Splendor – 2003 Hosta of the Year 30″ x 70″ giant plantain lily. A tall variety with wavy, cream colored edges on frosty blue leaves. This hosta has an unusual, upright shape as leaves sit on tall stems and will stand out in a garden. Regal Splendor is best when planted in a shady location. Flowers on Regal Splendor are a delicate pale lavender pink.

Sagae Hosta – 2000 Hosta of the Year 30′ x 70″ with an unusual, upright form, Sagae is a wonderful plant for the shade perennial garden or wooded area. The large blue leaves have variations of creamy white on the edges. Slug resistant, light sun tolerant.

Seducer Hosta – 26″ x 36″ medium large. Proven Winners plant Shadowland Seducer. This hosta grows into a large mound of dark green foliage that has a gold to chartreuse margin and a trace of white between the center and margin.

Victory – 2015 Hosta of the Year 35″ x 70″, a sport of nigresens Eliator. Big leaf. Victory has shiny, medium green foliage with wide cream colored edges. The margins are wavy and the large leaves are heart shaped. The bright color of Victory is a best pick for shady spots in your yard. Slug resistant.

Perennial hosta plants for sale in our plant nursery garden center are subject to change.

The Hosta Gardening Calendar

Winter (Period of dormancy): December-January-February-March

In winter, hostas are dormant, they do not grow at all. There is no winter root growth as in other perennials. Most hostas need 600-700 hours below 40 degrees F of cold dormancy, but they will emerge as stronger plants if their dormancy is extended beyond the minimum required.

Labeling: Make new permanent labels.

Light: Full sun, under deciduous trees, but very weak intensity.

Nutrients: None needed

Pests: Check for fresh vole runs, especially after the snow melts. Bait runs or set traps as necessary.

Protection: If the garden was not mulched in fall, this is an easy time to touch up that 1” layer of coarse mulch.

Propagation: None.

Water: Usually no extra watering is needed. In very dry winters, especially in areas that usually do not have snow, watering once or twice throughout the winter may be needed or emergence of the foliage may be delayed and the plants will be smaller.

Fun! Surf the Internet for hosta information. Make want lists of new hostas from hosta catalogues received in the mail and on your favorite websites. Many nurseries have “Early Bird” specials in January. Catch up on reading The Hosta Journal. Visit www.Hosta.org.

Spring (Foliage emergence begins): March-April-early May

As the ground warms under spring’s ever increasing light intensities, the dormant buds of the hostas begin to swell and break through the mulch, looking like bullets coming out of the ground. The small bud scales that protect the true leaves open and recurve allowing a cigar-shaped flush of usually three to four leaves to emerge well above the ground. Soil temperature and moisture seem to effect the timing of the emergence of hostas the most. In very dry winters the emergence of hostas will be delayed unless the garden is irrigated. As the new hosta leaves expand, ample water is also needed for them to gain maximum size.

Labeling: Check for lost labels and replace as needed.

Light: Full sun, moderate intensity. Usually no shading necessary.

Nutrients: Apply slow release fertilizer (e.g. Osmocote, Nutricote, organic fertilizers) or 10-10-10 granular fertilizer around clumps as the hostas emerge. If you only use a liquid fertilizer, then apply weekly beginning as the first leaves start to unfurl.

Pests: Begin slug control before hosta leaves emerge. The slugs will be active on warm nights before the hostas will. Try to limit their populations before they hide in the hosta foliage. If early attacks by deer are a problem, spray a repellent. Little is needed at this time but it may need to be repeated every 10 days as the hostas enlarge. Stay on vole patrol.

Protection: Finish your spring clean-up of fallen branches, old hosta foliage and scapes. Last chance to mulch. Pull mulch away from emerging hosta shoots to reduce the risk of petiole rot, especially if hardwood bark is used as mulch. Protect from late freezes with frost cloth, nursery pots, boxes, lightweight bed sheets or newspaper. Hostas with unfurled leaves can be protected by covering with mulch.

Propagation: Hostas may be divided in half or quarters as they begin to emerge. Be prepared to provide them with extra water and care as they will have oversized leaves for their recently reduced root system. New roots will not begin forming until the first set of new leaves are almost fully expanded, several weeks after division. Save drastic division for late summer.

Water: Keep the soil evenly moist. Fresh hostas are mostly water, make sure plenty is available as they expand. Beautiful spring days with bright light, low humidity and brisk winds dehydrate new hosta leaves quickly, do not be afraid to irrigate generously.

Fun! This is the best hosta season of the year! Go out several times a day and watch your hostas spring from the earth. You can almost see them grow! Count the number of new shoots and calculate how much your hosta investment has increased. A one division hosta purchased for $25 last fall, with its three new shoots, has now tripled in value to $75. Drag you neighbors over to see your hostas do their magic act. This is the time of year when everything is right in the hosta world. Go to a local hosta meeting.

Late Spring (Period of rapid foliage and root growth): May-June

Most hostas, except the fragrant flowered ones which produce new flushes of leaves into July, produce all their leaves in about 6-8 weeks. This occurs in usually one or two flushes of 3-4 leaves per shoot, (division). These leaves are at first “soft”, expanding rapidly, metabolizing, (growing) at a high rate. As they reach their mature size they “harden off” and stop expanding, slowing their production of white wax and purple pigments, (anthocyanins). At this time fresh new white roots emerge from the shoot above last year’s roots and lengthen rapidly. Soon the second flush of 3-4 leaves will appear and mature, followed by another period of root initiation. Hostas need abundant water and nutrients, especially nitrogen, during this period of rapid leaf and root growth.

Labeling: Pull labels further out from under the expanding hosta clumps. Notice how much bigger your hostas are than they were last year. Congratulate yourself and give your hostas praise.

Light: Shade fills the garden as the trees leaf out. Watch for bleaching of early rising yellow hostas. They may need to be moved.

Nutrients: Reapply 10-10-10 after 4-6 weeks depending on the amount of heavy rainfall. Continue your liquid feed program. If you want your hostas to be the biggest on your block, (and who doesn’t?), supplement granular fertilizers with a foliar liquid feed of a high nitrogen fertilizer with added magnesium every two weeks (e.g. Miracle-Gro Tomato Plant Food 18-18-21, Peters 20-20-20 with a pinch of Epsom salts per gallon of water added.)

Pests: Check hostas for evidence of Hosta Virus X. Unlike foliar nematodes, HVX symptoms will show early in the growing season. Remove and dispose of any infected plants!!! Watch for slug and vole damage. If a hosta does not come up, go digging around looking for it. It may have become vole food, so check the hostas around it for vole damage by pulling gently on the foliage and seeing if they are firmly rooted in the ground. If they too have been nibbled, you may need to pot them up and regrow their roots. Bait or set traps. If a hosta comes up much smaller than last year, it may have become a victim of tree roots and need to be potted also. Remove all the rotted roots and soft parts of the crown and rinse it in a 10% bleach solution before potting. Make a note, that hosta bed may need reworking in late summer. Ugh!

Protection: Deter deer!

Propagation: Do not divide hostas with soft foliage. Once they harden off, you can move entire clumps safely, being careful not to damage the roots. Use a digging fork, not a shovel if you can so you do not cut off the root tips. Wait until late summer to divide drastically.

Water: Water, Water, Water! Especially if it is a dry spring. Fill your hostas to the brim with water.

Fun! Plant those hostas that you ordered in the winter. Happiness is a new hosta bed! Visit local nurseries and raid the big box stores; hunt for bargains and maybe do a little hosta sport fishing with your hosta buddy. Take pride in your perfect hostas, all fresh and free from holes. Show them off. Visit them daily and choose your favorites.

Summer (Period of bloom and seed set) June-July-August

The time of bloom in hosta species and their cultivars varies from late May or June to September. A particular hosta will normally bloom once for about 3 weeks during the summer, producing a flower scape from the growing bud that just finished producing the flushes of leaves. The scape has a number of lily-like flowers that are open for one day only and are bee pollinated. (H. plantaginea opens in the evening and may be moth pollinated.) Seed pods are formed from fertilized ovaries at the base of the pistil and swell in size. Black, single-winged seeds are usually ripe in 6-8 weeks.

Labeling: Replace the labels that the squirrels have pulled up.

Light: This is the brightest and more importantly, hottest light of the year. The sun is at its maximum height in the sky and often beds that were bathed in shade in early May are now in full sun. Hostas can tolerate direct light but they hate heat! If leaf margins begin to brown, it may be time to move that hosta to a cooler spot in the garden. On the other hand, year by year shade gardens become shadier. Consider removing a branch here or there during the summer to create spotlights of bright light in the garden. Maybe even consider removing an entire tree, but that should probably wait until winter.

Nutrients: Blooming hostas still need nutrients to maintain their foliage and produce seeds but not a high nitrogen diet. If you are liquid feeding weekly, continue if there is ample rain. In times of drought reduce feeding to every other week. Discontinue any supplemental foliar feeding; hosta leaves have expanded to their maximum by now. Remember if it doesn’t rain, then your slow release fertilizer is not being released. Irrigation may be a good idea.

Pests: If it turns dry, the deer will show up looking for some lush hosta foliage full of water. Spray deer repellent every 3 weeks or more often and rotate your favorite brands. Leave the electric fence on at all times. Be on the look out for the symptoms of foliar nematodes, those nasty brown streaks. If you have a major problem, remove the most highly infected hostas and water less and feed less. Starve the hostas and stress the worms. Quarantine your garden. If you have a minor issue, remove infected hostas and all the ones touching them. A few years of this may eliminate the problem almost completely.

Protection: Watch for petiole rot. This fungus attacks the base of hosta petioles, secreting a substance that eats through the plant tissue causing the leaves to fall on the ground. This usually occurs in the first hot dry weather of the summer. Pull back mulch. Treat with 10% bleach solution immediately and retreat if necessary. There are also fungicides (e.g. Terrachlor) that can be applied. Other fungi may attack the hosta leaves, especially in hot, humid climates in wet summers. Apply fungicides (e.g. Daconil) as a preventative in late June every 2 weeks as necessary. Rotate fungicides.

Propagation: Divide hostas as the heat of summer passes. August is the best time to drastically divide and plant or pot hostas. Try to give your hostas 6 weeks before the first frost to establish new roots in their new home.

Water: Like nutrients, a hosta’s demands for water are reduced after their leaves are mature. Increased temperatures however, increase the transpiration rate, the rate at which the water is pulled out of the hosta leaves, requiring more water to replace it. Transpiration affects trees to an even greater degree as they pump water up and out of the garden soil. In hot weather sometimes keeping your hostas full of water all day long is a constant battle. Continue the fight. Dry soil may cause your hostas to go heat dormant or worse, dry rot at the bottom of the crown. In heavily shaded gardens, irrigation during the day can cool those hot leaves.

Fun! Cut some scapes after a couple of flowers have opened and bring them inside to enjoy for two or more weeks. Cut and remove the other scapes when 75% of the flowers have opened, unless you wish to save the seeds. Take in a hosta convention, regional events are inexpensive and allow plenty of time to socialize. Visit other local gardens and get some new ideas. Remember to bring a hosta along as a gift. Begin to plant new acquisitions.

Late Summer (Growth of buds for next year) late-August-September

With the full extension of the flowering inflorescence, the growing tip, (meristem), of the hosta shoot is carried high into the air, at the end of the scape. New “dormant” buds now begin to form at the base of the scape, that will go through cold dormancy and produce the new shoots and leaves of the plant in the next spring. Ideally, three buds are formed, but frequently less are formed by large hosta cultivars. In some early flowering hostas, these buds may produce a second growth of new shoots, leaves, flower scapes and more dormant buds the same summer, especially if they are grown in areas where the growing season is long, as in the Southeastern US.

Labeling: Place plant labels, temporary or permanent, with each new hosta. Bury a plastic label with the plant name in pencil in the same position for each hosta. Map garden if you are so inclined.

Light: Days begin to shorten, hostas begin to look tired.

Nutrients: Fertilize newly planted hostas with 10-10-10 or a little slow release fertilizer. If some hostas make a few new leaves then liquid feed once in August.

Pests: Check for voles moving into the garden. Check for foliar nematodes, again. Check the oldest leaves. If the deer still want your hostas, then at some point, open the gate and let them clean up the garden for you.

Protection: Mulch newly worked areas.

Propagation: Continue to divide hostas. Try to get them finished 6 weeks before the first frost. You can do it later but remember hostas do not grow roots over the winter.

Water: Turn off the irrigation and put the hoses away. Lack of water will encourage dormancy. Of course, continue to water your new plantings. I use a watering can.

Fun! Look for fall specials from your favorite hosta nurseries. Hostas planted in the fall will look a year older than the ones you buy next spring. Continue to plant new acquisitions. Start collecting seeds from early flowering hostas.

Fall (Maturation of seeds and onset of dormancy) late September-October-November

As the days shorten toward winter, hostas prepare for dormancy. As the chloroplasts begin to break down and the bright yellows of hidden pigments, caroteins and xanthrophylls, begin to appear, green hosta leaves turn to gold. The leaves then begin to dry and petioles weaken and droop. The dry air helps the ripe seed pods to spring open, allowing the seeds to fly away on the wind. Usually it takes two or three hard freezes to knock the shriveled hosta foliage to the ground, while the flower scapes will persist intact through the first snows of winter.

Labeling: Make sure every hosta has a label before it becomes unidentifiable. The ones in pots probably need a new label as well. They tend to fade over the winter.

Light: The leaves are falling and the light continues to fade never the less. The days shorten inducing dormancy.

Nutrients: None needed.

Pests: Only the voles are a problem now. Begin to bait and trap again.

Protection: Remove tree leaves from the garden to discourage the voles from moving in. I use a leaf blower and not a rake. Finish cutting flower scapes. Apply mulch to your new plantings and touch up as needed.

Propagation: Hurry up! It is almost too late.

Water: Make sure your hostas are full of water the night before the first hard freeze. Usually rain comes with the first real cold front of the season, but if the fall has been dry you might need to soak the garden one more time before you lock the pump house for the winter.

Fun! Collect a few seeds and plant them right away. They will be up in 2-3 weeks and you will have a few hostas to play with all winter. Cheer up. I know your hostas look terrible now, tired from another full turn of their life cycle. This last sad memory of them as they retire for the year, I believe, just makes them look that much more perfect when they emerge with their fresh leaves next spring. Take a break, you have earned it!

Learn how to make hostas grow bigger, bushier and lusher by using Epsom salt in this article!

What Epsom Salt Do to Plants

Epsom salt is “hydrated magnesium sulfate,” it consists of 10 percent Magnesium and 13 percent Sulfur. Both of them are considered as secondary essential nutrients after Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Magnesium in Epsom salt increases water retention, helps in better intake of nutrients, and most importantly in the creation of chlorophyll, on which the process of photosynthesis depends. Similarly, sulfur also participates in the development of chlorophyll, increases the plant’s resistance to diseases and helps in growth.

How Epsom Salt Helps Hostas

Application of Epsom salt in hostas, reduce the stunted growth, make their leaves greener and thicker as it boosts chlorophyll levels. It also facilitates bushier plant growth and their resistance against diseases and pests.

1. Get Rid of Slugs

Slugs are the most common pests that affect hostas. To get rid of them, place a tablespoon of Epsom salt in a shape of a ring around hostas to prevent slugs. The sharp crystals of Epsom salt will irritate their body and they will avoid coming near your plants. Apply once a week for best results.

2. For Yellowing Hosta Leaves

Yellow hosta leaves can be the sign of Magnesium deficiency. As a solution, add a tablespoon of Epsom salt around the base of your hosta plant per 12 inches of its height, once a month (or more frequently, if required) until it starts to look green again.

3. For Lush and Healthy Hosta Plants

Even if your soil is not deficient in Magnesium, some factors like acidic soil, low soil temperature, cation exchange capacity of soil, excess potassium or sodium reduce the uptake of Magnesium from plant roots. In that case, foliar feeding your hosta plants with Epsom salt solution is a good idea. Mix 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt in 1 gallon of water and spray once in a month on the foliage in the rapid growth period. When growth slows, reduce the quantity to 1 tablespoon. The foliar application will keep your hostas lush and healthy.

4. Mix Epsom Salt with Fertilizer

You can also mix a pinch of Epsom salt with the all-purpose liquid fertilizer before feeding the hosta plants and then apply according to the instructions on the fertilizer’s packet to enhance its efficiency.

Tips and Warnings

  • As with any ingredient, the success of Epsom salt for hostas depends on its balanced use.
  • Avoid overdosing. Also, it is best to look for the sign of Magnesium and Sulfur deficiency in plants to get the desired results from Epsom salt application.

Yard and Garden: Caring for Hostas in Spring

AMES, Iowa – Spring is here, and hostas are a popular part of outdoor landscaping plans. They are easy to grow, but certain steps in planting and dividing them must be followed in order to ensure optimal performance, including watering and pest control.

ISU Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer your questions about how to best handle hostas. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or [email protected]

When is the best time to divide hostas?

Spring is the best time to divide hostas. Dig up the entire clump as soon as the leaves begin to emerge. (The emerging leaves are bullet-shaped and are often referred to as points or noses.) Carefully divide the clump into sections with a sharp knife. Each section should have at least two or three points (leaves) and a good portion of the crown and root system. Replant immediately.

While spring is the best time to divide hostas, plants can be divided anytime from spring to late summer. Hostas divided in late summer should be mulched with several inches of straw, pine needles or other materials in late fall. Mulching helps prevent repeated freezing and thawing of the soil during the winter months that could heave late summer divisions up out of the soil and damage or destroy them.

What are the site requirements for hostas?

Hostas are easy to grow when planted in favorable locations. The most important site requirements are light levels and soil conditions.

Most hosta cultivars perform best in partial to full shade. A site that receives between two to four hours of direct sun per day is partial shade, while a site that receives less than two hours of direct sun per day is full shade. Most of the yellow and gold leafed hosta cultivars develop their best leaf color in areas that receive four to five hours of direct sun.

Hostas prefer well-drained, fertile soils that contain high levels of organic matter. Soils that contain high levels of clay or sand can be improved by incorporating organic matter (compost, sphagnum peat moss, shredded oak leaves, etc.). In poorly drained sites, the best solution may be to construct a raised bed.

Do hostas need to be watered during the growing season?

For best performance, hostas need a consistent supply of moisture throughout the growing season. Dry conditions inhibit plant growth and may lead to scorching (browning) of leaf margins. To help conserve soil moisture, apply a 2- to 3-inch-layer of wood chips, shredded bark or other mulch around hostas. Also, water plants weekly during prolonged dry periods.

Should I fertilize my hostas?

Hostas do not require heavy fertilization. A single application of an all-purpose garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, in spring as growth begins to emerge is usually sufficient.

How do I control slugs on my hostas?

Several strategies can be used to control slugs. Small numbers can be controlled by handpicking. Handpicking is best done at night with a flashlight as slugs are most active at night. Traps can also be used to control slugs. A trap can be a piece of wood or asphalt shingle. Place the object on the ground where slugs have been feeding.

Lift up the trap after one to two days and destroy any slugs hiding beneath it. Shallow pans of beer also attract slugs. Sink the pans into the ground so the rim is even with the soil surface. Empty the pans at least twice a week. Pesticides (molluscicides) will likely be necessary to control large slug populations. Slug baits typically contain metaldehyde or ferric (iron) phosphate.

Growing Hosta in Containers

I love having potted hostas in my garden, but then what should I do with them in winter? I am in zone 6 and too tight with my money to just throw them out in winter.

Some gardeners in your part of the country have told me they had good luck leaving hostas in the pots overwinter. I tend to take a more conservative approach and would rather spend a bit more energy to insure the plants survive. Here is what I do with my perennials in containers. I grow the plants in a cheap pot, usually one a shrub came in, and set it inside my fancy pot for summer. When fall arrives I sink the potted perennial in a vacant part of the garden and store my nice container in the garage. Next spring I divide and repot the perennials as needed and start the process again. If space is limited you may want to move the containers to an unheated garage. Northern gardeners may want to add a bit of insulation around the roots. Water whenever the soil is thawed and dry. I occasionally need to overwinter some containers outside and above the ground. I pack them in tight next to my garage or other protected spot. I cover with woodchips or surround with bales of straw (used as fall decoration), or some other items to help insulate the roots. I pile on the salt-free snow when present for another layer of protection and added moisture. Check these containers throughout the winter and water whenever the soil is thawed and dry.

How to grow hostas

Hostas are prized primarily for their foliage but they also have attractive, often scented, July or August flowers. These hardy clump-forming perennials are popular with container gardeners and are unbeatable for low-growing foliage interest in spring and summer. Thriving in light and medium shade they are incredibly useful plants.

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Following our expert advice on growing hostas, below.

Hosta ‘Hanky Panky’

Where to grow hostas

Hostas enjoy a water-retentive, fertile soil. Very heavy clay and sandy soils should be improved by digging in plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Ideally the pH of the soil should be 6.5 but they’re still worth growing in acid or alkaline soils.

Choose a position of light- or semi-shade. Hostas are very hardy so they’ll thrive in a north-facing garden or frost pocket.

As hostas enjoy a water-retentive soil they’re ideal for planting in a bog garden, but they shouldn’t be treated as an aquatic. For this reason they’re often planted by, but never in, a pond.

When growing hostas in pots, plant in a container with plenty of drainage holes as a waterlogged soil will kill the plant. Avoid metal containers, which heat up quickly in the sun, as the roots need to be kept cool. Avoid small pots as these will dry out too quickly.

Planting a hosta

Planting hostas

Before planting hostas, improve the soil by digging in well-rotted organic matter. Using a small garden spade to dig a hole the size of the root ball. Remove the plant from the pot and put the plant into the hole. Back fill with soil and firm in place. Water in well.

Dividing a congested hosta plant

Propagaton: dividing hostas

Hostas that are happy in their growing environment will bulk up quickly. To increase your stock of plants simply lift the plant carefully in autumn or spring with a garden fork. Be careful not to damage the growing points when working. Place the plant on a potting bench and using a sharp knife cut the plant into two. You can also use a spade to divide clumps in two. Very large hostas can be divided into more, but ensure that you have about two healthy shoots on each division.

Some varieties have more fibrous roots and these can be pulled apart, rather than cut apart.

Ideally, replant the division and the parent plant back in the garden straight away. If this isn’t possible pot the divisions on. When planting in pots or the garden ensure that they’re planted at the original depth.

Hostas grown in pots will quickly fill the space given so it’s wise to divide them every third year or move them to a larger pot.

Deterring slugs with copper band at the base of a hosta plant

Hostas: problem solving

Slugs and snails are the number one enemy of the hosta. In early spring, as the dramatic spears of new foliage push their way out of the ground, be on red alert. A light sprinkling of slug pellets in early March will help reduce their numbers.

However, you’ll never eradicate the problem completely, so a two-pronged attack is sensible. Organic gardeners should look for a slug pellet with the active ingredient of ferric phosphate, as those containing metaldehyde can be detrimental to animals. Never apply more pellets than recommended.

The biological control Nemaslug is a popular option with environmentally aware gardeners. Alternatively put copper bands around containers, try beer traps in the garden or mulch the area with sharp gravel and you might be able to avoid slug pellets completely.

Remove as many slugs and snails by hand as possible, remembering that they are more active at night.

Watering a hosta in a container

Caring for hostas

Hostas will look after themselves once established and happy in their growing environment. In containers don’t allow them to dry out and every spring apply a slow-release feed to the compost.

Remove faded foliage in autumn, cutting back hard. The July or August flower spikes can be cut back once faded.

Hostas for cutting

Hosta foliage is perfect for cutting. With so many different colours and textures available in the genus you can add silver, variegated, heart-shapes, crinkly or smooth leaves to flower arrangements.

Hosta ‘Halcyon’

Great hostas to grow:

  • Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans – silver/blue heart-shaped foliage offering pale-blue flowers in July. Reaches 65cm in height with a 75cm spread
  • Hosta ‘Halcyon’ – a popular plant with blue/green foliage and lavender flowers in July and August. Height 40cm with a spread of 70cm
  • Hosta ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’ – a compact, mound-forming hosta that only reaches the height of 20cm. Lavender blue flowers in July or August. Green foliage with a lime-green edging
  • Hosta ‘Patriot’ – a strong plant with green foliage and an almost white edging. Lavender-blue flowers in July or August. Height 55cm with a spread of 1m

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  • Hosta ‘Big Daddy’ – giant, heavily quilted sliver-blue foliage. Height 65cm, spread 120cm. Pale-blue flowers in July or August

Growing Hostas In Pots and Containers

Hostas are really enjoyable and addictive to grow. With so many different varieties now to choose from in all shapes, sizes and colours collecting has become a popular pastime. Growing in pots is an excellent way to display your prized hostas, from miniatures to giants all hostas can be grown in pots given the correct care.

Select a pot that is size appropriate for the variety you wish to pot. We have a Sum and Substance on the nursery that is over a meter across and has been in a large terracotta pot for 20 years and it is still very happy…but it is a big pot.

When preparing to plant your hostas in a container begin by checking that there is sufficient drainage. Most terracotta pots come with plenty of drainage holes but if you are planting in a makeshift container holes may need to be drilled. Fill the bottom of the pot with gravel, broken pot or polystyrene to ensure the drainage holes are not blocked with soil and roots. On top of the gravel cut a piece of taram sheet and cover the bottom of the pot. This taram allows water to pass through but will stop the soil and roots from clogging near the base of the pot.

Now your pot is ready for planting use a mix of John Innes no.3 and general purpose compost, this allows adequate water retention. Fill the bottom with your soil, keep in mind the size of the root system of the plant you have chosen. Remove you hosta from the plastic pot it is in and run your fingers through the roots to free them (if you have ordered from our online shop this will already be done for you). Place your hosta in the pot and begin filling around the sides. Once full press the soil down otherwise it will sink as soon as it has been watered, then top up if needed.

Now your hosta is happily in it’s new pot water it in thoroughly. Keep an eye on watering when you are growing in pots especially in the first year of planting. In is very important that they are damp but not waterlogged. Miniature hostas especially can rot if the soil around them is waterlogged. Once established in a pot feed your hostas to keep them happy. High nitrogen feeds for the leaves and high potash feeds for the flowers.

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