How to Grow and Care for Hostas

Hostas

Quick Overview

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asparagaceae
Sun Exposure: Full shade to part sun
Watering: Regular watering
Colors: Flowers are white, lavender, pink
Size: 6 to 48 inches tall, 10 inches to 6 feet wide
Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9 (USDA)
Soil Type: Rich, fertile, well-drained
Soil pH: 6.0 to 6.5
Propagation: By division
Toxicity: Edible for humans, toxic to cats & dogs

Hostas are native to China, Japan, and Korea. They were brought to Europe in the 1700s and later to the Americas in the 1800s. Most often, they are planted outside. They are beautiful plants that serve as an excellent ground cover option for your garden or landscaping needs. 

Hostas are resilient, low-maintenance plants that, once established, are simple to care for. Once they become established in their environment, they need only minimal maintenance. They are picky about their soil conditions when they are first planted. But they are very adaptable and become more so as they mature. They come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. Every gardener is almost guaranteed to find a hosta that fits their planting or landscaping vision. 

Hostas are considered an easy plant to care for. But it is helpful to understand their optimal conditions to help these plants reach their full, lush potential. Keep reading for tips and tricks on how to help your hosta thrive! 

Hostas

About Hostas

Hostas come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. They tend to be anywhere from 1 to 3 feet, but larger or smaller varieties are also available.

Be sure to read the label of your hosta before you buy it to understand its optimal space requirements. Some may remain on the smaller side, while others prefer to grow several feet in width. Understanding what your hosta’s natural size is will help you determine where to plant it. 

Hostas are perennials, which means they will come back year after year. They reach maturity in 5-8 years and can live for 30 or more years when properly cared for. 

Their leaf colors range from deep gold to lime green to powdery blue, but they are not limited to those colors. Other variegations showcase various colors and patterns. Most recently, hosta breeders have been breeding for different shades of red in the stem and leaves. 

The shape and composition of the leaves also vary in size, shape, and texture. Some varieties showcase smooth and small leaves. Others have jagged, puckered, and oval leaves.

While they are primarily known for their colorful varieties of leaves, hostas also produce flowers in summer and early fall. 

These flowers are tubular-shaped blooms that stem from the center of the plant. Most varieties have a pale lavender flower, but some may be pink or white. Many of them are fragrant. 

Some gardeners choose to remove the flowers because they feel they distract from the plant. This removal does not harm your hosta, but it does take an opportunity away from pollinators who might want to eat the flower’s nectar. 

Hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects love hosta flowers. If you choose to keep your hosta’s flowers, your hosta can become an important piece of your local ecological system, as well! 

Hostas

Watering Hostas

When Hostas are planted, they fare best with moist soil. Be sure, however, that it is not too wet. Hostas do not like having wet feet. 

Water your hosta regularly, especially for the first couple of years, to help it get established. 

Hostas are very adaptable. As they mature, they become more resilient and can tolerate dry soil and even short droughts. 

However, they cannot survive indefinitely without water. And, like most shade plants, they prefer the hydration and moist conditions that are similar to that of their native lands. 

For outdoor plants, water them 1-2 times a week. Water them more if you live in an especially hot part of the country. It is recommended to give your hostas one good soak every week if it has not rained much in your area. 

If you have container hostas, you should water the base of the plant regularly to keep the soil moist. 

Hostas

Best Soil for Hostas

Soil is most important when planting a new hosta and can make the most powerful impact on your hosta’s future growth. 

Hostas prefer well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH (6.5-7). The soil should be full of organic matter. 

Avoid planting your hosta in clay-like soil, as they will not get the necessary drainage they require. 

If the soil around your plant tends to dry out, consider placing mulch around the plant to retain some moisture. Beware, however, that mulch can sometimes be a breeding ground for slugs. 

For potted plants, a standard, well-draining soil is suitable for your hosta. 

Humidity & Temperature 

Hostas can thrive in various climates, from Canada to the Gulf Coast (USDA zones 3-9). 

Some varieties handle heat better (like the Royal Standard) than others. But no hosta will survive in an environment that is always hot and sunny.

Typically, they need at least six weeks of weather below 42 degrees Fahrenheit to go through their annual dormancy. 

Outside, this can happen naturally. But for indoor plants, put your hosta in a basement or even a refrigerator to ensure it goes into dormancy during the winter. 

foliage

Fertilizer

Fertilize your outdoor hostas each spring with an all-purpose gardening fertilizer. Be sure not to let granular fertilizer sit atop the leaves, as the fertilizer can burn and injure them. 

Whatever you do, it is recommended that you do not fertilize in mid-to-late summer. Fertilizing might prompt new growth in your hosta, which will be affected by the fall/winter dormancy. 

For indoor plants, the fertilizing process is a little more involved. You can begin feeding your hostas bi-weekly once the growing season begins. Continue throughout the growing season, stopping about four months before winter dormancy. 

Light

All hostas need some shade and can survive well in deeply shaded areas (Areas with only 4-5 hours of sunlight a day). They generally do not fare well in intense sunlight, though how much sunlight they can handle differs among the varieties. 

If you live in the south, be especially careful about where you plant your hostas. If they are somewhere where they do not get enough shade, they will be scorched by the sun. 

As a rule of thumb, the lighter the leaves are the more sun the plant can handle.

This parameter extends to your variety of hosta and how it fares in warmer or colder weather, as well. For example, hostas with bluer leaves tend to do better in colder temperatures. Those with yellow or light green leaves will withstand heat better. 

plant

Planting & Pruning

Plant your hostas in the spring or early fall. 

They can be planted during the summer months (growing season). But if you do this, they will need extra attention to keep them well-hydrated as they establish their roots. 

There are many different options for starting new hosta plants. Of course, you can plant them from seed. A more efficient way may be to purchase dormant root divisions to start your plant or buy them already potted. 

When you plant your hosta, dig a hole about two times the depth of the plant’s root ball. Loosening the soil around the plant will help the roots expand and establish themselves. 

Be sure to leave the crown of the hosta uncovered when you plant it. Covering the crown when planting will result in rot, and your plan will die. 

If you are planting a formerly potted plant, it is beneficial to plant the hosta in soil that is the same pH as the soil it was already in. 

Soil pH measurement tools are available at most garden centers and stores for just a few dollars. 

Water the newly planted hosta well, allowing the water to soak down to the roots. As mentioned above, a newly planted hosta needs to have moist soil as it establishes itself, but be careful not to make the soil too wet. 

Prune your hosta in the fall after a few frosts have come and gone. And remove flower stalks after they bloom to encourage new growth. 

Hostas

Transplanting & Dividing Hostas

Transplanting and dividing are typically best to save for the spring months when new growth occurs in your hosta. 

Dividing is not a necessary thing to do. Hostas do not require dividing to keep them healthy. If they run out of space to grow, they will simply slow their growth. 

However, hostas do propagate easily. Dividing your hosta can be a great way to end up with new plants or simply clean up your yard. 

When dividing your hosta, identify new growing tips or clumps that emerge from the soil in the spring. Those are what can be separated to divide your hosta into multiple plants.

Dislodge new growth and use sharp pruning scissors or a knife to cut between the plant’s shoots, so that you are left with several individual shoots. Each shoot should still have its roots attached. 

Plant the new division in well-draining soil and water well to help it establish itself. As with planting potted hostas, it is best to plant the new division in the soil at the same pH level that it came from. 

Related: Transplanting Hostas: When and How to Do It

hosta plant

Other Considerations

Toxicity 

Hostas are toxic to dogs and cats and, if consumed, can cause abdominal discomfort in your pet. 

However, for humans, young hosta leaves are edible. They have been eaten safely for many years in parts of the world. In Japan, they are boiled, fried, or eaten raw. Their flavor is described to be similar to that of lettuce or asparagus. 

Hosta Removal

If you need to remove your hostas from your yard because of sickness or for some other reason, you can. Begin by cutting down the leaves and digging away the soil to expose the crown. 

Pour vinegar or boiling water over the crown for a non-chemical way to remove them. Or, if you prefer, you can also use roundup. 

Hostas as House Plants

Hostas can be grown indoors, but they generally don’t make the best house plants. 

You are likely better off keeping your container hosta, if you have one, outside. Leave it there year-round to allow it to go through dormancy in the winter. 

Hostas

Hostas Disease & Pests

Pests

Hostas tend to be free of most diseases, though they do have some pests that are attracted to their taste. 

  • Slugs: In the dormant season, if hostas are not pruned and cleaned up, they can attract slugs, which eat away at the leaves. To deter slugs, sprinkle some sand around the base of the plan. Alternatively, chocolate mulch serves as a natural deterrent to slugs.
  • Deer: Deer love the taste of hostas. There are deer repellent sprays and pellets available for gardeners which can keep deer from chewing on your plants. Planting daffodils or marigolds, or geraniums around your hostas can also help deter nibbling animals. 
  • Rabbits: Daffodils can serve to keep rabbits away from your hosta plants, as well. And shaking garlic salt over your hostas can also help. 
  • Voles: Also known as meadow mice, voles like to feed on the roots of hostas. If you live in an area with voles, do not mulch your hosta. Instead, use gravel around your hosta and a product called volebloc to deter them. 

Disease

Crown rot, also known as southern blight or southern stem rot, can occasionally affect your hosta. This disease typically occurs when conditions are warm and wet. 

Crown rot is a fungal disease of the soil. It attacks nearby plants by breaking down the cell walls. This disease causes the plant’s leaves to wilt and brown and yellow. 

With closer inspection, you may find specks on the base of the leaf and the surrounding soil. When there is high humidity, you may see white, silvery webbing at the plant base and around the soil. 

Unfortunately, infected hostas cannot be cured. They should be removed immediately and entirely from the area to keep the fungus from spreading. 

leaves

Final Thoughts

Hostas are resilient, shade-loving plants that are a beautiful addition to your outdoor space. There are many varieties of hostas, so you have plenty of shapes, sizes, and colors to choose from to brighten up your landscaping. 

Once they are established, they need very little maintenance, making them very simple to care for. 

Share this article on social media to let people know what you’ve learned about hosta care! And leave a comment below if you have any other questions about hosta growth or care!