Hostas are hardy perennials with attractive foliage. They’re perfect for shady and long-lived gardens—some may even outlive the gardener! While hostas require little attention, we advise cutting back the plants by early winter to avoid pest damage. Learn all about hostas in our growing guide.
What’s neat about Hostas is that there are so many sizes, heights, textures, and colors to work with! They fit into so many different kinds of gardens (patio, border, container, rock, shade) and are cold-hardy, too.
Most varieties tend to have a spread and height of between 1 and 3 feet, but larger or smaller varieties are readily available. Leaf colors include variegated white, lime green, and blue-green, to name just a few. The texture and shape of hosta leaves are also diverse, ranging from smooth and narrow to ridged and heart-shaped.
Though mainly known for their interesting foliage, the plants also produce lovely flowers in pink, lavender, light blue, or white from early summer to early fall. Hummingbirds and other pollinators love the flowers, which may even be fragrant, depending on the variety.
Note: Slugs, snails, rabbits, and especially deer like hostas almost as much as people do. Keep this in mind if deer regularly wander your garden, as they will readily graze a hosta patch down to just stems.
Hostas’ large leaves do not lend themselves well to full sun; they do best in partial sun or dappled shade but will grow in deep shade, too. Once established, they can take the summer heat and withstand mild droughts.
Buy hostas as dormant, bare-root divisions or potted plants and plant them in the spring or in the fall.
Hostas can be planted during the summer growing season, but will need extra attention (mostly watering) to ensure that they do not succumb to the heat of summer.
How to Plant Hostas
Dig a hole that’s about twice the width and depth of the root ball of the plant. Loosening the soil in the planting area will benefit the hosta’s roots as they expand outward.
If planting multiple hostas, space them out according to their expected size at maturity. Hostas are adept at filling empty space!
Set the plants in the hole so that the crown (base) of the plant is even with the surrounding soil and any emerging leaf tips are visible at the soil surface.
If buying potted hostas, plant them at the same soil level as in the pot.
Gently dampen the soil around the plants and water until the soil is moist to settle the roots.
How to Care for Hostas
Apply a well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer after planting or when growth emerges in the spring.
Keep the soil moist but not soaked.
If the soil tends to dry out quickly, consider placing mulch around the plants to help retain moisture, but be aware that mulch can be a hiding place for slugs.
Remove flower stalks after bloom to encourage new growth.
Many hosta cultivars have nice colors in the fall, so let them thrive until they start to suffer from frost.
Pruning and Cutting Back Hostas
When the foliage fades, the plant begins its dormant season. Remove any dead or brown leaves as they attract pests.
After a few frosts in late fall, some hostas will flatten out and get mushy. We suggest cutting them back to avoid slug and disease issues.
By early winter, cut back the entire plant at ground level. Do not leave any plant debris or leaves on the ground; bag them up and dispose of them.
Transplanting or Dividing Hostas
Hostas do not usually need dividing for their health. If they have less space, they’ll simply grow less quickly. However, if you wish to divide a hosta for a neater garden appearance, it’s best to do so in early spring once the “eyes” or growing tips start to emerge from the ground. This is also a good time to move or transplant a hosta to a new site.
Leave as much of the root attached as possible to each crown or plant. Plant the new hostas at the same soil level as they were previously. Water well until established.
Once you start exploring hostas, you’ll find they get rather addictive! From 4-inch miniature hostas to 6-foot-wide giant hostas, there’s a hosta variety to fit any situation from large borders to tiny rock gardens. Here are just a few:
H. fotunei ‘Aureo Marginata’: Deep-green oval leaves accented by a golden edge.
H. x ‘Blue Cadet’: A small hosta with heart-shaped, bluish leaves. It makes for a nice edging plant. In mid-summer it blooms with mauve-blue flowers.
For sunnier spots, select plants from the Hosta plantaginea group. These plants also tend to have fragrant flowers in late summer. ‘August Moon’, ‘Honeybells’, and ‘Sum and Substance’ are a few of the varieties in this category.
Wit and Wisdom
Young hosta leaves are edible. Known as urui in Japan, they’re commonly boiled, fried in tempura, or eaten raw. The flavor is similar to lettuce and asparagus.
If you wish to remove your hostas, cut off the leaves to the ground and then dig out the crown located just below ground level. Pour vinegar or boiling water over the plant. If you have a larger area of hostas that you want to remove, cut the leaves off, remove the crowns, and then cover the area with black plastic for the rest of the growing season.
Slugs and snails: If you see irregular holes along the leaf’s edges or entire leaves chewed off at the stem nocturnal slugs may be the culprit. Look for shiny slime trails on the leaves or on the ground around the plants.
Deer: It’s true that deer love hosta. To discourage deer, use fencing or motion-sensitive sprinklers. Speak to your local garden center about odor-based sprays and deer repellents; the deer will taste the distasteful repellent first. Here’s an example.
Rabbits: If you see clean-cut chew marks on young hosta stems and leaves you may have rabbits in your garden. Look for dropped leaves and rabbit droppings on the ground and around the plants.