Growing Hostas: How to Plant and Care for Hosta Plants | The Old Farmer's Almanac

How to Grow Hostas: The Compete Hosta Guide

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Botanical Name
Hosta spp.
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Bloom Time
Flower Color
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Planting, Growing, and Caring for Hostas

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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.

About Hostas

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. 

Hostas prefer soil that is well-draining and fertile (amend the soil with compost or rotted manure if your soil is poor). They do not like to sit in wet soil, so plant in a raised area or where the soil doesn’t stay saturated (especially in winter). Ideally, the soil should have a pH between slightly acidic and neutral (6.5 to 7.0), although hostas are forgiving.

When to Plant Hostas

  • Buy hostas as dormant, bare-root divisions or potted plants and plant them in the spring or 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 spaces!
  • 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.
Hosta flowers
Hosta flowers are much-loved by bees and hummingbirds.

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.

See video to learn more about dividing hostas:

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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.
About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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