Hostas (Hosta) – The Complete Guide

With their breathtaking presence, hostas transform shady to semi-shady garden sites into green islands of opulence.

These foliage-decorating perennials leave nothing to be desired when they add their fragrant blooms in summer.

If you still have unanswered questions about the care and planting of hostas, also known as plantain lilies, you can find the answers here.

Planting Hostas Properly

With proper planting, you direct the cultivation of hostas to success right from the start.

The semi-shaded to shaded location for your hostas should have humus-rich, deep-loose, and fresh-moist soil. Since hostas are excellent in small groups, you can create several planting pits at least 20 inches (50 cm) apart.

Mix compost, horn shavings, or leaf soil into the excavation. It is advantageous to line the pit with nettle leaves.

During this preparatory work, you should place the still potted root ball in a container with soft rainwater.

Subsequently, the planting proceeds like this:

  • Unpot the young hosta, position it centrally in the planting hole and plant it with the soil mixture.
  • After watering with lime-free water, spread a mulch layer of leaves or bark mulch.
  • Water the plant regularly and generously in the following days.

In a tub, hostas unfold their decorative foliage equally. In this case, add drainage of clay shards, which you should spread between the substrate and the water drainage holes about 2 inches (5 cm) high.

To prevent the material from silting up again immediately, place an air- and water-permeable piece of fleece over the clay shards.

Care Tips

The care program of a hosta requires little from the gardener. This is something it has in common with other members of the asparagus family like the snake plant (Sansevieria).

We have compiled all the important measures for you below:

  • Keep the substrate constantly moist, preferably with soft, lime-free water.
  • In the bed, fertilize organically in March and June.
  • In the pot, fertilize every 30 days with a liquid fertilizer.
  • Cut off withered flowers promptly, simply pluck out withered foliage.
  • Perform complete pruning either in autumn or late winter.

In their first two years, hostas are still struggling to become firmly established in the soil.

Since winter hardiness is not fully developed at this time, you should cover the root disc with foliage, bark mulch, or coniferous brushwood.

The retracted foliage preferably lingers on the hosta as a winter coat until February/March.

Which Location is Suitable for Hostas?

Those who force hostas into the tight corset of pure shade plants do these lavish perennials an injustice.

In fact, the splendidly drawn leaves achieve an incomparable luminosity, the more rays of sunlight brush over them. Only blazing midday sun will burn the handsome foliage.

This is how the location for hostas should be:

  • Sunny without blazing sun, semi-shady to shady.
  • Gladly with sun in the morning or evening hours.
  • Fresh moist soil without danger of waterlogging.
  • Humic, loose, nutritious and slightly acidic to neutral.

In the light shade under the high foliage canopy of mighty woody plants, a hosta plant feels at home. At the edge of your private water world, hostas like to hold decorative dialogues with tall ornamental grasses and ferns that intercept the sun’s blazing rays.

The Right Planting Distance for Hostas

The multifaceted Hosta genus presents us with magnificent species in a wide variety of growth heights and widths.

For better orientation, we have listed recommended planting distances for the most common hostas here:

  • Miniature Hosta with heights of 4-6 inches (10-15 cm): planting distance 4 inches (10 cm).
  • Regular Hosta with heights of 16-32 inches (40-80 cm): planting distance 36 inches (90 cm).
  • Hosta giants with heights of 40-60 inches (100-150 cm): planting distance 60 inches (150 cm).

When deciding on the distances, please keep in mind that slow-growing hostas increase in volume over the years and thrive taking up space. Therefore, in case of doubt, rather choose a larger planting distance.

What Soil Does the Hosta Need?

To produce the fulminant biomass of decorative leaves, a hosta requires a nutrient-rich, deep humic soil, richly populated by vital soil organisms.

In addition, the balanced moisture content is of utmost relevance to motivate hostas to perform at their best.

Last but not least, please pay attention to soil acidity, as a slightly acidic to neutral pH sensibly rounds out the optimal conditions.

When is Flowering Time for Hostas?

Depending on the hosta species and variety you choose, bell or flower panicles thrive from June to July or from July to October.

Although the flowers take a back seat to the decorative leaves in terms of visual impact, they make excellent vase cuttings. Hosta flowers and leaves are highly sought after by creative florists to create imaginative bouquets and arrangements.

Pruning Hostas Properly

Hostas do not insist on a form and maintenance pruning in the true sense. Amateur gardeners with limited time can simply give free rein to hostas.

Nevertheless, the professional use of scissors at the right time contributes to the spectacular habit. Hostas should be pruned on these occasions:

  • Cut just bloomed stems for the vase or floral arrangements.
  • Cut out wilted flowers regularly to prevent seed growth.
  • It is better to pluck out individual withered leaves instead of cutting them off.
  • Prune close to the ground in February/March, in good time before new shoots appear.

Watering Hostas

One of the fundamental factors of expert hosta care is a constant water supply. Don’t let a hosta go thirsty at any time of the year if you don’t want to incur its displeasure.

Ideally, pour soft rainwater directly onto the root disc. Do not pour the water into the heart of the plant, otherwise, root rot will spread.

Fertilizing Hostas Properly

The easy-care handling of a hosta is based not least on the uncomplicated nutrient supply.

Fertilize the beauty with compost in March and June. A few handfuls of horn shavings provide the necessary nitrogen.

Cultivated in a tub, treat your hosta to a commercial liquid fertilizer every 30 days from April to July.

Wintering Hostas

Each winter, hostas retract their decorative leaves to gather strength for fresh budding the next year. The withered foliage should remain on the hosta until February/March as natural winter protection.

In the first two years of planting, we recommend mounding the planting site with leaf soil, peat, or fir brushwood up to the root neck. It is not necessary to cut off the remains of the plant.

Those who are bothered by the sight can cut the perennial just above the ground and dispose of it in the compost.

Hostas in a container should receive annual protection from frosty temperatures. Cover the container with bubble wrap and place it on a block of wood.

Cover the substrate with autumn leaves or pine needles. Water the perennial during winter drought to prevent damage to the root ball.

Propagating Hostas

Anyone who is gripped by the hosta passion will want more specimens of this imposing foliage ornamental perennial. How good it is that propagation is easy.

The best time is in February/March, after pruning and before the new shoots appear. Here’s how to do it right:

  • Lift the hosta widely from the ground.
  • Cut out senescent, stunted areas.
  • Place the plant on a firm support to cut the rootstock into two or more pieces.

Maintaining the previous planting depth, place each hosta segment in the compost-enriched garden soil in a semi-shaded to shaded location.

In the following weeks, a regular water supply is essential for root growth.

How Do I Repot Hostas Properly?

If hostas take on an unwanted volume or if you have prescribed a change of location for the plants, the plan can easily be put into action in February/March.

First, loosen the root ball with a digging fork, then lift it out of the ground with a spade.

Now is the ideal opportunity for division and rejuvenation. Cut off any overgrown pieces and, if necessary, cut the root ball in half.

At the new location, dig the planting pit deep enough to maintain the previous planting depth. Optimize the soil with compost and horn shavings before planting and watering the rejuvenated hosta.

Hosta in a Pot

Except for the hosta giants, all common hostas demonstrate their decorative presence in a large pot. To ensure that you get many years of enjoyment from this foliage-decorating perennial, a partial shade location on the balcony is primarily a consideration.

A structurally stable pot plant soil gives the mighty plant sufficient support, while drainage of clay shards prevents harmful waterlogging.

In the care the following aspects are of decisive relevance:

  • If the substrate dries out, water thoroughly.
  • Empty the saucer after 20 minutes at the latest.
  • Fertilize with liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks from April to July.
  • Cut off withered flowers, pluck out withered leaves.
  • Prune close to the ground either in autumn or February/March.

If winter arrives, wrap the pot in bubble wrap or jute and place it on wood. Cover the substrate with leaves or pine needles. Water the hosta even in winter, so that the root ball does not dry out.

Are Hostas Poisonous?

The botanical classification of Hosta to the asparagus family already signals that it is harmless. Therefore, hostas pose no danger to humans or animals.

On the contrary, the flowers enjoy great popularity in Asia as a culinary snack for in-between meals. This aspect also means that you can safely work with the plant without wearing gloves.

Beautiful Varieties

From the more than 40 magnificent species of hostas, knowledgeable breeders generated more than 4,000 charming varieties.

The following overview shows a selection of hosta treasures for your private green kingdom.

Hosta fluctuans ‘Super Sagae’: Green decorative leaves, as if chiseled with creamy yellow margins and purple panicle flowers. The growth height is 30-34 inches (75-85 cm).
Hosta hybrid ‘Abba Dabba Do’: Majestic gold-edged hosta with bright lavender flowers that tolerates sun. The height of growth is 20-36 inches (50-90 cm).
Hosta plantaginea: It adorns your garden in partial shade to shady locations with a beguiling fragrance. The height of growth is 12-28 inches (30-70 cm).
Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’: A blue-leaved hosta in a class of its own with white-purple bell-shaped flowers and blue-green, veined foliage. The height of growth is 28 inches (70 cm).
Hosta tokudama ‘Blue Cadet’: An ornamental counterpart to ‘Elegans’ that grows in hemispherical cushions. This variety is ideal for containers. The height of growth is 12-16 inches (30-40 cm).
Hosta x cultorum hybrid ‘Empress Wu’: A hosta colossus with up to 6.5 ft (2 m) width, huge decorative leaves, and delicate purple flowers. The growth height is 48-60 inches (120-150 cm).
Hosta x tardiana hybrid ‘El Nino’: A premium variety that leaves nothing to be desired with leaves in cool blue and white-purple flowers. The growth height is 16-20 inches (40-50 cm).
Hosta x fortunei hybrid ‘Gold Standard’: Unsurpassed luminosity with golden-green leaves under purple bell flowers in June. The growth height is 12-32 inches (30-80 cm).