Hosta 'Kikutii'

Hostas - Grow Guide

Find out how to grow these lush-leaved plants in our hosta grow guide.

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, hostas are incredibly useful plants. 

Discover how to grow hostas with help from our handy grow guide. 

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Planting position

Hostas enjoy a water-retentive soil that is fertile. 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 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 hosta roots need to be kept cool. Avoid small pots as these will dry out too quickly. 

Planting technique

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.


Propagation

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 plants 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. 

Troubleshooting

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. 

Care

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. 

Secateurs

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'
Hosta 'Halcyon'

Hostas to try

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

Related content

How to stop slugs eating young plants

How to plant hostas

How to grow ferns in dry shade

Flowering plants for damp shade

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