Caring For Hosta Plants – How To Grow Hostas

hosts plants

If you’re in a area where the landscape requires large, green, lush planting… look not further than Hosta Plants. Hostas known as plantain lilies provide an excellent foliage effect.

They are also known and Funkia or Giboshi in Japanese and are native to the North East Asian continent. These are very shade tolerant plants which give shaded spaces lush green look to your landscape.

Hostas are classified in the herbaceous perennial plants which have broad ovulated or lanceolate leaves varying in sizes from 3- 45 cm width. There are miniature varieties.

These plants are easy to grow and thrive in summer gardens, when they are given thrive shaded areas to show their prized and beautiful colored leaves. [1]

Hosta Varieties

These beautiful plants are low maintenance and are available in many varieties, colors, sizes ranging from few inches to few feet. They can have bold patterns or subdued colors.

Some of the popular varieties grown today are:

  • Hosta Guacamole
  • Neptune
  • Old Glory
  • Blue ivory
  • Abiqua Drinking Gourd
  • Cool as cucumber
  • Patriot
  • June Spirit
  • Mouse Ears
  • Empress Wu
  • Northern Exposure
  • Blue Angel
  • Grand Tiara
  • Praying hands
  • Wishing well
  • Virginia reel
  • Seducer
  • Fire Island
  • Prairie Sky

… and many more being introduced every year.


These are classified depending on the color, size, shapes and leave types.

For example, The Mouse Ears have leaves in shape of ears or the one of the blue hostas called Blue Ivory with a “bluish” color and has shiny leaves, or the Fire Island variety has color similar to lit fire.

The leaves can vary from long to oval or from shiny to matt finish and from smooth to wrinkled or rosy to blue just as you would like.

They do produce flowers but are basically preferred for the foliage structure and texture that they exhibit.

With these may options, the foliage plants could suit most of the landscape environments from edging to background to covering to specimen plantations.

The larger varieties of Hosta plants are good for shading while the small hostas are ideal for edging, stabilizing slopes or lighting a woodland.

They are typical foliage plants and require low to no maintenance. Even though the care of these perennial beauties is considered very easy, there are tips to be known before you consider planting them in your gardens. [2]

Details and Facts On Growing Hostas And Their Preparation

When Can Hostas Be Divided?

The hostas should ideally be divided at the beginning of spring when they sprout. They can be moved or divided at any point of time however, it becomes difficult once they have grown substantially

One needs a knife for moving a grown Hosta plant and it is advised that the knife should be dipped in fungicide before to avoid any harmful effects on the plant.

The basic idea of dividing the plant in spring is, that the plant is young and still in the foliar stage, hence it can adjust to new surroundings without getting affected.

Can Hostas Be Grown From Seeds?

Yes, hosta plants can be grown from seeds. It is advised that the seedlings be maintained in containers through December & January time frame.

Then planted in shallow containers with a thin layer of moist soil and enough light from the sun as well as some artificial light is essential.

The seeds take a couple of weeks to germinate in moist soil is used. When seedlings have three to four leaves, plants can be moved outdoors for better light if the weather is favorable.

They can also be potted in large pots if you wish. Care must be taken that the plant is fed with a weak liquid fertilizer at least once a week.

Shade Loving vs Sun Loving

Contrasting to the fact that Hostas can only be shade lovers, they can also grow in full swing while exposed to the sun.

The only problem with a few varieties is that the leaves get scorched and burnt thus losing their beauty. Varieties like Green and Gold Hostas can tolerate sun to its best.

However, it is advised that they should not be exposed to scorching afternoon Sun and should have at least partial shade.

However, most of the blue hostas like Blue Ivory cannot tolerate sun at all. They need heavy shades and sufficient water.

When To Fertilize Hosta Plants And Which Products To Use?

Hostas are low maintenance beauties that can survive well with moist and damp soil and just little fertilizer during the spring time.

The best time to fertilize these Funkia plants is late winter and early spring before they break the ground as stated before.

Additionally, they also need a weak liquid fertilizer during their growing season every week.

About the fertilizer to be used, there has been lot of debate between experts and we can conclude that a balanced fertilizer is required for continuous growth.

Some people prefer solid and granular fertilizers and some prefer feeding in liquid form or foliar form.

There is also a debate about the nitrogen- potassium-phosphorus ratio which ideally should be 10 10 10.

For the organic plant lovers, there are products like Milorganite (6:2:0), Miracle Grow Lawn (36:6:6).

Some other prefer animal manure because the sewage reside products have an odor though it dissipates easily.

The animal manure is costly and hence some people also opt for the soybean meal as fertilizer with a decent smell.

How To Plant Hostas?

Plant Anytime – Spring To Fall – As long as enough moisture is provided, Hosta plants can be bought potted, planted or moved at any time from spring to fall with proper care and methods. They can be brought from nurseries or traded from friends.

Choose The Right Location – Choosing the location suitable for their growth is of crucial importance when it comes to hostas.

By suitable location we mean, the varieties which need heavy shade should be planted accordingly while the sunny varieties should be planted where you get enough sunlight throughout the day.

They should be kept away from the afternoon summer sun.

Plant In Soil With Lots Of Organic Material – Hosta plants prefer well-watered soil that is slightly acidic in nature. Use organic matter, compost, humus or sand when planting.

Give Plants Proper Spacing – The plants should be spaced well for allowing them enough space to spread. Some varieties produce shorter plants but they spread widely on the ground.

These plants should be placed closer to avoid any place to be filled with weed. Learn more about your host variety and find out what the recommended plant spacing is.

Tease Roots When Planting – If you are planting hostas out of containers and planting on an open ground, the roots should be teased and set loose before planting. The soil should also be loose enough when you plant.

Add A Fertilizer To Stimulate Root Growth – When planting use a root stimulating fertilizer like a compost tea to help promote and stimulate rapid and healthy growth. The root clump should be at ground level so that it receives nutrients to the optimum.

Add MulchMulch should be used to keep the surrounding ground from developing any unwanted weeds. Pine or cocoa mulch is best suited for this purpose and they also keep the slugs, snails away.

One must avoid shredded leaves as mulch because they call in for the growth of slugs.

How To Avoid Holes In Your Hosta Plants

hosta-leaves-03312016

We already know the Hosta or Plantain Lily makes an ideal hardy perennial for shade and grow best in a well drained, moist fertile soil.

They can endure extended drought, make fine clean clumps, of attractive green or variegated leaves with the bloom spikes of blue or white fragrant flowers in season.

However, with all those positives how do you feel when you walk out to see holes in the leaves and wonder what caused it? In this video, Mark Viette explains how to avoid holes in your Hosta plants.

Keep Soil Moist –  Moreover, the soil must be kept moist throughout the growth season of these plants at least for a while till the plant gets established in the soil.

Sunny Hosta Varieties Require More Water –  If you are using the sunny type Hosta, extra water will be needed to avoid the leaves from withering.

They will always grow vigorously with enough moisture; however once they have grown completely they can adjust to a dry shade and less water. [3]


Tips On Taking Care of Hosta Plants

General Hosta Care Tips:

Some general tips for Hosta plants are:

  • Frequent watering
  • Heavy shade
  • Protection from Afternoon Sun
  • Use balanced fertilizers
  • Plant in Spring

Divide Hostas Every 3 -4 Years

Dividing the hosta plants every 3-4 years is advised. This helps in stimulating their growth and increasing population of the plants.

Protect Plants From Wildlife

Hosta plants are favorite eatables for deer, cattle, snails and slugs and hence they should be kept away from hosta plants.

Deer should be kept away from the yard by building proper fences. For slugs and snails use of mulch and insecticides like diatomaceous earth is always essential.

Clean Up Dead Leaves

The slugs love dead foliage and make themselves comfortable in such conditions, hence the dead foliage should immediately be discarded. Diatomaceous Earth is another solution to treat slugs and snails.

Use Mulch

Mulching Hostas is beneficial in multiple ways. Firstly, it insulates the roots and stimulates growth It also conserves water in extreme hot conditions.

Fall Care Don’t Fertilize

Fall care for hosta plants also involves “No Fertilization” as roots go dormant in this part of the year. One can start fertilizing in spring with balanced fertilizers for these low maintenance plants.

The plants usually require very low maintenance but proper care in fall protects them for the next spring growing season.

For the Fall, cut plants back when frost hits and remove all debris. Don’t worry plants grow back to the beauties in the spring.

Removal of leaves is advised because they can cause disease and harbor insect pests.

Also the trimming tools should be disinfected to prevent viruses from affecting Hosta.

Deformed leaves, green or blue spots, lumpy leaves or darker and unattractive hostas are symptoms of Virus X infection which should be treated immediately in order to prevent from spreading. [4]

How To Care For The 2014 Hosta Of The Year Hosta Abiqua Drinking Gourd

hosta abiqua drinking gourd

Hosta abiqua drinking gourd was selected as the 2014 Hosta of the Year. A medium sized plant, boasting white tubular flowers, huge, heavily-textured, frosty cupped, blue green, heart shaped leaves, which twist into a unique display.

They claim this hosta plant offers good slug resistance, is humidity tolerant, and its white flowers which appear in July before the plant goes completely dormant in the fall attracts hummingbirds.

This gem is a hybrid from Chuck Purtymun with (Hosta ‘Tokudama’ x Hosta sieboldiana) as the parents.

Uses In The Landscape

It’s medium texture blends well into the garden, but can also be planted alongside other coarser or finer plants to bring out an effective composition.

Use Abiqua Drinking Gourd:

  • In Mass planting
  • For Border edging
  • As a groundcover
  • General garden use

Characteristics Of Hosta Abiqua Drinking Gourd

This herbaceous perennial hosta has a “medium growth rate and reaches a height of about 18 inches extending to 30 inches tall with the flowers. It spreads to a width of three feet.

Its leaves remain dense right to the ground and do not require “fascia” plants in front. It thrives in partial shade and prefers moist conditions. It can grow in a variety of soil and pH and is fairly tolerant of urban pollution.

It is propagated by division.

Caring For Abiqua Drinking Gourd

A relatively low maintenance plant and it’s best pruned/cleaned up in the early spring before it resumes vigorous growth for the season.

Remove damaged and unwanted leaves from the plant at any time. It will die back for the winter, and the old leaves can be pruned in late fall or early spring.

Remove the flower stalks at any time, especially if you don’t want them to form seeds (however, the birds do love these seeds).

It can easily be divided in either fall or spring, but plants may be left to grow for years.

To learn more about the Hosta of the Year, via Bluestone Perennials

Hostas and Foliar Nematodes

Foliar nematodes (Aphelenchoides fragariae) are microscopic roundworms (0.5-1.0 mm long), which mostly live, feed and reproduce inside the tender tissue of hosta leaves.

They cannot be seen by the naked eye, but are visible when observed with a dissecting microscope. Nematodes are pathogens (disease-causing) much like fungi or bacteria.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Typical symptoms begin as yellow discoloration in late June, indicating that the nematodes were feeding. Later the affected areas develop into chocolate brown streaks, islands or wedges bordered by veins.

The important clue to watch for is that the yellow and brown areas occur only BETWEEN veins and that the brown color can be seen on both the front and backside of the leaf. Eventually the entire leaf turns brown and dries up; typically the youngest leaves at the shoot tips are free of infestations, but the older leaves show progressively severe damage. (source: Missouri Botanical Garden)

Here we have seen how these simple techniques of planting, growing and taking care of Hosta plants can make these perennial lush foliage plants to enhance your landscapes for many years! Enjoy!

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