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 they are incredibly useful plants.
Following our expert advice on growing hostas, below.
Hosta ‘Hanky Panky’
Where to grow hostas
Hostas enjoy a water-retentive, fertile soil. 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 hostas 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 the roots need to be kept cool. Avoid small pots as these will dry out too quickly.
Planting a hosta
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.
Dividing a congested hosta plant
Propagaton: dividing hostas
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 hostas 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.
Deterring slugs with copper band at the base of a hosta plant
Hostas: problem solving
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.
Watering a hosta in a container
Caring for hostas
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.
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.
Great hostas to grow:
Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans – silver/blue heart-shaped foliage offering pale-blue flowers in July. Reaches 65cm in height with a 75cm spread
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