Hostas are prized primarily for their foliage but they also have attractive, often scented, summer 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’re incredibly useful plants.
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 a flower arrangement.
Jump to: Best hostas to grow
How to grow hostas
Grow hostas in moist, fertile soil in light or partial shade. Protect from slugs and snails. Mulch annually with well-rotted manure, compost or leaf mould and divide congested clumps every three to five years.
When do hostas flower?
Hostas are typically grown for their leaves, but they do produce flowers as well. Hostas flower in summer, bearing purple or while blooms on tall stems. Hosta flowers can be quite pretty but they can look tatty after a few days – many gardeners remove hosta flowers so they can make the most of the foliage display.
More on growing hostas:
Where to plant hostas
Hostas do best in 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 it’s still worth growing hostas in acid or alkaline soils.
Choose a position of light or semi shade. Hostas are very hardy so will thrive in a north-facing garden or frost pocket.
As hostas thrive in a water-retentive soil they’re ideal for planting in a bog garden but they should not be treated as an aquatic marginal. For this reason they are often planted by, but never in, a pond.
When growing hostas in pots, ensure there are plenty of drainage holes as a waterlogged soil will kill the plant. Avoid metal containers as hosta roots need to be kept cool in summer. Grow hostas in large pots so the compost dries out less frequently.
When to plant hostas
You can plant hostas all year round, but spring and autumn are preferable. It’s best to avoid planting hostas in mid-summer, when temperatures are high and the water table is low, as this can prevent the plant from establishing well. Mid-winter is also a bad time to plant hostas, as the ground is cold and often frozen.
How to plant hostas
Improve the soil by digging in well-rotted organic matter. Use a small garden spade to dig a hole the size of the root ball. Remove the plant from its pot and put the plant into the hole. Back fill with soil and firm in place. Water in well.
Use the same method to plant a hosta in a pot, ensuring you water the compost thoroughly and allow to drain.
In this video, Monty Don explains how to plant hostas:
How to care for hostas
Hostas will pretty much look after themselves once established, if growing in the right growing environment. In pots, it’s important to not let the compost dry out. Boost fertility by applying a slow-release fertiliser each spring.
You may need to protect plants from slugs and snails – placing copper rings around the plants can help deter molluscs.
Cut back flower spikes when they have gone over and cut back hard in autumn. Mulching annually with well-rotted manure, compost or leaf mould will boost soil fertility and therefore plant health.
Richard Proctor of Sue Proctor Plants gives his three golden rules when growing hostas, in this video guide:
How to propagate hostas
Hostas will bulk up quickly, if given the right growing conditions. To increase your stock of plants, simply lift the plant carefully in autumn or spring with a garden fork, taking care not to damage the growing points. Place the plant on a potting bench and use a sharp knife to cut the plant into two. Very large plants can be divided further but do ensure you have about two healthy shoots on each division.
Some hostas have more fibrous roots than others, and these can be pulled, 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, ensuring they’re planted at the original depth they were when you dug them up.
Hostas grown in pots will quickly fill the growing space, so it’s wise to divide them every third year or move them to a larger pot.
In this video clip from Gardeners’ World, Monty explains how to divide and replant hostas:
Growing 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. If you use slug pellets, ensure the active ingredient is ferric phosphate, as those containing metaldehyde are extremely harmful to wildlife and other animals. Never apply more pellets than recommended. The biological control Nemaslug is also a good option, as are copper bands, which can be placed around pots. You can also try setting beer traps or mulch the area with sharp gravel.
Remove as many slugs and snails by hand as possible, remembering they are more active at night.
Best hostas to grow
Hosta ‘Cracker Crumbs’
Hosta ‘Cracker Crumbs’ is a miniature, fast-growing hosta. It has small, delicately pointed leaves in a vibrant shade of lime green, and each leaf has an attractive darker green edge. The flowers are dark mauve.
Height x Spread: 20cm x 50cm
Hosta ‘El Niño’
Hosta ‘El Niño’ is a medium-sized hosta. The broad, pointed leaves appear thick and cushioned, and are an intense, smoky blue, with striking white margins. Lilac flowers appear in summer.
H x S: 40cm x 60cm
Hosta ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’
Hosta ‘Frosted Mouse Ears’ is a miniature hosta with thick, curled smoky-green foliage. This variety produces a dense cluster of small leaves, each with a contrasting lime green, irregular margin. The flowers are purple.
H x S: 20cm x 35cm
Hosta ‘Hanky Panky’
‘Hanky Panky’ is a medium-sized hosta. The leaves are elongated and delicate, with thick white margins at the beginning of the season, then changing to a yellowish-green later in the summer. Also grows well in a sunny position.
H x S: 40cm x 90cm
‘Kikutii’ is medium-sized, with attractive narrow, pointed leaves in a lush mid-green colour. Ideal for creating a contrast among broad-leaved hostas, it bears lavender-coloured flowers.
H x S: 40cm x 60cm
Hosta ‘Love Pat’
Hosta ‘Love Pat’ is medium in size, with broad, thick foliage. Each leaf is an attractive smoky-blue colour – almost round – while the flowers are lilac.
H x S: 60cm x 60cm
Hosta ‘One Man’s Treasure’
‘One Man’s Treasure’ has broad, yet pointed leaves, which are lush green in colour. It’s a great variety for pots, where its unusual red stems can be used to full effect.
H x S: 30cm x 60cm
‘Revolution’ is large hosta with broad, pointed foliage. It produces a bright contrast in shady areas, as the deep-green leaves are variegated with a cream-coloured central flare. The lilac-mauve flowers appear in summer.
H x S: 50cm x 60cm
Hosta ‘Sunshine Glory’
Hosta ‘Sunshine Glory’ is a medium variety, growing to around 40cm in height. It has very dramatic, large heart-shaped foliage in a fresh, spring-green colour, brightened with irregular white margins.
H x S: 50cm x 60cm
‘Halcyon’ makes a dense clump of blue-green, oval foliage with pale lavender flowers in July to August. This is also a slug-resistant hosta variety. This medium-sized variety reaches a height and spread of around
H x S: 50cm x 20cm
Hosta ‘Golden Tiara’
‘Golden Tiara’ has neat, rounded, dark green leaves edged in gold, with masses of purple flowers on upright stems in July.
H x S: 50cm x 50cm.
Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’
‘Blue Mouse Ears’ is a slug-resistant hosta with cupped, blue leaves and lavender-blue flowers from July to August.
H x S: 30cm x 30cm
Hosta ‘Frances Williams’
Hosta ‘Frances Williams’ has heart-shaped, blue-green leaves, edged gold in summer. It then bears white flowers from June to July. It’s also a slug-resistant hosta variety.
H x S: 60cm x 1m
Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’
This huge hosta bears very large slightly cupped leaves in chartreuse to gold. Lavender flowers appear in July.
H x S: 75cm x 1.2m
- Position – best in humus-rich soil in partial or dappled shade. Many will take more sun if the soil is consistently moist
- Care – fully hardy everywhere but new shoots may be damaged by frost. Protect from slugs, especially early in the season
- Propagating – allow to develop into specimen plants and do not lift and divide every three years as recommended for other perennials, unless you want more of the same variety. Prepare well before planting and give them a spring feed