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.
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.
More on growing hostas:
Where to plant hostas
How to grow 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.
How to plant hostas
How to grow hostas – 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
How to grow 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
How to grow hostas – dividing and replanting a hosta plant
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
How to grow 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.
Hosta varieties to grow
How to grow hostas – hosta varieties to try
Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans – silver/blue heart-shaped foliage offering pale-blue flowers in July. Reaches 65cm in height with a 75cm spread. (IMAGE)
Hosta ‘Halcyon’ – a popular plant with blue/green foliage and lavender flowers in July and August. Height 40cm with a spread of 70cm. (IMAGE)
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 ‘Big Daddy’ – giant, heavily quilted sliver-blue foliage. Height 65cm, spread 120cm. Pale-blue flowers in July or August.
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.