Hostas that many gardeners consider to be one of the most beautiful foliage plants in the garden, are relative newcomers to the world of American horticulture. At the beginning of the 20th Century, hostas weren't even listed in the definitive American horticultural catalogs of the day.
Today hostas are one of gardener's favorite shade-loving plants. Hostas are actually native to the far east and Japan in particular.
Hostas are hardy clump-forming herbaceous perennials springing from rhizomes with fleshy white roots. The leaves are mostly basal, stalked, large and simple, forming a dome-shaped mound of various size depending on the species.
The flowers of hostas appear on elongated stems that arise directly from the leaf mound at ground level. Most hosta flowers are bell-shaped or funnel-shaped with 6 or more lobes.
After flowering, the ovary will swell into an elongated capsule. After about six weeks after flower, these capsules open and disperse the seeds. Fertile seeds are black and sterile seeds will be nearly white.
Most hostas grow best in rich loamy soil with a pH of 6. The soil should be moist, but well-drained with lots of organic matter. Some of the large hostas grow well in heavy clay soils which are rich in plant nutrients.
Hostas grow best in shade, they do tolerate some sun, even in the South. While most Hostas will prosper in light or dappled shade, they will not thrive in deep shade. The list is also continually growing for full-sun Hostas. The first signs that your hostas are in too much shade become noticeable after a few years in the same spot. The plants don’t want to flower and have a very slow growth rate. Hostas do best when planted with limited root competition from trees and shrubs.
They should be positioned so most or all direct sunlight will be in the morning, when the sun isn't so hot. Don't plant hostas where they get more than an hour of afternoon sun. Too much afternoon sun in midsummer will burn or bake them. Most hostas thrive with a dose of morning sun, but they then need an afternoon nap in the cooler shade.
Site preparation is an important factor in how well a hosta will do from that point on. The hole for planting should be as large as the plant will ultimately reach (i.e. a 2' diameter 18" high hosta, should be planted in a 2' hole and about 18" deep). The bottom half of the hole should be filled with alternating layers of well-rotted compost and soil. If the soil is primarily clay, add some sand.
Hostas can be planted in the spring (largest variety in local nurseries) or the fall as long as the soil temperature is still in the mid 60s.
Healthy soil conditions with adequate water are more important than fertilization. However, an adequate supplement of fertilizer in the spring is beneficial. Use any regular balanced granular or liquid fertilizer according to label directions.
Hostas are relatively free from disease, but slugs and snails can do considerable damage. You'll first notice slug damage as small pin holes in the leaves. In time the small holes become quite numerous and larger. Slugs usually feed at night and may be hard to find in the daylight, but occasionally on rainy days you might see them late in the day or early evening.
Slug and snail controls are recommended throughout the growing season and should be applied as soon as leaves appear. Be careful if you own pets to use non-toxic slug baits as many slug baits can be fatal to pets if eaten.
Hostas and pots work well together. The rounded shape of the hosta seems to naturally compliment the rounded shape of a large pot. Growing hostas in pots also minimizes slug damage so common to hostas grown in the ground.
Care should be taken in selecting the right pot/container. Since the hosta is such a dramatic plant, it is best to select a container that won't compete with the real star: the beautiful hosta foliage.
Terra cotta and stone pots keep the plant's root system cooler, but they will require more frequent watering as these pots are naturally porous allowing for rapid water evaporation. If grouping several potted hostas together, keeping the pots in like containers will provide a more pleasing experience for the viewer.
Container grown hostas will need the same environment as ground-grown hostas. Protected areas with plenty of shade is preferred.
The end of the growing season will require some minor preparation. Remove the dead leaves. Put the potted hostas in a place that will be sheltered from cold, drying winds. The potted plants do not require water during the winter months other than to keep the soil lightly moist and to prevent dried out soil from sucking moisture out of the dormant plant. An unheated garages make an ideal over-wintering location. Just check on the water once a month.
Until you master the moisture content balance in your potted hostas during the winter months, growing hostas in pots can be a little bit risky and be prepared to lose a few plants in the first year.
Once hostas begin to unfurl their leaves in early spring, they're in danger from end of the season frosts. A heavy frost on unprotected hostas with leaves unfurled will damage the hostas and may even cause crown rot and the ultimate death of the plant. If your hostas have unfurled and a freeze warning goes out, be prepared with some type of covering (old sheets are ideal-- avoid plastic unless you can suspend it above the plants without the plastic actually touching the plant's leaves).
If your hostas do get frosted, the unfurled leaves will probably turn to mush. You also stand a good chance of having crown rot set in that will kill the plant. If you can avoid crown rot, it will probably take a month or so for the hosta to recover. If the leaves do become damaged, snip those leaves off the plant as soon as possible to reduce the chances of the crown rot from setting in. Snipped leaves will eventually be replaced with new shoots.
Once your hostas begin to unfurl their leaves in early spring, they're in danger from end of the season frosts. A heavy frost on unprotected hostas with leaves unfurled will damage the hostas and may even cause crown rot and the ultimate death of the plant. If your hostas have unfurled and a freeze warning goes out, be prepared with some type of covering (old sheets are ideal-- avoid plastic unless you can suspend it above the plants without the plastic actually touching the plant's leaves).
A hard freeze often leads to crown rot, especially in blue varieties, and especially if the soil is wet. In a large plant, the rot may only affect part of the crown and the rotten part can be cut away. In smaller plants, it is usually fatal. If the leaves are still furled in a tight, pointed spear, hard to the touch, they can probably withstand a hard freeze with no damage, but if they have started to open only slightly, don't take a chance— protect them!
The following chart lists hostas being grown under ideal growing conditions in the same location for five years. Hostas naturally get larger as they age in years. When purchasing new plants they will be classified in one of these classifications:
Dwarf: less than 4" in diameter
Miniature: 5" - 9" in diameter
Small: 10" - 15" in diameter
Medium: 16" - 24" in diameter
Large: 25" - 36" in diameter
Very large: Over 36" in diameter
A common fault when planting hostas is to group the young plants too closely together. Within 5 years they will have reached a mature size and will probably be crowding each other. Except for some hosta borders, allow enough room for each clump to be recognized and shown to their full beauty.
While it might be tempting to limit certain garden areas exclusively to hostas, large groupings of just hostas can be a bit overwhelming. Mixing the hostas with other plants not only adds visual interest to the landscape, but helps bring attention to the individual hostas themselves. Including ferns in the planting is especially pleasing.
American Hosta Society Popularity Poll
Full Size Hostas
Hostas with Fragrant Flowers
Hostas with Fragrant Flowers
H. ‘Abiqua Ambrosia’ -Lavender
H. ‘Aphrodite’ -Double white
H. ‘Bennie McRae’ - Lavender
H. ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ - Purple, tipped white
H. ‘Chelsea Ore’ - White
H. ‘Emily Dickinson’ - Lavender
H. ‘Flower Power’ - Lavender
H. ‘Fragrant Blue’ - Blue, opens to white
H. ‘Fragrant Bouquet’ - White
H. ‘Fragrant Candelabra’ - White
H. ‘Fragrant Flame’ - White
H. ‘Fragrant Gold’ - Blusih lavender
H. ‘Garden Bouquet’ - Lavender
H. ‘Guacamole’ - Lavender
H. ‘Heaven Scent’ - White
H. ‘Honeybells’ - White
H. ‘Invincible’ - Lavender
H. ‘Iron Gate Bouquet’ - Lavender
H. ‘Iron Gate Delight’ - Lavender
H. ‘Iron Gate Glamour’ - Almost white
H. ‘Iron Gate Supreme’ - Lavender
H. ‘Marbled Bouquet’ - White
H. ‘Paul Aden’ - White
H. ‘Royal Standard’ - White
H. ‘Shalimar’ - White
H. ‘Showtime’ - White
H. ‘Sombrero’ - White
H. ‘So Sweet’ - White
H. ‘Sugar and Cream’ - Lilac white
H. ‘Summer Fragrance’ - Bluish
H. ‘Sweet Jill ‘ - Lavender
H. ‘Sweet Marjorie’ - Lavender
H. ‘Sweet Standard’ - Light lavender
H. ‘Sweet Susan’ - Lavendar
H. ‘Sweet Winifred’ - White
H. ‘Venus’ - Double white
H. ‘White Knight’ - White
H. ‘White Shoulders’ - White
H. ‘August Moon’
H. 'Big Daddy'
H. 'Foxfire Flash'
H. 'Foxfire Off Limits'
H. 'Fragrant Bouquet'
H. ‘Fragrant Gold’
H. 'Fried Bananas'
H. 'Golden Sculpture'
H. 'High Noon'
H. 'Jewel of the Nile'
H. ‘Royal Standard’
H. 'Sum and Substance'
H. ‘Undulata Univittata’
H. ‘Undulata Albomarginata’