How to Grow: Hosta

Hosta spp and hybrids

Plantain Lily, Hosta, Tardinia 'June, Golden Green

Other Name

Plantain lily


Sun Requirements

Part sun, part shade, full shade


Bloom Period and Seasonal Color

Summer to fall in shades of white and violet.


Mature Height x Spread

6 inches to 3 feet x 1 to 4 feet


Added Benefits

attracts hummingbirds, attracts beneficials


Hosta is the queen of the shade garden. They spread and fill in dark areas, providing beauty and interest. Hosta is more often are grown for its colorful and textured leaves than its flower stalks. The plant and leaves can be tiny, fitting neatly into a small container, or monstrous, taking up an entire bed. The colorful leaves range from dark green to golden with some striped types. Although the foliage is the big show, the flowers shouldn’t be discounted. The flower stalks arise later in the season with tube-shaped white or violet colored flowers that hummingbirds and butterflies love. Some varieties even have fragrant flowers and I like arranging them indoors as cut flowers.


Where, When and How to Plant

Hosta is hardy throughout New England. Plant hostas in spring, summer or fall. Purchase transplants from a local garden center or take divisions from a friend’s garden. Plant hosta in a full or part shade location on well-drained, compost amended soil. The yellow leafed varieties tolerate part sun better than other leaf colors. Other varieties will get sunburned or the leaf colors will fade in the bright light. Space plants 6 inches to 3 feet apart, depending on the variety.


Growing Tips

Hostas like a humus-rich, moist soil. Amend the soil annually in spring with compost and keep the bed well weeded until the hostas get established. Mulch plants with bark mulch to keep the soil evenly moist and help with weed prevention.


Regional Advice and Care

Divide hostas in spring to create new plants every few years. Hostas can have problems with slugs and snails. These creatures love the shady, moist, where conditions hostas thrive. Control slugs and snails by cultivating regularly to dry out the area between plants, setting up beer traps, spreading iron phosphate organic bait around plants, and mulching around plants with raw sheep’s wool, crushed seas shells or sharp sand. Gardeners in England have found the sheep’s wool repels slugs.


Companion Planting and Design

Hostas grow best with other shade lovers, such as ferns, astilbe, lungwort, and ornamental grasses. You can also plant hostas in a naturalized setting, such as shaded woodland near a stream, to create a soft, soothing landscape.


Try These

There are so many varieties it’s hard to pick only a few to highlight. Your first choice should be leaf color and texture and plant size. “Autumn Frost” has green edged in gold leaves. “Elegans” has striking, heart-shaped, grey-blue leaves. “Sum and Substance” has huge, frilly green leaves that spread 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide. “Key West” has lime green leaves. “Bitsy” is a dwarf variety that only grows 12 inches tall with green or yellow leaves depending on the variety. “Royal Standard” has green leaves that are more sun tolerant than other varieties and fragrant white flowers.

Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.

Go here for a video on how to divide hostas.