How to Plant and Grow Hostas
If you need a good plant for shady areas, hostas are the perfect choice for the landscape. They do well on the shady side of the house or lawn and even do well on the edge of a wooded area. You'll find all the information you will need to grow beautiful hosta plants right here, and you'll find they are very hardy perennials.
Hostas are native to northeast Asia. At one time, they were known as plantain lilies, and some people still call them that, but later they were labeled with the name they now have after Nicholas Thomas Host. Host was an Austrian botanist. Some garden centers still label them as plantain lilies.
Hostas are grown for their foliage rather than the small lily flowers that bloom in the summer.
USDA Hardiness Zones
Most hostas are hardy in Zones 3 through 9. This means you can find varieties that will grow in most of US. Most varieties love the shade, but you can find sun lovers that will survive even in the warmer climates.
Choosing a Variety
Hostas can be planted in almost any area, except full sun and deep shade. Some tolerate sun better than others. They will thrive in most conditions and are a good choice for the beginning gardener. They don't like wet feet, but prefer a well drained soil that is slightly acidic.
They can be found in a variety of sizes from the tiny miniatures that are only a few inches up to the huge Big Daddy, which can grow up to 144" wide and 28" tall. You'll need to decide which ones to grow depending in the area you'd like to plant them.
The plant looks beautiful when you combine several varieties together. Look at both texture, size and color to decide which grouping you'd like. A large hosta looks like a beautiful shrub on its own. Some people like the small purple or white flowers too that are lily shaped.
Hostas are also available that have flowers with a fragrance. You may like to choose one of these.
How to Plant
- Find a shady or semi-shady spot to plant the plant. Most hostas don't do well in deep shade, but do like some morning or late afternoon sun. Don't plant in spots with hot afternoon sun. Keep in mind the size of the mature plant. The spot must be well drained.
- Add some organic matter if your soil isn't loamy. You can do this by using decayed leaves, matter from your mulch pile or using purchased or decayed cow manure.
- Hosta roots don't grow deep, but you will need a wide hole since the roots spread out. Dig a hole just deep enough so that the hosta fits in. The hole will need to be wide enough that the roots all spread out well. Fill the hole and you'll have a beautiful plant that grows for years.
There are several diseases and pests listed, but rest assured that you shouldn't have most of these problems. I've only had problems with slugs and they are easy to control. I've just extensively covered the pests and diseases so they can be diagnosed if someone happens to have their hostas infected.
Slugs & Snails
If you're wondering what those tiny holes are on your hosta leaves, you probably have snails or slugs eating them at night. This is probably the most likely problem you will have with hostas. How do you get rid of the slugs without using poisons?
You probably won't ever see the slug or snail, because they are usually busy at night and hide during the day. I've seen them hiding in thick lettuce leaves during daylight though.
What are Slugs?
Slugs look much like a snail without the outer shell.
An easy solution is to use beer. The slimy slugs like the taste. They'll climb into the beer at night and drown, because they aren't able to crawl out. Open a can or use someone's leftover beer. Put the can right out in the garden or put some in a small dish. The slugs will climb in and drown.
One gardener also suggested spreading coarse sand around the plants. I haven't tried this technique myself, but it is well worth trying. Since slugs don't have a shell to protect their body, they couldn't crawl on the rough surface. My neighbor has lava rocks around hers and I haven't noticed slug damage on her plants.
Cutworms are another insect that hides during the day and come out at night. I've never had problems with these, probably because they like sunny dry conditions and my hostas are all growing where it is too shady.
These bugs can cause more damage than even the snails and slugs. They'll crawl into unopend leaves and eat through the layers leaving many holes. If you have the edges of leaves eaten, this can also be caused by cutworms.
Cutworms look like a brown or gray worm that is about 1 to 2 inches long. They are fatter than an earthworm. I've seen them in soil when spading for other plants, but it has always been in sunny areas.
You can prevent the worms from damaging your plants by placing a paper collar around the base of the plant. Push this collar at least 1 1/2" deep into the soil, so the cutworms can't climb on the plants. Spreading wood ashes or diatomacaeous earth around the base of the plant also works.
Tanseys repel cutworms. Plant them around your hostas. You can also apply insecticides, but I try to stay away from their use. Many claim not be harmful, so choose one of those.
Damage from leaf beetles look like slug damage and the two can be confused. There are 2 types of beetles that can munch on your plants.
One is the lily leaf beetle which arrived in a shipment of bulbs from Europe. They lay their eggs on lily plants, but can travel to your hostas. They begin eating the stems and then move up to leaves eating between the leaves. Adults are 1/4" to 3/8" in size.
Another beetle which may bother your hostas is the flea beetle. You'll find damage in the early spring months. They cause so little damage, that few people worry about them.
Grass hoppers munch during the day and eat from the outer edges of the leaves. Here in Michigan, they arrive at the end of July. I usually ignore the grasshoppers, because it is so late in the season and they don't bother my plants since there are so many others to choose from.
There are two types of nematodes, root and leaf nematodes. If you have leaf nematodes, they will make brown spots on the leaves. The leaf nematodes will leave little holes where they have eaten between the veins on the leaf.
You won't be able to view the nematodes with the naked eye, because they are microscopic. They suck sap from the plant and can invade every part of it.
The damage usually shows up in the late summer or fall months. The nematodes overwinter in the plant. These pests are actually microscopic worms and are difficult to control. It can be hard to diagnose this problem, because the leaves turn brown in the fall months as they die off for winter.
The nematodes make your plant less vigorous and the leaves turn brown around August. There isn't a good treatment for the insects other than have a professional treat the plants. The insecticide used is not available to the home gardener and doesn't always work. Another way to treat them is putting the plant in a hot water bath that is hot, but not so hot it will damage the crown of the hosta. The best treatment if you want to be sure you've gotten rid of them is to dispose of the plant.
Black Vine Weevil
The black vine weevil will eat the plant when they are still in their larval stage. They leave notches and holes in the leaves.
One control method is using plants near the hostas that are considered weevil resistant, but this may only prevent infestation. Light infestations can be kept under control just by hand picking the bugs. Chemical sprays may need to be used if the hostas have a larger infestation of the pest. If you do need to use insecticides, you should spray both the leaves and the ground below the plant.
The main disease to watch out for right now is a virus which is so new that it was named in 1996. It is important to buy your plants from trusted nurseries and now isn't a good time to be trading them. This disease can be present in a plant and someone may not know it. Hosta Virus X is showing up in large numbers of hostas.
Hosta Virus X, ( XVX)
This virus can take several years for a plant to show symptoms, because nurseries don't know the plants are diseased they may unknowingly sell you one. Be aware of this when purchasing new hostas. The good news is that this virus will not kill the plants.
Signs that the virus is present.
The virus is caused when the plant is cut. The sap from the cut plant can infect other plants. The sap can be carried on your hand or tools used for cutting. Other ways it can be spread are cutting the flowers, a lawn mower accidentally cutting a plant and other ways. It could also be transmitted when a spade or other tool is used to dig a hosta and a leaf or stem is cut while using the spade.
When doing any of these task, be sure to disinfect your tools and hands. If you recognize the virus in any of your plants, the best plan is to destroy your hosta and don't replant another one in the same spot.
Signs that your plant might have the disease are mottling and spotting on the leaves (green spots on the gold part of the leaf), leaves may appear bumpy, brown spots or twisted leaves.
If you are careful when purchasing new plants, a new hosta plant can give you a lifetime of enjoyment. The plant is easy to grow and excellent for the beginning gardener. These plants are perfect for shady areas where many other perennials won't thrive. The beautiful leaves can add to the beauty of your landscape.