I have enjoyed gardening for at least 30 years and enjoy sharing my experience with others. Gardening is my time to meditate and unwind.
Hosta Origins and Planting Preferences
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.
Are Hostas Shade-Tolerant?
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.
Do Hostas Come Back Every Year?
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 (meaning that they come back each year).
USDA Hardiness Zones
Most hostas are hardy in zones 3–9. This means you can find varieties that will grow in most of the US. Most varieties love the shade, but you can find sun lovers that will survive even in warmer climates.
Choosing a Hosta 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 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 on 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 Hostas
- Find a shady or semi-shady spot to plant the plant. Most hostas don't do well in deep shade; they 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 and 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 comes 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 unopened 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 diatomaceous 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 to be harmful, so choose one of those.
Damage from leaf beetles looks 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 that 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.
Grasshoppers 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 having 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 by 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 handpicking 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 lawnmower 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 tasks, 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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you need to cut hostas down to the ground in the fall in Northern Minnesota?
Answer: No, it is not necessary. Cutting down the plant when it has turned brown can prevent slugs and diseases from staying over the winter with your plants. This is why it is a good reason to cut them down.
Question: Are the leaves of hostas poisonous?
Answer: Hosta leaves are not recommended for people to eat. A small child may get sick with an upset stomach and diarrhea from eating them. Cats and dogs shouldn't for the same reason.
Question: What are the watering needs of hosta?
Answer: Hostas are hardy souls, but they can only take so much. Under ideal conditions, they should get an inch of water a week.
Question: Should you cut the stalk of a hasta when it blooms to keep the plant from dying?
Answer: No, that isn't necessary. Doing so does make it have a neater appearance, though.
Question: What would cause a Hostas plant to grow and then start rotting at the top of the soil?
Answer: I did a little research, and no diseases have been listed that sound like this problem. Is this a young plant that was grown in a pot? If so, it may be root rot. Pull any mulch away from the plant. Keep the area drier and make sure the plant is getting plenty of air.
It is possible that the hosta has a fungal disease. Without seeing the actual plant, it is difficult to tell what the problem may be. I'm sorry to say, but you may lose this plant.
© 2011 Barbara Badder
Nancy Price on July 04, 2020:
Do hostas grow in Southwest Florida? I’ve been to three nurseries and they don’t have them!?Can I order them somewhere?
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on May 05, 2018:
Tell your husband that I am sorry, but he is wrong. My sister has a lot of hostas and she always cut the bloom stalks off. She did not like them. I've also done this to different ones, since the flowers are not that nice and they can look messy. I have never lost one.
Pat Hine on May 05, 2018:
My husband insists that if your Hosta blooms that you must cut the stalk the bloom is on or the plant will die. He has said this for a number of years and though
I have reminded him that our hastas are 4 years old I have not seen this happen. Can someone advise about this?
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on April 15, 2014:
Cher, Thanks for viewing my hostas. There are a lot of varieties. I only have one mini, but my sister has a collection of those. You should take some photos and share them. I'd like to see what you have.
Rudiansyah on April 14, 2014:
Lovely gardens. I love Hostas. Have a small coeolctiln. I believe there is over 1600 varieties now. Have a couple minis on my current post but didn't do a closeup of them. I believe next year I'll do some Hosta photos. You picked up some nice ones. Enjoy!Cher
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on April 13, 2014:
cloverleaffarm, Thank you for visiting the hub. I'd like to see your yard. My sister has over 200 varieties and knows each one by name. I have hostas, but not as many as she does.
Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on April 13, 2014:
Nice hub. I love hostas. I have them all over my yard.
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on April 13, 2014:
Mayra, I haven't ever tried growing them from seed. I don't think they get mature enough here to do that. Thanks for reading.
Mayra on April 12, 2014:
Fantastic place! That 'Gyspy Rose' one caught my eye as I was loiokng down the row of photos, too. I am trying to by the thicker-leaved ones myself now, although I was just noticing the other day that the slugs really haven't been bothering any of my hostas this year. I'm not doing anything to prevent them, so it must be just the year. Have you ever tried growing hostas from seed? I haven't, but my brother has. Diane
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on March 04, 2012:
Judy, It depends on what size the roots are that you purchase. If they are large roots, they should be.
judy chastain on March 04, 2012:
I want to plant these to make a setting for an out door wedding. The area us shady and has rich soil. If I plant roots in April will they be large and ready by July 28?
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on September 05, 2011:
Joe, Be sure to try them. They require very little maintenance and if your like growing veggies, you'll probably like growing perennial as well. Thanks for voting up.
Zach from Colorado on September 05, 2011:
When it comes to vegetables, I know my plants, but I'm always lost when it comes to landscaping plants. These Hostas look so nice that I might have to give them a try next spring. Thanks for the great information and detailed pest profiles. Voted up
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on September 01, 2011:
A.CreativeThinker, Thanks for reading the hub and I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed it.
A.CreativeThinker on September 01, 2011:
This is a very nice hub and lovely pictures of the hostas, Barbara Kay.
They truly are easy to grow and look great in many areas
of the garden. Thanks for sharing. :)
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on August 29, 2011:
catsimmons and thranax, The only problem I've ever had with my hostas is slugs. Using the beer took care of that problem.
Until I did the research for the hub, I didn't realize that you could have so many insect problems. It must depend on the area of the country you live in.
Hostas are one of the simplest plants to grow if they are planted right and you don't have all the insect problems.
Andrew from Rep Boston MA on August 28, 2011:
I didn't know there was that much to growing these. My grandmother put some around the house in Maine like 40 years ago and we never tend them or nothing, there back large every year. No weeding, no water/fertilizer I basically thought you just put them in the ground and leave them lol.
Catherine Simmons from Mission BC Canada on August 28, 2011:
This is a very informative hub, especially the part about pests and diseases. I must admit I would prefer to have the snails "die happy" in beer than be shrivelled by salt!
We have two huge hostas in the front garden which is on the north side of the house and it always amazes me how quickly they grow early in the spring!!
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on August 26, 2011:
Injured lamb, Thanks for visiting the hub. Best of luck with the hostas. They are easy to grow and if they are the larger ones, they grow quickly.
Injured lamb on August 25, 2011:
Informative hub. I would try to have Hostas in my garden then. If I were to know it earlier, I would have my shady spot filled with the beautiful plants now...thanks Barbara for your sharing...appreciate it much.
Barbara Badder (author) from USA on August 25, 2011:
Cardisa, These are beautiful plants if you have a shady spot. They don't like full sun. Sometimes it is hard to find plants that will grow in the shade and still bloom and do well. Thanks for visiting and commenting.
Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on August 25, 2011:
I love gardening and these look like beautiful plants to add to my garden. The information about the pests and diseases are great as most times we have no idea what's happening to our plants.