How to Care for Hostas
Most hosta varieties today originated from Japan in the mid-1800s when they were first introduced to Europe. There are around 45 different cultivars of hosta and about 3,000 different names currently on the market. This plant comes in a wide variety of sizes and colors. All varieties produce blooms mid-summer. Some are more fragrant than others, and the fragrant varieties are newer hybrids that were specifically bred for their scent.
Types of Hosta
There are so many types on the market today that it is hard to go through every variety. Generally, they can be broken down into a few categories:
- Extra Large: These are bred to be supersized and can reach up to four feet with huge leaves (e.g., the Empress Woo variety).
- Standard: This is your typical-sized variety, reaching about two feet in height with tall spikes of flowers.
- Miniature: These types are bred to be small. They are perfect for containers or the front of the planting bed (e.g., the Mouse Ears variety).
Aside from the range in sizes, they come in all sorts of colors, including dark-grass green, greenish-blue, variegated green and white, lime green, and yellow/white.
Did You Know?
Bees are attracted to the hosta's sweet-smelling flowers, but don't be surprised to find a hummingbird or two coming by for a visit as well!
Hostas are very easy to grow and are not particularly picky with their soil requirements. They are excellent growers in heavy-clay soils. They prefer full shade to partial shade, although there are some newer varieties that can take full sun (check your plant labels).
How to Split Hostas
Every two to three years, it is a good idea to split your hostas. This will keep the plants healthy and prevent overcrowding. You also get rewarded with new plants!
- In spring, once growth has popped out of the ground, dig the entire plant and separate into clumps. You can separate it into as many as you like.
- Place one clump back in the hole, and use the others in different areas of your garden. This can be done in spring through early summer.
- Another way to create more plants is to cut one of the leaves at the base and root it in water. Once roots form, you can then plant it in a new spot in your garden.
How to Divide Your Hosta
While easy to grow, hostas do come with some potential problems, namely pests.
Hosta leaves are very attractive to deer. They can decimate a plant in a few minutes with their ravenous spring appetites, so make sure you plant hostas in an area that is out of reach of deer.
The second potential pest are slugs. Slugs can be easily combatted in a few ways:
- Handpick them off the plants, and then squish them or drown them in a bucket of soapy water.
- Create bait by filling shallow containers with beer. The beer attracts the slugs, and they will climb in and drown.
- Purchase a product like Sluggo from your garden center retailer.
- Make or purchase copper collars to put around the base of your plants. Trust me; it works!
Inspecting your plants every few days is a good idea to catch potential problems early.
Did You Know?
Hostas are edible! The early spring shoots and leaves are preferred in some cultures (i.e. Japan). The flowers are also edible.
A Very Versatile Plant
As you can see, hostas are very easy to care for. They are the perfect plant for beginner gardeners who are not sure what to plant in their shaded area.
Because they come in a wide variety of sizes, you can choose the size that works best for your application, even if you prefer to grow them in containers!
Don't forget to divide your hostas every couple of years. If you don't want or have room for the divisions, giving them to family or friends is a great option. You can also trade with neighbors for something they might have growing in their garden that you would like in yours. I've also seen hosta divisions for sale at garage sales!
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
Should you cut back Hosta in the fall?
Yes, it is preferable to cut them back in the fall after all the leaves have died back. It helps prevent disease and mold from growing. You can mulch the area after if you want to, but they don't really need it. They are very hardy winter plants.
© 2014 Lisa Roppolo