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How to Grow and Divide Hosta Plants

Updated on August 31, 2016
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Hostas are hardy, shade-loving perennials that are easy to grow. Dividing them is a simple process requiring just a few steps. A staple in northern shade gardens, there are hundreds of different varieties of hostas, from the common types that are readily available at home centers to the large selections offered by garden centers, to more unusual varieties available from online specialty growers.

Hostas are prized by aficionados for their interesting foliage, and some varieties can grow absolutely huge to form clumps of textured leaves up to five feet across. Other varieties are diminutive and can spend their whole life comfortably in a container. And there are many, many shapes, shades and sizes of varieties in between.

All of these wonderful varieties can be divided in just a few simple steps. Dividing large and overgrown plants is easy and provides more new plants for your shade garden.

When Can Hostas Be Divided?

They can be divided successfully throughout the growing season, however early spring is preferred time of the year. I prefer to divide the plants as soon as they break through their winter dormancy and begin to sprout from the ground.

This mass planting is prime for dividing. This photo was taken in early summer when the plants are at their peak and though I could divide them now, I'll wait until next spring.
This mass planting is prime for dividing. This photo was taken in early summer when the plants are at their peak and though I could divide them now, I'll wait until next spring.

Once bitten by the hosta bug, collections can grow to include named varieties beginning with every letter of the alphabet.

Hostas can pull it off alone as a specimen plant, but they really add impact to the shade garden when planted in mass. Divide your clumps in the early spring to increase the number of plants and create a stunning shade garden of color, shapes, and texture.

Growing and Dividing Hostas

Dividing Hosta Pants
Dividing Hosta Pants

Dig Out the Root Ball

Hostas are hardy and resilient, and they can be divided at any time during the growing season. I prefer dividing them in the early spring to give them the entire season to grow, but I have also successfully divided plants in the summer and early fall. Just be sure to give the new transplants enough time and water to become established before the first hard frost.

This little plant is ready for dividing. The leaves just emerged from the ground, and the early spring sunshine has warmed the garden soil so that it is easy to work. Dig around the base of an established plant, and gently lift the plant out of the ground with a pitchfork or garden spade.

Dig down deep enough to get under the root ball, removing the plant from the hole without severing any of the roots. An established hosta typically comes out of the hole as a clump of shoots and roots, and is ready to divide.

Divided Hostas, Ready for Planting!
Divided Hostas, Ready for Planting!

Cutting Through the Crown

Loosen and remove the soil from the root ball, exposing the root system. Rinsing the root system in a bucket of water makes it easier to see where the shoots emerge from the crown of the plant.

Cut through the crown using a sharp knife, dividing the plant into sections. Along with a specialty gardener's knife, I also use an inexpensive drywall knife. Used primarily for cutting through sheetrock, a drywall knife has a long serrated blade that works well in the garden for dividing plants like hostas and daylilies.

Take care to ensure that each divided section has at least two or three leaf sprouts and a clump of established roots.

A new hosta grows here.
A new hosta grows here.

Re-Planting the Cuttings

Replant each section individually, loosening and improving the garden soil with sand, compost, and peat moss. To keep the roots from drying out, water the soil deeply. Keep the soil moist for the new little plant until it is established in its new home.

These little leaves may look small now, but hostas grow quickly in the early spring. Within a few short growing seasons, it will be large enough to divide again.

Create a Hosta Shade Garden

Hosta leaves range in colors from shades of pale blues and blue-greens to deep greens to creamy yellows. Some have large, broad leaves over 18 inches wide, while others are long and slender. Their leaves are often heart shaped; some are large and wide, others are elongated and slender.

Some have smooth leaves while other varieties are deeply textured and puckered. Solid colored leaves are common, while others are striped or variegated, or with tipped edges that look like they were dipped in cream.

Our shade garden includes over 40 different varieties of hostas, and I've lost count of the number of individual plants. One of our favorites is the large, yellow-green 'Sum & Substance' variety shown in the lead photo and positioned behind several smaller plants.

Though deer are daily visitors to our yard and occasionally help themselves to a meal of hosta salad, most of our prized plants have been spared. Voracious voles are more of a problem; these little rodents burrow under the plant to feed on its roots, and often pull the stem and leaf down into their burrow. We have learned to live with the damage, and replace the plants as needed. Dividing ensures that we will always have more plants!

Blue Angel Hosta
Blue Angel Hosta

Make a Statement

Hostas are often planted in quantities for impact, either massed together in large beds or lining paths and walkways. Make a visual statement by filling a garden bed with several different varieties, creating a mixture of texture, size and color where the foliage is the star of the show.

Some, such as the large 'Blue Mammoth' highlighted here, make a statement on their own. This beauty is nearly five feet across; planted under a shady oak, this Blue Mammoth is only three seasons old. When planting large specimens, make sure to give them lots of room to spread out and grow.

A hosta grows among the rocks.
A hosta grows among the rocks.

Plan Ahead

Hostas are seasonal plants, breaking dormancy in the spring and quickly sprouting leaves that spread out to absorb the sunshine. But as fall approaches and the temperature drops, they start to wilt and then fade away. By the time winter arrives, they are only fond memories of their summertime glory.

To make the most of our collection and provide year-round interest in our garden, many of our hostas are planted in and amongst the many rocks and boulders in our yard. Some fit into natural nooks and crannies. For others, including the small 'Patriot' hosta pictured here, we selected rocks and small boulders from our property in the nearby woodlands, carted them back to the garden area in a wheelbarrow, and carefully positioned them into the ground. After the perennials fade away and the first snows arrive, the rocks give texture and interest to the landscape.

Do You Have A Shade Garden?

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A Short Tour Through Our Shade Garden

Make a Toad House for Your Shade Garden

Make a Simple Toad Abode
Make a Simple Toad Abode

Toads are welcome visitors to the garden, and a toad house invites them to stay. Offering protection for the weather and from predators, a toad house is easy to make from an inverted terracotta flower plot. Topped with a moosy roof, a toad house is a simple yet artful additional to the shade garden.

Gently chip out a small opening in the rim of an 8" terracota flower pot using a hammer or pliers. The terracotta is both tough and brittle, and is difficult to break cleanly. Try to break out a semi-circular opening about 2 inches across, though the size and shape is not critical. Cement the back of the saucer to the top of the inverted pot using an exterior adhesive, or simply place on top of the inverted flowerpot.

Toad House
Toad House

Place the finished toad house in a shady area of the garden, near groups of perennials or near the base of a small shrub. Bury the rim into the soil to stabilize the pot.

Fill the saucer with potting mix, and press pieces of moss into the soil. Keep the moss moist until it takes root in the soil. Over time, the moss will crept over the edges of the saucer.

The decorative toad house is ready for new tenants.

A toad house peeks out from under the shade of a hosta leaf.
A toad house peeks out from under the shade of a hosta leaf.

Will Hostas Grow Where Your Live?

The New Encyclopedia of Hostas

The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is now interactive: Search using your zip code or click on your state to find the exact hardiness zone for your area.

Looking for more information on growing hosts? The New Encyclopedia of Hostas covers hundreds of varieties with detailed descriptions and tips for growing them in challenging conditions such as warmer climates. The stunning photos of plants in the garden makes this one of my favorite gardening books.

Tell Us About Your Hosta Plants and Shade Gardens

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    • Anthony Altorenna profile image
      Author

      Anthony Altorenna 3 years ago from Connecticut

      @SheilaSchnauzies: Thank you for stopping by my Hosta lens. The big hosta in the "Make A Statement" photo is Blue Mammoth hosta, and it is almost five feet across. I haven't seen one in a nursery, and ordered mine online. It grow from a tiny cutting to this mammoth plant in just a few years!

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile image

      Sheila 3 years ago from Omaha, NE

      Anthony, this is a beautiful lens - so well written and illustrated - couldn't have done it better myself:) And in fact I was thinking of doing it myself, had this great idea to write a lens about dividing hosta! But you've done your work so well I think I'll just move on to another idea! If we could still bless lenses, yours would be. What is the name of that hosta in your "make a statement" section? Really like that. Your hosta are all beautiful! And love the toad house, I make those too!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Great information. I'm featuring this in my Shady Woods Garden. I love the varigated hosta.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I used to have Hostas in my garden in Indiana, until the snails decided to eat them all! I do like them, they are great when there is a lot together, and your garden looks wonderful. Excellent lens with great photos too, blessed.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      Thank you for the help on this topic - hostas are wonderful ground cover plants and I appreciate your advice.

    • suzy-t profile image

      suzy-t 5 years ago

      I love my hosta's...So many varieties...Mixing and matching is always fun. Great lens...

    • tjmaj1959 profile image

      tjmaj1959 5 years ago

      Hostas are great, almost time to get out in the yard.

    • zachary0611 lm profile image

      zachary0611 lm 5 years ago

      Landscaping season is starting, so we can start planting those Hostas.

    • curious0927 profile image

      curious0927 5 years ago

      I just love Hosta's! When we bought our first home I really wanted Hosta's! They are so full when in bloom. My friend and I went to her daughter's house that was literally covered in Hosta's. We had permission to "split" and dig up as many as we wanted. In 100 degree heat we got as many as we could. I then planted them in the areas around the house that looked so "empty" and surrounded the front sidewalk too. The first year or so they looked a little sparse, then it was time to split them and replant to fill in. That is my favorite thing, they multiply, therefore creating a shade garden or the toad thing! Really nice lens! We moved from there, I only wish I had taken a few with me. Great lens! Blessed

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 5 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      We used to have a shade garden with hostas - brought back lovely memories

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      Your shade garden is lovely. I wasn't aware of the huge selection of hosta varieties that are available. Thank you for expanding my knowledge. Wish I could enjoy a shade garden here. I live in the high desert, so I'll be xeriscaping. My plans for spring include a new rock and cacti garden. Congrats on having this article featured on the home page!

    • Coffeebreak9am profile image

      Coffeebreak9am 5 years ago

      Thank you for all the info you have given...I am ready now to divide my hosta plants.

    • JuneNash profile image

      June Nash 5 years ago

      I love hostas! I already have a few, I plan on putting some more on the shady side of my home.

    • GaelicForge profile image

      GaelicForge 5 years ago

      Inreally like hostas as well as other shade loving plants. However, here in the SanJuaquin Valley of California, our nuclear blast of summer makes it difficult to grow shade plants.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love hosta plants. Can be a little tricky to grow them in NH where we live, especially if you plant them to close to the Forsythia that ate Manhattan. Ugh! Good to know about dividing options. Wasn't aware of that before. THANKS!

    • Barb McCoy profile image

      Barb McCoy 5 years ago

      I am trying to get some hostas going in my shady spot. Thank you for the inspiration and tips.

    • IYenForZen profile image

      IYenForZen 5 years ago

      Wonderful lens! I have several hosta plants and one that needs dividing so this was very helpful. Also, I love the toad house idea. I will be making one of those for my garden for sure!!

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 5 years ago

      Very nice garden, I probably will use your idea on the toad house on my garden too. Thanks for the tips!

    • profile image

      greenlungsofpoland 5 years ago

      Nice to see such great hosta's they are one of my perennial favorites

    • MelonyVaughan profile image

      MelonyVaughan 5 years ago

      Great tips. I'll be using these to look after my hostas!

    • hsschulte profile image

      hsschulte 5 years ago

      I love hosta. It's one of the only things I can get to grow on the north side of my house.

    • profile image

      fullofshoes 5 years ago

      We will be dividing our hostas sooner than later and there are lots of helpful hints here, thank you.

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 5 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      I have a lot of hostas that need dividing. I guess I have my work cut out for me, as I should have done this last year, and put it off. Can't put it off much longer.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great info on Hostas. My hubby planted some hostas but I didn't realize they could be divided. We have a dry area in the front plantar that hostas seem to love but now they are getting too big. Thanks for your tips!

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 5 years ago

      Hostas are beautiful, I just love the variety of colors they come in. So far I haven't had much success with them here in Central Florida. Never enough shade...

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      Hostas are a favorite of mine. I scatter them everywhere I can throughout my yard. I didn't know about the toads though and discouraged them in the garden. I shall rethink what I'm to do now.

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile image

      Sheila 5 years ago from Omaha, NE

      Awesome lens, great information, what's not to love - even a bonus toad house! I used to make little toad houses when we lived on a farm for a few years and I'd forgotten about them - I'll get right to work on one! I'm a total hosta-holic and have... well... many dozens. Almost all of them have been moved twice and are now thriving in their second year at our new place. Hopefully they won't have to move again. Keep up the great work!

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 5 years ago

      I love hostas, mostly because the ones that I have in my yard were gifts! My friends let me come into their yard and divide their hostas. My most cherished hosta is one I received from a friend who passed away last year. Every time I see it, I think of her.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Once again, so invitingly done! You have me wanting a yard to be able to do all you are teaching on. Hostas make such a nice statement and now we all know how to divide them. I like your thought of doing the dividing in the spring so that there is less damage to the plants and love that you even provided a bonus toad house.

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