- Soak the hostas when you first receive them and keep them moist. Wind or heat will dry them out. You can leave the Starter TC in their cell packs for a long time (some of ours are 3 years old or more) if you water and fertilize them with a water-based foliar fertilizer. We use 20-20-20 foliar fertilizer made by Peters or Plantex.
- Know which varieties tolerate the most sun. Check our website. Sun is hard to quantify and it changes during the season and from the northern to southern USA. Shady Oaks Nursery says, “Most hostas will tolerate ‘some-sun’ conditions if they are kept reasonably moist. ‘Sun Resistant’ hostas perform better than many hostas in 3/4 to full sun. They may still show some burning in hot, dry conditions. In sunny locations expect that blue hostas will look greener (the crystalline wax that reflects light blue melts); green varieties may look lighter; and gold/yellow varieties will look brighter.”
- If you are going to place your new hostas in full afternoon sun, gradually place them in more sun. Acclimate the hostas by placing in sun until 11 am for two days, noon for two days, 1 pm for two days, etc. until about 4 pm. Hostas are like human skin – they need to acclimate and adjust to more sun. You can pot up your hostas and move them around to control the sun exposure. Note that The Starter and Advanced Starter TC you purchased have been grown under 70 percent shade cloth.
- Do not fertilize your hostas after July 31st. They need to slow down for winter.
- For all first-year perennials, after the ground freezes cover them with straw, leaves or leaves in a garbage bag to prevent early growth in unusually warm winter months and then a hard freeze. Keep them covered until risk of frost is over. This will also keep your soil temperature more consistent and not allow the wind to dry it out.
For more information, you can read our planting instructions document that we ship with orders. After years of experience at HostasDirect, we can safely say these hosta planting instructions ensure the most success for growing hostas.
Watch this video tutorial by Tom Carlson about what you can expect from your order and a brief explanation of how to handle your plants when they arrive.
Planting hostas can be done at almost any time you can work the soil because in most cases, hostas are very hardy plants. Many experts feel you should plant at least 6 weeks before the first frost. However, owner Tom Carlson has divided and planted hostas in Minnesota from May to late October and the plants have thrived. Remember, the soil often does not freeze until much later than the first frost. The best time for planting hostas is when they are actively making new roots. This is in the spring after the first flush of leaves has hardened off and in the late summer once the hottest weather has ended. Planting during these times allows the plants enough time to establish a good root system before the droughts of summer and cold of winter.
It is best not to plant hostas under shallow-rooted trees or shrubs because the roots will compete for nutrients. In general, some protection from the sun and strong winds is advisable. However, each cultivar has individual requirements and replanting may be needed to find the best location. Planting hostas under groves of trees will help prevent hail damage to the hostas. (If you do get hail damage, often you can cut the damaged leaves back, leaving as many leaves as you can, and new, smaller leaves will grow back within 2 to 3 weeks. The hosta might be stunted the next year but will fully recover in time.)
- For more information, check out our Hostas and Sun page.
- To determine the proper lighting conditions, you need to strike a balance between the amount of moisture the roots receive, the soil, the individual cultivar’s needs and the type of sunlight. Each variety of hosta may have slightly different light requirements. The HostaSearch™ Database lists the specific light tolerances of many hostas. As an example, plantaginea and its hybrids can be grown in full sun in most regions. Hostas will grow in almost any light condition but may not thrive or have good color in every light condition. Remember that more sun is required to grow good flowers. A color difference between full sun and shaded leaves is the result of the sun changing the leaf color. Providing shade during the hottest parts of the day, from 12-4 pm keeps hostas looking their best. Be creative. Use ornamental grasses, shrubs, trees, arbors, pergolas, trellises, shade cloths and climbing vines to provide extra shade. Remember, you can always move your hostas to different locations. If you want larger leaves, grow in deeper shade. Darker colored hostas have more chlorophyll in them and thus need less light. However, hostas will not flourish in parts of the garden that are too shaded for anything else to grow. Remember that the position and intensity of the sun changes depending on the day, time of day, or season. Trees also change throughout the year, which will affect how much sun or shade your hostas are getting.
Hostas with green, chartreuse or yellow leaves will take more sun as long as they have adequate moisture. Depending on the variety, hostas can grow in full sun and will survive with plenty of water. However, too much sun can make the leaves turn burnt and brown, especially without enough moisture. If you grow hostas in stronger afternoon sun, make sure you apply more water. Hostas grown in more sun will have more leaves, longer and narrower leaves, and colors that may look more bleached or washed out. At the same time, the hostas will grow faster and create more roots than those grown in more shade because they have more opportunity to photosynthesize. Hostas that can tolerate more sun are noted in the HostaSearch™ Database.
Shade can vary in quality and intensity. Shade from a high tree canopy is ideal because it blocks the intense overhead sunlight. Filtered light is also a great option. Hostas with blue-green leaves or white variegation in the center or margins do best in shaded areas. Search for hostas with blue-green leaves or with white variegation on our HostaSearch Database.
Gray and blue hostas:
Hostas are gray or blue because the specific cultivar (type of hosta) has a gene that creates extra wax on the outside of the leaf. To keep the blue or gray color as long as possible during the growing season, grow these hostas out of direct wind and rain which causes the wax to rub off and keep out of the direct sun, which causes the wax to melt off. Once the wax is off, the hosta will show its underlying green color. Some varieties have more intense blue colorations than others and some hold their blue or gray color longer than others. Note that some spectacular blue hostas do not have the term blue in their name. (example:H.Halcyon) is difficult for color photography to accurately represent the true blue color of the leaves as there are so many variables involved.
Generally, gold or yellow hostas will tolerate more intense light better than other hostas. Those with thicker leaves will not be as likely to burn.
Hostas generally grow well in any good garden soil. For the best growth, soil and soil preparation is important. Hostas will tolerate a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5 but the ideal seems to be slightly acidic at about 6.0 to 6.5. A pH of 7 is neutral. If the pH is out of this range, some soil nutrients are not available for uptake by the hosta. This can tie up iron, leading to chlorosis (yellowing) of the foliage. To make soil more acidic, add sulfur or Canadian Sphagnum peat moss. Very acidic soil can be changed by adding dolomitic lime. Hostas like medium fertility and high organic matter levels. You can have your soil tested to determine its structure. Ideal hosta soil can be easily worked, is rich in plant foods and retains moisture yet drains well. Anything you can do to make the soil more nutrient, air and moisture-retentive is helpful. The soil should have enough organic matter to provide plenty of air spaces for the roots to grow deeply (roots will grow 6 to 18 inches deep depending on the hosta) and for the roots to be able to spread to the width of the mature hosta (note some hostas can grow to be 6 feet wide). Organic matter, such as compost, fibrous peat, mushroom compost, rotten manure, rotted saw dust, and composted leaves helps improve moisture retention, aeration of the soil, and the microbial life in the soil. Clay soil can benefit from organic matter and coarse grit. The goal of adding all of this organic matter is to produce humus that can hold water and bind with particles of clay soil, making it more open. It also helps open up heavy clay soil for easy root penetration and adds moisture-holding capacity to loose, sandy soils. The bacteria that converts organic matter to humus exhausts much of the available nitrogen in the process, thereby depriving the hostas of vital nitrogen. This means that whenever organic matter is added to the soil, some nitrogen fertilizer should also be added.
Be selective in placing your hostas. Remove surface roots and tree roots. Replace poor soil with good soil and/or amend the soil. Make the hole deep and wide enough to accommodate the mature plant without needing to cut or fold roots. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole. You can make a small mound in the bottom of the hole to allow roots to run down hill from the mound. Fill the hole with soil that is amended with 10-10-10 fertilizer or aged manure. Water thoroughly but do not pack the soil.
Define the area you wish to plant with string or garden hose. We also suggest you purchase and bury plastic edging material along the edge to prevent grass from growing into your garden. Make sure the area meets hosta light requirements and is free of roots. Remember, in most gardens, sweeping curves look better than straight lines. Apply Round Up to kill green plant life. Wait about 6 days to see if you need to use Round Up again and use if needed. Wait 6 more days. Now you can till the soil.
- Till the soil 8 to 9 inches deep. Depending upon the type of soil you have, you may wish to till in organic matter or coarse sand (not fine sand). Manure can have weed seed. You may wish to add some 10-10-10 fertilizer, coarse pine park, pine needles (they are acidic), well-rotted saw dust, and compost.
- Add 1 to 2 bags of 3/8″ gravel to the entire bed. Till the gravel in to 4 to 5″. The gravel will allow for better drainage, better air pockets for roots to sift through, and make soil more firm. Gravel also serves as a vole deterrent.
It is very important to untangle the hosta’s roots. Often, hostas and other plants purchased at garden centers are in root-bound pots. It is very important that these roots be untangled or the plant may literally strangle itself. If you have purchased bare root plants from us, the plants may benefit from being soaked in a bucket of water a couple of hours to rehydrate the hosta before planting. Hostas generally adjust well to their new locations within a few days to two weeks and should be kept moist during that period. Adding some additional fertilizer will also stimulate root growth.
After proper hole selection or bed preparation, make sure the hole is made wide and deep enough to hold all of the hosta roots when they are spread out. Do not bend or fold the roots. Make a small mound in the middle of the hole for the crown of the hosta to rest on with the roots running downhill. Spread the roots out on all sides of the mound. This is particularly important for pot-grown roots. Return the soil to the hole, firming it with hands or feet. Water the hosta thoroughly. Some people mulch the area surrounding the hole to keep the soil cool and moist.