Questions Answered Series: Hostas

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Your Questions on Hostas, Answered!

Hostas are known for commanding attention in the shade garden. Thick corrugated leaves form graceful mounds of foliage that keep their appeal from spring to fall. Their versatility is what makes them extra special, apart or together. No matter which shape, size, color, or textured hostas you choose, you can count on them being reliable and easy to grow in containers, garden beds, and city environments.

Whether you’ve already planted hostas or are planning to buy some soon, you can find the answers to all your questions here. See what others are asking and learn why hostas are the ultimate shade garden plant!

How Do You Grow Hostas?

Hostas are one of the best perennials for beginner gardeners. Why? They’re incredibly low maintenance and easy to grow! Here’s how to grow hostas:

Soil: Performs well in average or fertile soil.
Light: Thrives in shade (< 4 hours sun) to part-sun (4-6 hours sun).
Water: Has average water needs, and once established, plants have some tolerance for dry shade (particularly plants with thick leaves). In general, soils should never be allowed to dry out.
Spacing: Depends on the size of your hosta.
Fertilizing: In spring, a light fertilizer can be applied around the emerging plant, but not touching it.
Winterizing: Leave foliage standing in the fall to help protect the crown. If desired, a layer of mulch can be applied in a 2″ layer very near the base.
Maintenance & pruning: Groom plants by removing yellow or dead leaves and cut flower spikes back as they finish blooming in summer.

Can You Transplant Hostas? If so, when?

Yes! Hostas are quite easy to transplant and only require a good shovel and plenty of water. Wait to transplant until early spring to avoid heat and dry soils that would further stress your plants. Use a shovel to dig a wide circle around the plant, ensuring you are not cutting too many roots in the process. Gently lift your plant out by the root ball, dig a new hole that is wider and deeper, and plant. Help your hosta adjust to its new spot by providing plenty of water and an extra boost of fertilizer.

Why are There Holes in My Hosta Leaves?

There are a few different garden pests that could be eating your hostas. Slugs and snails are the most common perpetrator. Because they only feed at night, it can be hard to see it in person. To confirm if it is slugs, look for their slime trails in your garden or check the leaves later at night. Other insects include beetlesaphidscutworks, and grasshoppers. If there are large holes or missing leaves, you may be dealing with deer and rabbits, who are both known to eat hostas.

The first step in protecting your plants from pests is identifying what pest it is. Keep a close eye on your plants and note any insects you see on the plant or other animals in the garden.

How Do I Prevent Slugs from Eating My Hostas?

Hostas may be a slug’s favorite food, but there are a few things you can do to protect your hostas:

  • Water your hostas in the early morning, giving the foliage and soil enough time to dry before slugs emerge at night.
  • Dispose of any fallen debris around your plants, as this is where slugs may be living.
  • Remove slugs by hand at night using a flashlight.
  • Set beer traps using a plastic container filled with beer. Surprisingly, slugs and snails are attracted to the beer and will fall into the container.
  • Use a chemical spray to deter or kill slugs and snails on your plants. Check your local gardening store for options.

Can Hostas Grow in Full Sun? Which Hostas Can Handle the Most Sun?

Hostas grow best in shade (less than 4 hours direct sunlight) to part sun (4-6 hours direct sunlight) and are prone to burning when grown in too much sun. We do not recommend growing hostas in full sun (+6 hours direct sunlight). However, there are a few hosta varieties that can tolerate sun better than others. That being said, they will need plenty of water to withstand the sun and heat.

Why is My Hosta Turning Yellow?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one answer to this problem! Here are a few reasons why the leaves on your hosta may be yellowing:

  1. Fungal disease: there are two types of fungal diseases that cause yellow leaves. Petiole rot (Sclerotium rolfsii) rapidly spreads on hostas, causing leaves to yellow, collapse, and defoliate. Look at the stem of the leaf to identify the presence of petiole rot. Fusarium root and crown rot is a fungal pathogen that enters through wounds on the leaves or roots. Leaves turn yellow before withering. Remove and destroy any infected plant tissue.
  2. Bacterial diseasebacterial soft rot can occur in early spring following cold temperatures. Bacteria enter the plant through wounds created by cold damage. Leaves will yellow and feel soft or limp. Disinfect any tools before, during, and after trimming plants with disease!
  3. Overwatering: if your plants are receiving too much water or are subjected to poorly draining soils, the leaves will turn yellow. To avoid overwatering your plants, feel the soil before watering to gauge moisture. Hostas prefer evenly moist soil that is not wet.

Why is My Hosta Turning Brown?

There are a few reasons why your hosta may have brown leaves:

  1. Leaf scorch: hostas are prone to leaf scorch when they are planted in too much sun. The edges of the leaves will turn brown and brittle. If your plant is burning, we suggest transplanting it to a shadier location.
  2. Disease: anthracnose is a disease that causes brown spots or brown edges on leaves. Infected areas will feel brittle to the touch and will likely look torn. This disease persists in humid areas with poor air circulation, so ensure you are properly spacing your plants to prevent anthracnose.
  3. Nematodeshosta leaf nematodes are small worms that live inside hosta leaves. As they feed on the leaves, they leave behind brown streaks between veins. With enough damage, the entire leaf can brown and die.
  4. Underwatering: hostas that aren’t receiving enough water will have brown leaf margins. If this is the case, water more frequently and consider mulching around your plants to conserve soil moisture.

Are Hostas Evergreen?

No, hostas are not evergreen. Each winter, the plants will enter dormancy and die back to the ground before re-emerging in spring. You can keep the faded foliage standing until spring, but we recommend cutting it back in the fall, especially if you have problems with slugs. Slugs lay their eggs in the dead hosta foliage, so removing them in fall will deter slugs from returning in spring!

Should I Cut or Keep Hosta Flowers?

Like any decision you make in your garden – it’s completely up to you whether you cut or keep your hosta flowers. But if you’ve talked to avid shade gardeners, there are some strong opinions out there! The main reason gardeners cut their hosta flowers is to conserve energy – or appropriately distribute energy. Cutting the flowers promotes more foliage growth. Some just don’t like the look! According to an Instagram poll, the majority of our community keeps hosta flowers for their color, fragrance, and pollinator-attracting ability.

When Do Hostas Bloom?

In early to midsummer, hostas start to push out spikes of white or lavender blooms. Only some varieties have fragrant blooms, but pollinators love them either way.

What are Miniature Hostas?

Miniature hostas may be tiny, but they sure are mighty! Reaching less than 5 inches tall and wide, these hostas are great candidates for containers, fairy gardens, or small beds. Their small leaves are especially charming and come in an array of shapes and colors. In the past, these whimsical hostas were notorious for being difficult to grow, but are now bred to be easy for beginners! Check out all of our miniature hostas:

Which Hostas are Slug Resistant?

Thankfully, hosta breeders have been focusing their efforts on creating new varieties that are slug-resistant for quite some time now. There are many options that are slug-resistant, but not slug-proof! If you know slugs are a problem in your garden, choose varieties with thickly corrugated or wavy leaves. Proven Winners does a great job selecting plants for their slug resistance. Shop them here.

Can Hostas Grow in Pots

Yes, absolutely! There are a few things to keep in mind when growing hostas in containers:

  1. Proper drainage. Hostas require well-draining soils, so select your potting media accordingly. It’s vital that the pot or container has drainage holes to prevent standing water.
  2. Pot size. It’s important you select the right size pot when growing perennials in containers. A pot that is too large will hold on to water for too long, while a pot that is too small will dry out quickly. Some hostas are small (5 inches) while others are massive (5 feet). Plan accordingly!
  3. Lighting. Place your pot in an area that receives shade (< 4 hours direct sun) to part sun (4-6 hours direct sun).
vibrant hostas in a concrete pot

Are Hostas Poisonous to Dogs and Cats?

Hostas are toxic to dogs and cats! Eating a large number of hosta leaves won’t kill them, but can lead to indigestion. Keep an eye on your pets as they play near hostas.

Can I Plant Hostas Under Trees?

Yes, of course! This is where hostas thrive. They make a lovely understory under trees and even tall shrubs that cast shade. Avoid planting them under maple trees, which have a vigorous root system that might choke out your hosta.

Do Deer Eat Hostas?

Unfortunately, yes, deer love to eat hosta plants. They will nibble on the green glossy leaves and take bites from the fragrant flower stems above the plant. You can install a fence around your hosta plants to keep the deer at bay or choose one of these deer-resistant hosta alternatives HERE.

Written by: Miranda Niemiec, click here to read bio.

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