America’s favorite perennial, a recurring best seller, is the easy-going hosta. Why do hostas take the cake? There are seemingly limitless varieties to choose from, nearly all of which can be tucked into a moderate shade and relied upon for years. Start your foray into perennial gardening with hostas, or add a new variety to your existing landscape. Here’s how to plant, grow, and maintain gorgeous hostas.
All About Hostas
In a garden that rotates regularly, shifting with plant families and filling in the spaces that withered annuals leave, it’s refreshing to have some perennials provide consistency and one less thing to worry about. But the smaller your agricultural zone number gets, the more difficult it can be to find a hardy hosta that will make it through winter and return each spring.
Everyone from the warm, southern zone 9 up to chilly, northern zone 3 can enjoy some form of hostas in their garden, and anyone can plant container hostas to take inside if it’s just getting too cold. Not only is your geographical location flexible for hosta growth, but you can tuck hostas into more spaces in the garden than many colorful perennials.
While hosta flowers – like most blooms – will thrive best with sunlight, the foliage prefers shade. And hosta foliage may just be its showstopping quality anyway. That means you can plant most hostas where the sun only shines for a bit, or behind bigger plants and structures that might keep it shaded. Guilt free, worry free!
If all of that flexibility doesn’t convince you to try hostas, you only need a quick look at the amazing range of colors and shapes found within the family. Giant shrubs, small plants, greens, yellows, stripes, and solids. What kind of hosta do you need in your garden?
Since you purchase hostas as plants rather than seeds, planting a hosta is a piece of cake. The most work you’ll have to do will come before planting, and mostly in the form of decision-making. Check your garden journal, if this is an area you’ve worked before, to see if you have any notes about your prospective space. How’s the sunlight? What do you typically plant in that area, and would it relate well to the constant presence of a potentially large perennial? Is the soil loose enough to drain well?
If you’re going to grow hostas in a container, make sure you’re ready to transplant as the hosta grows or start with a container big enough for the mature plant.
After hostas are established, they tend to become comfortable in just about any soil. At first, though, you can help a new hosta thrive with slightly acidic soil. Don’t try to change the composition of soil all at once – it’s better to have an imperfect pH than it is to have soil shocked into change. Your best bet is to just work some compost or peat into the soil, loosen the roots up a bit, and plant into a hole roomy enough for the roots at its current size.
Top the soil around the base of the hosta with some mulch to help retain moisture and protect the hosta as it begins to settle in.
To encourage even better, faster establishment, dig a hole as though you were planting the full-sized, mature hosta. That helps the roots begin to spread out as they please, right away.
Keeping Hostas Healthy
Give your hostas some time to reach their best appearance – up to several years for some varieties. Meanwhile, help your hosta thrive with proper watering. If you’ve planted in a bit more sun, you’ll need to water hostas more to help the leaves do well in the heat. You might also need to add more moisture if you’ve utilized the shade of a larger plant or tree, which would be in competition with the hosta.
Do be careful that all that moisture doesn’t attract slugs, which may be the hosta’s lone pest. Fortunately, there are plenty of organic slug control methods to employ. Hostas are easy plants to cultivate in an organic garden.
If you want to use hostas as edibles, harvest young shoots and leaves while they are still tender and sweet. The most common varieties for edible use are H. montana and H. sieboldii, with H. plantaginea planted for its edible flowers. The spear-like shoots of hosta plants taste somewhat like asparagus and are absolutely delicious in sushi rolls! Harvest from the outside so the inner shoots can continue to grow into that beautiful foliage for the landscape.
Since it’s a hardy perennial in most zones, overwintering a hosta plant is quite simple. Just leave it!
My only caution is that leaving dead flowerheads and spikes to lay there may invite pests and disease. Simply clip them away and toss them in the compost pile.