Quick tips for planting and care of Hostas

How much water does my hosta need?

Hostas love water. In their native habitat they receive over 60 inches of rainfall annually. Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana are the only states with that amount of average annual precipitation. (Delaware’s average is less than 41 inches annually.) Because of the high transpiration rate of hosta leaves, it is essential that we provide the additional water that is essential for growth. A minimum of 1 inch per week of rainfall or supplemental water needs to be provided during the whole growing season. Providing extra water above this minimum can help achieve maximum growth. The aim is to maintain a constant moisture level in the soil. (Avoid alternating extremes of wet and dry.) Morning is the best time for watering so that the hostas have all day to absorb the moisture. Too little water may cause leaves to droop or even cause the leaf tips to burn. Severe or prolonged lack of water may cause hostas to go “drought dormant” and they will cease to grow. Although copious amounts of water will usually cause these plants to begin growing again, be sure that this re-growth is not too late to allow time for the hostas to go dormant before winter begins.

What fertilizer should I use for my hostas?

The type of fertilizer (chemical or organic, granular or liquid) is simply a personal choice. Hostas will respond to being fertilized, regardless of the type. Many growers use a N-P-K balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Additionally, trace elements such as chelated iron, magnesium or calcium may be beneficial. Furthermore, a soil test can help determine any deficiencies in your soil. Alternatives include Milorganite (6-2-0) treated sewage residue), soybean meal (8% N), animal manure and even compost. Be aware: Milorganite may have an initial odor and might contain heavy metals; “fresh” animal manure has the potential to “burn” plants. Also, be cautious about fertilizing too late. Actively growing hosta may be damaged or even killed by an early winter freeze.

Should I mulch my hostas?

Mulches help retain water in the soil by reducing evaporative water loss, help minimize the number of weeds, help reduce the splashing of water, and can provide an aesthetic background. Pine straw, cocoa mulch, pine bark nuggets, shredded hardwood mulch, shredded leaves or even colorful stones are used as mulches. Mulches should only be 2-3 inches thick and must be kept 2-3 inches away from the hosta petioles. here are some drawbacks to using mulch. Along with the possible increase of disease aided by the use of organic mulches, slug and vole populations may increase.

When is the best time of year to plant hostas? Divide hostas?

Hosta can be planted anytime during the growing season. Adequate watering will be required if planting in hotter weather or in sunnier locations. Although hostas can also be divided anytime during the growing season, the best times are before the plant begins any substantial growth in the spring and 4-6 weeks before the end of the growing season.

Should I remove hosta flower scapes?

This is a personal choice. Some people feel that the energy the plant expands in producing seeds would not be available for future growth. However, removing the flower scapes before blooming will cause you to miss the large colorful or fragrant flowers that some hostas offer. Also, some hosta such as ‘Lemon Lime’ may re-bloom even if the scapes are removed.


  • Light Requirements: hostas prefer shade although some varieties will tolerant sun especially in cooler climates. Generally, the more sun in your planting site, the more compact the plant will be but it will produce more flowers. In more shade, the plant will be larger with more luxuriant foliage.
  • Soil Composition: hostas need reliably moist, humus-rich soil. Enrich your planting beds with organic matter.
  • Gardening Zones: USDA zone 3, zone 4, zone 5, zone 6, zone 7, zone 8, zone 9.
  • Blooming Season: Hostas bloom at various times depending on the cultivar and your lighting conditions.
  • Care and Maintenance: After you work in organic matter, prepare a hole that is twice the diameter of the plant ball. Loosen any roots that are encircling the root ball, replant at same depth as originally planted. Back fill with the enriched soil. Water well to settle soil. Fertilize with a time-release fertilizer in spring and through out the season. Apply a thin top dress of bark mulch to improve water retention but remember this may encourage slugs. Division isn't really required but can be done in spring or fall.
  • Hosta Pals: combine hosta with astilbes, Alchemillas mollis, hardy Geraniums and other shade perennials such as Acontium, Pulmonaria, Tricyrtis.