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Frequently asked questions about hostas

The most frequently asked questions about hostas are:

  1. How do I grow hostas?
    Hostas are generally easy to grow and trouble-free. See our guide to growing them successfully
  2. How do I stop slugs and snails from ruining my hostas?
    Slug and snail damage can be reduced or even eradicated. See our recommendations 
  3. Can I grow hostas in containers?
    Hostas can be grown very succesfully in containers. See our guide to container growing

Hosta 'Neat Splash' ©Tim Saville Hosta 'Neat Splash'
©Tim Saville

How to grow hostas

There are over 40 different Hosta species and more than seven thousand named cultivars of which around 4000 are registered. Hostas grow very well in British gardens, enjoying the temperate climate and high rainfall, although the fragrant flowered ones do best in southern areas. Whilst their foliage is more luxuriant when grown in semi-shade and moist conditions, most need morning sunlight to gain their ideal size and some, with gold leaves for example, to achieve their best colouring. Some of the white variegated varieties sometimes scorch if grown in direct sunlight without adequate moisture.

Hostas will grow in virtually any soil but do best in neutral to acid loam, treated with humus and being well mulched every autumn. They should be planted with their roots teased apart and spread over a mound of earth and the hole filled in ideally with a mixture of soil and compost or leaf mould. Newly planted Hostas should be well watered for at least two weeks and all hostas need moisture in the ground especially in early autumn during the time of new root formation. This is also the best time for planting, although some favour early spring, particularly those gardeners who divide their plants just prior to the leaves appearing. Vegetative propagation is always advised to obtain true offspring of the parent plant.

Hosta 'Allegan Fog' ©Tim Saville Hosta 'Allegan Fog'
©Tim Saville

Although Hosta can be grown from seed, special “streaked leaf” pod parents must be used to obtain variegated hybrids. With the exception of these rare breeder plants, Hosta are best left undisturbed for 5 years in order that the sumptuousness of their mature leaves can be fully appreciated.

Hosta are not prone to many diseases; their worst enemies are slugs and snails, which proliferate in shady areas and moist soil. However there are many proprietary brands of slug and snail repellent/killer on the market to ensure that your plant remains resplendent throughout the growing season, especially if placed in isolation in an attractive pot, or with other dwarf varieties in a trough.

 

Growing hostas in containers

Hostas are undoubtedly one of the most attractive foliage plants for growing in containers, whether in a shaded courtyard, on a paved terrace or placed on a flight of steps. Pots and containers come in many different shapes and sizes but all have one thing in common: they provide happy habitats for slugs and snails.

The best way to prevent this is to place wire mesh at the bottom of the empty pot before adding the necessary crocks so that predators cannot access the plant through the drainage hole. A further preventive measure is to raise the pots on feet in a saucer or similar shallow container filled with water because slugs cannot swim! The hosta and its pot should not be in contact with the water.

When dealing with mollusc damage in general, good garden husbandry goes a long way to preventing unwelcome infestation. Slugs and snails tend to lurk in dark corners, under overhanging terrace edges and in dry stone walls or old walls with damaged pointing.

Page last updated: January 2012