Welcome to The American Hosta Society

Establishing Hostas

I am just getting started, which hostas do you suggest I get first?

A good guideline to use is the American Hosta Society Popularity Poll. (see Hosta Popularity Poll)
For a discussion of hosta, listed by various plant characteristics such as color, size, type of variegation, and other attributes, see Chapter 6 in The Genus Hosta, by W. George Schmid.

How do I obtain hostas?
Most nursery and garden centers are now selling hosta. As you learn more about this wonderful plant you will seek out growers who specialize in this genus in an effort to find the perfect hosta for your garden. Visit our commercial sponsors listed on the Hosta Vendors page (also see The American Hosta Growers Association)
How much do hostas cost?
You can find a hosta for as little as a few dollars to as much as several hundred dollars. Many of the older cultivars are available in the $5.00 to $10.00 range while the newer introductions can be found for $15 to $35. Local Nursery prices may be higher depending on your area. The price of unusual hosta cultivars can are more expensive depending on availability and demand.
How do I care for my hosta?
After they are planted, your hostas will require very little care. Because hostas are usually grown under trees that compete for moisture make sure that your plants get enough water during the growing season. A layer of mulch will help keep the roots at an even temperature and prevent competition from weeds. An annual feeding of slow release fertilizer will keep your hostas happy.
How should I prepare the soil before planting my hosta?

The answer to this question can depend upon where you live, how long it has been since the land was cleared, and the manner in which it was cleared prior to construction, as well as a number of other variables. However, as the result of discussions at various local and National meetings and responses to questionnaires, it appears that a majority of persons rototill the soil down 12-18 inches and amend it with peat humus, larger size organic material and some coarse sand. In clay soil, sand alone actually will make the soil harder than it already is, stunting root development. A mixture that seems quite common is:
1/3 native soil (the stuff already in the hole)
1/3 peat humus (some use ProMix as an alternative to the peat humus)
1/3 pine bark fines (some use other larger material)
The purpose of the larger organic material is to improve aeration of the soil; the peat humus aids in water retention. (See also W. George Schmid's The Genus Hosta, Appendix F)

How do I know where to plant my hosta for the right amount of light?
There has been a great deal of debate over where particular hostas will do best. The most common mistake made by newcomers is thinking that all hosta do best in full shade. This is not the case. Hosta are shade tolerant, which means that they will do well in varying degrees of shade, yet still like some sun. Various sources, such as Paul Aden's ‘The Hosta Book’ and Klehm's catalogue, provide general guidelines for a particular species or cultivar. However, 1/2 day sun is not always the same; for example, afternoon sun is hotter, and more likely to cause the soil to dry out, than morning sun. If at all possible, try to avoid full afternoon sun; but if it is not possible to avoid afternoon sun, some hosta, such as H. plantaginea, will tolerate sunnier conditions. Further, additional moisture will help a hosta survive more direct sunlight than it normally would like!
What fertilizer should I use for my hosta?

As with light conditions, there is much debate over the "best" fertilizer. Many persons find that granular or solid forms are better; then there are those that prefer foliar feeding. After the issue of method of application is resolved, there is the question of best nitrogen - potassium - phosphorus ratios. The norm seems to be an application of around 10-10-10, three to four times per year.
For those people who tend toward organic gardening, there are several products that have worked for hosta gardeners. Some gardeners use Milorganite or other treated sewage residue. Although there is an initial odor, it quickly dissipates. Another alternative is animal manure, but, after considering the price of hauling, it is not cheap and the potential for "burning" the plants with "fresh" manure is greater. To some, a more pleasant smelling organic fertilizer, at 8% nitrogen, is soybean meal. Rich in other elements, as well as having a protein level of 46%, you practically could spread it on your corn flakes. A problem in most metropolitan areas is that the nursery staff will tell you that "if you want soybean meal go to a soybean mill. (It is definitely worth a try, though!) We do carry cottonseed meal, but at 6-1-1 it is for adding acid to the soil, not fertilizing."
If you are interested in how these various fertilizers compare; with regard to composition in the other fertilizers, Milorganite is 6-2-0, and Miracle Grow lawn food is 36-6-6 (generally speaking about 6 times more concentrated than cottonseed meal), Miracid plant food is 30-10-10, and, for you Peter's fans, you can get many combinations, but the most common used for hosta is either 20-20-20 or 10-10-10. The big difference appears to be in other components: Milorganite has 4% iron, both Miracle Grow products have .325% chelated iron, and cottonseed meal has 0%. Only Soybean meal appears to have any significant protein content! At one time Milorganite was not recommended for use on property with well water, but that prohibition no longer pertains as they have developed a means to remove the heavy metals.

When(and with what) should I mulch?

The easy answer to timing is anytime, but you also may want to watch your garden in the winter. Some hostas may appear to be crawling out of the ground. This problem results when the ground heaves (goes through repeated freeze/thaw cycles). Most people keep an eye on the problem and put additional mulch around the hosta as it "climbs" its way out. Another problem arises in the early spring. Some hostas are more eager to begin yearly growth than others -- for example, H. montana `Aureomarginata'. Some people find it useful to mulch the eyes of these hostas if there is a late frost predicted. If the plant has begun leafing out others have suggested placing large plastic pots over the plant, but do not let the leaves touch the pot as they will melt where they touch if the temperature gets low enougH.
Another favorite topic of debate is what mulch to use with hosta. There are some well known "hostarians" who use no mulch at all; they simply weed the areas until the hostas come up and the hosta itself prevents the further development of weeds. Some use pine straw or cocoa mulch, as they both tend to diminish slug problems and do not break down as quickly as other mulches. Others find that double shredded hardwood mulch works best because of its water retention capabilities. Others use shredded leaves as mulch, but some have also found that this increases their slug problems. Thus, the gardener must make a determination based upon the specific needs of the garden and aesthetic desires. Regardless of the type of mulch you choose to use, do not mulch deeper than 2-3 inches! In many cases over-mulching has lead to vole problems by providing a nice warm medium that is easy to tunnel through, so be alert!

How often should I water my hosta?

Hostas love plenty of water. Research by George Schmid presented in his book, The Genus Hosta, indicates that in their native habitat hosta receive over 60 inches of rainfall annually. In most of the United States this is well above the rainfall levels experienced. As a consequence, it is essential that we supplement nature and ensure that the plant receives a minimum of 1 inch per week during the growing season for adequate growtH. In most cases, people who have achieved maximum growth conditions provide 1.5 inches per week, spread out over the week; e.g. 3/4 inch every 3-4 days. In addition, hostas have a very high transpiration rate conditions due in part to their leaf size, and thus soil and should allow for optimum water retention. (See also W. George Schmid's The Genus Hosta, Appendix F)
Are there particular plants near which hosta should not be situated?
Hostas have been known to have trouble competing with shallow rooted trees and shrubs. Where there are limited planting areas and you want to keep the trees, some have dealt with this problem by planting the hosta in a container large enough to accommodate growtH. This container planting also has been recommended in those cases where voles are an extreme hosta "predator". If you use the container method you need to drill or cut holes in the bottom to ensure good drainage. (See also The Hosta Journal, Volume 20, Number 2, pages 71 et. seq.)
When is the best time to plant, and/or divide hosta?

Hostas can be planted at any time during the growing season, although most people try to plant hosta in the spring. The later in the season you plant a hosta; the more important it is to keep the plant adequately watered.
Hostas may also be divided or moved at anytime. However, given the increased shock to the plant caused by dividing or digging it up to be moved, spring is much preferred. In fact, it is recommended that dividing occur before the plant begins any substantial spring growtH. Once the eyes are evident, the plant should be dug and divided by using a sharp knife. It is also recommended that the knife be dipped in a fungicide (e.g. 10% Clorox-water solution is a good substitute) before making the cut, and that the cut surface be dusted (or washed if using bleach) after the cut is made.

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