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Hostas Care & Feeding

hosta image by lesley marlor from

Hostas are a favorite with many home gardeners for their interesting foliage and ability to grow in the shade. These attractive perennials are available in a wide variety of leaf colors, sizes, shapes and patterns. Long-living and hardy, hostas are easy to feed and care for, according to Ohio State University, making these plants the perfect choice for the beginning or experienced home gardener.


Hostas are temperate-climate plants. Native to Japan and Korea, they prefer mild over hot summers, with cool or cold winters. In general, hostas are cold hardy to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) growing zone 4, according to the University of Minnesota. Some cultivars of the more than 2,000 are even cold hardy to USDA growing zone 3.


Hostas are frequently touted as shade-loving plants. While it is true that they will grow in the shade, they grow best if they are exposed to some sunlight, such as shifting or dappled shade. Morning sunlight followed by afternoon shade is also good for most hostas. Some cultivars can tolerate full sunlight in the colder growing zones, while others will be scorched by exposure to full sun. Blue-leafed hosta plants need more shade than white, gold or yellow-leafed hostas, according to Ohio State University.

Soil and Water

All hosta species thrive in rich, loamy soil. Amend poor garden soil with organic compost and a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the hosta plants to increase nutrients and retain the moisture in the soil. Hostas thrive in soil that is consistently moist but not waterlogged or soggy. In fact, too much water can cause the rhizomes (shallow, horizontal roots) to rot. A minimum of 1 inch of water per week is recommended by Ohio State University.


Fertilize hostas in the spring, but stop fertilizing in August so that the plants can harden before cold weather arrives. Use a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) made for foliage plants. Apply a slow-release granular formula in early spring followed by a regular, water-soluble balanced fertilizer in mid-summer. Follow the application instructions on the label as per the size, amount and age of your hosta plants.


The most common problem with hostas is that garden slugs love to munch on their leaves, according to Clemson University. Slugs can be killed by setting out poisonous slug bait, but take care not to do this if you have pets nearby. Some home gardeners swear by shallow saucers of beer, which attract and then drown the slugs. Deer are also huge fans of hostas and will decimate an entire planting site very quickly if given the chance.

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