Shade Gardening: How to Use Hostas to Best Advantage


Hosta are hands down one of the best perennials for shade gardening! With two gardens as examples, I show you some of the most attractive ways to use hosta. Plus there are tips for planting and dividing hostas.
Whenever I begin to feel a bit snobbish and dismissive about Hostas, I'll come across a garden that reminds me just how terrific they can be when they are mixed creatively. This is one such garden.
If you love playing with texture, foliage size and color, Hostas have so much to offer.
In this first example of a great shade garden the lot is wider than it is deep. Mature trees around the perimeter of the yard result in a shady garden. Here the grass does not function as a traditional "lawn". It's more of a pathway that leads you in amongst the various garden beds. As you can tell almost immediately, this is a Hosta lovers garden.
Hosta plants come in a range of greens; everything from blue green to yellow-green. They can also have interesting variegation that turns simple foliage into something much more interesting.
Magic happens when you mix the foliage of the different hosta together.
For anybody new to gardening, a few tips on growing Hostas:
Hostas grow best in moist, well-drained soil. Dappled sunlight and rich, sandy loam is best for good, strong growth. Morning sun will help intensify leaf colors, but hot afternoon sun won't be appreciated.
When should you divide hostas?
Hostas are very easy to propagate through division. I always get to work early in the spring and divide them as soon as the tight cones of new foliage poke up a few inches above the ground. You can still divide them later in the season, but you run a greater risk of damaging the foliage if you wait until the leaves fully unfurl. If you don't get around to dividing your hostas in the spring, you can also do it in the fall.
Dig up your Hosta and then cut through the clump with a really sharp shovel. Each division should have about three of the tight foliage cones.
Mulching is a great idea as it helps to keep the soil around your hostas moist. I always use a natural cedar mulch.
There would be times in a garden like this where you'd have a lot to do and periods during the summer where the upkeep would be much less labor intensive. The main chore in the summer would be watering the garden and keeping the slugs at bay.
Holes in the foliage are a sign of slug damage. Various remedies for slugs is perhaps the subject for another post. To avoid this problem, look for varieties with thick, leathery leaves that state they are "slug resistant".
In this second garden, hosta has been used in a shady area in front of a backyard shed.
Look how beautifully the various hosta foliage has been combined here!
Note also the variety of leaf shapes and sizes. On the lower left, there is a miniature hosta with tiny leaves. As well as mixing foliage colors, its nice to mix sizes as well.
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Looking for some varieties of Hostas to use in your garden? Click the link below for the names on some of the hosta you see in these pictures.
If you are looking for shade garden ideas, check out some of my many other Hometalk posts. There are also lots of shade gardens to inspire you on my blog.

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 29 questions
  • La Mac
    on Feb 21, 2017

    Can you show a picture or video on how to divide hostas please? Thank you

  • Bobbette Goulet
    on Mar 22, 2017

    My hostas are lack luster. They are small and don't seem to grow over the years. What can I do to get them more robust? They are in the shade.
    • Three Dogs in a Garden
      on Mar 22, 2017

      Any number of things might be going wrong. You are going to have to be a plant problem detective. Dig up one of your hosta this spring and double check on their roots. It they are eaten, you may have an issue with voles. If the roots are looking good, then replant the hosta. Your soil may be poor. Amend it by top dressing the area with some compost that you should be able to get at a garden centre this spring. To help the soil retain its moisture when the weather gets hot, add an inch or two of natural cedar mulch on top. The cedar mulch will also help deter weeds. Hostas need lots of water, so if the weather is dry do give them a deep watering, if there is no rain. Hope that helps.

  • Jen8369550
    on Oct 29, 2017

    And how do you keep the deer away from hosta?...my worst garden enemy ... I‘m getting tired of all the hosta being in containers
    • Lta27003209
      on Aug 3, 2018

      We’ve always had good results with the Irish Spring soap solution. Give it a try. Just remember to replenish the shavings periodically

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4 of 90 comments
  • Faye
    on Mar 17, 2017

    The gardens are beautiful, I have a 4 story Holly tree, it is over 100 years old and very wide, I cut the branches up so that I could walk under it and planted my hosta, it was the best place to plant them, I have little or no problems with slugs, the holly leaves are sharp, I am now at the point of having to divide many of them and will do so this spring. but will have to lay down soaker hoses throughout to keep them moist, I want to put more soil on them should I mix sand with it, I live in PA and there are about 50 hosta's under this tree many are 12 to 15 years all sizes any suggestions for watering and soil?
  • Bla196627
    on May 26, 2017

    Hi I'm Vicki and I desperately need the name of a hosta book with names of hostas and pictures too..
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