Hostas are easy, go-to plants for many people for perennials beds and general landscaping, but I see the same hosta mistakes happening over and over again. Here are some of the ones I see most frequently that are super quick and simple to fix.
I love a nice, mature perennial garden, full to the brim with interesting textures and shapes, and hostas are almost always a key player in my very favorite gardens. There are certain ways that people use them that just work so well and there are other things people do that just make me cringe. Of course, this is kind of a personal preference situation and as long as your hostas are happy and thriving, you can plant them any way that you like, but there are certain ways that people who really know what they’re doing plant hostas. There are also things that people do with their hostas that just immediately make me think that they have landscaping in front of their house because they feel like they have to, but they really just kind of find it a hassle. They’re the mistakes that people make when they just kind of want to say “good enough”, and as a big garden fan that makes me sad because it’s just so easy to take a garden full of hostas from “meh” to “wow”. So here are my top seven hosta mistakes that I see over and over again.
Thinking of Hostas as Only Shade Plants
It’s true that hostas generally like shade and it’s true that you probably don’t want to plant hostas in an area that will see eight hours of sun a day, but a lot of varieties can take a surprising amount of really bright sun and can actually benefit from it. I love to have hostas planted in areas that see four to six hours of strong afternoon sun each day, particularly varieties that are either a bright chartreuse color or that lean a little blue.
These colors really brighten up with a bit of sun and can almost glow at certain parts of the summer. These same varieties planted in full shade will look like almost the same dull medium green color. They need the sun to reach their full potential. With daily-ish watering, they’ll be happy and healthy and you shouldn’t seen any burn spots on the leaves or crispy edges.
Buying Hostas From the Garden Centre
Garden centre hostas are fine, of course, if there’s a particular variety that you want and you don’t have access to it anywhere else, but not only is it cheaper (free) to divide hostas from a friend or family member’s garden, they just grow so much bigger, so much more quickly when they’ve been recently dug up from a garden near by. If you’ve never divided and transplanted hostas before here’s my quick little tutorial on how to do it! How to Divide and Transplant Hostas
Planting Them Too Far Apart in a Rock Mulch/Landscape Fabric Situation
The sight of one, lonely, scraggly little hosta just floating in a sea of nothing makes me so sad. This is one of the biggest hosta mistakes, in my opinion. Hostas can look so lush and full, but when it’s just one, even if it’s huge, it just doesn’t look right. Hostas need other plants to partner and contrast with to look their best, even if it’s just with other hostas with different leaf shapes and sizes.
Only Using One Variety
For the reason mentioned above, but also because when hostas bloom, they go from supporting cast member to the star of the show, but it’s usually only for a very short time. Different varieties have bloom times ranging from late spring all the way until early fall, so you can have a little spot of interest in your garden happening at all times throughout the growing season if you mix in enough varieties. The more you experiment with different varieties next to each other, combined with placing them in different lighting conditions, the more you’ll fall in love with your hostas.
If you’re looking for a great plant to add a little interest to your hosta plantings, Solomon’s seal is definitely a favourite of mine with its elegant arching stems and tiny white flowers.
Not Using Repetition to Create Cohesiveness
Some people go a little too far with experimenting with different hosta varieties and the effect can be really jarring, especially if you have just one plant of many different varieties. Your eye looks for similarities between features and plants to ground it and create an understanding of the design of a garden, so repetition is your best friend for creating a cohesive, well-thought-out garden. Aim to use three to five different varieties of hosta within your garden and repeat them in different patterns and combinations for the most success.
Hosta Mistakes: Using the Wrong Size Hostas
Hostas come in all different sizes. Some are very big and some are still quite dainty even when they’re mature. If you’re buying them from a garden centre, read the tag. Better yet, look to divide and transplant existing hostas from your garden or your neighbours and make note of how big they are and how they’re actually performing when grown in your area. When you plant them in a location in your garden, be prepared to dig them up and adjust their placement a little to get things just right. It’s so easy to do that digging up our hostas has been my eight-year-old Jack’s favorite way to help me in the garden for the last couple of years.
Treating Them as Low-Maintenance Filler
Hostas are definitely easy to grow and are very rewarding, but like a lot of plants, they do best with a little love and attention. Although they create a great foundation around which to build your beautiful perennial border, if you treat them with the same attention that you’d treat a hydrangea, they can become focal points in their own right. They love daily water, a little plant food every now and then, and they really look a lot better if you deadhead the spent bloom stalks after they’re done and trim away any burnt, injured, or crispy leaves so they can put out fresh, new growth throughout the season.
Do you love your hostas as much as I do? What’s your favorite trick for creating a lush, full perennial garden using hostas?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.