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The Do’s and Don’ts of Growing Hostas

Everyone with shade in their garden knows the value of hostas, but not everyone knows how to landscape with these beautiful and beloved perennials. Here are some tips.

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hostasMichelle Rice Gauvreau/Shutterstock

Do Group the Same Varieties

You can avoid a spotty look by clustering multiple specimens of the same cultivar. By massing them together, you give them more visual weight. They don’t end up looking like an afterthought. Psst! Learn more about creating an affordable garden.

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Don’t Strand a Specimen

Plopping a solitary hosta in the middle of a bed by itself can make it look lonely and forlorn. It is especially apparent with this variegated hosta, which looks entirely out of place among more natural-looking companions.

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Do Make it Look Intentional

There are exceptions to the previous rule. This solitary hosta actually works aesthetically. The reason: It’s big enough to be a focal point. Plus, the non-variegated foliage is a more natural-looking partner with the other plants. Note how companion plants surround the hosta—almost embracing it—to create a stage for the focal point plant.

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Don’t Get Carried Away with Variegation

Gardeners love variegation for its ability to stand out and brighten a scene. But putting a bunch of unrelated variegated varieties together looks busy and even chaotic. Better to pick one variety and repeat it for emphasis. Check out these beautiful container plant ideas, too.

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Do Use Variegation Wisely

Variegated hosta is tailor-made for lining a path. It not only looks good, it serves a practical purpose because the variegated leaves are easier to spot at night, providing an element of safety. We have the solutions to your most common gardening problems.

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Don’t Have One of Everything

Shoehorning into the garden one of every hosta variety you find results in a hodgepodge effect. It becomes a collector’s garden, which might suit a conservatory but doesn’t hold much promise for home gardeners. If you’re going to use multiple varieties, break them up in clusters of threes or fives so they carry more weight. The effect will be more pleasing.

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hosta JPL Designs/Shutterstock

Do Repeat Yourself

In addition to clustering identical varieties, you can repeat them. By repeating a specific variety (or color), you help tie the garden together. Notice how the chartreuse hosta is repeated in this bed. The homeowner took it a step further by repeating the chartreuse color in the distance, albeit with an entirely different species. This helps lead the eye from foreground to midground to background.

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leavesSascha Preussner/Shutterstock

Don’t Forget to Remove Dead Flower Stalks

Some gardeners actually remove flowers as they’re forming, believing they take away from the foliage. Others leave them in place, especially on green hostas that can benefit from the added color. Regardless, once the flowers are past, be sure to cut them down. Many hostas have good fall color as they fade, but these dead flower stalks detract from the picture.

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leafMark Martins/Shutterstock

Do Mix in Different Textures

Texture is important in a garden of foliage plants because there’s often less color to draw the eye. Broadleaf hostas have a strong presence, so pair them with something wispy for interesting textural contrast. Ferns are a natural choice, as they enjoy the same growing conditions as hosta. Note how the color of the ferns matches the variegation of the hosta.

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hostaJamario Vinson/Shutterstock

Don’t Leave Debris Around Hosta

Dead leaves and old plant residue can be a hiding spot for foliage-destroying slugs. Clean up old debris every spring and replace with sharp sand, crushed eggshells or pea gravel to discourage slugs. These secret ingredients can help your garden grow.

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gardenDel Boy/Shutterstock

Do Go Au Naturale

It’s possible to incorporate hostas seamlessly into the garden for a more natural look. The secret is moderation, using varieties that complement their companions rather than fighting for attention. This hosta isn’t the tallest plant in the bed and it’s not the most colorful either. But it provides needed textural contrast to the ferns and the wispy flowers.

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flowersDel Boy/Shutterstock

Do Make it Lush

Hostas just don’t look at home in a barren garden. They belong in a lush, tropical getaway like this one. You can easily recreate the effect. Pick a big, bold hosta as the centerpiece, back it up with other large broadleaf plants, then surround it with colorful flowering plants of various sizes and habits. It’s lush and full, but not crowded. Try these edible landscape ideas, too.

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Do Give the Eye a Place to Rest

Wall-to-wall plants can feel jungle-like. It’s fine if that’s the effect you’re after, but most people like a visual break from the intense plant mosaic. Provide that with rocks as seen here, with a log masquerading as a tree stump or a piece of garden art.

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statue Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock

Do Brighten Up the Shadows

The best way to brighten the shadows of your garden is to incorporate some variegated hostas into the setting. These hostas practically glow in the dark. Another option is to go with blue-green hostas and let the white flowers shed some light in summer.

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digSarycheva Olesia/Shutterstock

Don’t Forget to Divide Hostas

Divide hostas every three or four years, preferably in spring as foliage starts to emerge. You can also divide plants in early fall, as long as there is time for plants to reestablish themselves before winter. Dig up a clump and separate by hand. Large clumps may require the help of a sharp spade. Replant fist-sized sections (or individual plantlets as seen here), leaving enough space for plants to grow to their mature size. Up next: How to grow a salad garden.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman

Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.