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Home & garden.

Updated: 3 May 2022

How to grow hostas and best varieties

Hostas make beautiful foliage plants for a shady spot. Discover our best hosta varieties and tips for how to grow them.
Ceri Thomas
Hostas

For shaded or boggy parts of the garden, hostas are a popular choice. They’re also great for growing in pots, as their luxurious foliage can be very stylish and, as each sculpted leaf finds its space in the light, the plants develop elegant shapes that are shown off brilliantly. Even the spikes, or ‘scapes’, of trumpet-shaped flowers can look good, plus they’re often scented and attract bees in to the garden. There’s a wide choice of shapes, sizes and leaf patterns, which can all add drama to a shady corner of the garden or patio.

Which? Gardening magazine grew a range of popular varieties in the north and south of the UK over two years to see which would give us the best display.


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Key facts

PLANT TYPE Herbaceous perennial

POSITION Shade or part shade

SOIL Reliably moist, acidic to neutral 

How to grow hostas: month by month

JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune


FEED/PLANTPLANT
FLOWERING
JulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
FLOWERINGFLOWERINGPLANTPLANT

Best hosta varieties

Which members can log in now to see the full results and which are our Best Buy varieties. If you're not a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Full testing results for hostas

Variety name Overall ratingHeight x spread (cm) Foliage impact Shape of plants Suitability for pots Flower impact Scent Flowering duration Pest & disease resistance 
35 x 50
30 x 65
45 x 70
35 x 50
45 x 55
35 x 45
45 x 60

USING THE TABLE OVERALL RATING The more stars the better. Rating ignores price and is based on: foliage impact 25%; plant shape 25%; suitability for pots 20%; flower impact 10%; pest & disease resistance 10%; flower duration 5%; flower scent 5%. Ratings are based on plants in the second year of the trial. Height and spread measurements given are for foliage only, taken in the second year of the trial.

How we test hostas

We chose a range of hostas that included examples of all the main leaf types and colours, and planted three of each variety in a 45 x 45cm pot. We grew them for two years, kept them well watered and gave them a liquid feed three times during each growing season. The trial was carried out at the Which? Gardening magazine trial ground at Capel Manor in north London and Logan Botanic Garden near Stranraer in Scotland.

We assessed them for: whether the colour and shape were attractive; how attractively arranged the leaves were; how well the plant shape suited growing in a pot; if they were diseased or particularly prone to damage from pests, including slugs and snails; the attractiveness of the blooms, and whether they had scent.

Caring for your plants

Planting 

For growing in pots, use a Best Buy compost for containers and add a Best Buy controlled-release fertiliser. Large pots (40-45cm in diameter and depth) are easier to keep moist than smaller pots. One 2L-pot plant should fill a 40-45cm diameter pot within two or three years, unless it’s a very compact variety. To fill a pot faster, or if starting with smaller plants, plant two or three then take them out and divide them when they outgrow the pot.

Place the pot in shade or part shade. Hostas with blue leaves tend to need the most shade, while those with paler leaves can have better colour if they get morning sun.

For borders, plant in a shady spot with reliably moist soil.

Caring for plants in pots

Water regularly so the compost doesn’t dry out. When the pot gets congested with roots and leaves, either move the plant to a larger pot or take it out and divide it into sections (in autumn or spring). Replant some of these plants into fresh Best Buy compost for containers mixed with a Best Buy controlled release fertiliser.

Common growing problems

Slugs and snails

As any hosta grower knows, the plant’s leaves can be stripped to stems by slugs and snails. You may hear smearing the rim of pots with Vaseline or sticking copper tape to the outside recommended, but when we tested barrier methods like these, we found none were really effective. Also, snails are particularly good at climbing nearby structures and coming in over the top, avoiding the pot and its barriers altogether. Some hostas seem marginally more attractive to molluscs than others, but all will get eaten to some extent. 

To protect your plants, use organic slug pellets containing ferric phosphate, which aren’t thought to be toxic to other animals and are effective. Or pick the molluscs off by hand, but don’t leave them alive nearby as they will come back.

Read more about slugs and snails

Vine weevils

Vine weevils can attack hostas grown in pots. Check the compost for white, c-shaped grubs between late summer and winter. Use a biological control in August or September, or a chemical control (Bug Clear Ultra Vine Weevil Killer) at any time.

Read more about vine weevils

Fungal rot

Waterlogged pots can lead to a fungal rot in the crown of the plant. Replant in fresh compost if that happens.

Leaf scorch

Leaves can scorch in too much sun or if the soil dries out.