Hosta – Backyard Food Growing


The Hosta is a fantastically popular and easy to grow perennial plant that’s commonly used in home gardens and containers. It’s another really good one for beginner gardeners. They’re easy to care for, have a very tolerant nature and very low maintenance life cycle.

This plant is suitable for a wide range of growing zones, all the way from zone 2 to zone 10.

This is just one characteristic that makes them perfect for beginner gardeners, they’re almost guaranteed to grow in any region and climate zone!

The very tough and weather hardy Hosta is probably the most recognizable herbaceous plant that you’ll see in the nurseries and garden centers. They’re attractive and come in many different visual characteristics, appearances and structures. I’m sure you’ll be able to find one or maybe six that are perfect for you.


They are referred to as a “herbaceous” plant which means that their foliage dies back right down to the soil level every year after the growth and blooming cycle is finished.

There are small ones, tiny ones, mammothly huge ones, curly ones, white ones, yellow ones, all shades of green ones, wrinkly ones, striped ones, shiny ones, matte ones and more. There are over 200 different varieties to choose from. 

Have a look at the Rainbows End Hosta, it has uniquely very shiny leaves and is sharply randomly variegated. It’s beautiful!

There are also twisted ones and curly leaved ones too which are very beautiful and unique. They are sold with the Latin word “Undulata” in the name, it refers to the word undulating.

The patterns are widely variable from solid greens and yellows to stripes and patches and to blotches and streaks of all sorts.

One of them emerges with white leaves that eventually turn green and yellow ones and even ones with red stalks that have thin leaves pointed like an arrow. This one is called Lady in Red. 


Blueberry Muffin –  Large, thick, rounded leaves
Stained Glass – Golden to green leaves, fragrant blooms
Patriot – Bright green leaves with white edges
Fire and Ice – Bright green edges with with pure white centers
Guacamole – Chartreuse leaves with blue edges, fragrant blooms
White Feather – Pure white leaves turn to greenish white, fragrant blooms
Abiqua Moonbeam – More sun tolerant than most, purple blooms
Beach Boy – Thick leaves, more slug resistant, golden centers with blue green edges
Mediovariegata Undulata – Green edges with white centers, curled pointed leaves

Some varieties are dwarf in nature which makes them perfect for the small garden or container.

They grow in the same structure as a large one but just stay very small of course, some of the varieties have leaves only 1″ long. There are several miniature varieties such as the Mini Mighty Mouse Hosta which is only 6″ high at it’s tallest.

There are several varieties that grow mammoth in size with it’s footprint eventually growing to several feet around.

The huge Blue Angel variety  is beautiful and has a very large mature size. It grows larger and larger each year when it’s left in one place and allowed to just grow.

Each of the subsequent leaves will grow up to two feet or more in diameter. If you have enough space, a big empty corner in the yard or as a perimeter to plant then this is the one to buy, they are spectacular.

Check the tags in the store for the detail of the plant including mature size before you select your variety. This way you can make sure it’s the right size for the area you’re providing for it.

Growth Pattern

The new spikes emerge from the soil and look a bit like sharks teeth. As they grow taller they slowly unroll into the beautiful and delicate green, white or yellow coloured leaves that you’ve been expecting.

The beautiful “White Feather” Hosta is striking and delicate at the same time. As the weeks pass and the leaves age, their mature colours will begin to develop.

Growing Needs

They will tolerate dry conditions, restricted conditions and poor soil with low nutrient content with no trouble at all. I’ve had huge Hosta’s squished in buckets for years and they just keep coming back each year.

Most varieties grow non-fragrant pale purple flowers on a tall stem but there are also a few varieties that grow fragrant pure snow white flowers as seen in the image above.

In either case, these flower spikes arise from the center of the foliage crown after the leaves have emerged and completely opened. 

The downward hanging, tube-like flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and you’ll likely see them zipping around sipping the nectar in the summer sun.

The hummingbirds will thank you for the addition of a Hosta to your garden. 

Pests and Problems

The two biggest enemies of this plant are slugs and snails. They just love a cool, rainy day or night time meal of your young beautiful, perfect Hosta plant.

If you live in a rainy, warm climate such as the American Pacific Northwest or the Canadian Southwest coast then you’ll be very familiar with slugs already. If you don’t have one already you will certainly need a slug eradication plan in place. 

I recommend using some form of trap or poison get rid of them. I have more detailed information on how to control slugs here. 

Slug and snail control is critical because they will voraciously eat your beautiful Hosta faster than it can grow. If left unattended the slugs and snails will completely demolish all the leaves right to the ground and put the plant into serious shock. The entire plant and roots will eventually die from stress without your help and intervention.

They will chew the new springtime sprouts very quickly and the slugs will even chew down into the core of the leaf shoot below the soil!

If that weren’t enough, on their way by they will also chew holes in the center of the opened leaves. They leave perfectly round holes that seem to just appear out of nowhere.

Once the slug and snail issue is under control the Hosta is a very low maintenance plant that requires only a little care and water throughout the summer in order to look great. 

The Dormant Stage

As the summer months tick by the Hosta leaves will begin to lose their vigor and rich colours. This is nothing to worry about, you haven’t done anything wrong.

They will look like they are dying, but they’re not. The foliage is simply finishing it’s life cycle but the plant as a whole and the root ball are just fine and very healthy.

You’ll notice that the leaves will begin to turn yellow and wilt and eventually shrivel and dry up.

If you live in a wet, rainy climate then the leaves will get moldy and mushy as they fade. It’s kind of icky and squishy sometimes but wear gardening gloves and it’ll be a quick easy clean up.

This icky stage can be avoided by cutting off the leaves when they are almost finished turning yellow just before the fall season rain returns.

The purpose of leaving the wilting leaves on as long as possible is so that the root ball can take back the nutrients that it put out in the spring to make the leaves and flowers in the first place.

Once the leaves are finished and dead, the plant then stores that energy for next year’s growth.

Allowing the plant to complete it’s life cycle in this way helps the plant be healthier and more vigorous in the next growing season.

So, if you can stand the look of it then let the leaves go completely yellow and then remove them in the late fall once they look like the ones in the image to the above.

Hibernating Hosta

After the wilted leaves have been cut off like in this picture, the container or spot in your garden where the plant is will look completely empty at this point.

It’ll look like your plant is gone or dead or something and never to return. Don’t worry it’s just hibernating, it’ll be back in the spring to show its beautiful display all over again.

Let me know if you have questions about the Hosta or leave a comment and share your experiences with it in your garden.