When to plant hostas – for a show of verdant foliage

Discover when to plant hostas to add their lush, leafy greenery to shady pockets of the backyard

when to plant hostas – Hosta and Picket Fence
(Image credit: Getty Images)

They’re must-have plants for shade gardens, but what about when to plant hostas to enjoy their impressive foliage?

Hostas (plantain lilies) have sizeable leaves that inject woodland borders with verdant structure in spring, summer, and fall, and along with knowhow about how to plant hostas, the detail of when to plant them is essential.

Our guide has the answers you need to enjoy their unique, lush foliage in your flower bed ideas, along with advice from the experts.

When to plant hostas

The gorgeous green of hostas is welcome in a backyard, and some gardeners fall deeply for them, gradually building up a collection of different leaf textures, shapes, colors, and sizes, which look stunning growing side by side in a tapestry of green. 

As for when to plant hostas? Spring is a great time to get hostas in the ground. But they also respond well to being planted in the fall

‘Although they will survive almost anywhere, they look best, and do better, in partial shade, in cool well-fed soil, where, once established, many will produce immense leaves, totally weedproof,’ wrote the late great gardener Beth Chatto, who grew many hostas in her famous UK gardens (opens in new tab). They are excellent shade plants and can also be grown under tree canopies as woodland plants.

Among the 6,000 different cultivars available, there are leaves in every shade of green, as well as gold, cream, and blue. Some leaves are heart-shaped; some rounded; some lanceolate. They display lovely veining or puckering or they are smooth. They skim 3in (8cm) or they balloon to 3ft (90cm). Pale flowers – which are produced at different times in summer or fall, depending on the species – bloom above them on stalks that reach between 6in (30cm) and 6ft (1.8m).

When it the best time to plant hostas?

While the answer to when to plant hostas is that it is flexible, there is an optimum time to do so.

‘Hostas can be planted at any time of year,’ explains Paul Harris, owner of specialist hosta nursery Brookfield Plants (opens in new tab) in Kent, UK, ‘but spring is the ideal time to plant hostas with the whole growing season ahead to enjoy the beautiful foliage.’ 

If possible, avoid planting in summer, when temperatures can be high; in spells of hot, dry weather in spring or fall; or when the ground is frozen or waterlogged in winter.  

‘Preferable planting times for all hostas are spring and fall,’ says James Coutts, who holds a UK national collection of Hosta plantaginea (fragrant plantain lily). ‘Spring because the roots are getting going in terms of growth. It is best to avoid planting amid the very hot weather of mid-summer. That said, with careful positioning and monitoring of watering, it can still be done. Fall is also a good season, having avoided the heat of summer, and the plants will get the benefit of warm soil to set root before winter.’ 

What month is best to plant hostas?

The best month to plant hostas will depend on weather and soil conditions. Steer clear of planting in the hot temperatures of the summer months or the months of winter when the ground is frozen or waterlogged. As for spring and fall months, these could all prove possibilities, but don’t plant if there’s a spell of hot, dry weather.

When should I buy hostas?

As a rule, it’s best to buy and plant hostas in spring or fall. Buying and planting them in summer isn’t out of the question, but in that case they need to be put in the right location and careful attention paid to watering.

Rachel is senior content editor, and writes and commissions gardening content for homesandgardens.com, Homes & Gardens magazine, and its sister titles Period Living Magazine and Country Homes & Interiors. She has written for lifestyle magazines for many years, with a particular focus on gardening, historic houses and arts and crafts, but started out her journalism career in BBC radio, where she enjoyed reporting on and writing programme scripts for all manner of stories. Rachel then moved into regional lifestyle magazines, where the topics she wrote about, and people she interviewed, were as varied and eclectic as they were on radio. Always harboring a passion for homes and gardens, she jumped at the opportunity to work on The English Home and The English Garden magazines for a number of years, before joining the Period Living team, then the wider Homes & Gardens team, specializing in gardens.