How to plant a free Hosta garden

July 08, 2015

So years ago when we lived in apartments I would dream of the things I would do in our future house. A lot of those dreams involved plants outside, which I'm sure was mostly because the closest I had ever gotten to that were some potted plants out on my apartment patios or decks. 

I dreamt of clematis vine for one -- so I planted some last year and this year it was absolutely gorgeous!! And then some critter ate ALL of it. Seriously, one day it was full and blooming like crazy, one day it was all GONE. I may have shed a tear. I don't know what animal likes to munch on clematis -- anyone know? 

So that one happened, if only for a couple weeks. Another one was planting a shade garden. I'm one who actually loves dark dreary days, so I think that's why I'm always taken with the photos of beautiful shade gardens filled with dark foliage. Most of those included hostas and I quickly became obsessed with them. 

Fast forward to a couple years ago when a friend moved into a gorgeous house with a beautiful garden -- but the garden was taking up all the lawn space for her kids. So she sent out the word on the Internets and told us all we could come take whatever we wanted. HELLO. That's heaven for a thrifty gardening girl like me. 

I got plants for free that week because I have an awesome friend. But I'll share how you can also get some of these plants for free here in a minute. Awesome friends may be required there too. ;) 

I grabbed a GORGEOUS full peony, even after talking to our landscaper friend who told me they don't transplant well. I could not resist it, duh. But he was right. It died immediately. I also grabbed some huge landscaping rocks to add to ones we already had in our landscaping (you can see those in the garden tour here). 

The best finds were when I walked back there and there were TONS and tons of hostas. Glee! I couldn't believe it. I had always heard hostas were only for full shade and didn't think I had a good spot for them, but hers were huge and booming in full sun to dappled sun. So I dug my little heart out and threw them in the back of my car. I did two trips with the back of my car full of hostas. It was a beautiful day. :) (Thanks Andrea!) 

This is the side of the house I had in mind for most of them: 

Obviously I hadn't done a thing to this area. I didn't even clear the grass when I planted them -- unless you kill it first pulling up grass is seriously one of the worst things EVER. Goodness I hate it:

transplanting hostas

These things are pretty hardy -- they did OK that first season, but it wasn't till last year that they really perked up and started growing like crazy. 

Initially I planned to add more types of plants to this side but I fell in love with them so much (and they got SO big) I just went with it. I added a few more this year, the last of which I planted yesterday: 

hosta garden

I thought hers were huge when I planted them but I had no idea! They are so gorgeous -- I absolutely love their big leaves. Oh and by the way -- I just laid the mulch over the grass. I didn't kill it or anything -- just put a good layer down and it did the job. ;) 

It wasn't till last year that I realized they bloom: 
blooming hostas

It's only for a few weeks of the summer and the storms we had yesterday took off a bunch of them (I had to go out late when it stopped raining, hence the twilight photos). 

I have a thing for purple and red flowers so the blooms fit in perfectly around here: 

hosta bloom

So here's the thing -- I added a few more, as I mentioned. They are the ones with white on the leaves: 
hosta garden by house

But the cool thing about these plants is that they can be split pretty easily. That means you can dig out part of them and replant -- so if you have any nice friends like I have, you too can create your own hosta garden for free. :) 

There's a few tips to it -- you can do it any time, just make sure they are healthy at the time. Spring of fall is best (as with most plants) and spring would be really easy because you can really see where each section is growing. Go for plants that are a few years old at least. The entire plant is made up of a bunch of smaller ones and you just need to separate as many of these as you want: 

splitting hostas

This is really easy if you've purchased a plant -- you can just cut the sections apart then. Many tutorials will tell you to dig up the entire plant to do this, but if you just need a few smaller sections there's no need to do that. You can pretty easy just separate a few of the outer ones while it's in the ground.

Make sure to water both the one that you took from and the new planting well. I haven't split these just yet, but I did split some of my free ones that I planted in the front yard and they are doing fantastic. (I would have gotten a photo but it rained again. And it's raining now. Always, rain.)

I adore these plants! They are so lush and full:
hostas that bloom

A few things about hostas -- in general those with lighter leaves can tolerate more sun -- this spot gets morning sun only and it seems to be perfect for even the darker leaved ones that require more shade. I don't think any do great in hot afternoon sun.

They seem to retain water well so they don't need to be watered nearly as much as say, a hydrangea. I rarely have to water these during the summer. 

Also -- deer like to munch them. :) So if you have deer they may not last. The ones I planted along our back tree line are little nubs most of the season because of them. 

I think they are beautiful addition to landscaping. I love the lights mixed in with them! If you are interested in reading how to install your own landscaping lights like the ones in this post, check the how-to here

how to install landscaping lights

You can really see how much these have grown since then! So many are intimidated by that project and it's one of the easiest I've ever done. I promise!

Because I love those before and afters, I had to show this one -- here is that side a couple summers ago: 

And now with my free hostas and a few more I added in earlier this summer: 

hosta garden on side of house

I still have a plan to hide the utility stuff there -- I have the materials, I just hope I can make it work. :)

Of course you can propagate and split SO many plants! I'll leave that for another post because there's so many that you can use to add to your garden this way. Or take them from a sweet friend. If you bring me a margarita I'd probably share. ;)

Have you done this with any plants? Do you love hostas too?

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  1. I LOVE hostas. I have some from my grandmother's house (4+ hours away), some I bought for less than 3 bucks a piece, and one species named after my middle son. The ones that are lighter just seem to glow under the shade tree. I do think I need to split and transplant this fall - extend the garden for free :). Thanks for the tour of your backyard. It, along with your house, is beautiful!

  2. They look beautiful and are a favorite of mine as well. When I married my hubby and moved into his house, (our last house), there wasn't any landscaping done as he had yet to get to that. I asked several friends and they gave me a great start by doing what you did. I had one friend, specifically, that had one of the biggest hosta plants that I had ever seen. I took that and split it up and was actually able to surround two mature trees from the one plant and they filled in beautifully. My favorite are the variegated as I love the added interest of two colors on the leaves.

  3. Hosta hoarders unite! I join you in the splitting of hostas, I do it all over my yard whenever I see a bare patch of landscaping. I agree there's no need to go buy more plants when they are right at our fingertips already. See you soon!

  4. Hostas really are the best. In our first house I dug a bunch out (I didn't know what they were:) threw them in a pile and let them sit for 6 months until i realized they were still alive and planted them again and they still looked fabulous!!! Yours look beautiful next to your house Sarah!!!

  5. I really like hostas too! We originally had two hostas in our front yard but now have twelve. Just from splitting them! They're in hot afternoon sun and grow great! We split them last year and they're 3 feet in diameter now. I think it depends on the variety you get. We plan on splitting them again next year. If we split each one three times, we will have 36 hostas from the two we started with!

  6. How lovely your hosta garden is and how nice of your friend to let you have all you want! They are easy to grow, aren't they. When we moved here less than a year ago there were hostas in places all over the place that didn't look right. So I dug them up and planted them under a tree in the backyard and now I have a hosta garden! :)
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  7. I love hostas, but we get too many deer around here. They loved hostas too! LOL!

  8. Someone once told me that when hostas bloom, if you cut off the bloom/stalk at the base then they will get bigger faster. It has seemed to work for mine. I planted them 2 years ago (a transplant from my mother-in-laws house) and they are more than triple the size they were. Day lilies are another great flower to get from friends. They transplant SO well (they're bulbs) and multiply FAST!! We plant them in places that tend to wash/erode on our lot and it solves that problem.

  9. I love hosta's too. I was told that if you grate a bar of Irish Spring soap (don't know if they even make it anymore) and then mix it with some water and spray it on the plants, the deer will leave it alone.

  10. I have a few hostas but this reminds me to split some of mine this year. The before and after for that side garden is quite dramatic and even better that you did it affordably.

  11. I have hostas comin' out my ears. I LOVE them. I have them mixed in all my shady spots. Here's a link to pictures of some in our front yard:
    I might have an addiction to plants in general. ;)

  12. Just remember your planting zones. I bought some to watch them die. It's too hot in FL even in the shade. So now I know if it ain't in the Southern Living guide for my area Don't waste my money!

  13. Gorgeous hostas. Those flowers are amazing.

    Regarding your clematis and it's disappearing act, do you have leaf cutter ants where you live?
    I remember stepping outside and thinking something is weird here, I had 4 hanging baskets full of ivy leaf geraniums and they are were empty! They also can strip a big bougainvillea overnight too.

    We use a product called Trompo that they sell at Home Depot, it looks like chocolate sprinkles. You pour it where they are marching or into the plant they are eating and the ants take it back to the nest where it kills them all. It's supposed to be pet safe, but I would be hesitant to use it if I had small children.

    The other more organic remedy is to wait until evening, follow the line of ants with a flashlight to their nest and pour boiling water into it.Repeat as needed. Hopefully, the nest will be on your property to do this.


  14. I love hostas too. Yours look amazing but the slugs and snails also love them so I've given up ever trying to grow them :( Hope yours continue to thrive.

  15. Host as are such great plants and I love the big ones with corrugated blue leaves. And also verigated ones. I have tons of shade so I have a lot of varieties. I use Sluggo around them if snails or slugs are an issue. Ok I bought a new clematis and one day I went outside and noticed it was gone! My suspect was the bunny that started living in our yard as I've seen her eat my pansies and other tender leaf plants. I was so sad. So if you have rabbits it could be that. Loved the post today

  16. Not sure about other zones, but I split mine in the spring just as their little heads are popping up. Even if I take a good sized chunk, they fill in beautifully and you can't even tell. I have more hostas than I know what to do with at this point! And yes, slugs LOVE them...I put down "slug bait" several times of year...they can destroy the leaves on one hosta over night! And crown rot can be a real booger...but it is manageable...just took me two years to get it under!

  17. Your edging looks fabulous! How do you do it? Do you typically just throw mulch down on the ground or do you kill the grass first. I have always dug up the grass by hand and its horrible. I did similar to what you did when you first got your hostas only I did it with hydrangeas I got on clearance. I just planted them in the ground in the fall and figured I would figure it out in the spring. I am now afraid to put Round Up down to kill the grass because I don't want to kill the hydrangeas... any ideas?

    1. One option is to try "grass b gone" which kills grass, but not flowering plants. Not as effective as round up, but I've had some success when used on a hot sunny day.

      Second option is carefully applying round up. Cut down the grass, pull back the hydrangea leaves, and apply to grass only. It's all about the leaves. I applied round up to some weeds by my hydrangea and was careful. It worked. I accidentally got some on a hydrangea leaf and rinsed it well with water right away. It was fine.

      A third option is to dug up the root ball of the hydrangea, remove any grass roots from the root ball, remove the grass from the planting area, and replant the hydrangea. If you do this, you should probably wait until spring.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. I love hostas! I probably have around 50 different varieties-- all planted by the previous owner. I have a multi-level garden, and one set of stairs are called 'The Hosta Stairs". The only downside in my opinion is that they die back in winter. To control deer, there are stakes that you can plant with them that deter them from eating. Hostas also make wonderful container plants. I'm hoping to do a blog post just on Hostas soon.

  19. If you ever think of transplanting a peony again ~ they are one of very few plants that need to be planted in a shallow hole. The mistake most make is to dig a deep hole to put them in. They won't live if they are dug in too deeply. So different than most every other plant!! Hostas are jewels in the garden, aren't they?

  20. Your yard is so beautiful, Sarah! I was pretty excited when the hostas I planted around our mailbox produced those pretty purple flowers too.

  21. Perfecting timing for this post! I was just talking to my husband about putting in a bed of hostas on the shady side of the house. He wasn't convinced, but I'll have to show him your pictures and I'm sure he will be--especially when he sees that you just planted and mulched over the grass. So glad you shared that!

  22. Since peonies are my favorite I've saved something I just read on transplanting. First, they need full sun to bloom well. The traditional time to transplant is the last week of August and should be planted very shallowly. If the top of the roots are covered with more than an inch of soil they will send up healthy leaves but might never bloom again. Lastly, peonies don't like mulch so don't put any around them. Crossing my fingers this will work. Oh, and they might not bloom the first year!

  23. Very pretty! I have a hosta garden as well and in years past the deer would eat them down to nothing. Try Liquid Fence deer and rabbit repellant. It has been helping. It smells terrible when you spray it but dries odorless.


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