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  4. A Beginner’s Guide to Planting and Caring for Bare-Root Hostas

A Beginner’s Guide to Planting and Caring for Bare-Root Hostas

If you want to infuse your shady garden areas with stunning foliage, bare-root Hosta’s are the perfect choice. These shade-loving perennial plants require minimal care and can withstand even the harshest winters. This article looks into the key areas of planting, growing, and maintaining bare-root Hosta’s, enabling you to add thriving Hosta’s to your garden.

What is a bare-root Hosta?

A bare-root Hosta refers to a plant that is sold and transported without any soil covering its roots. This type of Hosta typically includes intact roots, a crown, and small stem buds, which enable it to grow rapidly once planted.

Compared to potted Hosta’s, bare-root varieties possess a distinct advantage in terms of their unrestricted root system. With no soil surrounding the roots, they have the potential to establish themselves more quickly and efficiently, ultimately leading to the development of a stronger and more robust root structure. This enhanced root system, in turn, promotes healthier growth and better overall plant establishment.

You can harness the benefits of a more vigorous and resilient plant by opting for a bare-root Hosta, provided they receive the necessary care and attention during the planting and initial establishment stages.

Gardener planting bare-root plant in soil in autumn
Gardeners planting bare-root plants in soil in autumn

Why choose bare-root hostas?

When considering why to choose a bare-root Hosta, there are several compelling reasons to remember. First and foremost, planting Hosta’s is an excellent means of enhancing your garden’s visual appeal, as they bring vibrant colours and interesting textures to any landscape.

Hosta’s are also known for being low-maintenance perennials, particularly suitable for shaded gardens. Their hardy nature and adaptability make them relatively easy to care for, requiring minimal effort on your part to maintain their health and beauty.

Opting for a bare-root Hosta offers an additional advantage: cost-effectiveness. By purchasing a bare-root plant, you can save money while still enjoying the benefits of growing Hosta’s. Bare-root plants are typically more affordable compared to potted or container-grown alternatives. This cost-effectiveness allows you to obtain multiple Hosta’s and create a more extensive and diverse garden display without breaking the bank.

Where to plant

When it comes to planting hostas, it’s important to consider their sunlight requirements for optimal growth. While hostas prefer shade, they generally don’t thrive in deep shade. To ensure healthy growth, it is recommended to plant hostas in an area that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.

Different hosta varieties have varying sunlight preferences, so it’s crucial to consider that when deciding where to plant them. Here are some examples of hosta varieties and their shade requirements:

Hosta VarietySunlight Preference
Hosta – ‘Halcyon’ Partial shade
Hosta ‘Champagne Toast’Partial shade to full shade
Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’Partial shade
Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ Partial shade
Hosta ‘Glad Rags’Partial shade to full shade
Hosta ‘Bressingham Blue’Partial shade to full shade
Hosta ‘Kiwi Spearmint’ Partial shade to full shade
Hosta ‘Guacamole’Partial shade
Hosta Praying HandsPartial shade
Hosta Fragrant BluePartial shade to full shade
Hosta Abiqua Drinking GourdPartial shade
Hosta Pacific Blue EdgerPartial shade to full shade
Hosta Fragrant BouquetPartial shade
Different hosta varieties have varying sunlight preferences

When to plant

Hosta’s are best planted between early spring and early autumn. If you choose to plant them in autumn, allowing at least 30 days before the average first frost date is recommended to ensure proper establishment. Additionally, applying a generous layer of mulch around the plants is beneficial to provide insulation and protection during the winter months.

How to store bare-root hostas

To properly store bare-root hostas, follow these steps:

  1. Upon receiving your bare-root plants, it is crucial to plant them within a day or two to prevent any damage or deterioration. Start by opening the package and carefully inspecting the roots. Look for firm and healthy roots, ensuring no signs of rot or damage.
  2. If you cannot plant the hosta roots immediately, storing them in a suitable environment is important. Find a cool and dry place for storage, such as a garage, ensuring it is well-ventilated. Avoid exposing the roots to freezing temperatures or allowing them to dry out.
  3. Keep the hosta roots in the packaging they arrived in. This packaging helps protect the roots and provides insulation during storage. Avoid removing or disturbing the packaging unnecessarily.
  4. Before planting the bare-root hostas, preparing them by giving them a revitalising soak is beneficial. Fill a bucket or container with warm water and carefully place the roots inside. Allow the roots to soak for approximately 30 to 60 minutes. This step helps rehydrate the roots and promotes their overall health before planting.
  5. Once the soaking time is complete, remove the hosta roots from the water and plant them in the desired location, following the proper planting guidelines below.

By following these steps, you can ensure your bare-root hostas’ optimal storage and preparation, setting them up for successful growth and establishment in their new environment.

How to plant

Planting bare-root Hosta’s in the ground is a straightforward process that can be completed quickly. Follow these steps for successful planting:

  1. Choose a shady location

    Select a spot that offers partial to full shade for your Hosta’s. While they can tolerate some morning sun, they prefer a shady environment during the afternoon and evening.

  2. Soak the Hosta bare roots

    Before planting, immerse the Hosta roots in warm water for 30 to 60 minutes. This step allows the roots to rehydrate and absorb moisture, aiding in their healthy growth.

  3. Prepare the soil

    Optimal growth for Hosta’s occurs in rich, organic garden soil. Aim for slightly acidic soil and incorporate several inches of organic matter to enhance drainage. Avoid planting Hosta roots in heavy clay soil, as it may hinder proper drainage.

  4. Dig a wide hole about 3 inches deep

    Plant your Hosta with the roots pointing downward. Gently spread out the roots and position the crown slightly below the soil level. Carefully fill the hole with soil, ensuring the roots are well-covered. The spacing between multiple Hosta’s will depend on the specific variety.

  5. Watering

    After planting, thoroughly water the Hosta’s to moisten the soil. Watering them early in the day is best to promote optimal growth. Provide daily watering for the first few weeks to help the new Hosta’s establish themselves. Once established, water them deeply once a week to maintain moist soil.

  6. Apply mulch

    Add a thin layer of mulch on the soil surface around the Hosta’s. Mulch helps retain moisture, keeps the roots cool, and inhibits weed growth. Avoid piling the mulch against the crown of the Hosta’s, as this may lead to rotting.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your bare-root Hosta’s have the best start in their new home and thrive in your garden.

Add a thin layer of mulch on the soil surface around the hostas to retain moisture and keep the roots cool
Add a thin layer of mulch on the soil surface around the hostas to retain moisture and keep the roots cool.

Common problems

Yellowing leaves


Yellowing leaves in a Hosta can stem from various factors, but the primary consideration should be the soil condition. If the soil is wet and composed of dense clay that hinders proper drainage, it may be the root of the issue. Conduct a simple soil test to determine its composition, and if it is heavy, incorporating coconut coir or peat can help alleviate the problem by loosening the soil. If the soil is not to blame for the yellowing, the next probable cause could be excessive watering.

Brown & crispy leaves


Insufficient watering is the primary factor leading to brown and crispy leaves in Hosta’s. When these plants do not receive an adequate amount of water, they are prone to developing this undesirable characteristic. Another probable cause is excessive exposure to sunlight.

Bleached leaves

When the leaves of a Hosta plant appear bleached, it indicates that they are receiving an excessive amount of sunlight. To address this issue, you can remove the affected leaves and provide the plant with an ample water supply. However, it is important to note that the Hosta may require some time to acclimate to its new environment in the garden.

White powder on leaves

Powdery mildew is a type of fungal infection that forms a powdery film on plant leaves. If you lightly run your finger across a leaf and the powdery substance easily comes off, it indicates the presence of powdery mildew. To prevent this infection, it is important to provide adequate light for the Hosta plant so that its leaves can fully dry out between watering sessions. Additionally, it is advisable to avoid spraying water directly on the foliage, making drip irrigation systems an excellent choice for watering Hosta’s.

Browning in autumn

Hosta’s exhibit a unique behaviour in the changing seasons, being among the final plants to emerge during spring and one of the earliest to wither away during autumn. The particular Hosta in question follows this pattern faithfully. Once subjected to a frost, these plants undergo a rapid deterioration, transforming into a mushy state. It is possible to tidy up these plants during autumn or opt to leave them as they are until the arrival of spring.

Shop bare-root hostas here.

Learn how to plant container-grown hostas here.

Updated on March 15, 2024

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