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Writing about the things I love. My writing work has appeared in hard copy magazines including Green Prints, Twins Magazine, Practical Parenting Magazine, The Journal of Court Reporting, and more as well as hundreds of articles in Sunset Hosta Farm's Hosta blog and The Homesteading Village blog.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Best Soil for Hostas

If you've heard that hostas can grow in any soil type, even poor soil, that's not exactly true. While established hostas tend to become comfortable in any soil over time, they certainly won't thrive and retain the beautiful leaves that you grow them for. Young hostas planted in poor soil will eventually succumb to disease and die.

If you want your hostas to thrive, the key is soil that is rich. The ideal soil pH for hostas ranges from 6.5 to 7.5, which actually means it's slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. 

Soil for a new hosta bed

For a new hosta bed, till in about six inches of organic matter. This can include leaf mold, compost, well-rotted manure, peat moss or composted pine bark. These amendments will do wonders for giving young hostas the nutrients they need to develop good, healthy roots and also will provide air space for rapid root growth.

If the soil has a great deal of clay, it is best that you improve the soil. You can add some coarse sand or small gravel or pebbles which will also help with good drainage.

Dig the planting hole at least a foot deep. And since most hosta roots spread horizontally, a width of one and a half times the mature size of the clump is recommended.

For a detailed article on composting, click here.

For a detailed article on making leaf mold, click here.

 Side Note
Roots of young hostas can tend to heave up above ground over the winter. Do a quick spring check of this and bury the exposed roots.



Refreshing the soil in a previous hosta garden

If you are lucky enough to have loamy soil in your garden, which is pretty rare, you may not need to add anything other than a few inches of organic matter each Fall. This practice will also slowly raise the bed, improving the soil's ability to get the water down to the roots.

If your soil is in very poor shape, you may want to actually lift the hostas out, add your nutrients and replant.

Refreshing the soil in hosta planters

Hostas in planters or pots need soil that has good air circulation to the roots and good drainage. Some of the ingredients in commercial potting soil will break down over the years causing the mix to compress and lose some drainage capabilities. 

Adding Perlite, bark, grit, pebbles or the like will help to aerate the soil again. An addition of sphagnum peat moss or coir peat will help hold in the moisture that hostas love.

For a detailed article on refreshing and reusing last year's potting soil, click here.

Check the drainage holes in your containers or pots each spring and make sure they aren't clogged. 

Hostas love and need lots of water. A minimum of an inch of water per week, either from irrigation or rain, is recommended. However, roots that set in stagnant water will rot and eventually kill the plant.

Fertilizing your hostas

Hostas will get a great seasonal boost if you fertilize them every spring before the first shoots appear. Granular fertilizers of 5-10-5 or a balanced fertilizer of 10-10-10 will do the trick.

Healthy soil and a dash of spring fertilizer will reward you with those beautiful leaves that we grow hostas for.


So although hostas are known for their toughness, if you allow them to grow in great soil, they will reward you with their beautiful leaves for many years.

Where to go next!

Love Hostas or know someone who does?
Visit our website for great hostas at an affordable price

Creating a Rock Garden that Rocks!


A rock garden by design is a small plot (usually on a slope or man-made hill) designed to emphasize a variety of rocks, stones, and plants.  Rock gardens can be made to blend into the landscape or they can be a great focal point area. Rocks are naturally beautiful, and with the right planning, your rock garden will look good year-round.

Why hostas are THE best plants for rock gardens

Simply, hostas have all the necessary elements of a great rock garden plant:

  • They are perennials in Zones 3 – 9. There's no need to replace them year after year.
  • They are well known to be tough plants that can be grown in many different environments and soils.
  • They are easy to maintain.
  • Their leaf structure. Hostas are known for their beautiful leaves that are available in many shapes which include narrow, lance-shaped, heart-shaped, rounded, apple-shaped and those cute mouse ear shapes. The leaf textures range from thin to thick and corrugated or rugose.
  • They come in many sizes.  Hostas are categorized in sizes from very large, to large, to medium to the mini and small hostas.  The later will not outgrow their space quickly.
  • They come in many colors including blues, greens, yellows, golds and variegated colors.
  • Once established hostas are practically drought tolerant.
  • Some hostas are also sun tolerant and slug resistant.
  • Their clump-forming habit will quickly smother out weeds.

First, some Rock Garden basics

About the Soil

Generally, the soil should drain well but not too fast.

For a rock garden in a sunny spot, before planting, mix small rocks, a layer of sand and a layer of topsoil with some peat moss and you will have the best soil you can get for your rock garden. 

For a rock garden in a shadier spot, a richer soil mix like compost is recommended since most shade-loving plants prefer a moisture retentive mixture.

Staging the Rocks

The rocks will complement the delicacy of the plants and flowers within it. The trick is to use a variety of textures and scale. This is where it may be helpful to map out your plan on paper.

  • Start with the large rocks. Random groups look more natural than straight lines and rows. Use a combination of upright rocks, rounded rocks, and hard-edged rocks. You can also stack them for some extra height.
  • The rocks can be placed so that the same rock can shadow a shade-loving plant on the northern side, and give plenty of southern light to the plants on the other side.
  • Rocks should be tilted backward with the layers of rock running the same way.
  • Bury the large rocks up to a third of their depth and firm into place. You don't want your final project heaving up from the winter's freezes and thaws.
  • Leave large pockets to add smaller rocks, stones or plants.

Next Steps

  • Now incorporate smaller stones or rocks leaving small pockets for the plants.
  • Add the soil between the rocks and into pockets.

Step back. Does it look natural?

The more natural your rock garden looks at this point, the more attractive it will be after it's planted.

Let it settle

Once you're happy with the basic structure, it is advisable to leave the rock garden to settle in for a few weeks. You may need to adjust more soil after some settlement. Better to do that before planting.

Now for the Fun Part! The Plants!

As a rule, for bigger rocks, bigger plants are needed. For smaller rocks, smaller plants are needed. Flowers should accent the rocks, but not hide them.

Here at Sunset Hosta Farm, we grow and sell a number of hostas that are suitable for rock gardens. Here are some hostas that we recommend for rock gardens in part shade.

Praying Hands

Mature Size: Small   Height: 16” Width up to 30”

Praying Hands is the 2011 Hosta of the Year and one of the most unique hostas ever. This upright 16” tall two-foot-wide clump lives up to its name lifting its leaves up in prayer. The clumps are topped with 18” spikes of light lavender flowers. It has a creamy narrow yellow border. In late spring it will attract hummingbirds. A unique and very popular hosta.

Rain Forest Sunrise

Mature Size: Small   Height: 10” Width up to 35”

This sport of H 'Maui Buttercups' emerges with light green leaves that quickly develop dark green margins. The leaves are cupped and puckered with great substance. It was awarded the 2013 Hosta of the Year for good reason. Pictures don’t do this hosta justice.


Saint Elmo's Fire

Mature Size: Small   Height: 10” Width up to 30”

A sport of H 'Sea Fire', Saint Elmo's Fire is a true beauty that is noted for its showy yellow leaves. As the season progresses, the leaves turn light green with pretty white margins. A very attractive bi-colored foliage display. It's a stunner!


Mature Size: Small   Height: 11” Width up to 24”

Teaspoon is an excellent choice to show off in front of a shady garden. The leaves are medium green, slightly corrugated and form a dense mound of cupped, upward-facing foliage. Pale lavender flowers show up in summer. A very pretty small green hosta that is sun tolerant.

Amber Tiara

Mature Size: Small   Height: 12” Width up to 20”

Amber Tiara has thick chartreuse oval-shaped leaves with a blunt tip. It forms an attractive dense mound. The flowers are light purple on 22” scapes in late summer. Give this Tiara more sun for its best color.

Mini and Small Sun Tolerant Hostas

These hostas can take more sun than their shade-loving cousins, up to four to six hours of morning sun with afternoon shade. They will also work well in a shady spot.


Mature Size: Small   Height: 9” Width up to 24”

Friends grow into a small mound of rippled gold foliage. The tips of the leaves are slightly twisted. The leaves will brighten to yellow by mid-summer. It's a reliable, fast grower. Displays lavender to white throats in late summer. Looks great in groups and in the front of a hosta bed. Small and very cute.


Hush Puppie

Mature Size: Mini   Height: 7” Width up to 15”

Hush Puppie is the perfect border or edging plant because of its vigorous growth rate and smaller size. It has cute twisted dark green leaves with white creamy edges. It blooms purple in early summer. Great for fairie gardens, rock gardens, and troughs and especially cute when planted en masse.

Blue Mouse Ears

Mature Size: Mini   Height: 8” Width up to 19”

2008 Hosta of the Year for good reason! The medium blue/green mouse ear-shaped leaves are nothing short of adorable! Outstanding lavender to white lily-like flowers atop graceful stalks in summer. Great for rock gardens, fairy gardens, and borders. Very popular and a must-have for any hosta garden.

Green Mouse Ears

Mature Size: Mini   Height: 8” Width up to 19”

Green Mouse Ears is a cute little sport of 'Blue Mouse Ears'. Green Mouse Ears forms a mound of medium to dark green cupped leaves of good substance. Pale purple flowers rise above the upright leaves in the summer. Also slug resistant. Very cute!

Mighty Mouse

Mature Size: Mini   Height: 8” Width up to 19”

A sport of H 'Blue Mouse Ears', this charmer boasts thick round variegated leaves with a creamy margin. It will attract hummingbirds in late spring with its short spikes of dark lavender flowers. Cute! A must-have for any mouse-ear collector.

Other suitable plants for your rock garden

For some added color, these plants are also suitable for rock gardens. Some of these may be fast growers and may need to be divided or replaced more often than the hostas would.


Perennial Zones 3 – 9   Height 6-12”

A perennial alyssum that develops masses of cheerful flowers that look terrific when tucked between rocks and boulders.

Creeping Phlox aka Phlox Subulata or Moss Pink

Perennial Zones 3 – 9   Height 6-12”

A mat-forming perennial with pink blooms. Spreads to two feet. You can shear the foliage back after it blooms.

Ice Plant

Perennial Zones 5 – 9   Height 3”

This perennial will stay short but can spread to three or four feet. It will bloom most of the summer and fall. The leaves morph into darker colors as the temperature drops.

Lamium aka Deadnettle

Perennial Zones 2 – 9   Height 6-8”

A member of the mint family, Lamium has square stems, toothed leaves, and a spreading habit. The foliage can be mottled, frosted or otherwise marked.


Perennial Zones 3 – 11   Height 3-6”
Any type of low-growing sedum looks great in rock gardens, Crassulaceae and Hens and Chicks to name a few. 

Angelina has brilliant chartreuse needle-like foliage that forms a quick-growing ground cover. Excellent year-round coverage. The foliage turns orange in northern climates.

Dragon's Blood is evergreen except in the coldest areas. Its green leaves with red margins turn a brilliant red with cool autumn temperatures. Its deep red flowers contrast with the green leaves in warmer weather. It needs part to full sun.


Perennial Zones 3 - 7   Height 6"  Width 1'

Snow-in-the-Summer blooms white in July.  It's a great ground cover.

Other Design Tips

Allow the leaves of your plants to cascade over a corner of the rock then plant a smaller plant in front of the rock. This gives you the classic three groupings without using three plants.

Planting three hostas one foot apart in a triangle with a large rock in the middle also gives a nice effect.

Mulching Your Rock Garden

Bark mulches can look out of place in a rock garden. Use small stone for mulch, matching the same color as the larger rocks to blend in.

Care for your Rock Garden

  • Weed frequently at first until the rocks and plants establish themselves in the soil.
  • Water occasionally and deeply.
  • Prune plants that have spread beyond their limits.
  • Move plants that appear unhappy.
  • In the fall, rake out fallen  leaves and cover any weather sensitive plants


It's not a surprise that mini and small hostas are becoming the number one plant for rock gardens. You'll be hard-pressed to find another perennial as rugged and carefree as a hosta.



Love hostas or know someone who does?
Visit our website for great hostas at an affordable price.


Slugs and Hostas


Hostas are one of the most maintenance-free perennials you can grow.  But they do have one nemesis -- Slugs!  They love hostas and can be a problem over the entire season if the slug problem is left unresolved.


The Damage Slugs Do to Hostas

Slug damage to hostas appears as multiple holes chewed through the hosta leaves. The most damage will be done to varieties with thinner leaves or hostas that are variegated.

Your first line of defense is knowing about slugs.

Besides being darn ugly and slimy, slugs look like snails without the shells. They love to prey on hosta leaves causing holes in their leaves. If not battled early, they can ruin the look of the hostas for a season.

Why are slugs drawn to hostas?

Simply they like the same environment that hostas do; moist areas, preferably with plenty of decomposing organic matter.

When are slugs active?

They come out when it's cool and dark; the wetter the ground stays, the more the slugs populate it. They can also be spotted on cool, cloudy days.


Now the good part ...
How to get rid of them!

Chemical Products

There are many chemical products on the market that will kill slugs including Sluggo or Ortho Slug and Snail Killer.  I have found that they do work.

Non-Chemical Approaches

If you want a non-chemical way of getting rid of the little buggers, here are some suggestions that work well.

Change Their Environment

You want to make it less inviting for those slug families. There are several ways you can do this. 

  • They love the moist ground, so replace the old mulch that no longer drains well to a fresh mulch which will dry out faster. This will make it less hospitable to slugs. 
  • Slugs are soft-bellied creatures. To make it more difficult for the slug to travel hosta to hosta, you can put a rough-edged material like lava rocks around the hosta that they don't want to crawl over. Any coarse material like crushed eggshells will do. 
  • Place an Epsom Salt ring around the hosta. Slugs won't go near that.   Epsom salt is also a good source of magnesium for hostas.
  • Copper Strips. These are adhesive strips that form a barrier around pots or raised beds. When the slimy slug tries to cross the barrier, it is deterred with a small electric shock. 


  • Coffee grounds are also hard for slugs to crawl over and the caffeine is deadly to them. An added benefit is that coffee grounds are a good source of nitrogen, calcium, and magnesium. 

If you are already “overrun” by the slugs or had a late start in getting to them, here's the best way I've found to limit their numbers.

Trap Them

  • Place wood pieces in the area you have found slugs. Turn the boards over during the heat of the day and you'll find them resting there. Dunk them in a mixture of one part bleach to nine parts water or vinegar to kill them. 
  • Take a roll of newspaper and put a rubber band around it. Soak it in a pail of water for a few hours. Take the rubber band off and lay the newspaper in the slug area. They will crawl between the pages of the paper. Roll it up and dispose of the slugs. 

This one we've all heard about

Beer Traps

Take a shallow container and bury it in the ground next to your hosta. Fill with beer. The slug will fall into the trap and drown. Not an unpleasant way to go, I guess, and it does work for a few slugs or maybe at the beginning of the season. I wouldn't rely on this method for a large area of hostas.

Here's one you may not have thought of.



Birds eat slugs, so having many birdhouses around your hosta garden will attract birds to eat them. Some birds that will feast on slugs, beetles, and mosquitoes are Cardinals, Bluebirds, Orioles, and Sparrows.

My favorite way to limit your slug population:

Buy Slug Tolerant Hostas!

What makes a hosta more slug tolerant than others is the leaf substance of the hosta. The thicker and heavier the leaves, the less appeal they are to slugs and snails.

Here at Sunset Hosta Farm, we sell a good variety of slug-resistant hostas.  Click on this link to see our selection.  Click here.

Whether you buy slug-resistant hostas or use the above tips for the ones you have, your hostas will thank you by looking great throughout the season.

Where to go next!


Love hostas or know someone who does?
Visit our website for great hostas at an affordable price!

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you a penny extra.

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