Light Needs of Plants Perennials

Bulk Up Baby Hostas… With Sun!

You’ve probably always heard that hostas are shade-loving plants, so the following tip is going to sound like heresy, but … if you want to get a young hosta, say a division from a larger plant or a small specimen of a large variety you’ve manage to buy on the cheap, to bulk up as quickly as possible, give it sun. Yes, six hours of sun a day if you can, most of it in the morning. Even full sun all day if you live in a cooler climate!

Do this in early spring as the leaves emerge or else in fall, when the growing season is over. In other words, at the time of year when you usually divide hostas. Don’t move a hosta division from deep shade to full sun in midsummer or all the foliage might burn off. (That won’t kill the plant, but it’s counterproductive, as it will slow the plant down while our goal is to speed it up.)

Sun Effects

Yep, this leaf has a bit of sunburn, but what’s left still carrying on photosynthesis… at a faster than normal rate. Photo:

Bright sun may cause the leaves to bleach a bit and burnt patches to appear while blue hostas may lose the whitish bloom that gives them their color, but remember this is temporary. These damages only appear on the growth of the current year; the plant’s genetic traits won’t be altered. What the extra sun will do is to allow the leaves to absorb more energy and thus stimulate faster growth, as fast as that particular cultivar can handle (some hostas are naturally slower growers than others).

Of course, you can also plant young hostas in rich soil and keep them well watered. That too will help bulk them up.

Moving to Their New Home

When the hosta does reach the size you want, dig it up and move it to the deep shade if you want to (although hostas really are happiest in partial shade, not than anyone ever tells you that). It will hold its full size, even in soil filled with tree roots (i.e. dry shade), for years and years. But you do need to “plump up” young hostas first if you want to see them reach their full size within your lifetime.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

1 comment on “Bulk Up Baby Hostas… With Sun!

  1. Even here is our semi-arid climate, where we do not grow many hostas at all, we do not thin of them as ‘shade-loving’. They are considered more to be ‘shade-tolerant’. I think if I moved one from a shady spot to a more exposed spot, I would expect it to roast at first, just because that it to be expected, at least it is expected here.

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