New to Hosta forum, want to plant large bed

othertime(7)March 25, 2013

Hello everyone, been browsing the site for a while and wanted to ask some questions regarding a potential bed for some hostas.

The bed is roughly 8' x 60' and has from the left to right in the picture: 4 large evergreens, lavender crepe myrtle, dogwood, kwanza cherry, large maple. The bed gets some daple sun at peak then evening sun from around 4-8 in the summer.

The bed has some small shrubs that are going to be removed for hosta planting.

Some questions that I have are what needs to be done to the bed for preparation for hosta planting if any? Bed has been previous mulched and the soil is workable dark about 5-6 inches deep then gets to silty clay.

How would you approach filling this bed up (400 sq/ft roughly). Another member suggest "Hosta by the Handful" (50 or 100 hosta order Gilbert and Sons) as an approach with some specimen plants filtered in the bed for contrast color.

When should the hosta be planted in zone 7 (northern va).

Just looking for an overal guidance in making this bed a sucessful hosta bed.



p.s. old picture of newely seeded grass coming in.

This post was edited by othertime on Mon, Mar 25, 13 at 13:20

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

that bed way back there???

hey.. WELCOME .... to the hosta forum ...

whomever said this.. is NOT a member of the hosta forum:

Another member suggest "Hosta by the Handful" (50 or 100 hosta order Gilbert and Sons) as an approach with some specimen plants filtered in the bed for contrast color.

and being a hardcore addict.. i have to say.. thats about the most useless suggestion i ever heard ...

of my 1500 .... 1000 of them came mail order..

read thru the past 60 pages of posts.. paying special attention to the 'alphabet' posts.. wherein we post pix in alphabetic order.. and start making a list of what intrigues you ..... as you will be fully enabled..

also look for posts about our favorite sellers ... who is gilbert.. and whats the deal with his son .. cant get a job w/o daddy??? does this seller have any clue what HVX is ...???

and finally.. i suggest you do NOT till under your large trees .... shrubs... just dig holes.. and plant your hosta in native soil.. and broadcast water from there.. try to drown them ...

all that said.. how about a large city.. and lets find out if you are pushing the envelop here.. they do have a certain winter cold requirement .... and your zone alone is not enough to be sure you can do hosta successfully ... unless you see them thriving around town.. and being sold in local nurseries ...

since you popped in here.. lets be clear.. this is going to cost money.. lol ....

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 1:31PM
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Ken as always you are great help in your posts with some humor sprinkled in.

I live south (10 miles) of Washington DC so we do have that winter cold requirement, speaking of it just snowed 5 inches today. We do have a local nusery that is pretty nice but pricy compared to online orders. Merryfileds Nusey is about 5 miles down the road and they just had a hosta event (Potmac Hosta Club) yesterday that I missed.

I browsed the recomended sellers and liked Hallsons and Green mountain had some good lookers.

Was not looking to till, just soil amendments (organics).

I did see your thread about making a bed from scratch and read through it. Good read for starting beds.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 1:55PM
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Ludi _PA_7a

Welcome Sam :)

D.C you say ? I'm just a few hours north here in Philly. Nice to have a fellow east coast zone 7. :p

You said you liked what you saw at Hallson's ? Let me affirm (if needed) that Chris is one of the BEST as far as customer service is concerned. This poor man has had to deal with my endless emails all winter, constantly nagging questions, and overall chatty nature. He did so with great charisma and insight. So much so that I am planning a trip this summer to visit his nursery.

Can't recommend him enough for all your hosta needs, both plant and culture related. Naylor Creek is another good one. Gary will also take care of you if you decide to dabble in his catalog. :)

I'm not new to hosta, but I am new to them growing in abundance in my garden. I started out last year with three enormous clumps of Elegans and two clumps of Wide Brim. After all my spring orders arrive this year I will be well over 100 different types. In the grand scheme of things I am a fledgling hostaholic, but still addicted none the less.

I am envious of your sprawling yard. Shame you wasted the money on grass seed when you could have tore the whole thing up and planted hosta. There is still time. :p (kidding)

But down to business . . .

I would have to agree with Ken, take a look at as many pictures are you can and see which ones you like. Compile a HUGE list and THEN start looking to see which are actually available for sale. I have all too often found a picture of the most spectacular plant only to discover that it is a one-of in the owners garden (usually a renowned hybridizer). First lesson of hostaholicism is never shop at the hostalibrary. :p

This will reduce your list to a more practical size in the end. A problem I have been running into recently is the older more classic hosta. You will often see them featured here on GW, but when you go to look for them at nurseries they are usually not for sale.

As Ken so elegantly put it (I mean that). “They are not in inventories but rather in gardens”.

I have found this to be true. Fortunately the market is flooded with look-a-likes, so if there is a certain variegation, size, color, overall shape you like but can't find a vendor, pitch the question here and we surely will try to help you find a look-a-like.

Rambling sorry,

About amending the soil. This is my own personal spin on amendments based off my research. I went the same approach as you last year when I cleared my first bed. I had no intentions of tilling, I just wanted to 'fold' in some amendments.

I ended up using:

Composted Cow Manure (organic matter)
Mushroom Manure (to feed the microbes in the organic matter)
A small size 7 (I think) gravel for aeration. This is not something I plant to add in every year.

My soil is probably the same as you, mud brown slick clay. The drainage is horrible but with yearly amendments of compost and manure it should slowly become the rich sandy loam we all yearn for.

In the fall I plan to mulch the beds that have been cultivated with composted leaves. In the spring, till in the remander of the previous years mulch and then lay down some sort of wood mulch for the growing season. I like the wood mulch both for the looks as well as the protection it provides. Make sure to turn your mulch as it will 'cake' into a hard sheet, reducing air flow at ground level.

These are my two cents, well two dollars worth. :) Do with it what you need, but make sure to keep us posted with your progress.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 6:25PM
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Ludi, Thank you for the thorough reply! I heard you guy/gals here have a such an outpouring of knowledge and love for the plants!

I will have to give Mr. Chris a call and talk to him a little before I make an order with him. He sounds like a great guy from what you have posted. Pretty cool that you want to take a trip up to his nursery to have a look/ and hoard some hostas! I will definitely take a look at Naylor as this nursery seems to be a pretty hot place on here to buy from.

100 hostas must be putting a dent in the wallet. I think about 100 is about what I need to fill up my bed given the sq/ft and how much an average medium to large full grown hosta size is. Going to be a busy spring for you. When do you plan to start planting the bulbs if you don't mind me asking? I am getting serious about getting an order in so I can get some plants in the ground.

I have already been looking over plenty of Hosta on some sites and have made a list. Also went through the post on this forum about what everyone is ordering for their spring order and found some nice specimens in there. Have to start somewhere.

We moved into our current house back in 2011 and the yard needed some work so last fall I rounded the entire back yard up and seeded with a high quality tttf (turf type tall fescue) that does great in the transition zone. Now its time to tackle the beds and get them going.

Took a look at hostalibrary, great find as I have never heard of it till you mentioned it. Thanks

Good looking out for soil amendments, I am sure hosta's love the organic stuff. I was planning on adding compost maybe an inch this spring then put down a double shredded brown mulch. After this start planting.

So is it best to order and get the plants without leaves in an order or does it matter. I am assuming around here hostas push out leaves around late May? So that means I get an order into a nursery in a couple of weeks and get the shipment late April.

Thanks again for the detailed response Ludi!


    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 8:21PM
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Welcome Othertime!
Was thinking of advising to also try Naylor Creek, when I saw they were already mentioned.

Nice thing, they emailed me today that my order placed early in the winter was SHIPPED TODAY. So I expect to do a Show And Tell later this week of my new arrivals.

If all that space in your photo is potential gardening room for you, then I suggest you get a copy of THE HOSTA FINDER which comes out annually and will let you source the hosta you enjoy. A link to the order form is below.

Would love to have some of your northern Virginal rolling garden to work with myself. Looks like your spot was made for growin' dem hosta!

Here is a link that might be useful: The Hosta Finder order form

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 8:57PM
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Ludi _PA_7a

Hahaaa . . . indeed it certainly did put a dent in my wallet. I don't have children (I'm only a child myself at 27) or an overly engaging social life (outside of this forum) so the disposable income is a bit higher than your average suburbanite. :)

All in all it is money well spent. Hosta are great being perennials. In theory you only have to buy one to have it forever. This is not always the case though. Some hostas are just better growers than others. But darn if we don't buy two or three or four of the same hosta that keeps dying on us every year. I have yet to engage in this destructive cycle since this is still my first year, but I have read some stories on here of how some will try their hardest to get that ONE to grow despite it never actually growing. You have been warned. :p

The solid leafed (blue, yellow, green) cultivars are always a safe bet as far as vigor is concerned.

You get into thin ice with the more white you put in the leaf. I personally prefer the white variegations, and find they seem to do better in the northern climates versus the southern. Take Cascades, it is supposedly notorious for being a poor performer. I bought it as one of my first from the local nursery as an ignorant newbie because I thought the leaves were gorgeous. It ended up doing better than most I bought last year.

Moccasin will be the first to tell you that the yellow and green variegations tend to fair much better in her hotter southern air, but the white variegations seems to melt under the heat.

100 hostas sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. They come in all shapes and sizes, truly. You can have some as small as a quarter, or a 10 year old Sum and Substance that will eat a small army if allowed.

I certainly have my work cut out for me, but truth be told I can't wait to get my hands dirty.

You asked: “When do you plan to start planting the bulbs?”

This is a tougher question since I get the bulbs, which are actually called crowns :) when the vendors are able to ship them.

Certain vendors are able to ship at different times and they usually will let you know when the first spring shipments start either in their catalog or on their website. When you place the order, you let them know when you want it shipped to coincide with your zone.

I told Chris for example, that I would prefer mine the first or second week in May, as by that time I am 100% sure that we are well off into the growing season. He is a zone or two north of us, so where my established clumps will be unfurling (most likely) his will just be emerging. So I will receive pipped hostas to go next to my unfurling. So long as they are growing and in well drained soil, it doesn't really seem to matter if some came up earlier than others. They all even out the next year. :)

I am not typical in that I am planting all my new arrivals into pots for the first year. This is not to say that you can not grow hostas successfully in pots. Many on this forum do so exclusively with great success. The larger solid blue sieboldiana-type cultivars don't seem to do well living in pots for extended periods of time (more than 3 years). I have not experimented with this yet, but have read it quite a few times in various publications and discussions. :)

I'm doing this since I don't have all my beds cleared yet. There isn't anywhere to plant them in the ground now, but in the coming years as more and more gets cleared I will slowly transition them into their permanent spots in the ground (soil amended).

In our area, hosta are almost always up by May. Last year being the first exception I have witnessed with them coming up in the beginning of April. You are safe to start fussing come May IMO.

When you talk to Chris, ask him about when the best time to ship would be for you. He may be able to send them earlier if you preferred. All depends on when he can start digging them out of that Michigan tundra. :p

I'm typically long-winded, but this post takes the cake. My fingers are cramping up so I'm gonna call it here.

Very excited for you Sam, hope it all works out. Keep us posted.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 10:12PM
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Di_in_PA Zone 7a - Philly 'burbs(7)

Hi Ludi, I'm in the Philly area too. Have you discovered the Mid-Atlantic Hardy Plant Society yet? The member sales are great places to pick-up hosta divisions (along with shady companion plants) at very reasonable prices. Also, you might want to consider joining the Delaware Valley Hosta Society if you haven't already. Both groups are full of folks who are willing to share their knowledge and plants.

Sam, you might want to hook-up with a few 'societies' or garden clubs in your area too. Most of the folks I've run into at meetings and events are more than willing to share a division or two (or three or four...). You might also want to try the Hosta Co-ops (e.g., there's one going on now, check here:

This post was edited by Di_in_PA on Mon, Mar 25, 13 at 23:27

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 11:24PM
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Ha ha Ludi.........."Compile a HUGE list and THEN start looking to see which are actually available for sale. "......I have a list of 100 that I need to whittle down to about 10 or so, before I incur the wrath of "My Lil Banker" LOL.......But they are ALL available for sale!!! AAAAGH!! I'm doin' great though, so far I have...uh...'Sun Power' and...uh...(I've already ordered about 70 so far for this spring)...but THIS order...Hmmm....

Welcome to the Hosta Forum, Sam! Have fun!!!!

Don B.
Westminster, CO.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 12:00AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

Was not looking to till, just soil amendments (organics).

==>>> the problem here.. is digging a hole.. cutting large tree roots. and then making a yummy hole.. guess where the tree is going to put some new feeder roots??? YES!!!! ... right there in that hole you just dug ...

now i am not familiar with gardening under your type trees.. but my general rule is.. plant them in native soil .. BROADCAST fert and water.. so as to not attract nor encourage the tree to strangle your hosta ... in the specific hole you just dug ...

hallson's is about 15 miles from me.. and my soil is frozen solid ... and .. lol.. i am glad someone told chris to send in may.. but this spring.. who the heck knows if the ground will be thawed from there.. so you might have your wishes.. but the fact that he grows them in the ground.. might mean you might not get them when you want them.. and that is NOT a reason to make derogatory posts about it ...

but more importantly ... chris is a one man wrecking crew.. if you want to call .. CALL HIM NOW ... or in the early morning.. please dont call him at his peak shipping time .. God help us.. in may.. and then complain he doesnt have time to chat idly for your 50 cent order .... i know he will do it.. but why stress him out ....

naylor.. on the other hand.. is in the PNW .. pacific NW ... and their idea of winter is a blistering cold 50 degrees ... but the key is.. they grow EVERYTHING in pots ... you want them tomorrow.. they have a pot ...

the downside to ordering from warmer zones though.. using my z5 as an example.. is that with my last frost/freeze date around 6/1 ... if i receive a fully leafed out hosta in may.. what can i do with it ????

since you are z7 ... i am not going on and on about this.. but only note it.. so you will be aware.. or consider where you order from.. location wise ...

and as to gratuitous compliments from ludi.. HEY!!.. you are my new best friend.. lol

there is also an old post of mine.. something about MOVING A FULLY LEAFED OUT HOSTA ... check that one out .. you might learn something ... i will see if i can find it.. before my attention span withers .. [found it easy.. and bumped it up]

you are now fully enabled .. GO FOR IT

oh.. one other rule.. giant/XL hosta.. can take 7 to 10 years to mature.. to full potential ... figure out where you want a few 4 footers.. and plant them ONCE... FOREVER ... never move those around.. or you start the 10 year clock again .. ALL others can be moved around at will ...


    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 8:00AM
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updating current pictures

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 10:51AM
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this is 11 am sun right now, all trees are without leaves.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 10:52AM
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Ludi _PA_7a

Oh my Sam !

Those tree roots are going to be a nightmare !!! The lighting however looks splendid. :)

My vote is still to put the kai-bash on the lawn and turn it into a giant perennial garden.

We need someone to link the info for spin-out bags. I haven't had to plant next to any trees yet. In fact, after Sandy came through we had some removed from our property.

Never saw wind nearly bend a spruce in half before. Scary stuff.


Hello !!! and thank you for all the info. :)

I have been meaning to do more research on local societies but I can't pry myself away from my own garden to figure out a plan. It is hard to balance everything, and with my recent commitment to my own personal garden it has taken up most of what was left of my 'free' time.

I have heard amazing things about the DVHS. Philadelphia is such a great botanical hub. I have been to Longwood more times than I can count. Never made it early enough to see the Wisteria gardens in bloom. Meadowbrook is about 20 min from my house, which was recently bought out by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society. I frequent them for more of my indoor exotics. They get their orchids from Waldor's so I have a nice access to quality plants there. Primex suits my needs mostly for the big garden stuff. I think I paid some of the summer workers salaries last year with plants and soil amendments alone. :)

I will keep those organizations in mind for future years, and who knows, maybe bump into you.

Hahaaaa . . . look for the pasty Irish boy who talks with his hands :p


Sandy's Wrath

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 6:59PM
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spin out bags.... already bookmarked the website

for the newbs even more newb than me..

As far as turning the lawn into a perenial garden... well the backyard where the grass is has septic running under so no trees planted on top of it. No mid day shade from trees=no hostas

So you think I will have a root issue. lol.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 9:54PM
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"....pasty Irish boy who talks with his hands...." Ludi, you are describing my DH there! :)

And about the list of 100......
Well, if I were interested in drag racing, I'd say that I went from 12 to 304 in 9. That means, I started with 12 from one nursery, in the fall of 2011, and by last October 2012, I had 304 DIFFERENT hosta (not counting that I bought 8 plantaginea, etc). These all came from mail order, not local nurseries, since no local nurseries deal in hosta. All but 3 of my 304 are in containers. And I think the order shipped from Naylor to arrive any day now, will increase the count by 21, and provided all lived through the winter, I should have a count of 325.

I have yet to learn if the lack of a "proper" dormancy has reduced the size of any that looked so good last year. I am very fond of, and think I may wind up specializing in, the fragrant hosta, since they are reputedly more tolerant of heat and humidity. Here is a picture of one that came from Hallsons last October. It sure is purdy.

Ginsu Knife.....a nice fragrant variety.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 10:58PM
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8 plantaginea?? That's fantastic!!! Cannot have too many of those, huh Mocc?

Don B.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 11:05PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

your last pic ...

the first thing that pops into my head.. is why would you insist in invading the bed thats all ready there.. where the trees are already super competitors.. it will be very dry under there ...

think about killing the grass.. for 8 to 10 feet.. IN FRONT OF WHAT IS THERE ... covering with thick mulch.. and planting hosta there .. [which you will do.. when you buy your second 100 plants.. lol.. lets be very honest about that.. so may as well do it now ... lol ...]

think outside your box ...

but that could take all summer ... so plant them.. temporarily where you are thinking.. while you make a new bed this season ... perhaps the giant of the giants in that area ...

i dont recall.. so forgive me if this is redundant.. but check out the link.. for the easy way to make very large beds... [thats a questionable use of 'easy' .. lol ... its either money or time/labor .. or most likely.. both] ...


Here is a link that might be useful: bed development ..... eye strain hazard

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 7:46AM
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Ken is the expert but I am definitely older. I do have years on my side. Decades ago I started buying 'hostas by the handful' from Gilbert S. Wild and at the same time got named hostas on the internet. Seems like a real good combination - worked for me.

I filled in the areas under lots of Black Walnut trees with my 'handfuls'. then in the outer area put in the named ones with labels. For about 5 years, I bought the '100 for $100 from Wilds to fill in my large area. That was 15 years ago.

Today I have hosta beds that probably take over several acres. I grow them for me -- not for resale so I don't care any more what their names are. The finished product is just plain lovely EXCEPT in the areas where there is too much sun.

People can tell you some are sun tolerant but they are lying.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 5:54PM
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Yup; lots of us liars out here.

Don B.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 6:13PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

they are fully sun tolerant ... words mean things ...

they just wont look pretty after august..

tolerance is about DYING .... and they wont.. presuming enough water .. which has nothing to do with sun ... directly ... [you should throw in latitude in sun tolerance also ... sun in WI.. is kinda different than sun in Louisiana ...

anyway ... ryse.. i was ENABLING them.. lol ... not meaning to slander 100 hosta for $100 ... and presuming they never sent you a virused hosta ...


    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 6:33PM
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jan_on zone 5b

Ryse - I've only been around for a year or so, but I don't recognize your name. I do hope you have a camera because I'm looking forward to seeing your acres in a month or two. I really admire mass plantings and envy those with large enough spaces to accomodate them. Eye candy please!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 8:06PM
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