How do I plan a tight hosta bed?

Connie KJune 7, 2014

I am new to hostas.

I prefer the look of a closely planted hosta bed, one where all the hostas touch each other and there is no visible mulch or soil between them.

But I don't know how to determine the correct spacing between hostas so that they fill in the bed. Do I need to account for a period of time where they reach their full potential? If so, how long might that be?

If I have a tight hosta bed, does it follow that I will need to divide the hostas more frequently once they are established?

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Ha ha ha , You sound like I did three years ago. I could hardly wait to have my plants all touch and no spaces or soil showing. Three years later and they are all touching, possibly some too close but not a big deal as they can be moved to new beds I am sure you will make. I have about 6 or 7 last , last beds. Depends if you want that look now or when the have their third year leap. I personally like to see them almost full right away and my plants are considered by Mctavish Myrle they are far apart. If you have the plants purchased , check to see the spacing they say on the internet and the height. larger ones toward the back or if viewed from both sides maybe in the middle. If it doesn't look good ... move it
Best of luck, Faye

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 5:14PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you buy more than you could ever need... not expecting them to grow...

plant them so they are all touching...

and then.. next year... start digging them out and moving them around.. say.. if they were in a line.. taking every other one out ... etc ...

though genetically subject to height and leaf shape and size ...

in theory.. the clump can get wider.. and wider and wider.. for decades ...

so you learn how to move them ...


    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 5:19PM
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That is the look I always strive for because they are self-mulching. I put in a new bed 2 years ago - planted them about 2' apart and they are all filled in now. I don't have names on any of mine but there are always a couple of big leafed babies that want to take over large spaces.

I always dig in very early spring when they first start poking up so never know what I am digging until they are up and running. I took out the labels of all perennials years ago because I like to just run my DR brush cutter over all the hosta and other perennial gardens in late fall. I am just too old to want to mess with extensive clean-up.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 5:25PM
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I hope others with more experience will chime in (and am sure they will) but since I planted my first hosta bed in 2007, I've watched them perform consistently until the past two years. Suddenly, last year my well-behaved H. 'Dream Weaver,' 'Queen of the Seas,' 'Revolution,' 'Frances Williams' 'Middle Ridge' &'Tokudama flavo-circinnalis' grew to twice their usual width and close to a foot taller than in prior years. This year 'Revolution' is back to its pre-2013 size; the others are super-sized again.

I designed the bed carefully on paper nearly a year before I planted in it & left what I thought was adequate space between plants in order to avoid crowding but close enough for a look that was full and lush.

As for spacing, I think it took 3-4 years for the plants to reach their mature size. Some are slower growing than others. I knew 'Liberty' was a slow grower and allowed it plenty of room to reach its potential. It's huge & beautiful this year.

If I have a tight hosta bed, does it follow that I will need to divide the hostas more frequently once they are established?

I'll let others with more experience field that one.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 5:32PM
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Easier to plant a tight hosta bed, than not.....I think most every bed I planted I gave enough room so they would barely touch and in every bed I have moved plants out or around to compensate for how they grew bigger than planned. Besides if they don't grow enough to fill...add another plant.....easy peasy.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 5:55PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

If I have a tight hosta bed, does it follow that I will need to divide the hostas more frequently once they are established?

==>> and what.. throw out the excess???

NEVER divide a hosta.. except to give some to a friend ... what.. you need more work in the garden????

just move them elsewhere ... even to the curb ...

in effect.. what you are doing is bonsai'ing a hosta

they are at their glory at maturity .. not when you dwarf them out by repeatedly cutting them in half .;..

if you note.. above i said.. just do it.. react after..

someone else spent a year planning .. lol ..

and what does she end up doing.. what i said in the first place.. rearranging them ...

just plant some ... its not worth a plan ...


    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 6:24PM
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Connie K

You guys are hilarious! Okay, okay, I'll just do it.

I think I'll try to space them so that in three years they will overlap, and in the meantime, I'll fill in the spaces with other hostas that I will move to new locations when necessary.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 6:45PM
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Sounds like a winning combination to me. I don't really PLANT because I do pots. Right now I'm spacing the pots further apart so my fat dachshund girl can go between them. :)


    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 7:06PM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

You mean like this?

This bed was planted last year and I don't like an empty bed look either (obviously!) Some of these are moved from elsewhere, some came out of pots to go here and I spaced them as I thought they would end up, with a full look in no time. I add a lot of other shade perennials in my beds to fill in the gaps between hostas, that way they can easily be moved or divided (the shade perennials, not the hostas!), if I need the space. I'm an impatient woman, just ask my DH.

FYI - This bed is 15 feet front side, 22 feet left side and 34 feet around the back curve. Plenty of room for lotsa hosta :)

This post was edited by funnthsun on Sat, Jun 7, 14 at 19:47

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 7:39PM
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thistleandmaize(Zone 5a- Eastern IA)

Around 2007 or so, I decided to clean off a hill outside my house by an old rock wall. It was covered in weeds and poison ivy. It took me a while just to clean up, and I needed something to stabilize the soil. I don't think I even knew what "hosta" was at that time. I just started buying as many of the green leafy things as I could at the nursery centers.
I planted them about two feet apart, not realizing (or paying attention) that some would reach 50 to 70 inches wide. This is what part of the hill looks like now. Pardon the weeds. They love to grow on the wall along with moss and ferns, so I snapped this before tackling a weeding session.
The overlapping wave of leaves might bother some, but I love it. I get to see this from my kitchen window. I'm finally tackling the job of measuring and trying g to identify what I planted all those years ago. I don't really divide them much, I just move something that might be dwarfed or almost completely hidden by a larger neighbor. I've made other beds this way too, with them touching and placed so they'll grow to touch one another

So I'm team overlap. :)

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 8:42PM
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digginginthedirt - you'll choose what to plant in your own garden but I wanted things that would contrast/compliment the hosta in my full shade bed. Planted among my hosta
are growing many other shade perennials that offer foliage & bloom contrast, including:

Alchemilla mollis/lady's mantle
Heuchera/coral bells
Brunnera/Siberian bugloss
Tricyrtis hirta/toad lily
Cimicifuga racemosa/black snakeroot
Hellebore/Lenten rose
Astilbe/false spirea
Athyrium nipponicum/Japanese painted fern
Mertensia virginica/Virginia bluebells
Dicentra spectabilis/bleeding heart
Carex morrow/Japanese sedge

I enjoy the contrasting foliage & blooms.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 8:44PM
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Connie K

Thistleandmaize, that's exactly the look I want. So it sounds like I need to plant them closer together than their measurements would suggest.
Thanks for posting the picture.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 9:08PM
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Eleven(Metro Detroit 6A)

The only time you need to worry about moving a hosta later is for the big ones. Some of them really don't like to be moved (i.e. can be stunted for some time). And it's a lot more work to move a big one. Other than that consideration, plant as closely as you like and remove some over time as needed.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 11:35PM
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Gesila(MI Z5)

I was so excited when my first hosta leaves touched each other. Very east to make a tight bed.

I try to plant in odd numbers. So, I plant in groups of 5. When they are too crowed, I move out 2, leaving an odd number. Use the 2 to plant with the 3 more that you just bought to make another group of 5!

I also plant in groups of 3. The larger hosta in the middle. When it takes over, I remove the two on each side. Still leaves a single hoata, another odd number.

I also use small/mini hostas to fill up the space between the larger hostas.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 2:30PM
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Gesila(MI Z5)

Here's an example of my group of 5:

Popcorn, Vulcan, Sweet Home Chicago, June Fever, High Society.

I knew (due to it's color), that Sweet Home Chicago would grow the fastest, so I put it in the middle. I put Vulcan and June Fever on each side of Sweet Home Chicago to give it some color. Then, on each end, I put Popcorn on the left and High Society on the right. They are both smaller hostas.

I didn't know they were going to explode like they have this year or I would have pulled out Vulcan and June Fever out in the spring. That will have to wait until next year. Sweet Home Chicago will easily fill up the entire space once I pull Vulcan and June Fever out.

Here's what it looked like before they were full leafed out this spring:


    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 2:51PM
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Connie K

Thank you, Gesila, for that very specific advice. I could actually plan my bed, but then fill in with other hostas while I'm waiting for the large ones to mature. By the time I need to move them, I'm sure I'll have more shady spots that will need hostas. Great advice.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 3:13PM
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irawon(5a Ottawa)

Hi Diggin, lots of great advice here.

Gesila, that is brilliant... I'm going to try your method in my mini bed.

This post was edited by irawon on Sun, Jun 8, 14 at 16:25

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 4:16PM
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Aha! Gesila now I see how you reached 600 + hosta. You multiply by 5 and keep on moving them around. With the mini hosta you can get a lot without taking up a whole lot of space.

I don't have minis in the ground unless you count Grand Tiara and Golden Tiara. I put all of them in one spot (from various sellers) and they are looking really fine growing together along the driveway....not ON the driveway though. :)

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 5:14PM
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Gesila(MI Z5)

Another thing I do to fill in the hosta bed is to put shorter, solid color hostas under the uprights. It keeps the uprights up and fills in the space underneath.

Serendipity is over three feet wide. It keeps Seducer upright and fills the empty space between Seducer and Touch of Class.

I stuck Midas Touch underneath Sagae. Again, it keeps it upright, and I love the look of a Sagae leaf lying on top of Midas Touch.

Striker is an example of how I use minis to fill in the spaces at the front of the beds.

I also use hostas in pots to fill up some spaces. Right now, Grand Slam fills up the small gap left between Grand Canyon and Liberty in back of it. I won't need it there next year.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 5:57PM
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Gesila(MI Z5)

One more piece of advice. When planting in a narrow, long bed, don't line the hostas in a row. Zig zag them, here are some examples:

One forward, one back, one to the left or right, kind of like a triangle.

Two back with one in the middle.

Three in the back, two in the middle, etc.

Use the minis to fill in the spots inbetween.

Again, I use odd numbers. Google "using odd numbers to decorate". Use the same technique when planning your hosta beds.

Yes Moc, that's how I got to 600+ hostas.

My hostas are like furniture, I'm always rearranging them. Interesting, although I like "tight" hosta beds with as many hostas stuffed in them as possible, inside the house, I'm a minimalist! Clean straight lines, a modern industrial style.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 6:20PM
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irawon(5a Ottawa)

Gesila, thanks for sharing your expertise/secrets with us. I really appreciate that. I can probably go out now and buy another 100. BTW, do you take phone calls from DHs? Chuckle, Chuckle! No fear, I won't break the bank.

Digging, good luck with your new bed. Wish I'd had all of this good advice from the GardenWeb pros when I started out with my hosta gardens. Ken and Paul have always been wonderful with their knowledge and advice when I've needed it. Others have been great enablers.

Moc, have you reached 1000 yet?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 6:40PM
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I must go back over this thread because of the pictures and the philosophy of arranging the hosta.

Irawon, not 1000. Not unless we acquire the next door property and then--hoo-boy look out 1000! I am a bit over 500 now and Gesila's example is calling my name. Six hundred is not out of reach by next year I'm thinking. I'm slowing down and becoming more "discriminating" you might say.

Isn't it good to have an addiction that gives you lots of exercise and weight control is less a problem? Better than chocolate! Even better than Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream....sigh

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 7:31PM
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I do leave more space between my in ground hosta only because I Know I won't have the stamina to divide and move them in a few years.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 8:49PM
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Connie K

Gesila, love your ideas. More pictures?? Pretty please! I love your hosta beds.

Also, you said that because of the color of Sweet Home Chicago, you knew it would grow fast. Could you explain that further? Are you saying that certain colors of hostas grow faster? Thanks.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 9:15PM
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