How To Plant Hosta Lilies In The Ground And Pots

Hosta Lilies are American gardeners favorite perennial plant for shade, for good reason. They are long-lived and reliable and beautiful flowering perennials plants that are very easy to grow, returning larger in the garden year after year. They have many uses in landscapes and gardens and will grow in dense to part shade. Depending on your location, many varieties will tolerate full sun. They come in a dizzying array of colors, forms and textures and their flowers attract hummingbirds. Last but not least, when they grow to a large enough size, plants can be divided and located elsewhere in the landscape or shared with friends. 

Okay, so if you didn't want hosta lilies before, now maybe you do. Here's a breakdown of what you need to know plant and grow them like the pros...

Cultural Preferences


Hosta lilies are adaptable to many soil types but prefer a moist but well-drained soil of average fertility. As with so many other types of perennial plants, hosta lilies do not like a constantly soggy or wet soil.

Soil pH

Hosta Lilies grow best in an acid to slightly alkaline soil ranging from 5.5 to 7.5 on the pH scale. 

Testing Soil pH

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, or whether or not it's suitable for growing hosta lilies, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions. 

Light Needs

In any region where they grow, Hosta lilies will thrive in the shade, even dense shade with almost no light. In cooler climates of northern growing zones, many Hosta varieties will tolerate full sun. In the warmer southern zones most hosta varieties will appreciate some shade or filtered sun, especially in the afternoon. It's best to know the light needs of specific varieties of hosta you intend on planting. 

Planting Hosta Lilies The Ground

Scroll down for container planting tips

Site Preparation for Mass Planting Hosta

If you'll be mass planting hosta lilies there are some steps you should take before planting.  

Weed Elimination

Before planting, eliminate existing weeds or grasses in the planting area. You can pull weeds by hand or spray them with a solution of a broad-spectrum weed killer for use in landscape beds. Wait at least two hours after spraying a glyphosate-based product before you begin planting. Before using any chemical, read the and follow mixing and application instructions on the label. 

Soil Preparation

Tilling the soil in the planting area is optional. Aside from it being back-breaking work, there are several other reason I usually don't it. Tilling on sloped ground loosens soil making it more susceptible to erosion in the event there comes heavy rainfall. Tilling can also bring buried dormant weeds seeds to the surface. Freshly tilled ground is a perfect environment for weed seeds to sprout in. If you do decide to till, I recommend the application of a landscape weed preventer to the soil surface. 

Also, if you are planting groundcover plants under established trees, be aware that tilling can cause serious damage to tree roots, which can effect the health of a tree. The feeder roots of trees can often extend well beyond the perimeter of the canopy.

If you are mass planting hostas as groundcover over a large area, to determine how many plants you will need to fill the space, it is often necessary to first determine total square feet of the planting area. Once you have the square footage, and know how far apart you intend on spacing plants, you can calculate how many plants will be needed. (Under the description tab on every plant page in Wilson Bros Gardens you will find spacing recommendations.) 


When mass planting hosta lilies, set and space all plants in the planting area before starting to plant. Alternatively, you can use marking paint to mark the spot where each plant will go, which is often necessary when planting on steep slopes, where plants in containers will not stay put. 

If there will be more than one row of plants, begin by setting out or marking one straight row of plants. It's best to start along the edge of the planting bed making sure to space plants at a distance far enough from the edge of the planting bed to allow for future spreading. For example, plants with a recommended spacing of 24" apart should be spaced at least 12" from the edge of the bed (or surfaced area) to the center of the plant. After setting out the first row, stagger the plants on the second row and so on until the space is filled.

Okay, now to step-by-step planting instructions...

Step 1

Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and no deeper than the rootball of you plant. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.

Step 2

Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil it might be beneficial to amend the native soil. When planting in dense clay or other compacted soils it is often beneficial to thoroughly mix in some good organic matter, such as aged compost, bagged top soil, and/or a good planting mix at a 50/50 ratio with the soil. When planting in very sandy, quick-draining soil you might need to mix in some top soil, peat moss and/or compost to help retain moisture. When planting in well-drained soil of average fertility there might not be a need for adding a soil amendment.

Step 3

To avoid damaging your hosta lily while removing it from the nursery pot it is best to cut away the container. After having removed the plant from the container, if necessary, you can use your finger tips to very gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the rootball. 

Step 4

Set your hosta lily in the planting hole so that the top edge of the rootball is at or slightly above ground level.

Step 5

After setting your hosta lily in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the rootball.

Step 6 (Optional)

When planting far from a water source, and in well-drained soil, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a low, 2-inch high water retaining berm (catch basin/donought) around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing the need for hand-watering while the plant is establishing itself. The berm can be removed after a year or so.

Step 7 

Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. 

Step 8

To help conserve moisture and prevent weed growth, spread a 1-inch layer of shredded or chipped wood mulch or pine straw around the planting area. As the mulch decomposes it will add vital nutrients to the soil that your hosta lilies will appreciate. Avoid using freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. 

Planting A Hosta Lily In A Pot

When growing in pots, hosta lilies appreciate a consistently moist but well-drained soil. Therefore, a pot with a drainage hole(s) filled with a premium potting mix is recommended. 

Make sure to choose a container that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before shifting up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 4-6 inches or more in width than the root ball of your plant. If you will be planting other plants in the same container with your hosta lily up the size of the container.

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the foliage color and texture of your hosta lily, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.

Container Planting Instructions

Step 1

Before filling your container with the soil mix, I always recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil. If you use gravel or rocks in the bottom of the pot lay the fabric over it. 

Step 2

To avoid damaging your hosta lily while removing it from the nursery pot it is best to cut away the container. After having removed the plant from the container you can use your finger tips to very gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the rootball. 

Step 3

Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set your hosta lily in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit 1/2" to 1" below the rim of the container.

Step 4

Backfill with your potting soil around root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.

Step 5

Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more potting mix if settling occurs during watering.

Step 6 (Optional)

Apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips or sphagnum moss to soil surface to help conserve moisture. 

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