How To Plant Bare Root Hosta [ Full Guide ]

Hostas are popular shade-loving plants known for their lush foliage and attractive blooms. Planting bare root hostas is a cost-effective way to establish these beautiful perennials in your garden. While planting bare root hostas may seem daunting at first, it is a straightforward process that can be easily mastered with a few simple steps. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about planting bare root hostas, from the benefits of choosing bare root plants to the best practices for ensuring their successful growth and establishment in your garden.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Bare Root Hostas

Planting bare root hostas involves several key steps:

  1. Inspect the roots: Upon receiving your bare root hostas, carefully inspect the roots to ensure they are healthy and free from damage or disease.
  2. Prepare the planting area: Choose a well-draining location with partial to full shade, prepare the soil by loosening it and adding organic matter if needed.
  3. Dig a hole: Create a hole large enough to accommodate the hosta roots, ensuring the crown sits just at or slightly above the soil level.
  4. Plant the hosta: Gently spread out the roots in the planting hole and backfill with soil, firming it around the roots, and water thoroughly.
  5. Mulch and water: Apply a layer of mulch around the plant to retain moisture and water the hosta regularly, especially during the establishment period.

Benefits Of Planting Bare Root Hostas

Cost-Effective Option

Bare root hostas are often more affordable than potted plants, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious gardeners. Additionally, bare root hostas are lighter and easier to ship, potentially saving on shipping costs.

Healthier Root Systems

Bare root hostas typically have healthier root systems compared to crowded and pot-bound plants. When planted, they can adapt more readily to the soil and establish strong, expansive root systems, leading to vigorous growth and better long-term survival.

Versatility In Planting Time

Unlike potted hostas, which are best planted in spring or fall, bare root hostas can be planted during a broader window of time, including late winter or early spring, allowing for greater flexibility in establishing these perennials in your garden.

Reduced Risk Of Transplant Shock

Although all transplants experience some degree of shock, bare root hostas tend to recover more quickly and establish more effectively due to the minimal disturbance to their root systems during planting.

When To Plant Bare Root Hostas

Bare root hostas should be planted during the dormant season, typically in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. This allows the hostas to establish their root systems before facing the stress of the growing season. Fall planting is also an option, allowing the hostas to settle in and develop roots before winter dormancy. However, avoid planting bare root hostas during the hottest months of summer, as they may struggle to establish in the heat.

Choosing The Right Location For Your Hostas

Sunlight Requirements

Hostas thrive in partial to full shade, making them ideal choices for shaded garden beds, woodland gardens, or areas under the canopy of trees. When selecting a planting location for your bare root hostas, consider the amount of sunlight the area receives throughout the day. While hostas can tolerate some morning sun, they generally prefer shaded conditions, particularly in the afternoon when the sun is most intense.

Soil Conditions

Hostas prefer well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter. Before planting, ensure the soil is loose, friable, and rich in organic content. Amending the soil with compost, leaf mold, or other organic materials can improve its structure and fertility, providing an optimal growing environment for hostas.

Moisture Levels

Hostas require consistent moisture to thrive, so it’s essential to choose a planting location that allows for adequate water retention without becoming waterlogged. Consider the natural moisture levels in the area, as well as the potential for supplemental irrigation if needed, especially during dry periods.

Climate Considerations

Take into account the climatic conditions in your region when selecting a planting location for your hostas. While hostas are generally hardy perennials, some varieties may have specific cold hardiness requirements. Consider the average winter temperatures and the potential for late spring frosts when choosing a location for your bare root hostas.

Planting bare root hostas is a rewarding endeavor that can yield beautiful and thriving plants in your garden. By understanding the benefits of bare root planting, knowing the optimal timing for planting, and selecting the right location for your hostas, you can ensure their successful establishment and long-term health. With proper care and attention, your bare root hostas will develop into stunning specimens, adding lush foliage and stunning blooms to your outdoor space for years to come.

Preparing The Soil For Planting

Bare root hostas are an affordable and convenient way to add these beautiful perennial plants to your garden. Unlike potted hostas, bare root hostas are sold without soil around their roots, making them easier to transport and plant. However, planting bare root hostas requires a specific process to ensure their successful growth and development.

Before planting bare root hostas, it is crucial to prepare the soil in the designated planting area. Hostas prefer rich, well-draining soil that is slightly acidic. Here are the steps to prepare the soil:

  1. Choose the planting location: Select a site that receives partial to full shade. While some hosta varieties can tolerate direct sunlight, most prefer a shady environment.

  2. Clear the area: Remove any existing vegetation, including grass and weeds, from the planting area. Bare root hostas will struggle to establish themselves if they have to compete with other plants for nutrients and water.

  3. Loosen the soil: Use a garden fork or a tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of about 12 inches. This helps improve the drainage and make it easier for the hosta roots to penetrate the soil.

  4. Amend the soil: Hostas thrive in fertile soil, so adding organic matter can greatly benefit their growth. Incorporate compost, well-rotted manure, or leaf mold into the loosened soil. Aim to have a 50-50 mix of organic matter and native soil.

  5. Test the soil pH: Hostas prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.5. Use a soil testing kit to determine the pH of your planting area. If the pH is too high, you can lower it by adding elemental sulfur or acidifying fertilizers.

  6. Mix in fertilizer: Before planting, you can add a balanced slow-release fertilizer to the soil to provide the hostas with essential nutrients. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the fertilizer package for the correct application rate.

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How To Properly Handle Bare Root Hostas

Handling bare root hostas with care is essential to their overall health and survival. Follow these guidelines to ensure you do not damage the delicate roots:

  1. Timing: Bare root hostas are typically available for purchase in early spring or late fall, when the plants are dormant. It is crucial to plant them as soon as possible after purchasing to prevent the roots from drying out.

  2. Soaking the roots: Before planting, soak the bare root hostas in water for about 30 minutes. This helps rehydrate the roots, preparing them for planting.

  3. Inspect the roots: Take a close look at the hosta roots to ensure they are healthy. Remove any damaged or rotten roots, as they can hinder the plant’s establishment.

  4. Keep the roots moist: If you need to delay planting the bare root hostas, make sure to keep the roots moist. You can wrap them in a damp cloth or store them in a bucket of water until you are ready to plant.

Steps For Planting Bare Root Hostas

Now that you have prepared the soil and handled the bare root hostas correctly, it’s time to plant them. Follow these steps for successful planting:

  1. Dig the hole: Dig a hole in the prepared planting area that is wide and deep enough to accommodate the hosta roots. The hole should be slightly larger than the spread of the roots.

  2. Position the hosta: Gently position the bare root hosta in the hole, spreading out the roots evenly. The crown, where the shoots emerge, should be placed just below the soil surface. Avoid burying the crown too deeply, as it may lead to rotting.

  3. Backfill the hole: Gradually backfill the hole with the amended soil mixture, ensuring that the roots are well-covered. Lightly firm the soil around the plant to eliminate any air pockets.

  4. Water thoroughly: After planting, water the hosta thoroughly to settle the soil and eliminate any remaining air pockets. Provide a deep watering, allowing the water to penetrate the entire root zone.

  5. Mulch around the plant: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or straw, around the planted hosta. Mulching helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.

  6. Label the plant: It is always a good idea to label your hosta plants, especially if you have various varieties in your garden. This will help you identify them and keep track of their specific needs and characteristics.

Caring For Bare Root Hostas After Planting

Proper care is crucial for the successful establishment and growth of bare root hostas. Here are some essential care tips to follow:

  1. Watering: Hostas require regular watering, especially during dry periods. It is best to water deeply and less frequently to encourage deep root growth. Aim to provide about 1 inch of water per week, either from rainfall or supplemental irrigation.

  2. Mulching: Maintain a layer of mulch around the hosta plants to preserve soil moisture and suppress weed growth. However, make sure not to pile the mulch directly against the plant’s crown, as this can encourage rotting.

  3. Fertilizing: Hostas benefit from regular fertilization to support their growth and encourage foliage development. Apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer in early spring, following the manufacturer’s instructions for dosage. Avoid over-fertilizing, as it can lead to excessive leaf growth and reduced plant vigor.

  4. Weed control: Regularly remove any weeds that appear around the hosta plants. Weeds can compete with the hostas for nutrients and water, negatively affecting their growth.

  5. Division: Over time, hosta plants can become crowded and may need division to maintain their health and vigor. Dividing hostas is generally done in early spring or fall when they are dormant. Dig up the plant, separate the clumps, and replant them in a well-prepared area or share them with fellow gardening enthusiasts.

  6. Pest and disease control: Hostas are generally not prone to significant pest and disease problems. However, slugs and snails can occasionally damage the hosta foliage. To control these pests, you can use organic deterrents, such as copper tape or diatomaceous earth.

Planting bare root hostas can be an exciting and rewarding endeavor for any garden lover. By following proper planting techniques and providing adequate care, you can enjoy the beauty of these perennial plants in your garden for years to come. Remember to prepare the soil, handle the bare root hostas with care, and follow the step-by-step planting instructions. With proper maintenance, your hostas will thrive and become a highlight of your garden landscape.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Planting Bare Root Hostas

Bare root hostas are dormant plants that have been dug up from the ground without any soil around their roots. These plants are typically sold during the late winter or early spring, before they start to actively grow. Planting bare root hostas is an affordable and convenient way to expand your garden or fill in existing gaps. However, it is important to follow the proper techniques to ensure the success of your hostas.

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When planting bare root hostas, there are several common mistakes that gardeners often make. Avoiding these mistakes will help ensure that your hostas establish and thrive in their new environment.

  1. Not soaking the roots: Before planting, it is crucial to soak the bare root hostas in water for at least 1-2 hours. This allows the roots to rehydrate and get ready for planting. Neglecting this step can result in stress and poor growth of the hostas.

  2. Planting too deep: Another common mistake is planting the hostas too deep. The crown of the plant, where the roots meet the stem, should be level with or slightly above the soil surface. Planting too deep can lead to rotting of the crown and overall decline of the plant.

  3. Planting in poor soil conditions: Hostas prefer well-drained, humus-rich soil. It is important to prepare the planting area by loosening the soil and adding organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure. Avoid planting in heavy clay or compacted soil, as this can inhibit root growth.

  4. Not providing enough space: Hostas can spread over time, so it is important to provide enough space for them to grow and expand. Planting hostas too close together can result in overcrowding and competition for resources. Make sure to follow the recommended spacing guidelines for the specific variety of hosta you are planting.

  5. Not removing air pockets: After planting, make sure to firm the soil around the roots to eliminate any air pockets. Air pockets can dry out the roots, preventing proper establishment and growth. Gently press down the soil around the plant to ensure good soil-to-root contact.

How To Water And Fertilize Bare Root Hostas

Proper watering and fertilization are essential for the healthy growth of bare root hostas. Here are some guidelines to follow to ensure their optimal development.

Watering Techniques

  • Initial watering: After planting your bare root hostas, give them a thorough watering to settle the soil and hydrate the roots. This will help the plants get established in their new environment.
  • Regular watering: Hostas prefer consistently moist soil but should not be waterlogged. Water deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather conditions and the moisture needs of your hostas. Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to deliver water directly to the roots and avoid wetting the foliage, as this can promote fungal diseases.
  • Mulching: Applying a layer of organic mulch around the base of the hostas can help retain moisture in the soil and prevent weed growth. Mulch also acts as an insulator, protecting the roots from extreme temperatures.
  • Avoid overhead watering: Since hosta leaves can collect water, it is best to avoid overhead watering to prevent water from sitting on the leaves for prolonged periods. This can lead to fungal diseases and leaf damage.

Fertilization Techniques

  • Timing: Fertilize bare root hostas in early spring when new growth starts to emerge. Avoid fertilizing in late summer or fall, as this can encourage late-season growth that is vulnerable to frost damage.
  • Slow-release fertilizer: Use a balanced slow-release granular fertilizer specifically formulated for shade-loving plants. Sprinkle the fertilizer around the base of the hostas, following the recommended dosage instructions on the label. Slow-release fertilizers provide a steady supply of nutrients over time, reducing the risk of over-fertilization.
  • Organic alternatives: If you prefer to use organic fertilizers, choose well-aged compost or organic fertilizers specifically formulated for hostas. These products are typically lower in nitrogen, which helps promote healthy foliage growth, and higher in phosphorus and potassium, which support root development and overall plant health.
  • Avoid excessive fertilization: Over-fertilizing hostas can lead to excessive leaf growth at the expense of flower production. Follow the recommended dosage instructions and avoid applying fertilizer directly on the leaves to prevent leaf burn.

Dealing With Pests And Diseases In Bare Root Hostas

Like any other plant, bare root hostas are susceptible to pests and diseases. Recognizing the signs and implementing appropriate control measures can help protect your hostas and prevent extensive damage.

Common Pests

  • Slugs and snails: These slimy pests are attracted to hostas and can cause significant damage by feeding on the leaves. To control slugs and snails, use organic methods such as hand-picking, creating barriers with copper tape or diatomaceous earth, or using slug pellets sparingly and as a last resort.
  • Deer: Hostas are a favorite food for deer, especially in areas with high deer populations. To protect your hostas from deer browsing, consider installing fencing, using repellents, or planting deer-resistant companion plants nearby.
  • Aphids: These small sap-sucking insects can gather on the undersides of hosta leaves, causing yellowing and distortion. Control aphids by spraying a gentle stream of water to dislodge them, applying insecticidal soap or neem oil, or introducing natural predators like ladybugs.
  • Slugs and snails: These slimy pests are attracted to hostas and can cause significant damage by feeding on the leaves. To control slugs and snails, use organic methods such as hand-picking, creating barriers with copper tape or diatomaceous earth, or using slug pellets sparingly and as a last resort.
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Common Diseases

  • Fungal diseases: Hostas can be prone to fungal diseases such as leaf spot, crown rot, and powdery mildew. To prevent fungal diseases, avoid overhead watering, provide adequate plant spacing for good air circulation, and remove and destroy any infected plant material. If necessary, apply fungicides labeled for use on hostas following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Viral diseases: Viral diseases in hostas, such as hosta virus X (HVX), can cause mottled or distorted foliage. Unfortunately, there is no cure for viral diseases, and infected plants should be promptly removed and destroyed to prevent spreading to healthy hostas.
  • Bacterial diseases: Bacterial diseases in hostas, such as bacterial leaf spot, can cause dark, water-soaked lesions on the leaves. Remove and destroy infected leaves and avoid overhead watering to prevent splashing bacteria onto the foliage.
  • Nematodes: These microscopic roundworms can cause stunted growth and yellowing of the leaves in hostas. Unfortunately, nematodes are difficult to control, and infected plants should be removed and destroyed to prevent further spread.

Dividing And Transplanting Bare Root Hostas

Over time, hostas can become crowded and benefit from division and transplantation. Dividing bare root hostas allows you to rejuvenate the plants, control their spread, and create new plants for other areas of your garden. Here’s how to divide and transplant bare root hostas successfully:

  1. Timing: Dividing hostas is best done in early spring when the new shoots are just emerging. This allows the divided plants to establish before the summer heat.

  2. Prepare the hosta: Remove any dead or yellow foliage from the hosta plant. This will make it easier to see the crown and roots for division.

  3. Lift the hosta: Gently dig around the base of the hosta, taking care not to damage the roots. Lift the plant out of the ground, keeping as much soil around the roots as possible.

  4. Divide the plant: Use a sharp garden knife or spade to divide the hosta into sections. Each section should have a portion of the crown and an adequate number of roots. Aim for 3-5 divisions per mature hosta plant, depending on its size.

  5. Replant the divisions: Dig individual holes for each division in the desired location, ensuring that the crown will be level with or slightly above the soil surface. Place the divisions in the holes, spreading out the roots, and backfill with soil. Firm the soil gently around the plants.

  6. Water and mulch: Give the transplanted hostas a thorough watering to settle the soil. Apply a layer of mulch around the plants to conserve moisture and suppress weed growth.

  7. Caring for divisions: Keep the transplanted hostas well-watered during the first few weeks to promote root establishment. Monitor for pests and diseases, making sure to take appropriate action if necessary. Apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer in early spring and monitor the plants for signs of nutrient deficiencies.


Planting bare root hostas can be a rewarding experience if done correctly. By avoiding common mistakes, providing proper watering and fertilization, dealing with pests and diseases, and knowing how to divide and transplant hostas, you can enjoy healthy and vibrant plants in your garden. Remember to follow the specific care instructions for the hosta variety you choose, as different cultivars may have slightly different requirements. With proper care, your bare root hostas will thrive and provide years of beauty in your garden.


What Is A Bare Root Hosta?

A bare root hosta is a type of plant that is sold without any soil around its roots. It is typically smaller and less established than potted plants, but can be more cost-effective and easier to transport.

When Is The Best Time To Plant Bare Root Hostas?

The best time to plant bare root hostas is in the early spring, when the ground is workable and the hostas are still dormant. You can also plant them in the fall, giving them time to establish their roots before the winter.

How Do I Prepare The Planting Site For Bare Root Hostas?

Start by digging a hole that is twice as wide and deep as the roots of the hosta. Make sure the soil is loose and well-draining. If you have heavy clay soil, you may need to amend it with organic matter, such as compost, to improve drainage.

How Do I Plant Bare Root Hostas?

Place the hosta in the hole, making sure the roots are spread out and not curled up. The crown (where the roots meet the leaves) should be level with the surface of the soil. Fill the hole with soil, gently pressing it around the roots to eliminate air pockets.

What Care Do Bare Root Hostas Need After Planting?

Keep the hosta well-watered, especially in the first few weeks after planting. You may also want to add a layer of mulch around the plant to help retain moisture and suppress weeds. Fertilize with an all-purpose fertilizer in the spring and again in midsummer. Once established, hostas are relatively low-maintenance and will continue to grow and thrive for many years.