Where Hostas Grow

Where Hostas Grow

Will Hostas Grow Where You Live?

With the exception of Hawaii, hostas can be grown in every state. But, they cannot be grown everywhere in every state. I can't give you a definite yes or no for any particular spot in the country, but in general, the hotter and dryer it is in your area, the harder it is to grow hostas. Hostas are not suited for tropical areas.

If you read the information below and still can't decide if your area is suitable, the best way to find out is to try a few and see what happens. The other thing you can do is to find a professional gardener in your area and ask. The people at your parks department, public gardens, arboretums, and better quality garden centers probably can tell you your chances. If nobody else grows them in your area you should probably find out why before you buy too many.

I get emails all the time asking if hostas will grow in a particular city somewhere in Florida or Arizona, and it shocks people to know that I have never gardened in Florida or Arizona and simply do not know. Read the guidelines below and decide whether it's worth a try.

Growing Hostas in the South

I can't grow palm trees here in Virginia, not for very long anyway. So I'm not sure why it comes as a shock to some Southern gardeners that they can't grow hostas as a perennial in Miami Beach. If you live in Miami Beach and you want to have a hosta garden, you'll probably have to move north.

The controlling factor, though certainly not the only one, is winter temperatures. Hostas must have a period of dormancy each winter, lasting at least a month, to survive for long. That dormancy is induced by a number of factors, but we generally rate the chance of success by winter temperatures. Because of the other factors involved, especially the availability of water, I can't tell you exactly where you can or can't grow hostas. I can say, with some certainty, that the further south you go, the harder it gets and at some point it's just not worth the effort.

As a rough guide, in Florida if you live south of the line between Jacksonville and Pensacola, growing hostas will be a challenge. If you live south of St. Augustine-Tampa, it probably ranges from difficult to impossible. I've done many things that garden writers told me I couldn't do, so I'm not going to be specific about where you can or can't grow hostas, but with all the beautiful plants you can grow in the tropical and sub-tropical areas of the country, I'm not sure it makes sense to try to garden with plants not suited to your area. If you do decide to experiment, we would be interested in hearing if you are successful.

I am not as familiar with the geography of Texas and the deep Southwest, so you will have to judge your chances from the information above. We have customers in these areas who live at high altitudes who have had success, but I suspect that the closer you get to Mexico, the less chance you have.

In any of these areas, you will have to provide hostas with lots of water in the summer and protect them from the sun. Once the plants start active growth at the beginning of the year, you should never let them dry out until they go dormant again in the winter. They should have lots of water available in the hottest part of the summer.

And some varieties will be easier than others. Hosta plantaginea, the August Lily, is the easiest hosta to grow in the South. It grows naturally in coastal China, and it's range extends farther south than any other hosta species. Plantaginea is a terrific hosta. It is the only hosta species with fragrant flowers, and it has the largest flowers of any hosta. Any hosta with fragrant flowers has plantaginea in it's background, and would be a good candidate to try in the South. The list of plants recommended for sunny areas are probably the best to try in the South. Click here

As a general rule, I would avoid blue hostas, they just don't handle the heat well. 

Hosta guru George Schmid, who lives in Georgia and provided me with guidance for writing this page, tells me that in Italy gardeners grow plantaginea in containers on pedestals. Even though this area is not cold enough to grow hostas in the ground, air temperatures at night can go down into the 30's and are cold enough to chill the plant in containers. If you want to experiment with containers, be sure to give them lots of water in the summer and fall.

Outside the Deep South and Southwest

This one is fairly easy. There is no place in the contiguous 48 States, except the Deep South and Southwest, where hostas can't be grown. Even in International Falls, Minnesota, that place we all hear about during the weather report and ask ourselves, "How can people live up there?", even there, you can grow hostas.

Hostas are hardy to zone 3, so unless you live in the Arctic, it's probably not too cold to grow them. But even though hostas can tolerate extreme cold in the winter, once they break dormancy in the spring, just one hard freeze can be disastrous. Once the bud swells and the leaves begin to unfurl, freezing temperatures can seriously damage the crown, and can lead to crown rot which can kill the plant. Once a hosta has broken dormancy and the leaves have begun to open, they must be protected from freezing. I have heard that open leaves can handle temps down to 28 degrees, but I have never tested them.

Late freezes can be a problem with any variety, but there are some hostas that break dormancy earlier than others, making them more susceptible to freeze damage even in normal years. Plantaginea and its derivatives are especially troublesome, as are Hosta montana and its hybrids. Plantaginea also needs a longer growing season than most hostas, so the summers in the North may not be long enough for it to produce flowers.

To compensate our Northern friends for these problems, the blue hostas grow to sizes and with a depth of color that those of us further south can only dream of.

Alaska and Hawaii

Alaska is the hardest one for me. I'm sure there are areas where hostas can be grown, but the weather there can obviously be extreme and I am not familiar with the area and do not know the limits of hostas' cold tolerance. We do not ship to Alaska, even though hostas can be grown in much of the State.  We ship all plants by UPS ground, and it just takes too long to get from here to Alaska.

Hawaii is easy. Hostas won't grow there, not for long anyway.