Will Hostas Grow in Clay Soil?

Last Updated on August 16, 2022 by Stephanie

Hostas are able to thrive in clay soils with moderate levels if the area of planting is fertilized with organic matter to 12 inches in depth. In clay that is heavy the regular mulching is essential to increase drainage and reduce soil compaction, allowing the roots to grow and avoid the soil from becoming waterlogged, which could cause root decay.

To cultivate Hostas in clay, you must be aware of:

  • The issues that arise from growing hostas in clay-based soils (so you can steer clear of them)
  • How can you amend clay soils in a proper manner prior to plant hostas
  • What can we do about hostas that are already growing in soil made of clay (that might be struggling)
  • The most suitable hostas to plant in clay soils

Problems of Growing Hostas in Clay Soil

Hostas are a challenge to grow in clay soils due to three main reasons:

  1. In extremely compacted or heavy clay, the roots of the hosta may have a difficult to penetrate to a depth that allows them to get nutrients, water and enough weight to provide the stability they require.
  2. Clay soils tend to become hard and brittle in summer, which causes water to flow across the surface instead of being absorbed into the soil and reaching the root that are the hostsa.
  3. Hostas require regularly kept hydrated (most varieties require a good soak every two weeks during the season of growth) However, they dont like it when their roots sit in on the on the water. In clay soils, water usually is able to pool or drain away slowly. A long-term exposure to waterlogged soil can cause root rot in all varieties of hostas.


Why it’s Important to Add Mulch to Hostas in Clay Soil

The application of mulch around hostas in clay soil is beneficial for a variety of reasons:

  • Organic mulch like leaves mould, or even horse manure is an excellent method to boost soil ecology and attract earthworms, which in turn make channels within the soil which allow water to drain more efficiently and also creates room for the roots to develop which is essential to combat heavy clay soils that hinder the growth of hostas roots.
  • The organic mulch will be incorporated into soil naturally through the earthworms action and the rain. This alters the appearance of clay soil , from being thick and impermeable, to a more and more porous texture which allows for adequate drainage.
  • Clay soils can be susceptible to compaction, mostly due to having to sit on the soil bed to water or weed which can be a challenge to your housekeeper. Mulching your garden twice per year is the most effective way to reduce soil compaction.
  • Clay soils may bake hard during summer, which can result in rainwater or water to flow across the surface or through holes in your soil, and consequently, the water doesnt reach the hostas roots. Mulch will keep the soil beneath cool and stop it from breaking. If the soil is covered with mulch, water is more likely to penetrate the soil instead of flowing across the surface.

The most effective mulch for hostas that are planted on clay soils would be leaf mould, or garden compost since it is great to hold water and maintain the soil conditions appropriate to hosta. They also bring fertile soil and help keep the weeds at bay, giving the gardener more time relax in your garden!

The mulch should be applied twice per year. The first application being in spring to keep water in the growing season, and the second application during the fall to protect the hostas roots from the harshest of winter cold, which gives the hosta an early to start the season when the weather starts warming back up for the next season of growth.

I would not recommend making use of pine needles for mulching clay soils since they can be decomposed over a long period of time and, consequently, require a long time to enhance the clays structure. soil.

How to amend clay soil prior to planting Hostas

If your soil has some clay, and it is able to drain effectively (such in loam soil) then you do not necessarily require a significant amendment to your soil before planting.

If you do have an excessive amount of clay on your soil, and the soil drains slow after heavy rainfall, youll need to prepare your soil prior to planting.

If youre not sure, the best test is to keep the hose pipe in the spot you wish to grow for couple of minutes and then watch how fast the water is drained away.

In the event that water formed a puddle , or maybe the water flows directly off the surface and isnt able to penetrate the soil, then youll need to supplement the soil with substantial organic matter to correct the issue.

  1. First, make the holes to approximately 16 inches for the larger hosta varieties, and 12 inches for the smaller varieties because this is the ideal level to support the roots of a mature plant. The size of the hole will vary based on the size of the hosta, but it is recommended to ensure that the width is as large or equal to size of the root ball of the hosta. The depth is 16 inches. might appear excessive, but you want an area of buffering compost or sand between roots bottom as well as the soil beneath to ensure that no water can accumulate directly beneath the roots.
  2. Place two inches of compost or sand, or grit at the lower part of the hole. This will give the soil a loose structure to allow the water from the roots at the holes bottom.
  3. Plant your hosta in the soil, making sure that the roots are buried however its crown (the knot where roots join to separate stems) is elevated above the ground. Its recommended to use a piece of bamboo to ensure that the crown is the correct height prior to planting.
  4. Fill in the hole in your plants root systems using organic matter such as garden compost leaf mould, fermented horses manure (fresh manure can cause the roots to burn) or multi-purpose compost purchased at a garden center. These amendments are at the correct pH for the growth of hostas (between pH 7 and 6) and will create the proper foundation and conditions to drain the hostas roots. Organic matter such as compost is able to absorb water, but it also allows excess water to evaporate due to its open structure that is the ideal equilibrium for the growth of hostas.
  5. Dont firm your soil surrounding the hosta following planting because hostas dont like soil that is compacted. Instead, water the area around at the bottom of the hosta, and let the soil settle.If you need to add more soil around the plants to ensure that the soil is even.
  6. Give the hosta a large amount of water right after planting. Really soak the soil, as hosts are prone to drying out following the planting. Four gallons of water every week for the first 4 weeks is the ideal.
  7. Spread a 2 inch layer of mulch on the base of your hosta, but leave a six inches between your mulches and hostas stems. The mulch can help hold water, reduce weeds and improve soil health and can be extremely beneficial for your hosta

What can you do to help Hostas already growing in clay Soils (How can we help them?)

If youve inherited an area of your garden that has hostas growing in clay soil, or are planting hostas on clay soil and they are struggling to established, dont be concerned.

Hostas are among the most durable foliage perennial plant cultivated in gardens due to dividing, moving and not being affected by transplant shock..

Hostas are in fact resilient enough that you can transfer, divide or even transplant them any time of the year , without worrying of destroying the plant.

This means that you can use a fork to gently pull away your hosts from the soil. Then loosen and move the ground around the hostas using the fork around the hosta to free the roots without damaging the hostas.

Dont attempt to free your hosta by using spades as the sharp edges of spades will take no prisoners and could cut into the root of the hosta.

After you have removed your hosta, you can alter the clay soil which they were abounding in organic material. Leaf mould is a great choice as it is able to hold moisture, which is ideal for the root that your houseplants.

The organic matter should be worked to a depth of about 12 inches (or more if you own an extensive planter) and if theres poor drainage in the plant area, add some sand or grit to aid in helping the water to flow more easily. A mould of two thirds that is one third grit is ideal to create the perfect conditions.

Replant your hosta in the newly renovated house and give the soil an extensive soak of around 4 Gallons of water. Drink 4 gallons of water every week for the first 4 weeks following the transplantation or replanting of hostas.

Then, apply mulch made of garden compost, leaf mould, or well-rotted manure to aid in retaining water.

Keep in mind that you can transfer, divide or move hostas at any time of the year, so if you notice your hosta is struggling with clay soil because of the presence of water in the soil or a soil surface that has been compacted and hard baked it is best to act now rather than later.

Best Hosta Varieties for Clay Soils

Simply put, larger hostas thrive in clay soils than smaller hostas. This is due to the fact that smaller hostas are more likely to have trouble getting their roots established in soils that are heavy.

Larger hosta varieties naturally have larger root system, and are able to establish themselves in clay soils faster to get nutrients, water and to maintain the plants stability

It doesnt mean you shouldnt plant tiny hosts in soil that is clay,, but you must include lots of organic material to the area before planting, and then apply mulch to the area around your hostas two times each season.

The most popular hosta varieties that thrive in amended clay soils are blue angle, jade cascade, and the Atlantis


Hostas thrive in clay soils so long as they are altered first by organic matter, such as leaves mould and garden soil. These substances provide ideal conditions for the roots of the hosta that are able to hold water and allow the excess water to be able to drain away.

Mulching is essential to ensure the proper soil structure. It also helps keep the soil pH at a healthy level (pH 7 is the ideal pH for the growth of hostas) because clay soils can be prone to compaction, which can hinder water from infiltrating the hostas roots.

Larger varieties do better in clay soils , however when youve diligently altered the area of your garden and maintain an ongoing schedule of mulching, youll be able to plant any size and variety hosta that you want.

Hostas are among the most durable garden plants in terms of shifting or transplanting, which is why you can save hostas that were planted in clay soils and are struggling. Simply rake the hosta, mix in some organic matter, and then plant the hosta again. It is possible to do this any time of the year due to hostas natural toughness.



Went from an inexperienced gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. I cover anything from general indoor plant guides and lawn care, to succulents and flowers. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)