Transplanting Hostas

(Without a Back Hoe)

by Loretta Pierfelice

Among the many things I like best about hostas is that rearranging them is as easy as rearranging the living room. And, hostas are known for (ahem!) outgrowing their little spot in the garden.

I prefer to transplant in the fall when the foliage is already past it's peak--early to mid-autumn--because that minimizes "bad hosta hair days". But if I feel like it then I transplant them anytime the ground isn't frozen or baked hot and dry.

Start by reminding yourself, whether you believe it or not, that there is just as much hosta below the ground as there is above it. Small hostas are easy. Put a potato fork at the outer tips of the foliage and push straight down into the ground, rocking the fork back and forth to loosen the soil. Do this in a complete circle around the hosta. On the last bit to complete the circle, angle your fork slightly under the plant and lift.

If the foliage is large, then so is the root mass and unless you have access to a back hoe, it might not be possible to lift it out as one whole plant. I frequently start by loosening around a large clump with the garden fork, without attempting to lift it but creating space for the roots to move. Next I turn the fork over and place the tines of the fork in any bare patches available in the middle of the plant, pushing it in firmly with my foot. I place a second fork back to back with the one already bisecting the plant and push it in firmly also. Then I rock both forks to split the plant as gently as possible. I do this again and again until I have pieces I can handle. Once it's split into manageable sections, I lift it just as if it were a small hosta.

Once hostas are out of the ground it's always tempting to just dig another hole and shove them in. But if I want to have a few more hostas, then I wash the dirt off of the roots and follow the leaf whorls down with my fingers. By washing, gentle tugging and occasionally cutting the crown (that hard woody mass) with a sharp knife, I can get at least 4 viable plants off of each mature hosta I dig up.

Whether you're transplanting sections, divisions, or the whole plant, I've invented an acronym--CLODS--to help me remember the important stuff.

Compost--Put a handful (or more) in each planting hole. Light--At least 4-6 hours of shade for most hostas. Orientation--Plant it facing in the same direction it's used to growing, if possible. Changing orientation is one of the biggest unrecognized sources of transplant shock. Depth--plant at the same depth if was growing before. Soaking--Gently soak your transplants, don't just sprinkle water on them and don't wash the dirt away from their roots either.

Happy hosta days! from Loretta at

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About the Author

I'm the owner of a small farm in central Ohio, where we keep cattle, goats, horses, ponies, dogs and cats and of course, Hostas!

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