Hostas Around Trees (Planting Ideas & Tips)

As passionate green thumbs, making the most of the available space in our gardens can become a bit of an obsession. But we have always found the space under trees to be challenging. Luckily, we have discovered the perfect plant for just this space. Growing hostas around trees is great, because:

  • they thrive in the conditions under (most) trees and even send out beautiful blooms,
  • come in a variety of colors, sizes and textured leaves to cater for creative designs, and
  • are easy to care for when paired with the right type of tree companions.
Hostas Around Trees

Why Hostas are Perfect Under Trees

One of the most challenging aspects of planting under and around trees is the lack of sunlight.

Trees are tall and often have dense foliage blocking the optimal conditions for plants to grow in the surrounding areas. The good news is that not all plants require a lot of light to flourish – and hostas are one of these wonderful plants.

In fact, hostas cannot tolerate prolonged periods of direct sunlight – especially harsh afternoon sun. So pairing them up with the protection of a tree, is a match made in heaven.

But, before you run out the door to fill your car with hostas, there are a few things you will need to consider. Such as:

  • what type of trees do not like plants around their base?
  • Which types of hostas are ideal for planting around trees?
  • When is the best time to plant hostas around trees?

We’ll explore all these questions in detail in the following sections. However before we do, let’s get some inspiration for creative ideas about planting hostas under your tree.

Ideas For Planting Hostas Around Trees (with visuals)

There is something satisfying about seeing a hosta plant shade garden beneath a tall mature tree. It almost feels like you have been transported back into the Elizabethan era, when garden parties and well manicured gardens were en vogue.

Hosta Shade Circle

Growing hostas around trees creates a sense of balance and completeness. Take, for example, this simple, yet effective ring of variegated hostas encircling the base of this tree posted on Pinterest.

hostas around trees pictures
credit: pinterest

Rather than a tree trunk protruding out of a monochrome lawn, the owners have created a miniature garden feature with the hostas, while at the same time complementing the magnificence of the tree. By using two different varieties of variegated hostas, they have also been able to create different layers of texture within the hosta garden itself.

Ground Cover for Garden Beds

Using strong lines, shapes and symmetry in your designs can also give your garden a sense of formality. Here is another visual of an effective garden of hostas around trees and garden beds.

pictures of hostas around trees
credit: monrovia

Look at how the hostas create a lush ground cover to distinguish the borderlines of the garden bed and lawn. Simply captivating.

Cottage Garden Whimsy

Playing with the different varieties of hostas can create a whimsical cottage feel to the spaces around your trees. The great thing about hosta plants are the varying colors, shapes and sizes that are available.

This style of shade garden is demonstrated perfectly in the picture below, posted by Japs1955 on Flickr.

landscape ideas around trees and bushes with hostas
credit: pinterest

Note how the different colored hostas creates pops of color spotted around the base of the tree – a space that would otherwise be boring or bland.

Or consider planting hostas en masse around the garden to create a hidden cottage garden, like Monrovia have in this mystical garden below.

cottage garden with hostas
credit: monrovia

Check out these other great shade gardens using hoastas around trees.

credit: Pinterest

Tips for Creating a Hosta Shade Garden

Now that we have got your creative juices flowing, we thought it would be helpful to provide some landscaping design tips for your Hosta shade garden.

Plant Selection is Key

As you can appreciate from the ideas above, the choices you make regarding Hosta varieties will determine how successful the end result will be.

We always recommend using an image (or mood board) as inspiration to help guide your choice of leaf color and size of hosta plants. For instance, if you are looking to replicate the circular shade garden, keeping to one or two varieties of hostas will help with keeping within the formal garden feel.

At the other end of the spectrum, if you are hoping to create a cottage feel, choosing a number of varieties with different colors, shapes and sizes will provide that full and unkept look that we all love with cottage gardens.


When it comes to garden planning, preparation is key.

Do your research on the hosta varieties you are planning to plant under your tree. Learn about how big they will grow at maturity, how much space they need between each plant, and how fast they grow.

Layout Design

Once you have your hostas, the next step is to do a bit of landscape design.

While your plants are still in their pots, plan out your plant layout. This means placing the pots down where you expect to plant them in the ground. Superficially test the soil under and around the pot for tree roots.

This way, if there are any unexpected tree roots in the way, you have the flexibility to move plants around and adapt your design.

When to Plant Hostas Around Trees?

Fortunately, not only are hostas shade loving plants, they are also quite hardy. They can be planted at any time of the year.

We do, however, recommend not planting hostas on hot summer days or during heat spells. Even though you are planting them in shade, the lack of water will hinder their growth and prevent them from establishing well in their new environment.

Instructions for Planting Hostas Around Trees

steps for planting hostas under trees
credit: pinterest

Here is our step-by-step guide for planting hostas under trees.

Step 1 — Plant Selection

Assuming you have read our care tips (above), you should have a pretty good idea of the direction you are going to go with in terms of plant selection and design.

If you haven’t yet decided, we strongly recommend taking the time to prepare for your shade garden. Selecting hosta varieties that are hardy and low maintenance will make a big difference in future husbandry responsibilities.

In addition to hardiness, look into the hostas’ colors, size that the mature plants grow to, and if they send out flowers (or not).

Step 2 — Prepare the Holes in the Ground

The next step is to set your hostas up with the best chance of establishing themselves underneath your tree. Dig holes where you plan on positioning your hostas. You should have tested the areas for any tree roots (from the care tips above) before finalizing your final layout.

Dig your holes as deep as the hosta’s root ball when removed from their containers. Try to match the surface of the topsoil to the ground surface. The width of the hole should be between 1-2 times the size of the root ball.

Step 3 — Prepare the Soil

Whenever we are establishing new plants in the ground, we take the opportunity to give the soil a boost with organic matter and nutrients. After all, you rarely get the chance to reach soil that far down.

We do this to breathe new life into the soil, as well as giving the new introductions to the area the best opportunity to grow a strong root structure. Plus, you receive the added benefit of aerating your soil and breaking up any compacted soil in the process.

Hostas love nutrient rich soil.

Loosen the soil around your newly dug holes and mix through organic matter, like compost. We sometimes use worm castings from our worm farms. It’s like an army of worms has powered through the soil. We also take the opportunity to mix an all-purpose slow – releasing fertilizer through the soil. The hostas love it.

Step 4 — Plant Your Hostas

Now your soil is prepped and full of nutrients, it’s time to bed your hostas into the ground.

Place your hostas into the holes and backfill the loose soil around the rootball. If you dug your holes correctly, the topsoil of the hosta should be level with the ground.

Give your new plants a healthy watering and tidy up the area with additional topsoil where necessary.

Step 5 — Finishing Touches

We like to encourage our community to always implement good gardening practices – and this includes mulching your outdoor plants. It simply makes sense.

The small amount of added time and effort to mulch your plants properly ensures they receive enough moisture retention during dry periods. It also has the added benefit of keeping pesky weeds at bay.

And there you have it, your new shade garden of hostas under your trees is complete! Congratulations!

Which Trees to Plant Hostas Around

trees to plant hostas around
credit: pinterest

As part of your research into your hosta garden, you should also be considering the other main feature of this garden – the tree.

This is absolutely vital, because not all trees will happily sustain a shade garden beneath them. And it would be a terrible waste if your hostas ended up malnourished and lackluster (or worse, dead).

So, with that being said, let’s look at which trees will (or will not) accept a hosta garden under them.

Hostas and Pine Trees

We are happy to report hostas and pine trees do work together. However, pines are also very invasive, so don’t expect to plant hostas underneath one without some maintenance.

Pine trees generally make the ground acidic, which is fine for hostas (who prefer a slightly acidic soil). What you need to monitor is the nutrients up take of your hostas. The pine trees root system will compete with the hostas, so regular feeding will be required.

Hostas and Maple Trees

As tempting as it is to establish a hosta garden under a maple tree, we would advise against it. Unfortunately, due to the maple’s fibrous root system, it will dominate over the hosta plants and eventually kill them. The hostas will not receive enough nutrients and slowly waste away.

You can, however, plant hostas with Japanese maple trees, as they are less domineering, and will not choke out hostas. Word of caution, Japanese maple trees generally do not get as big as their larger cousins. Therefore, they may not offer the necessary protection from the sun that larger trees do for hostas.

Hostas and Oak Trees

This is one pairing we can get around and highly recommend. There are several reasons we recommend planting hostas under oak trees.

Oak trees have a deep root system in order to stabilize their magnificent forms above ground. This is good news for hostas, since the roots will not compete for water and nutrients (unlike pine and maple trees).

Oak trees also do not have thick canopies and allow dappled sunlight to filter through to the ground beneath them. Again, creating the ideal conditions for hostas to thrive.

The only thing to look out for when planting hostas under oak trees is the leaf fall during autumn. Oak trees produce a lot of dead fall, so make sure to clear them off your hostas to prevent disease and rot from occurring.

Hostas and Cedar Trees

Cedar trees and hostas do work, but you will come across similar problems that hostas have with pine trees.

Cedar trees have thick canopies that will prevent a lot of water reaching the ground beneath them. Therefore, you will have to supplement the water with extra watering or install an irrigation system (which would benefit both your hosta plants and your cedar tree).

If you are willing to go that extra mile, the pairing can be very complementary to each other. Not only will it look great, the hostas will act like a green mat of mulch for your cedar tree.

Hostas and Spruce Trees

Hostas do work under spruce trees, and are a great option for areas under spruce trees where other plants will not grow or thrive.

The trick to successfully growing hostas under spruce trees is to pick the right spots. Carefully identifying spaces between the spruce tree roots will help your hosta have enough space to establish itself. Plus, it will prevent you from doing any damage to the spruce tree roots.

The good news is spruce trees have fairly normal root systems, with a series of roots that work their way downwards, so they won’t suffocate your hostas. However, it won’t hurt to maintain a regimented schedule of regular watering and feeding to ensure your hostas are receiving enough nutrients.

What’s Next?

By now you should have a fairly good idea of the direction you are heading with planting your hostas around trees. Hopefully some ideas in this article have provided you with the seeds of inspiration (yes pun intended) to creating a beautiful hosta shade garden under your magnificent trees.

Do send us pictures of your finished gardens, it is always encouraging to see when our community are getting their hands dirty at the Garden Bench Top!