Growing Hostas From Seed

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Last fall, I found a surprise in my garden–my hosta plants had produced seeds!  Free seeds–who could argue with that!

Hosta with seeds

Hosta with Seeds

I didn’t know if this was an unusual occurrence, but it started me thinking.   Should I try growing hostas from seed?

All sources I consulted said to harvest the seeds when they are black and papery.  The seed pod may (and probably will) still be a bit green.  They warned that the seeds were likely to fall off over the winter and you’d lose them.  (Note my seeds didn’t fall off but those left on the plants didn’t germinate either)

Hosta Seeds

Hosta Seeds

I collected the seeds in mid-October then stored them until February which seemed a generally good seed starting month.  The sources I consulted said you could plant them without any special preparation, so I planted some seeds, set them on my heating coils and waited.  And waited.  For months. Nothing.

I went back to the Internet where one (and only one) source said that sometimes the seeds will need stratification–basically to sit in cold water in your refrigerator  for a few weeks before planting.  I took another bunch of seeds, placed them in water in the refrigerator for a few weeks, then planted them.

Hosta Seeds Stratifying in Refrigerator

Two weeks later, the first hint of green appeared.  Then over the next few weeks more.  Hostas are notoriously low germinators, so despite planting lots of seed, I didn’t have a lot of growth.   But I did have some tiny baby plants–hooray!

Growing Hostas from Seed Planted Three Months Prior

Growing Hostas from Seed Planted Three Months Prior

I then placed them in a sunny window with a fluorescent light on them over night.  And they grew.  Slowly, but I still produced baby plants.  Amazing!

Hosta Planted Five Months Ago

Hosta Planted Five Months Ago

In the end it took a fair amount of trial and error to produce my plants… What did I learn:

  • Germination rates are low.  You need to plant a lot of seeds to get a few plants.
  • Germination is slow.  The earliest I saw was just over two weeks and some were as late as 2-3 months.
  • Hostas grow slowly.  If I try this again, I will start in the fall so they have the whole winter to get big enough to go in the garden in spring.
  • I recommend stratification (refrigerating in water for a couple weeks).  I didn’t try planting seeds immediately in the fall, which may different, but I had no germination at all on seeds that weren’t stratified in a number of trials.
  • I have read that it can take two years for the true appearance of your young hostas to reveal itself and that they don’t always grow true to parent.  I have some with wide leaves and some with narrow, but they are still small so I’ll have to get back to you on this.
  • I also read that hostas can handle light around the clock so you can leave a grow light on them continuously to boost growth.  We are on time of use electric rates, so I only tried this on weekends, but they seemed happy to be in the land of the midnight sun fluorescent light then.

Would I do this again?  If you can divide your hosta plants, you’ll probably get a lot more return for your effort investment than growing hostas from seed.  But it was a fun project and I’d never look a gift hosta in the mouth!

Another Hosta Planted Five Months Ago

Another Hosta Planted Five Months Ago

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24 Comments

  1. Amazing Inger!!! And here I thought I was the only one who liked to “try my luck” I’ve never tried Hostas though. As a matter of fact I haven’t even planted any in the garden yet.

    I’m so glad you took the trial and error plunge, Inger. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Just wonderful!!!

  2. It is such a unique looking seed and beautiful plant my friend, I am glad it sprouted for you 😀

    Cheers
    CCU

  3. Interesting! I don’t have Hostas, but they are a nice plant. You must add “the green thumb” touch to the plants. And patience. Once we took a black walnut from Arkansas and planted it in our yard in San Antonio, Texas. We’d been told to freeze the nut before planting, which we did. Our youngest child was about five years old at that time. Every day, he would dig up the walnut to check if it was growing. 🙂 Needless to say, it never did! 🙂 Your pictures are great, as usual. Enjoyed reading about your experiment.

    • We planted some black walnut “sticks” (mail order bare root plants) this year. Even without “help” they didn’t survive. So not sure how green my thumb is 😉

      • i don’t know if you realize that black walnuts are a natural herbicide & almost nothing will grow under or around them. My neighbors have some mature trees…, I would love to have them removed but it takes 50 YEARS to have ‘clean’ soil again. The side of my yard that abuts them looks like hell. ACK!

        • We planted our black walnuts out in a field that just contains junipers and wild grasses, so we didn’t care what they took out underneath 😉 I hadn’t heard that it takes so long for the soil to return–I suppose the roots take ages to decompose. Thanks for the information. If I try planting them again, I will go even further back!

  4. Since coming to Canada I have not grown anything from seed. This is interesting. I have a hosta plant and will remember to collect seeds.

  5. Pingback: Hastas plants | Winnersatgamin

  6. Pingback: How to Divide Hostas (for the Weekend Gardener) | Art of Natural Living

  7. Wow! you describe it very well, it is a amazing stuff, thanks for sharing …

  8. Well I think when I get back from a visit with my sister in CA I’ll give this methods a try! I dearly love Hostas and it could be fun no matter what I get!

    • You know since they aren’t true to parentage, I ended up with one that I think is going to be a real “mini” which I think is cool. Have fun–I’d love to hear how it goes if you get a chance.

  9. I started hosta’s from seed this winter, I placed them in a zip lock bag with a wet paper towel and place on top of a forced air heat vent, your percentage of seeds that start is nearly all of them, and if a few don’t start with the rest, just keep them in the bag and wait.
    I didn’t use a grow light and wished I did, but they are either in a southern or Eastern window. By the way, I live in the US in Minnesota, if that helps.

    • That sounds easier than putting them in water in the refrigerator (though I would need to keep the cats from running off with the bag of wet seeds 😉 )! I will have to try that if I get more seeds this fall. Thanks for sharing your method–I didn’t see that anywhere on the internet!

  10. This has really been the best information Ive found concerning trial and error. Thank you!

  11. Great information!! Love the descriptions-truly helpful information. Thank you so much for taking the time to record all this for us, and even with photos! 🙂

  12. What a great post! Thank you so much for all the information! This is extraordinarily helpful–and you helpfully included photos as well. I had been wondering what to do with all the hosta seeds and if it was worth trying to save them and plant them. Thank you!! 🙂

    • As I said, it isn’t the easiest way to make new hostas but it was a fun adventure! If you try this, I’d love to hear how it goes.

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