Growing Hostas From Seed

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

 

Have you ever spotted seeds on your hosta plants? Growing hostas from seed is harder than dividing them but a fun gardening challenge.

52 thoughts on “Growing Hostas From Seed

  1. lavesta

    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. Freeda Baker Nichols

    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.

      1. Lyla Whannel

        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!

        1. Inger Post author

          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!

    1. Stella

      Freeda Baker Nichols: Dang squirrels are always planting black walnut trees. Kill many every year. The are really a nuisance as they drop hundreds (thousands) of walnuts that take very little effort to grow and then you have to deal with the fact that they put out a chemical that kills everything under the canopy so they have no competition.

      1. Inger Post author

        You know in the end, last fall I just found a bunch of people who were looking to get rid of some black walnuts. It was several in a single neighborhood, which your squirrel tale made me wonder about :).

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  5. Suntigermoon

    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!

    1. Inger Post author

      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.

  6. Pat

    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.

    1. Inger Post author

      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!

  7. Marjie

    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! 🙂

  8. Marjie

    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!! 🙂

    1. Inger Post author

      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.

  9. Andrena

    I put seeds in compost last December in my utility room (I live in uk). Had lots of little seedlings but they really do grow slow. I’ve now got about fourty seedling plant about the size of my thumb. It’s now June!

    1. Inger Post author

      How fun Andrena! One of my little hosta babies has decided to be tiny for life–it’s a perfect specimen about 6 or 8 inches across. I may turn it into a container plant since I’m afraid someone will pull it like a weed! It gets a perfect hosta flower every summer though! Enjoy!

  10. Claudia

    Thank you for sharing your experience – it’s really appreciated! I have a particular hosta that looks tropical because the leaves are so large. I’d like to plant the same hosta in several other places and share it with friends, so growing from seed is the answer. The prized hosta is full of seeds at the moment, so I’m off to collect with your help. Thank you!

    1. Inger Post author

      Glad you enjoyed this Claudia. You can also consider dividing your plant when it gets large enough (see: https://artofnaturalliving.com/2014/06/18/divide-hostas-weekend-gardener/ ). If you are committed to replicating the tropical look of the original that may be your best bet since hostas grown from seed do not always resemble the parents. But if you are in for an adventure, you might try the seeds too! I ended up with one teeny plant (years later it is still about 8 inches across) from a large parent and it ended up being my favorite!

  11. Kerry Fastenau

    This is my first visit to your site. I, too, am a suburban-nature-girl. I love “free” plants and try my hand at collecting/starting/using seeds I find on excursions. At an nearby office, I saw some beautiful hostas with ripe seed pods. I took a pod and left it in my car all winter. In the spring, I removed about 20-25 seeds for harvesting. I put them in water in a small pyrex cup lined with paper towel. I kept the towel mostly damp, but let it dry out some days, too, simulating a natural state. About half germinated. In the end I only got three plants, still small. It is good to know that they can be put under a grow light to gain some size, though.
    I think am going to keep them in the house over this winter, and plant them in May. They are so small I worry that they will be eaten or forgotten and hoping for a better chance of survival with a larger plant.
    Anyway, now I will take a look around your site! :0)

    1. Inger Post author

      What a fun experience Kerry! I know what you mean about worrying about the tiny plants! Mine had grown for longer and I still wouldn’t let my husband weed where I planted them fearing he’d mistake them for weeds! Good luck with them over the winter and thanks for commenting!

  12. margie sekulo

    Eureka! Over the past several years I have found about 12 or 14 miniature Hosta growing here and there. Some only as big as the palm of my hand. I made a small separate garden for them and always wondered how they got there, next to a big one. After reading so many letters from your readers I have concluded they grew from seed dropped from the big Hostas next to them. Its the only answer that fits. I can’t believe it took me so long to figure this out. Thanks!

    1. Inger Post author

      You are lucky your little hostas “planted” themselves, Margie! Much easier than having to start the seeds yourself (if you can even find the seeds). Thanks for commenting!

  13. Pete

    Do you remember how many weeks you kept the seed in the fridge? I’ve never read about seeds in water in the fridge. Usually people put seeds onto damp paper towel and then put all that into the fridge. I just got some seed from the BIG hostas at my work which have produced LOTS of seed. They are large hostas so I hope the seedlings grow as big. I gathered them a very short time before the custodian cut them to the ground. Good timing! Thank you.

    1. Inger Post author

      The wet paper towel would do pretty much the same thing as soaking them in water. If you want to read more, you can try searching “seed stratification.” One reader mentioned putting seeds on a wet paper towel in a plastic bag and that onto a heater, which I thought was interesting. If you have a lot of seeds, you might even try a couple methods and see which works best! Good luck.

  14. Christopher Macsurak

    Thank you for this advice. I grew cannas this year for the first time from seed and I’m not sure if they’ll get big enough to flower, they are growing steadily. The parent cannas were overwintered in a plastic tub in the basement with my elephant ear plants. All are thriving and really big. From now on I will always overwinter them in the basement by a window with scant light. I’m optimistic about collecting the seeds now forming on my hostas. Of course for years I’ve split and exchanged hostas. I’ve planted bare root hostas. Next up, seeds.

    1. Inger Post author

      Congrats on your cannas Christopher! On my list to try this year is starting a Catalpa tree from seed. It’s supposed to be easy but I’ve failed before so I’m going to have to read up/experiment. Good luck with your hosta seeds!

  15. Michael A Gencur

    I have a bag full of giant hosta seeds and was considering just sowing the seeds in a prepped bed this fall…based on all of the above, I think I will try the water/refrigerator method, and the moist paper towel method…I do have two cats and two dogs though…but I also have some brick pavers! I will be back in touch.

    1. Inger Post author

      If you have enough seeds, Michael, you could try everything! Have fun and I’d love to hear how it all turns out!

  16. Scott Hofer

    I just did the paper towel trick in an old take out container, clear lid to let the sun in and maintain moisture. I have several dozen starters now from a teaspoon of seeds. The interesting part however… I harvested the seed pods three years ago and they spent the entire time in the fridge. We ‘winter’ our seeds in the refrigerator to give them the cold period some seeds need. They got pushed in the back and forgotten. I’m amazed at the high germination rate given the age of the seeds.

    1. Inger Post author

      That’s a great bit of information Scott. I know seeds vary widely in how well they germinate as they get older. Must have felt like a really long winter to them in that fridge 🙂

  17. Lisa L.

    I found seed on a plant this spring. Will those seeds germinate that have been in the freezing cold temps of Indiana during the winter?

    1. Inger Post author

      I didn’t have good luck with those left out over the winter, but you would think they would work. Since germination rates are low, I wouldn’t bother if you have just one. But if you have a number of them it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. If you do, I’d love to hear how it goes.

  18. roxanne

    I made my first attempt at starting some hosta seeds this spring. I didn’t refrigerate them (didn’t read about that till later), just put a few in some peat pots in a plastic take out container with a clear lid like mentioned above and a few more in an uncovered 4″ plastic pot. I didn’t plant them until late, March or maybe even the beginning of April. Wasn’t aware then of the low germination rate but I now have 10 tiny plants — one that sprouted only 2 weeks ago, way after the other ones. Didn’t pay a lot of attention to how many seeds I put in the different types of containers, but I think the plastic pot may have worked better.

    The seeds were pretty old. I’d collected them 2 or 3 years ago and forgotten about them. I suspect they’ll be true to type because the parent plants came from a Virginia plantation with huge banks of hostas that were likely many years old, especially as the single start I brought home then really hasn’t increased all that much. I’d guess that the ones not breeding true are seeds from hybrids throwing back to earlier parents.

    I came here looking for advice on how to overwinter them since they’re slow growing and still so tiny, so was happy to see they can be overwintered in the house till at least next year. I’ve already got my eye on different neighborhood hostas to try for some different types next spring. ;O)

    Thanks for sharing your insights.

    1. Inger Post author

      Thanks for sharing Roxanne. I suppose if all of the parent hostas were very similar you have more of a chance that they will be true to type. Interestingly my favorite of my hosta “kids” was one that was just tiny from a giant “mom” Good luck keeping them over the winter. I’d love to hear how it goes if you get the chance.

  19. Frank

    Thanks for the post. I had several failed attempts at growing hostas from seeds. Once I used your method: I was successful. Also, the germination rate seems to improve, if the seeds are left in the refrigerator until they start to root,

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