Controlling hostas

Asked May 9, 2018, 2:34 PM EDT

We recently bought a house that has a lot of hostas. Last summer they were very overgrown and unkempt. I anticipated just dividing them this spring to get a more under control look. However, as they have started coming up this spring, only a few are growing in clumps. Mostly there are individual sprouts all over the place. They are even sprouting up in the grass outside of the paver boarder and in the middle of other plants. When they are sprouting up everywhere how do I get them under control? Do I need to just dig up the whole area, including the parts of the grass they are sprouting in, and start over?

Hennepin County Minnesota

2 Responses

Hi there--

It looks to me like you've got several things growing in the bed. I'm not convinced most of them are hostas.

The 2nd picture, the variegated stuff has lots of names. I know it by Snow on the Mountain or "crap I can't get rid of easily". This article from University of IL talks about the plant and how to get rid of it: . It looks like they recommend glysophate and/or pulling it now and again as it comes up through the season. Eventually it'll give up.

There's a tulip in there and some day lily (the blueish green clump in the front of the 3rd picture).

The stuff that looks hosta-ish is, I think, perhaps lily of the valley. Hostas tend to spread by the clump getting bigger and bigger. Lily of the valley spread on rhizomes. Hopefully, I'm wrong because lily of the valley is tough to remove to. This article from Iowa State: says this:

Lily-of-the-valley is often difficult to control in the home landscape. Plants can be destroyed by thorough, repeated digging and removal of their underground stems or rhizomes. Any pieces of rhizome that are left will sprout out and develop into plants. It often takes two or three attempts to completely destroy lily-of-the-valley by digging. The herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) is another control option. Glyphosate is a non-selective, systematic herbicide that destroys virtually all plants onto which it is applied. However, lily-of-the-valley is a very tough plant. Two or more applications of glyphosate may be necessary to completely destroy lily-of-the-valley.
If you'd be willing, dig up a couple of the ones that spread out and perhaps some that are more clumped.

There's a drawing on the lily of the valley wikipedia page that shows what it's roots look like:

This page shows typical hosta roots:

If you've got hostas, you can dig them out pretty easily (and they won't come back). So fingers crossed they're really hosta!

Feel free to reply back with new photos if it's not clear once you've dug a few up.


Thanks so much for all this info! You're right, they are lily of the valley. I think the day lillies and hostas are going to have to be dug up too because the lily of the valley is popping up in the middle of them. I'm hoping to be able to dig most of it out without disturbing the tulips.