Broad, variegated leaves and bell-shaped flowers dangling from tall stalks make hostas (Hosta spp.) dramatic additions to a shade garden. Also called plantain lilies, hostas grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, depending on the variety. These low-maintenance ornamentals are exceptionally easy to divide and transplant. Although a transplant may show signs of damage at first, it will be lush and bushy by the following season.
Hostas can be transplanted at any time of year, but spring and early summer are the best choices. Later in the year, the plants will be bushy, heavy and difficult to handle. Ideally, the leaf spikes -- the green new growth emerging from the crown -- should be 1 to 3 inches tall before you move the plants.
Preparing to Move
Before you unearth hostas, prepare the garden bed in the new spot. Hostas need well-drained soil amended with manure or compost. Raised beds are the best place for hostas because of their excellent drainage. Dig a hole twice as deep as the root ball and twice as wide as the diameter of the plant.
Cut back any leaves on the hosta plants with a pair of sharp scissors to keep the stems from breaking during the move. Because hostas have relatively shallow roots, you won't have to dig deep. Dig around each hosta in a wide circle to preserve as many roots as possible. Lift the whole plant up and move it on to a tarp.
Although it is not necessary for the health of the plant, you can divide a mature hosta into several pieces. If you wish to spread the hosta around your garden, place the transplant on a level surface. Use a sharp shovel to cut through the root ball vertically. You can break a single plant into several smaller plants, but make sure you have a bit of crown attached to each piece. Gently pull apart the roots using your fingers.
Caring for Transplants
Put the transplanted hosta in the new hole at the same level it was in its original location. Fill in the hole with soil and tamp it down gently. Surround the hosta with a 2-inch layer of mulch -- bark, leaf or compost -- but leave a 1 inch space between the base of the plant and the mulch. For the next four to five weeks, monitor the transplant carefully. Keep the soil moist, but don't allow the soil to stay waterlogged.