Miniature Hostas: What They Are and How to Care for Them

Hosta blue mouse ears covered with flowers

A mini hosta packs all the punch that a hosta does, only in a smaller space. They are just as hardy as standard hostas and just as easy to care for.

If you are unfamiliar with miniature hostas or are deciding whether or not to include them in your garden this year, then read through the rest of this article! It will cover what miniature hostas are, how to care for them, and how to present them in your garden in an aesthetically pleasing way.

What is a Mini Hosta?

Hostas are herbaceous perennial plants, and they grow from rhizomes and stolons. What differentiates Mini Hostas from their sister species is, as you may expect, their smaller size. They are often used to fill in smaller spaces of a garden and can fit in almost anywhere.  In many climates, they can grow all year round.

One of the biggest attractions of Hosta plants in general, especially for the cute mini varieties, is the variety of leaf types that can be found. There is an almost endless offering of colors shapes, designs, patterns, and textures to choose from.

The leaf types of these miniature plants are perfect complements to dish gardens and rock gardens and can also be used in pots, hanging baskets, and in other creative ways. They make a truly unique and beautiful focal point for any yard or garden design.

The Size Controversy

Before the current standard, mini-hostas were defined as having leaves no larger than 4 square inches. There was no restriction on their height and width. This was published in 2009. At the beginning of 2010, an ad hoc committee came up with the new definition, which was what had been used for shows.

In 2010, the American Hosta Society (AHS) defined a mini Hosta as having leaves that are no greater than about 6 square inches (39 square cm) in size after five years of good growth. The petiole, or leaf stem, is not counted. The height and width of the clump are not regulated. 

For the first time, an exemplar was named as the standard for mini Hostas: H. ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ (E. & J. Deckert – 2000). Apparently, the reasoning was that many people who grew minis had one of these and would understand what size it is. This choice was somewhat controversial as discussed by Warren Pollack. ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ (BME), according to him, is at the top of the mini-size limits and sometimes goes over them. However, this is what the committee decided so is what there is to work with.

Why Grow these Little Hostas?

When it comes to the popularity of the Mini Hosta, there are many factors to consider. And like all things related to plants and gardening in general, much of it is up to personal preference and likes. There is any number of reasons to grow little mini Hosta and they are all just as valid and important as another and there is no such thing as a wrong reason to enjoy their beauty. But here are few popular reasons people often give:

  • Don’t take up a lot of space and are easy to plant and manage.
  • Minimal resources are needed for care as they do not have a lot of bulk to maintain.
  • Works well with many garden designs and styles as foliage plants.
  • Adaptability to smaller yards and gardens is hard to surpass.
  • Add a pop of color easily to gardens and fill in dark or empty areas.
  • Unique foliage sizes, colors, and textures offer a dramatic flair to any garden space.
  • Interesting conversation pieces thanks to their unique color and shape.
  • Easy to care for and perfect for low maintenance and low fuss home gardens.

These are just a few of the many reasons why these plants are becoming fast favorites among professional and hobby gardeners alike.

Caring for Mini Hostas

Mini Hostas are cared for in the same ways as standard Hostas. They need well-drained soil with abundant amounts of organic matter. They will not tolerate soggy conditions, so keep them moist, not wet. Minis require more water in hot temperatures. Remember, minis are from areas that get close to 60 inches of water a year. They should be given ¾ inch of water every 3-4 days. Spread mulch around them to keep the soil temperature stable and conserve moisture. 

Minis grow in partial sun to dense shade, depending on the cultivar. In general, the more green on the leaf, the more shade tolerant. The more yellow or white on leaves, the more sun they require. Typically they do not tolerate afternoon sun well.  

Upon planting your minis, spread a 10-10-10 fertilizer around them at a rate of ½ to one pound per 100 square feet. In the early spring, when they just start showing green, use this around them again and they are good for the year.

When minis bloom, cut the scape as soon as the flower is spent. Doing so may cause them to bloom again. Even if it doesn’t, it will keep the mini from wasting energy by putting out seeds instead of growing foliage. While you do this, it is a good time to remove decaying weeds and compost them, so the plant looks neat and cared for. Do not compost diseased leaves or it will contaminate your compost pile.

Planting Your Dwarf Hostas

There are only a few things to look out for when planting minis as compared to your larger hostas.

Mini hostas will struggle more in heavy soils with their smaller root systems than their cousins. If you have this problem loosen and lighten your soil with the addition of compost, fine bark, or coir.

The smaller stature of these small plants puts them at risk of being set back from too much sun. Protect your plants by keeping them out of the hot afternoon sun. the amount of shade minis need is determined by your location, the same as with your larger hostas.

Again minis with their smaller and shallower root system are in cold areas subject to being pushed out of the soil by frost heaves.

The best protection here is a thick layer of mulch to moderate temperature fluctuations in the soil as the winter weather warms and cools. 

Propagating Your Minis

Unless you are into hybridizing or wanting to grow seeds the easiest way to increase your collection is by division in the early spring or late summer/early fall. And yes we have an in-depth article on dividing your hostas. (Add Link)

Dividing your minis is so easy. No shovels, spading forks, knives, or other sweat-producing tools. Pop the mini hosta out of the ground with a trowel or OK a mini shovel. Work the soil off the roots with your hands and gently pull the clump apart.

Containers are even easier; just knock the plant out of the pot and the lighter potting soil usually falls away with very little effort.

Once you have your plants divided to the size you want (hopefully not too small) pot them up or replant them in the garden, giving them a little extra attention and care until they are established again.

How to Use dwarf Hostas in Your Garden

Thanks to their unique shape and size and very compact growing habits, there are several unique ways these tiny Hostas can be used around the home. Here are just a few fun and unique ways that you can add them to your garden space.

Fairy Gardens

When planting in a fairy garden, mini hostas are good to use as the bush surrounding fairy ornaments such as the house, toadstools, benches, or similar props. Because fairy gardens tend to be a more creative-focused setup, you’ll want to find a container for your hosta that blends into your design but still has proper drainage. A good container for this would be terra-cotta pots. They have the proper amount of drainage for your hosta but are small enough so that you can hide them inside larger containers that fit within the aesthetic of your fairy garden.

Rock Gardens

For rock gardens, hostas are a good choice for planting for a variety of reasons. Rock gardens are generally considered a simpler layout for gardening, and because mini hostas tend to be very easy to maintain, they are an ideal variety for this type of garden. Not to mention the muted colors of hostas and rocks fit well together aesthetically, appearing quite pleasant to the eye. As mentioned earlier, because of their small size, mini hostas can be used to cover up smaller spaces in a rock garden that has already been arranged. If you have the correct soil mixture, you won’t have to worry about your mini hostas getting the proper amount of draining. For a sunnier spot, a mixture of sand, topsoil, peat moss, and small rocks is ideal. For shadier spots, compost is generally the best way to go.

Containers

Minis are very happy in containers with a few caveats. Do not plant too many minis in a bowl, and make sure that the other plants in the containers are small too, or they will overwhelm the minis.

You can also minis and other small alpine plants in troughs to create striking miniature rock gardens.

Yes, minis can be used in hanging baskets and wall containers. They will take some time to mature into beautiful focal features.

For more information on growing hostas in containers see our article on How to Successfully Grow Hostas in Pots (Add link)

Ground Cover

You can plant minis in mass as a ground cover. Remember to space the minis so that they are not crowded at their mature size.

Outstanding Mini Hostas

Pandora’s Box

A very popular mini that is a bit slow to establish its first year. The leaves have blue-green margins, white centers, and green streaking between the blue and white areas. It has a lavender flower in early summer. Grows 6 inches tall and spreads 5 inches.

Cracker Crumbs

One of my favorite minis, easy to grow, has a great appearance, and is widely available. The leaves are chartreuse-yellow with a waxy green edge. The lavender flower appears in the summer. Grows about 5 inches tall and 6 inches wide.

Blue Mouse Ears

This variation of the plant is known for its cute heart-shaped, silvery blue leaves. The unique shape and texture of the leaves cause them to roll up at the edges giving the impression of mouse ears. Expect a mature size of about 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide. Arguably the most popular mini hosta. They’re a reliable variety in regards to their growth, as they can thrive both in shaded and sunny plots in a garden.

Cheatin Heart

This mini has small leaves of interesting and unique chartreuse then start turning golden yellow, and each leaf is accented with green veins. Foliage is slightly dimpled, with a rippled-looking edge. And each leaf is heart-shaped, hence the name. It is also very dense and low-growing. Its mature size is about 6 inches tall and 10 inches wide.

Tiny Tears

One of the smallest and cutest examples of mini Hostas, this variety comes in at only 2 inches high but has a creeping ground cover growth pattern that can reach as much as 8 to 12 inches across. This hosta gets its name from the lovely and delicate tear-shaped flowers that bloom among the plant foliage, which can give your garden a more dramatic and melancholy look.

Curly Fries

The leaves are pale chartreuse, extremely rippled, and sword shape. There are now many similar-looking minis. Grows about 6 inches high and 18 inches wide.

Cameo

The leaves are small, round, and green with wavy cream margins. Nice. Its mature size is about 6 inches high and 12 inches wide.

Mini Skirt

A newer mini that is a thick mound of ruffled gray-green leave with a wide creamy-white edge. Very popular and well worth having. It grows to about 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide.

Baby Bunting

As the name suggests- they’re one of the smaller varieties of mini hostas. They have a very unique look to them as the seasons change, as they begin spring with a blue-grey color and transition into dark green by the summer. That trait alone makes them ideal for a fairy garden, as their transitional bloom gives them a truly magical feeling! The flowers that bloom on Baby Bunting’s look very similar to lilies, and they’re pigmented with a pale lavender color.

Related Questions

What is the tiniest mini Hosta?

There is not a consensus for this. Some Hostas are 1.5 inches tall and two wide, but no one seems to list the smallest Hostas cultivars.

The American Hosta Society has a list of minis that has leaf size on it. Using the latest (2019) list., H. ‘Abiqua Miniature’ (Walden West- 1988) has a leaf size of 1.5 inches by .05 inches. H. ‘Bea’s Heartstrings’ (A. Artley- 2015) has a leaf size that is 1.3 by 1 inch.

There are others with similar leaf sizes. However, remember that through the leaf size is small, the minis may grow taller and wider than you want, so check the height and width listed before planting.

Do minis tolerate the sun?

Some cultivars of minis tolerate the sun. H. ‘Appletini’ can tolerate morning sun. Virtually all minis get leaf burns from the stronger afternoon sun.

Are dwarfs and minis different?

All mini Hostas are dwarfs, but not all dwarfs are mini Hostas. You also see dwarf fruit trees and other small versions of trees that fit in a smaller area. There are other types of dwarf plants as well (but do they really count, this is hosta country).

Are miniature Hosta plants worth having around?

They are a wonderful plant that has many uses and applications in the home garden and landscape. They are hardy, versatile, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, pest-resistant, and look great no matter how they are utilized. Mini Hostas are definitely a worthwhile consideration for any home garden project.

Closing Thoughts

Miniature Hostas are great plants for small spaces. Some of them can tolerate partial sun and all of them do well in shade. Minis come with different leaf colors and generally have lavender blooms in the summer. They are easy to care for and addictive.