Winter Care for Hostas

Overview

The news is good for gardeners who are used to fussy plants that require a large amount of care, maintenance and protection. The hosta requires very little in the way of preparation to face even harsh winter conditions. Most of the upkeep recommended is preventive, intended to head off potential issues rather than needed for hostas to thrive when they re-emerge. Gardeners need only to be aware of a few simple rules so that actions on their part do not negatively affect the health of the plants.

Step 1

Add an annual layer of mulch, up to 1 to 2 inches deep, in the spring or summer. Mulching is recommended for hostas to maintain a moist environment and discourage weeds. The mulch should be added around the plant, but not in contact with the foliage or crown. Avoid using leaves or other items that slugs may prefer to eat or make a home within, as slugs are a major source of damage to hostas during the warmer months.

Step 2

Avoid dividing plants after September so that the hostas have time to repair and establish themselves before winter. This lessens the chance that disease can take hold on any exposed or damaged areas, possibly compromising the health of the entire plant. Also, feed the plants less often as fall approaches and then stop feeding them completely in September.

Step 3

Add additional mulch to hostas planted very late in the fall to help protect them. The mulch can be mounded over the area where the hosta was planted after the ground has frozen. If you add thick mulch, pull it away to expose the soil surface once spring temperatures occur.

Step 4

Remove dead foliage, if you prefer. Once the first freeze occurs and the plant dies, gardeners may be wise to collect and dispose of the leaves to prevent their acting as a home to foliar nematodes, according to Hill Gardens of Maine.

Step 5

Bring outdoor containers holding hostas to a sheltered area for the winter. Your greatest worry may be the potential for the container to crack or split when moisture freezes and thaws, causing expansion of the contents. The hosta inside, however, should weather the temperatures without a problem, as they lie dormant during this cold season.

Step 6

Keep indoor plants in the location where they have thrived unless they give you reason to think there is a problem. Hill Gardens recommends that you monitor the condition of the leaves. If the leaves begin to droop, turn brown or lose their luster, the plant may need more light or a more protected indoor location, away from cold outdoor air currents, such as may blow in through a nearby door.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Mulch

References

  • Hill Gardens of Maine: All You Need to Know About Hostas
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Hostas
  • Paradise Garden: Hosta Planting and Care Instructions
  • Perennial Reference: Hosta
  • Hostas Direct: Hostas in Containers, Potted Hostas

Who Can Help

  • Hosta Library
  • The American Hosta Society
  • University of Illinois Extension: Gardening with Perennials-Plantain Lily, Hosta
  • NDSU Extension Service: Hortiscope-Questions on Hosta
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cooperative Extension: Hostas
Keywords: winterizing hosta, hosta winter preparation, seasonal hosta care

About this Author

Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years' experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.