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Hosta Plants

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How to Prepare Hostas for Winter

Hostas are hardy plants with beautiful foliage that provide lush boarders and pretty ground covers for beds. Hardy in zones 3 to 9, hostas require little effort to prepare them for the winter season.

Apply the last fertilizer application prior to July. Fertilizing in late summer may encourage new growth and prevent the plant from preparing for dormancy during winter.

Cut the stalks of all spent flowers back to the crown of the plant.

Remove yellow, wilted, or dead leaves.

Rake leaf litter and dead material out from under and around the plant. Slugs, pests and diseases love to hide in decomposing material.

  • Hostas are hardy plants with beautiful foliage that provide lush boarders and pretty ground covers for beds.
  • Rake leaf litter and dead material out from under and around the plant.

Apply a thin layer of mulch carefully in the fall. Wait until several hard frosts have occured, freezing the ground to about 3 inches deep. Remove mulch from around the crown as soon as the soil begins to thaw, or you may provide a home for pests and conditions ripe for crown rot.

How to Fertilize Hostas

Fertilize hosta plants in the late winter or early spring, before they break the soil.

Use a slow-release fertilizer, such as a 13-13-13 mixture.

Water the hosta well to distribute the fertilizer and wash any granules off the leaves.

Follow up with a water-soluble fertilizer after the hosta’s leaves emerge.

  • Apply a thin layer of mulch carefully in the fall.
  • Remove mulch from around the crown as soon as the soil begins to thaw, or you may provide a home for pests and conditions ripe for crown rot.

Add well-seasoned manure to the soil, if desired.

Wait to fertilize newly planted hostas until they have put out new roots, or use a time-release fertilizer immediately after planting.

The Best Way to Fertilize Hostas

Get a soil test to determine what nutrients are lacking in the soil where the hostas grow. If the soil test indicates the soil has sufficient amounts of the necessary nutrients, then all the hostas will need is an application of compost each fall. If nitrogen or other nutrients are lacking, however, proceed to Step 2.

In early spring, when hosta leaves are emerging from the ground, mix the required fertilizer according to package directions. Apply fertilizer solution on soil surrounding each plant, but make sure you do not get fertilizer on the plant itself.

  • Add well-seasoned manure to the soil, if desired.
  • In early spring, when hosta leaves are emerging from the ground, mix the required fertilizer according to package directions.

Water the plants two to three times within the week following fertilizer application, to ensure the nutrients go down into the soil where the roots can access them.

Repeat the fertilizer application and subsequent watering six weeks later, or just before flowers emerge.

Tip

Two fertilizer applications during the growing season are sufficient for hostas.

Warning

Do not fertilize hostas late in the growing season because the plants need a hardening off period before cold weather sets in, Ohio State University Extension advises.

How to Cover Hostas During a Freeze

Cover tender hosta shoots if an early spring freeze is forecast. Anything that will protect the hosta will work, such an upside-down laundry basket or garbage can, or a blanket, towel or sheet. If necessary, install stakes in the soil to prevent the cover from touching the leaves.

Remove the protective cover as soon as the temperature warms up in the morning and climbs past the freezing mark. Re-cover the hosta in the evening if the cold snap is predicted to last another night.

  • Water the plants two to three times within the week following fertilizer application, to ensure the nutrients go down into the soil where the roots can access them.
  • Re-cover the hosta in the evening if the cold snap is predicted to last another night.

Prepare hosta plants for winter with a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch such as straw, bark mulch or pine needles. Mulch is most important for hosta plants during their first two to three years, as the mulch will protect the plant from damage caused by freezing and thawing.

Tip

Water the hosta if an unexpected freeze is predicted. Damp soil will retain heat better than dry soil. If your hosta gets nipped in spite of your best efforts, use garden shears to cut off the damaged areas. Leave as much of the leaves intact as possible so they can regrow.

How to Grow Hostas From Seed

Allow seed pods to form on hosta plants.

Collect seed pods by cutting the entire flower stem when the pods turn brown and begin to split open.

Dry the seed pod by placing the entire stem into a brown paper bag and suspending it in a cool, dry, dark room.

Break the pods open when the seeds are dry and plant them in sterile seed starter soil in clean seedling trays. Since only one in five seeds will germinate, plant the seeds close together.

  • Prepare hosta plants for winter with a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch such as straw, bark mulch or pine needles.
  • Break the pods open when the seeds are dry and plant them in sterile seed starter soil in clean seedling trays.

Mist the trays with water and cover with a plastic cover. Store in a dark room that is between 60 and 70 degrees F. The seeds should germinate in 2 weeks time. Continue to mist to prevent drying.

Move the tray under fluorescent lights when they begin to sprout.

Wait until all chance of frost has passed and transplant your hosta sprouts directly into the garden soil in a shady to partly shady location.

Mulch the seedlings with a ¼ inch layer of sand to discourage mildew.

Water with a soaker hose. Never water from above the plant as this could cause the plant to mildew.

  • Mist the trays with water and cover with a plastic cover.
  • Mulch the seedlings with a ¼ inch layer of sand to discourage mildew.

Fertilize the plants with a 10-10-10 fertilizer after the third leaf has emerged.

How to Prune Hostas

Cut away any damaged or diseased leaves. Cut the leaf and stem off at ground level. Dispose of damaged plant material in your compost bin. Do not place diseased plant material in your compost bin. After pruning diseased plant material, disinfect your pruning shears by dipping them in bleach or alcohol. This can be done at any time during the growing season.

  • Fertilize the plants with a 10-10-10 fertilizer after the third leaf has emerged.
  • After pruning diseased plant material, disinfect your pruning shears by dipping them in bleach or alcohol.

Prune away the spent flower stalks. This should be done once the flowers give way to green seed pods. The seed pods will only drain the plant's energy and their removal will also improve the appearance of the hosta plant. You can deposit the pruned plant material in your compost bin.

Cut back the foliage to the ground in the fall after it has died back, usually after the first hard frost. Place a layer of mulch over the plant bed. You can use mulched leaves, straw, hay or evergreen boughs.

  • Prune away the spent flower stalks.
  • This should be done once the flowers give way to green seed pods.

How to Feed Hostas

Clear away any dead leaves, old mulch, or other debris from the area of your hosta once you can see the tips of the new plants coming up from the soil. Use the rake carefully around the plant so as not to gouge or pierce the fragile hosta tips sticking up from the ground.

Apply equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertilizer such as 10-10-10 to the plant according to the directions on the packaging. The dose, method of application, and the frequency of treatment should be listed.

Spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of fresh mulch around the base to hold the fertilizer in and keep weed growth down. As you work the mulch, make sure you don’t cover over the new hostas, which may still be quite short.

Repeat adding the feed to your hostas as frequently as the manufacturer’s instructions state until midsummer, when fertilizing should stop.

  • Clear away any dead leaves, old mulch, or other debris from the area of your hosta once you can see the tips of the new plants coming up from the soil.
  • Repeat adding the feed to your hostas as frequently as the manufacturer’s instructions state until midsummer, when fertilizing should stop.

Tip

If you don’t have much time to devote to your garden, which is often a good case for growing hostas, then only perform steps 1 through 3 in the early spring, and skip repeat treatments. An otherwise healthy hosta will do fine to have this singular boost in feed for the start of the growing season.

Warning

Avoid letting any fertilizer granules or powder come into direct contact with the body of the hosta as this can sometimes lead to scalding and damage. Always apply granules or powders in a ring around the base of the plant, but not on the plant since the concentration has not yet been diluted by water.

How to Plant Hosta Bulbs

Choose a site with good drainage and filtered sun to full shade.

Work the soil to a depth of about 1 foot. Add organic matter to the soil and mix well; hostas require a rich medium to grow their prized foliage.

Dig a hole about 1 foot deep. Make sure the hole is wide enough for the roots to spread out comfortably.

Prepare to plant bare root hosta starts by making a small hill of soil at the bottom of the hole. Gently spread the roots out over the mound, ensuring that the foliage base rests right at soil level. Fill in around the roots and firm the soil.

  • Choose a site with good drainage and filtered sun to full shade.
  • Add organic matter to the soil and mix well; hostas require a rich medium to grow their prized foliage.

Remove hosta plants from their container and loosen the roots, separating any clumps. Gently shake excess soil from the roots and spread them out in the hole. Back fill the hole and firm soil.

Plant hostas 1 to 3 feet apart to allow for mature growth.

Water the freshly planted starts. Carefully monitor hostas for adequate hydration, especially if they are planted near trees or shrubs that will be sharing the water supply.

Apply a balanced, slow release fertilizer when planting, typically in early spring or fall. Always fertilize at the base of the hosta and never over the leaves; fertilizer can burn or damage them.

  • Remove hosta plants from their container and loosen the roots, separating any clumps.
  • Always fertilize at the base of the hosta and never over the leaves; fertilizer can burn or damage them.

Facts About Hosta Plants

Description

Foliage ranges from 6 inches to 3 feet in height with many different colors, leaf textures and leaf shapes. Hostas can have lily-like flowers on stalks, ranging in color from blue to green to purple to white.

Growth

Hostas prefer to grow in shade with some morning sun. They are drought tolerant, but do best with regular watering and summer mulching to retain moisture. Soil should be near neutral in pH.

Hardiness

Most hosta varieties do fine in USDA hardiness zones of 3 (for example, Wisconsin and Montana) to 9 (for example, Texas and Florida).

Propagation

To propagate a hosta, divide and plant its root clumps. Early spring is the best time. Divide once every three to five years for the health of the plant.

  • Foliage ranges from 6 inches to 3 feet in height with many different colors, leaf textures and leaf shapes.
  • Soil should be near neutral in pH.
  • Most hosta varieties do fine in USDA hardiness zones of 3 (for example, Wisconsin and Montana) to 9 (for example, Texas and Florida).

Fun Facts

There are now over 100 hosta societies. The American Hosta Society is one of the best known.

How to Trim Hostas

Deadhead the hosta plant. Cut off the hosta's flower stalk as soon as the flowers have withered. This encourages the hosta to continue to produce new flowers.

Prune back the hosta plant to prepare it for winter. Wait until after the first frost in your area when the hosta plant starts wilting. Use a ruler and measure 6 inches from the base of the plant.

  • There are now over 100 hosta societies.
  • Cut off the hosta's flower stalk as soon as the flowers have withered.

Trim back all foliage beyond the 6-inch mark. This helps keep the plant from being burned severely during the winter's colder temperatures. Pile mulch or hay over the plant after trimming it.

Tip

If you want to collect seeds from your hosta plant to sow and make new hostas, don't deadhead the flowers. Keep in mind that most hosta plants sold in nurseries and garden stores are hybrids. Seeds from such plants will not produce offspring that look like the plant from which you collected the seeds.

Fertilizing & Watering Hostas

Tools for Transplanting Hostas

Tips for Dividing Hostas

How to Reduce Shock When Transplanting Hostas

How to Save a Damaged Hosta Plant

Clear away any damaged leaves by gently tugging away the yellow or brown leaves or clipping them off as close to the base as possible.

Place any removed leaves in a garbage bag to dispose of them. Only put discarded leaves in a compost bin if you are certain your damage is from insects or other animals and not from disease, fungus or bacteria.

Apply any fungicide or insecticide to the remainder of the plant as needed following the dosage and application method given on the label.

  • Trim back all foliage beyond the 6-inch mark.
  • Only put discarded leaves in a compost bin if you are certain your damage is from insects or other animals and not from disease, fungus or bacteria.

Monitor your hosta as it recovers from the damage. Water your plant if your area is receiving little rain.

Dig up severely damaged hostas and plant them in a pot or container to isolate them from the rest of the garden. Nurse the plants back to health through watering, fertilizer and mulch when needed.

Tip

Removing yellow or brown leaves after winter will be enough to revive most hosta plants.

Transplant the hosta to a new location if damage could be from sun exposure or excess heat. Because hostas prefer shade, relocating them to a shaded area will often cure your problems.

For deer damage, scatter dog hair around your hosta plants. The scent of a dog can ward off deer.

If you need to dig up your hosta plants, it's a good time to divide them and plant the divisions in the garden or in pots. Give healthy potted hostas as gifts, or leave them on your patio or deck to dress up shaded corners.

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