Caring For Hostas

Discover what you need to know about caring for hostas.
By: Julie A Martens
Blue Green Hosta has Showy Large Ribbed Leaves

Blue Green Hosta has Showy Large Ribbed Leaves

Photo by: DK - Garden Design © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Find out the secret behind growing great hostas. Beautiful hosta plants start with the right soil, adequate water and ideal lighting. The bottom line is that caring for hostas isn’t difficult. When you grow hostas, you won’t find an endless to-do list, like pruning hostas, applying hosta fertilizer or tending hostas in winter. Instead, these perennials strut their stuff with relatively few demands.

Whether you’re growing giant hostas or miniature ones, caring for hostas begins and ends with choosing the right planting spot. Hostas crave consistent moisture to keep their pretty leaves looking their best. That’s why hosta plants thrive in soil that’s enriched with organic matter, like some kind of compost—composted leaves, manure or tree bark. In soil, organic matter acts like a sponge, absorbing and holding water and slowly releasing it to hosta roots as needed.

Compost also helps provide some nutrients, acting as a mild hosta fertilizer, but don’t rely on that alone to keep your hosta plants looking their best. These leafy perennials benefit from a steady supply of nutrients during the growing season. Plan to apply a slow release fertilizer when leaves are emerging and again in four to six weeks. Some hosta nurseries sell specialized hosta fertilizer, which probably includes magnesium. This is usually something you spray on the leaves four to six weeks after hostas emerge in spring.

There are two keys to hosta fertilizer success. First, make sure hostas have nutrients during the time when they’re pushing out new leaves. Second, hostas don’t form new roots until after leaves have opened in spring, so there’s no reason to apply a fall fertilizer to encourage root formation. Over winter, hosta roots stop growing and don’t start up again until soil warms in spring—which is why that’s an ideal time to apply hosta fertilizer.

Many perennials need some sort of pruning during the growing season, but hostas are an exception. Pruning hostas really isn’t needed, although plants do look better if you snip off flower stems after blossoms fade. It’s also a good idea to clean up diseased, dying or dead leaves. This isn’t a true pruning activity, but it does help control disease spread and limits where pests like slugs can hide.

It’s especially wise to clean up spent leaves in fall. This helps eliminate pests, diseases and hiding places for critters like voles, who love to feast on hostas in winter. Typically, caring for hostas in winter is a cinch—it’s a do-nothing job. Once plants are dormant for winter, they’re done, and you can hang up your garden tools for another season.

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