Here at Gardening Know How we get lots of questions, and our goal is to provide answers to those inquiries to the best of our knowledge. Hostas are some of the most popular of landscape plants, especially in shady areas of the garden. But these wonderful foliage specimens are not without their problems. Below are our answers to 10 most commonly asked questions we receive when growing hosta plants in the landscape.
While a hosta can be planted at any point during the growing season, the two most ideal times are in early spring after the last frost or in the fall, 4-6 weeks before the first frost.
Yes, you can and should fertilize a hosta plant. Fertilizer will help your hostas achieve optimum growth. At a minimum, you should fertilize your hostas each spring with an all-purpose garden fertilizer. You may also wish to fertilize during the summer, but this is not completely necessary.
Holes in hosta leaves are typically a calling card of slugs or snails. There are many tactics you can employ against these garden assailants, such as setting up beer baits or surrounding your plants with diatomaceous earth, crushed eggshells or copper wire.
Hostas are mostly shade-loving plants and enjoy soaking in dappled sunlight throughout the day. If you’re really wanting to push the envelope for sun intensity, there are a handful of hosta varieties that are more adaptable for a more sunny spot – just be prepared to water them more regularly than their shaded counterparts. These sun tolerant hostas can withstand a few hours of direct sun a day (full morning and late afternoon sun is best) and tend to share certain traits, such as thick leaves, leaves with hues of white, yellow or gold and more fragrant flowers.
The ideal time to divide hostas is in early spring or in the fall. The first step is to dig up the entire root clump. Work the plant loose from the ground by digging about 3-5 inches (7.6 to 13 cm.) around the base of the plant. Pull the plant out of the ground and shake off any loose soil. Set the plant on the ground and part the foliage so you can see the center of the plant. Take a flat-bottomed shovel and split the plant down the middle from the crown down. Now it’s time to plant the newly separated sections. Dig holes 2-3 times the size of the root masses. Add plant food to the holes, mixed in with some compost, insert the plants and then backfill. Give the hostas a drink of water and add some mulch around the base of the plants.
Yes, no harm will befall your hosta by cutting the flowers. They can be trimmed at any point whether they are actively blooming or spent. Some hosta flowers, however, actually have a wonderful fragrance which may make you reconsider.
As fall progresses, your hostas will begin to naturally show signs of decline. Once the leaves start turning yellow and fading, that’s your telltale sign to prune. Pruning and disposing of these leaves is important because dead leaves left on the plant have the potential to harbor pests and disease, and you don’t want that. How far should your pruning go? Prune hosta plants to ground level and dispose of the trimmings.
For in-ground plantings, cut back the hosta leaves and spread a 2- to 3-inch (5 to 7.6 cm.) layer of mulch over the crown before the first hard frost in the fall. The mulch will help retain moisture in the soil as well as regulate the soil temperature, preventing the heaving that can occur during cycles of soil freezing and thawing. For container plantings, it is easiest to just move the containers into an unheated garage or shed when temperatures dip below freezing. Water occasionally when the soil starts to go dry, but do so only on mild days and when the soil or root ball in the container is not frozen.
Hostas actually make great container plants for a shady corner on your porch or patio so long as you are mindful to water them regularly. Knowing how to plant hostas in a container will allow you to be creative! Hostas can be mixed in with other shade-loving flowers and plants to create some really eye-popping arrangements.
There are a multitude of reasons why your hosta leaves may be turning yellow. The leaves could be scorching due to too much sun exposure. Your plant could be falling victim to pests, such as foliar nematodes, or any number of fungal diseases, rots and viruses. If it’s late in the season (i.e. fall/winter), your plant may just be naturally declining. Or perhaps you are simply watering it too little or not enough.
We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We’re always here to help.