The care information provided in this section represents the kind of practical advice is available for all the plants in this web site if you subscribe to the monthly customized newsletter Yardener’s Advisor.
Established hostas hardly ever need watering, especially if they are growing in good soil and are kept well mulched. Only in serious drought conditions do hostas need some watering attention. If there has been no rainfall for a significant period, check the soil around the plants to see if it is dry. If they are mulched, the soil may still be moist. If not, run drip irrigation or a sprinkler for about 1/2 an hour to soak the soil well. There is some evidence that generous watering in late July through August improves growth the following spring. Hosta foliage tends to droop in the heat of summer, flattening and draping over nearby plants. Thorough mulching and conscientious watering during high heat when rainfall is scarce may minimize this problem by cooling the soil temperature.
Hostas growing in good soil with lots of organic material added every year will need no fertilizer. If the soil is not yet great, then you should feed hostas once a year; fall is better than spring. Use a scant handful of all-purpose slow-acting granular fertilizer, and sprinkle it on the soil around each plant clump for the rain to soak in. That is sufficient for the next season or until the soil becomes healthy from mulch decomposing over the years or adding organic material so that it can feed the hostas. For more information see the file for Choosing Fertilizers
Fertilize in fall to create a hosta heaven
Report by Nancy Szerlag
If I only had two words to describe the garden of Marc Whitefield of Bloomfield Hills, I'd call it lush and lovely. Whitefield's garden contains an incredible collection of hostas that spills down a hillside, creating a breath-taking display, a living tapestry of green, cream, blue and white accented with gold. The plants are the picture of health, their vibrant-colored leaves completely void of brown spots, pockmarks or holes.
Whitefield is a hosta-holic, a serious collector, and I'm sure he enjoys fussing over his babies. Dividing, pruning and weeding are part of the drill, but he has found a simple formula to keep them healthy and happy, and he sticks with it.
When I asked his secret, he was more than ready to share. Whitefield followed the advice of the landscaper he inherited when bought his house, Bob Miller of Miller Landscape of Lake Orion; (248) 391- 2889, www.millerlandscapeinc.com. Miller told Whitefield to fall fertilize, not only his lawn, but also his shrubs and prized hostas with Turf Nurture, the premium, slow-release, organic-based granular fertilizer that contains humic acid, beneficial organisms, kelp and a complete package of micronutrients. Any organic granular fertilizer for lawns will do almost as well.
The process for the gardens is simple. In the fall, after cutting back the hostas, sprinkle a handful of Turf Nurture on the surface of the soil around each plant and then mulch the entire garden bed with 3 to 4 inches of shredded leaves. That's it.
Whitefield has been using the same technique for a decade, and not only have his prized hostas thrived, his clay soil is now so light and fluffy he can easily plunge his hand deep in the dirt.
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While mulching helps control weeds, conserves soil moisture and keeps dirt from splashing up on the hosta foliage, its most important role is to decompose and feed the soil. Spread a 2 or 3 inch layer of chopped leaves, pine needles, shredded bark, wood chips or other organic material on the soil around each plant. Do not pile it upon plant crowns and stems. If you have a bed of hostas under trees, you really don’t have to clean out the fallen leaves or needles from around the plants. Left to decay, they contribute organic matter to improve the soil. If your hostas are attacked by slugs, remove the mulch, which gives them cover, in problem areas temporarily during the summer months.
In northern regions where the ground freezes in winter, normal alternating freezing and thawing of the soil disturbs plant roots and sometimes causes new or young plants to be heaved right out of the ground. A protective winter mulch of 3 or 4 inches of organic material insulates the soil against fluctuating temperatures. For more information see the file on Using Mulch
After hostas have bloomed, the faded flowers give way to green seed pods along the flower stalk. It is a good idea to cut off the flower stalks to direct the plant’s energy into its growth rather than seed production. Removing the stalks also improves its appearance. When the foliage has ripened and died back in the fall, clean it up to prevent overwintering pest insects and eggs. Then put down a winter mulch over the area.