Plantigenia

Hosta Care and Culture

at Sissinghurst

Baby Hosta Care

Planting is easy, just remember the soil line of the baby plant should match the soil line in the new container. We suggest starting your baby hostas in a 6 pot using commercial potting soil (you can use a larger pot, but its too easy to over water).

Depending upon the time of year, within six weeks to three months the baby hosta can be moved into a larger pot, or into the ground. If planting in the fall, be sure to mulch to avoid heaving or crown rot.

Please dont freak out if the leaves start yellowing, this is bound to happen as a hosta gets used to its new location, and after a short rest, it should put out new growth.

Bare Root Hostas are hardier, the root is already established, and they can be planted into their permanent locations right away . . . and you watch as their beautiful leaves unfurl.

Liners and Bare Roots are for the gardener who likes to take part in the growth and production of their plants. The gardener who gets excited when a new leaf appears who looks at each hosta leaf as a miracle and a site to behold . . . who gets up in the middle of the night with a flashlight to pick slugs off their hosta leaves, the gardener who wakes early in the morning . . . . OK, they are for other gardeners too!


12-pack of Guacamole Liners

Hosta Care and Culture

Most hosta plants do better in areas that have bright light and some shade, but no direct mid-day sun. Blue varieties keep their color longer if they have no direct sun. (The blue color comes from a waxy coating on the leaf and if the plant is exposed to too much sun, the color will melt and disintegrate.) Green or gold varieties tolerate more sun as long as you give them enough water. The more sun your plant gets, the more water they require.

Hosta plants will grow in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9. To view a complete clickable map of these zones, see www.arborday.org/media/zones.cfm or www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html .

Light filtered by high trees or trees with the lower limbs removed is favored by Hosta Plants. They also prefer afternoon shade. The slope may be used to moderate growing conditions in various areas. A north-facing slope is equal to planting a few hundred miles to the north, and a south-facing slope accomplishes the opposite.

A good approach is to plant the variety you want and see what happens. The plants themselves will tell you if they have what they need. One of the most rewarding experiences is when you plant in a questionable location and the hostas flourish.

Preparing the Plant Bed

Hostas thrive in moist well-drained soil with a pH of 6 to 7.5. No matter what kind of soil you start with, adding compost is a plus. The better your soil is, the bigger and more beautiful your hostas will be. Adding compost makes your soil organic and it will hold water more easily.

Space the plants depending on the variety and the density of the foliage you desire, at least 2 to 4 feet apart. Some larger varieties may need even more space.

Watering

Watering is the key to a garden full of beautiful hostas. Very few gardens get enough natural rainfall to provide the water they need from spring to fall. The soil needs to be kept moist but not saturated. Without adequate moisture, leaves may burn, especially during hot and dry periods or when planted in too much sun.

Hostas originate in Asia - primarily from Japan but also from China and Korea. Those are areas of abundant rainfall and moderate temperatures in the summer.

In Tokyo, the average annual temperature is 15.6 C (60 F). The average January temperature is 5.2 C (41 F), and the average July temperature is 25.2 C (77 F). The average yearly rainfall is 1405 mm (55 in).

In Seoul, the average January temperature is -5 C (23 F), and the average July temperature is 25 C (77 F). The average annual precipitation is about 1,407 mm (56 in) and rainfall is concentrated in the summer months (June to August).

Hostas love water when they are growing, but not when they are dormant. Fall usually brings more rain and cooler temperatures. As long as it is warm, you need to keep watering, unless you are getting a good amount of rain. Dry conditions during the period before dormancy leave the plants subject to crown rot, which is usually fatal. However, staying wet in the winter and early spring is the main cause of crown rot and root rot. In order to make sure your hostas do not stay wet in their dormant period, they need to be planted in well drained soil full of organic material. Soil with organic matter holds water well, but also has plenty of space for air to circulate and to promote good drainage.

Mulch

All hosta plants go dormant in the winter. In cold winter areas, if you apply mulch, you should apply it after the ground freezes. Note: Mulch gives cover to voles, so if your winter is not too severe you may want to avoid mulching.

Planting Schedule

You should be able to plant as long as you can dig in the ground. Generally this is through October in the North, and through November in the South. If the weather is nice, you may be able to plant a little later in the year. If the weather is bad, the time period may be shortened. The most important thing is that you plant in well drained soil. Make sure your plants are not dry going into their winter dormancy period. Soil with compost (or other organic material) added, will hold plenty of water to meet your plant's needs, but will have enough air pockets to let any excess water drain away from the crown. If the soil is too wet, freezing and thawing in the winter and early spring will often cause crown rot.

Note: For hostas with small root systems it is a good idea to plant earlier in the year, especially in the North. They seem to be more susceptible to damage if planted later in the season.

Regardless of when you plant them, the thing to remember is that soil preparation and good drainage is important. If you plant your hostas in poorly drained, soggy soil, it's very possible that you won't see them in the spring.

Dividing Hostas

Many perennials benefit from regular division. However, hostas go through a maturing period that may last four or more years. During this time the leaves get bigger, the "puckering" and other leaf textures are more pronounced and the plant's true character begins to emerge. When you divide the plants, they start the maturing period all over.

If your plant is no longer producing new shoots, there may be a benefit to dividing it. To divide your hosta, take a sharp spade and push it straight down through the plant, making sure you get some roots along with the foliage. The best time to divide is in spring, after the spears are visible, or in summer.

Fertilizing

Fertilizer is used to provide the nutrients that are lacking in the soil. All general purpose fertilizers do basically the same thing. A balanced fertilizer, like Miracle Grow, or something similar should be used in the early spring. Then, when the ground warms up, a slow-release fertilizer may be used. Another thing to consider is your own gardening principles. If you use liquid feed you have to remember to fertilize regularly because it will be washed through the soil when you water. If you don't remember to fertilizing regularly, then longer-lasting dry fertilizers may be a better choice for you.

Follow the directions on whichever fertilizer you choose. However, when it comes to the amount to use, remember who wrote the directions and the fact that they are selling fertilizer. Before applying the maximum, use 1/2 the recommended amount and see if you get the results you want.

If your plant looks unhealthy, find out what is wrong before adding fertilizer. If you use too much fertilizer it will do more harm to your plants than using none at all.

If you have great soil and your plants are growing well, you don't need to fertilize very much at all. If your plants are not putting on the growth you think they should, you may want to increase the amount you are using. And last but not least, don't fertilize late in the year, because you should never have tender young growth going into winter.

Identifying and Treating Problems

Hostas are among the most trouble free plants you can grow, but they are not immune to diseases and predators. If your plant has leaves that are yellowing, wilting, or simply falling off, you may have a problem. Slugs and Snails love to eat hosta plants. Apply Slug and Snail Bait to your hosta plants early in the growing season and repeat if needed. A great source for information on how to identify and treat hosta pests and diseases, can be found at www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/SUL14.pdf.

If your plants get damaged by heat, it is usually confined to the foliage and even though it looks bad, it doesn't do any real damage to the plant. There is a big difference between leaves that have physical damage and those that show symptoms of something more serious. For physical damage, if your plant has just a few damaged leaves, you may cut them off to make your plant prettier (or leave them be, whichever you prefer). For more serious damage, you need to find out what is causing the problem.

Crown Rot

Crown rot starts to show by the leaves on your plant turning yellowish. Closer inspection reveals soft spots and stems that are mushy and rotted. Further inspection of the damaged area will show white cobweb-like material (mycelium) and small reddish brown mustard seed-like granuals (sclerotia).

If your plants have significant leaf damage from a late freeze, check the crown to make sure there are no soft areas. Use your finger to check under the soil surface at the base of the leaf stalks. A healthy rhizome should be hard, like a potato. If you feel anything that is soft and mushy, you have a problem.

If you have crown rot, and if the infected area is not too large, the plant, mulch and the surrounding soil should be removed and thrown away to prevent the disease from spreading. A fantastic source on how to identify crown rot (documented with pictures) and the treatments to be followed, can be found at www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/SUL8.pdf.

Voles

Voles are rodents that look similar to mice, except their tails are very short. They may be the most destructive of the pests that affect hostas. They burrow underground and feed on the rhizomes. A plant that looks healthy one day and the next day has leaves that are on the ground (no longer attached to anything) may have been attacked by voles. Check for voles by poking around the base of the plant with your finger. If voles are your problem, you will find a soft spot in the soil surrounding the rhizome (the tunnel that the vole used to get to the plant). If enough of the rhizome and roots are still intact and if you protect the plant from further damage, it may recover.

There are many ways to try to control voles. The following links provide information on vole damage and control: www.landscaping.about.com/cs/pests/a/vole_control.htm and www.emmitsburg.net/gardens/articles/frederick/2004/vole.htm

Deer

Deer may do various degrees of damage. Sometimes they destroy the entire plant, sometimes they just eat the flower buds. There are three primary deterents (dogs, sprays and a deer fence).

Since deer are around from dusk to dawn, dogs have to be free at night to run them off. If this solution is not practical, a repellant spray may work for you and is in fact the most common solution. A deer fence would require your entire garden to be fenced in. Because that detracts from the beauty of your garden, it is usually a last resort.

You may contact Hostas at Sissinghurst, Inc.
By E-mail: TheSissinghurst@sbcglobal.net;
By mail: P.O.Box 190452, Dallas, TX 75219-0452; or
By phone: (214) 350-3034.


Copyright 2007-2011 Hostas at Sissinghurst, Inc. All rights reserved.
Revised: October 05, 2010
Not affiliated with the Sissinghurst Gardens in England, but aspiring to great garden culture in Texas.