Hosta Winter Preparation – What To Do With Hostas In Winter
By: Amy Grant
Hostas are shade loving, woodland perennialsthat reliably come back year after year with very little care. While they areeasy going plants for the most part, some simple hosta winter care should beundertaken in the fall. Keep reading to learn more.
Hosta Cold Tolerance
Prized for their color and texture, hostas can be grown in USDA zones 4-9. In these zones, the hostagrowing season ends when temperatures dip below 50 F. (10 C.) at night. Hostasin winter go into a kind of stasis and this temperature dip is a signal to theplant to become dormant until temperatures warm in the spring.
All hostas thrive when subjected to freezing or nearfreezing temperatures during their dormant phase. The number of days or weeksvaries depending upon the cultivar, but chilling promotes earlier emergence andbetter all-around growth. At this juncture, it is time for some hosta winterpreparation.
To begin winterizing hostas, if necessary, keep supplyingthem with an inch (2.5 cm.) or so of water per week throughout the fall. If youhave been fertilizing the plants, stop feeding them in late summer or they willcontinue to produce leaves. These tender new leaves can make the entire plant,including the crown and roots, susceptible to frost damage.
As nighttime temperatures drop, hosta foliage will begin todry out and fall over. Wait until the leaves have fallen over before continuingwith any hosta winter preparation. Why is this important? The leaves are neededpost-bloom to produce food for the next year’s growth.
Further Hosta Winter Care
While there isn’t much that needs to be done for hostas inwinter, the foliageshould be trimmed back. Once the leaves have fallen naturally, it is safeto cut them. Use sterilized shears (sterilize with a half/half mix of rubbingalcohol and water) to prevent fungal infection or rot.
Cut the leaves all the way to the ground. This willdiscourage slugsand rodents as well as diseases. Destroy the cut leaves to prevent anypossibility of spreading potential diseases.
Mulch the hostas with 3-4 inches (7.6-10 cm.) of pineneedles to protect the roots from cold temperatures. This will even out thedifferential between cooling and heating each day, which can interrupt thenecessary chilling period.
For hostasthat are potted, bury the pot to the rim in the soil and cover with mulchas above. For hostas in zone 6 and below, mulching is unnecessary, astemperatures stay well below freezing through the winter months.
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Complete Guide to Hostas: How to Plant, Grow & Care for Them
Perennial plants are excellent, low-maintenance plants for your garden. Perennials survive for years without dying like other seasonal plants as the winter arrives. Hostas offer temperate shade for the garden, and there are countless varieties available to plant in your garden.
Hostas interbreed easily, so it’s possible to create a new variety if you allow them to pollinate each other. Hostas come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, with hearty-shaped, rounded or oval foliage that features lines of cream, yellow, or white running down the center or edges of the leaves.
Many varieties produce blossoms in lavender, purple, blue, or white, emitting a pleasant fragrance into the air around the plant, attracting pollinators and birds to your garden. There are many breeders of these plants, and there is a new breed of hostas produced every 12-hours.
Hostas are similar to orchids in that breeders are always looking to cross-breed species to produce a new plant. There are hundreds of orchids varieties and thousands of hostas species available. Some of these specialist varieties, such as the ‘Poke Salad Annie,’ fetch more than $200 per plant.
Getting started with growing hostas in your garden doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Visit your local nursery, and you’ll find dozens of varieties available for an affordable price.
In addition to removing the leaves, the hosta needs some care during the fall, so let’s talk about it all in order.
Keep soil slightly moist
One of the most important things you need to do is water the hostas even if you have already removed their leaves.
The fact is that the plant continues to live and use water until winter. Also, during dormancy, the hosta uses the water that has accumulated in its tissues during the fall.
So you always need to keep the soil a little moist. Don’t let it dry out more than an inch.
Fortunately, there is usually enough rain in the fall, so you don’t have to water the hostas often.
However, if there is no rain, you will have to work a little.
If your yard has clay soil, then watering should not be frequent. Once in ten days should be enough because the clay dries slowly.
If at least a little rain has passed, it is not worth to give water to the plants at all.
When growing hostas in sandy soil and if the weather is dry outside, the hosta should be watered once every 5-7 days. Otherwise, the rhizome will begin to dry out, and the plant will be difficult to survive in the winter.
Mulch your plants
The next thing you need to do is mulch the hostas. Mulch has many benefits, one of which is retaining heat in the ground for longer. This is very important because, in such conditions, the plants will overwinter better.
Thanks to mulch, moisture is also better stored in the soil.
In addition to mulching, you also need to sprinkle some soil around the hosta. The fact is that the earth eventually settles and is washed away, and part of the roots may be on the surface.
This often happens in the winter as frost can push some roots out of the ground.
Even if a small hole has formed around the rhizome, be sure to pour a little soil there. In the winter, the roots will rise even higher and may be damaged by frost.
Do not pour too much so as not to bury the top of the crown. The top should be slightly above the surface.
But let’s get back to mulch.
Different materials can be used as mulch, but compost works best. I recommend mulching only with quality compost from good manufacturers. Otherwise, your plants may be damaged.
The thickness of the mulch layer should be 1-1.5 inches. This is enough to get all the benefits of mulching.
If you pour a thicker layer, then the air will be difficult to reach the earth’s surface, and there may be various diseases.
As with soil, try not to pour compost on top of the rhizome. However, a small amount of compost will not harm but will protect against severe frosts.
If you cover the top of the plant with a thin layer of compost for the winter, then be sure to remove it in early spring.
Mulch should be scattered around the plant 2-3 feet in diameter, depending on its size. You can learn more about mulching hostas in article 4 Best Mulch for Hostas.
Protect hostas from voles
These pests usually do not harm the hostas during the growing season. However, in the cold part of the year, when food is not enough, they like to eat the rhizome of the hosta.
Often in the spring, you can see that some plants have not come out of dormancy or are growing slowly. The first thought that arises is frost damage. But this is not always the case, very often, it is voles that eat the roots and crown, and the plant may not even recover after that.
To avoid such troubles, you need to protect your plants. There are many ways to do this however, the most effective is to water the soil with castor oil.
You need to take a container with five gallons of water and add a third of a cup of liquid soap and mix. Then pour three cups of castor oil and mix well.
The prepared mixture can be used against voles.
Pour one gallon around each hosta bush. If the plant is large, you can water with two gallons of solution.
And that’s it, voles do not like the smell of castor oil and will not come close to your hostas.
Hi friends, I have been growing plants for many years and love doing it. You can find more information on the page About Author.
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I love having potted hostas in my garden, but then what should I do with them in winter? I am in zone 6 and too tight with my money to just throw them out in winter.
Some gardeners in your part of the country have told me they had good luck leaving hostas in the pots overwinter. I tend to take a more conservative approach and would rather spend a bit more energy to insure the plants survive. Here is what I do with my perennials in containers. I grow the plants in a cheap pot, usually one a shrub came in, and set it inside my fancy pot for summer. When fall arrives I sink the potted perennial in a vacant part of the garden and store my nice container in the garage. Next spring I divide and repot the perennials as needed and start the process again. If space is limited you may want to move the containers to an unheated garage. Northern gardeners may want to add a bit of insulation around the roots. Water whenever the soil is thawed and dry. I occasionally need to overwinter some containers outside and above the ground. I pack them in tight next to my garage or other protected spot. I cover with woodchips or surround with bales of straw (used as fall decoration), or some other items to help insulate the roots. I pile on the salt-free snow when present for another layer of protection and added moisture. Check these containers throughout the winter and water whenever the soil is thawed and dry.