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How To Prepare Hostas For Winter

Hosta is a perennial plant used as an ornamental and deciduous, but it can also please with its flowers. The hosta plant undoubtedly deserves her title as monarch of the shade garden.

The hosta plant may look grand and lush but requires little effort to cultivate and enjoy. However, you should pay attention to it in the fall.

So, what should you do to your garden hostas in September, October, and November to prepare them for the cold season? So, let’s find out!

Watering the Hostas In The Fall

The garden hosta is a beautiful plant that needs water and can’t stand it when the soil dries out in the open.

This is true not only in the summer but also in the fall. So, keep an eye on the weather conditions during this time.

Watering your perennials at the right time during dry fall weather is crucial to providing them with the complete care they require. When the weather is dry, hot, and sunny, it is especially critical to water your garden perennials.

If it has been a dry fall, your hostas need extra water. It’s essential to do it right, so keep watering as the soil dries out and cut back on how often you water over time.

You need to water less as the weather gets cooler. If the leaves start to wilt, you know it’s time to stop watering.

Be aware! Take extreme caution when watering hostas in the fall; you don’t want any water to get on the leaves or the young stems. If you don’t, you’re taking a considerable risk of developing fungal diseases.

What And How To Fertilize The Hosta In The Fall

Using the correct fertilizer will tremendously benefit getting the hosta ready for the winter. In addition, enriching the soil with additional nutrients can help your plants recover and prepare for the coming winter.

Early to mid-September is the best time for fertilization (earlier in cold regions and later in warm areas).

How To Feed Hostas In The Fall: What Fertilizers To Use

Potassium and phosphorus are two nutrients plants need during this time. 

Important! Adding nitrogen to the soil in the fall would stimulate new leaf growth, which would be disastrous for the plant just before it goes into winter dormancy and needs to conserve energy.

This will prevent the bush from making the necessary preparations for winter, which could result in its death or severe weakening throughout the winter. In the middle of summer, you must stop feeding it to the plants. 

You can use potassium sulfate (which also contains sulfate) and superphosphate (which also contains phosphorus) for potassium-phosphorus fertilizer.

Alternatively, you can use a complex fertilizer like potassium monophosphate or a pre-packaged fertilizer designed for fall use. Use all of these fertilizers according to the package instructions.

You can also feed the hostas organic or natural fertilizer in the fall, such as a solution of wood ash (3.5 ounces or 100 grams diluted in 2.5 gallons or 10 liters of water) and bone meal (2 ounces per 10 square feet). This option is ideal for those who enjoy organic gardening.

Feeding Your Hostas The Right Way

Feeding your hostas the right way in the fall is just as important as feeding them the right things when providing them with the best care possible.

There are two ways to feed plants in the open ground: dry fertilizer and a liquid solution. Fertilizer in liquid form is thought to be more effective and work faster, while dry fertilizer allows for greater dosage and a more extended period.

So, to properly nourish your hostas in the fall, you can follow this rule of thumb:

  • It’s best to apply dry fertilizer to the soil when the weather is wet and rainy. Scatter it around the shrub’s base and gently work it into the ground with a rake.
  • When the weather is dry, and the soil is dry in the open ground, feeding the hosta in liquid form is much better. You can do this by making a solution and watering the plants. However, if you want to avoid making a solution, you can apply dry fertilizer as in the first option and then water heavily.

It is necessary to pre-water the hosts with regular, clean water. Avoid getting the liquid on the plant’s leaves and stems.

How To Cut Back Your Hostas for The Winter: Tips And Tricks

Pruning is one of the most crucial maintenance tasks, and it’s best to do it in the fall. But there are differences and rules for each plant. The health of the plants depends on following these rules.

Do Hostas Require Any Winter Pruning?

Many flowering and ornamental deciduous perennials in the garden undergo pruning every fall. However, things are more complex here. Let’s see whether you should cut back on the hosta in the fall.

This question defies a simple yes-or-no answer because seasoned gardeners are split into two camps with opposing viewpoints:

[1] Gardeners “against” winter pruning argue that it is counterproductive to subject perennials to such extreme stress in the lead-up to the season.

The hosta will be unable to store enough food or energy to properly harden off for the winter months because all of its resources will be diverted toward recovery from the stress.

Furthermore, in the early spring, you can rake up the old leaves and collect them, making the place tidy.

[2] Aside from those who hold the above view, many seasoned gardeners think it’s crucial to do necessary pruning in the autumn.

Pathogens and pests that overwinter on the leaves can cause problems for the plant the following year and spread to other plants in the garden.

Pruning makes it less likely that diseases and pests will spread. After this is done, the garden will also look better.

It is reasonable to conclude that it is preferable to perform the procedure of fall pruning of the hosta, even though this process can cause some harm to the plant. You need not be concerned about the fungus if the care procedure is carried out by all the rules and at the appropriate time.

When And How To Cut Back A Hosta: Timing And Rules

Primarily, the look of the hosta should be used as a guide when deciding when to do your fall pruning.

You can begin the process once the hosta leaves have turned yellow. A couple of weeks before the first frost is also a crucial timeframe to consider.

Pruning requires the use of a unique tool, so get one ready. A garden pruner is the most time-efficient tool for this job. However, it must be sharp and clean.

Therefore, it is strongly advised to disinfect the pruners before use, for example, by wiping the blade with a disinfectant solution.

Pruning a hosta is as easy as snipping off the dead leaves and leaving a stub no more than four inches tall. In the photo, you can see an example:

How To Get An Outdoor Hosta Ready For The Cold Season

Even though hostas are known for being hardy in cold weather, they still require some form of winter protection.

Mulch can serve as winter protection for perennials in the mild climates of the California coast, southern Florida, and Hawaii.

However, preparing hostas for winter in frost belt states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and Michigan is vital.

Fall Hosta Mulching

The area around the shrub should be the first order of business when preparing plants for the fall. The mulch will keep the frost from getting to the roots.

When should I mulch my plant? Do it a couple of weeks before the first frost.

Dry peat and compost both work well as mulch. If you don’t have these things, you can use loose garden soil instead.

The most important thing is to avoid using soil from any location where you may have previously discovered pests or diseased plants.

For extra protection against pests, try sprinkling tobacco dust on top of the mulch.

A couple of weeks before mulching, treat the soil with a fungicide to eliminate pathogens of fungal diseases.

A mulching layer 4 inches thick is ideal (but in mild climates regions, 2 inches is enough).

Important! It is essential to spread mulch around the bush. There should be about 2 inches of space between the shoots and the mulch.

Do not cover the leaves (if you haven’t cut the bush) and the remaining shoots with mulch (in the case of pruning).

When And How To Cover A Hosta For Winter

The second step is to winterize the hosta by covering it. When growing perennials in areas with cold (especially snowless) winters, as mentioned above, fall protection is the only time of year to do so.

You can put dry spruce needles or dry oak leaves on top of the mulch (it is not recommended to use leaves of other species because they will begin to rot).

Put something heavy on top, like wooden boards or stones, to keep the covering from blowing away when it snows. 

If you take good care of your garden hostas and give them an excellent place to stay warm during the winter, they will be safe and beautiful again next year.