Hostas are popular perennial plants that are incredibly versatile. Their stunning foliage provides a perfect backdrop for other plants and they’re often used for ground cover and borders. But, they can also stand alone as a focal point!
These shade-loving plants are low-maintenance, requiring little attention throughout their growing season. In the fall, however, it’s important to follow a few simple care tips to ensure your plants continue to thrive the following year.
Read on to learn how to care for your hostas in the fall.
Before you get started, you’ll need some tools first, including:
- Pruning shears
- Soil additives
Hostas provide a nice pop of color in the garden from the beginning of spring until the first heavy frost. Their foliage is even more attractive in the fall months as the strong heat of the summer sun can fade the leaves.
They thrive in cooler temperatures and can survive a frost. Several varieties of hostas are even late-bloomers, pushing out flowers in the fall months. Before you think about cutting back your hostas for the winter, be sure you have fully enjoyed this long-lasting plant.
After the first heavy frost, the leaves will turn yellow and brown, signaling the end of the season. When this happens, it’s time to cut your hostas back to help prevent pests and disease. If you leave your hostas too long, they will turn mushy which is the perfect habitat for slugs and snails.
Using clean pruning shears, cut all the leaves back to the ground, leaving a few inches of the stalk remaining. Dispose of hosta debris, rather than composting it. This is best practice due to the variety of viruses that plague hostas such as petiole and crown rot. Sanitize all tools used to prevent the spread of any potential viruses or diseases to other plants.
Add Organic Matter
Fall is a fantastic time to add organic matter to your gardens. Over winter the nutrients slowly release into the soil, preparing your plants for growth in the spring months. Hostas especially, love nutrient-rich soil with a pH range between 6.5 to 7.0. Before adding anything to your soil, it’s always a good idea to test it first.
Once you’ve determined your current soil composition, sprinkle a layer of compost around the base of each hosta. Organic matter, such as compost is perfect for adding nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to the soil, and it’s usually close to neutral pH which is perfect for hostas.
Compost also helps with water absorption and retention. Since hostas like a well-draining but moist soil medium. Coconut coir is a great additive for both water absorption and retention.
Once you’ve cut back your hostas and added organic material, it’s a good idea to add a layer of mulch. This is especially important for newly planted or transplanted plants, or if you live in an area with extreme cold or fluctuating winter temperatures. If you’re struggling to overwinter your hostas, you may need to take more precautions from the cold.
Wait until after the ground has frozen to about 3 inches, then sprinkle a light layer of mulch directly over top of the chopped-down plant. This will help to insulate it over winter. In the spring, be sure to remove the mulch as the excess moisture could cause crown rot.
Mulch and plant debris are also the perfect home for pests. This is why it’s important to wait until the ground has frozen before applying mulch and another reason to remove it in the spring.
With the cooler fall temperatures comes the rain. Slugs and snails love this weather and can be extremely destructive to crops. Since hostas are usually located in shaded areas, they are particularly susceptible to slug and snail infestations.
Controlling the slug population in the fall can help to decrease their numbers in the spring. Remove these pests by hand or with traps. Many slug baits are commercially available on the market, or you can make a simple home bait trap with beer. Simple bury an open beer can with the lid even to the ground, and slugs will be enticed to drop right in.
Rabbits and deer are also particularly fond of munching down on hostas, capable of devouring entire plants. Certain plants, fencing, and motion-detector sprinklers or lights may be helpful in deterring them.
Plant Hostas in the Fall
Hostas are hardy and long-living perennials that require little care to thrive. However, in the fall it’s important to care for your hostas to help prevent pests and disease. Fall is also a great time to plant hostas as the cooler weather promotes the growth of strong roots.
To ensure success, be sure to plant new hostas four to eight weeks before the first expected frost. For transplanting or dividing of hostas, it’s best to wait until spring.
Do you have hostas in your garden? What’s your fall, care-routine?