Hosta Culture

Thunderbolt hosta

Hosta are a wonderful shade plant.  Hardy even in very cold climates, these perennials will reward you year after year with a well-behaved increase.  Few diseases bother hosta and the only real pest are slugs and snails which are easily controlled through bait (ie: Sluggo) or traps.  As with many other plants, voles love hosta.  Eliminate voles quickly, we learned this the hard way, losing many new-release hosta to these voracious eaters!

Hosta are heavy feeders, having to re-grow lots of foliage each year.  Start them off right with a loamy, organic matter soil.  This can be achieved through the addition of leaf mould, peat moss, well-aged fertilizer, alfalfa pellets, and organic humus and compost.  Dig a hole at least 18" wide and 12" deep, mix in the organic matter, make a mound in the center of the hole, place your hosta at the top of the mound with the crown level with the soil level.  Spread the roots down the sides of the mound and then cover.  Water well and mulch.  When planting your hosta, please remember that they can get very big and allow extra room for mature sizes.  We made this mistake on our earlier hosta beds and they overgrew each other, competing for light!  Fill-in with annuals the first season to make the bed seem more full while the hosta mature.

Hosta need lots of water.  The more water, the larger the leaf and the healthier the plant.  Hosta thrive in 1/4 to 3/4 sun.  Many of our hosta have direct afternoon sun but because of irrigation they thrive, increasing better than the same cultivar in complete shade.  A good mulch cover helps to shade the roots, retain moisture, and breaks down into future organic matter.

We fertilize with an extended release fertilizer such as Osmocote twice during the season.

Hosta need division every 3-5 years depending on the cultivar.  Dig the clump in early spring or fall and divide using a sharp knife or spade.  We use a stream of water to rinse off a lot of the dirt to see the divisions better.  We also use the double garden-fork method, placing the forks back-to-back in the clump, then pulling the handles in opposite directions.  Once split, the individual eyes are easier to separate.  Remember that older clumps can take a lot of sweat to divide!

Given a minimum of care, your hosta should thrive for years to come, rewarding you each spring with bright foliage in your shade garden.

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