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7 Tips to Prepare Hostas for the Winter

Winterizing hostas is one of the important topics of concern for a large number of gardeners, especially if they are initially on their way to learning about this beautiful plant.

This topic is quite extensive and has many nuances. I will try to describe all this here. There are also a lot of questions that are not answered on the Internet, and I will answer them at the end of the article.

Preparing Hostas for Winter

Let’s talk about what to do to prepare the hosta for winter because it depends on how well your plants survive the winter.

There is a lot of conflicting information about this, but here I want to share my own experiences and my friends’ experiences who have been growing hostas for many years.

Give the plant enough water

The first thing to recommend is to give the plant enough water. The fact is that when the plants fall into hibernation, the processes of life in them do not stop, but only very slowly.

For the plant to survive, it needs moisture. But since the soil freezes at this time, the plant uses internal moisture reserves.

From all the above, we can conclude that our task is to saturate the plant with as much moisture as possible. However, this does not mean that hostas need to be overwatered.

Starting in September, irrigate hostas often but not with a large amount of water. Do not allow the soil around the plants to dry completely. On sunny autumn days, give more water. In rainy days watering is not necessary at all. Continue watering until the first frost.

Do not feed the plant

Many people claim that autumn feeding hostas are useful for them. I do not know how true it is, and I never fertilize them in the fall.

Feeding hostas at the end of the season can stimulate new growth. If there is no early frost, then things can go well. However, if the frost hits early, the young leaves will surely die.

It is not necessary that the hosta will grow after feeding, but if this happens, you increase the risk of losing the plant.

A few years ago, I put some fertilizer near a few hosta bushes. As a result, only one plant has released new leaves that soon died from the cold, the plant itself survived.

Despite the fact that there were no severe consequences in my case, I still do not recommend doing it at all. It is necessary to give feeding to hostas no later than mid-summer. An exception may be the situation when you separate them in the early fall. In this case, it is possible to give a small amount of fertilizer for the plants to take root in a new place faster.

Clean everything around the plant

The next thing you have to do is clean everything around the plant. Many weeds can grow near the hosta during the year. Moss loves to grow in the shade; many fallen leaves from the trees also gather around hosta bushes. All this garbage should be collected and thrown away.

While this may seem like a simple step, do not underestimate its importance. The fact is that dead vegetation is an excellent environment for the development of various problems.

First of all, under the layer of dry leaves, like to hide a lot of pests, it is an ideal environment for them. During times when the temperature is favorable in winter, these pests are sure to take the opportunity to eat your plants.

The second is fungal diseases. Decaying vegetation is a great contributor to the increase in the number of pathogenic bacteria. There are some types of fungi that can develop under the snow, so cleaning the hosta before winter is mandatory.

I should also mention the nematode. These creatures also spread in dead vegetation and can affect plants. This is one of the greatest threats to plants.

Winter pruning

Here we have reached the most important stage in preparing hosta for the winter – pruning on winter leaves. Going into the front, I want to say that you need to remove the leaves. Next, we will talk about how to do it right and what time is best for it.

When it is necessary to cut the leaves of hostas for the winter, it depends on many factors. First of all, it is a variety of hosta. Some varieties turn yellow in August and can be cut. Other varieties do not lose leaves long enough.

The second factor is the weather, and in cold rainy weather, the plant will lose its leaves faster. If the autumn is warm, then the leaves can hold on to the first frosts.

I recommend the following sequence of actions. Cut the leaves as they turn yellow. If the leaves turn yellow in late summer, then cut at this time. If the leaves keep until frost, then cut it after the first frost.

Experienced gardeners recommend pruning the hosta in early fall when the leaves are still green. The reason for this recommendation is that the nematodes are in the leaves at this time. If you cut the leaves and destroy them, you will be able to control the spread of nematodes in your garden.

The downside of this recommendation is that you reduce the plant’s photosynthesis period, and it will spread slightly slower.

It is necessary to make a small indentation here. When I had no experience growing a hosta, some of the hostas started to turn yellow by the end of the summer, and I thought they were getting sick.

All the remedies were immediately processed, but this did not produce any results. A few weeks later, I realized that the plants are preparing for winter in this way.

Many questions arise when you do not know how to cut the leaves of the hosta. You may not know whether to cut the stems or not.

I recommend cut the leaves along with the stems 0.5 inches above ground level. Try not to damage the rhizome.

After a while, the tips you left above ground level will dry out, and I recommend remove them too. Do it with your hands, do not use tools, just tear them away from the rhizomes.

Removal of dead tips is necessary to avoid the possibility of decay of the plant.

Also, a few words I want to say about tools. For pruning hostas, equally well-suited garden knife, pruner, or garden shears. I recommend using only quality tools.

It is very important that the tools are well sharpened. You can also sterilize them with antiseptic.

After you finish trimming, you need to collect all the leaves and throw them away. Some say that you can use it to make compost, but I recommend moving it as far away from your yard as possible.

The fact is that the leaves collect bacteria that affect the hosta. So, even the compost from the leaves will contain these bacteria, and it can damage your plants in the next season.

Protect the plants

The next thing I always do is spray hostas with protection products. The first thing you should spray is a fungicide, and it will avoid the development of bacteria. As I wrote above, there are couple types of fungi that can develop even under the snow, so this type of protection will not be excessive.

The second thing I spray on plants in the fall is an insecticide. In the warm winter, some insects can damage hostas. This remedy will make the hosta rhizome not edible for pests.

I know that there are many proponents of organic plant growing who believe that the use of chemicals is terrible. Everyone may have different views, so you have to decide whether to protect the plants for the winter or not.

Also, if you do not spray the plants, this does not necessarily mean that they will be harmed by disease and pests in winter.

Avoid covering hostas for the winter

The next thing I would like to talk about is whether to cover hostas for the winter. Many recommend doing this with cover material, and some even advise put branches and other organic residues on hostas.

I do not recommend doing this because hostas are very frost-tolerant plants and withstand -40 degrees F. In the case of synthetic cover material, I can partially agree but only if you live in harsh climatic conditions (USDA Zone 3).

But to put the fallen leaves and branches on hostas is impossible in any case. This does not mean that plants will necessarily die if you do, but the risk of damage increases.

Diseases and pests develop in fallen leaves and other organic remains, as I wrote above. Therefore, it is not recommended to cover hosta rhizomes with this type of material.

Mulch hostas

During its growth, the hosta rises a little on the ground, and this can cause the rhizome to be damaged during the winter. As I wrote above, it is not necessary to cover hosta because it can get sick.

You should protect the plant; for that, it is better to mulch it. That is, you need to pour a layer of mulch 1 inch above the rhizome of large hosta varieties and 0.5 inches above for dwarf varieties.

As a mulch, I recommend using ordinary garden soil, and it will protect perfectly from the adverse winter weather conditions.

However, you can also use tree bark. This mulch also protects the plants well. It is better to use the bark of conifers, such as pine trees. The advantage of coniferous bark is that it decays very slowly and slightly acidifies the soil, which also has a positive effect on hostas.
Can hosta survive frost?

Yes, the hosta can withstand extreme frosts. This plant can be grown in USDA Zone 3, where the temperature drops below -40 °F.

The table below shows the minimum temperature hosta can survive, depending on the growing conditions.

Place of cultivation zone 3 (-40°F) zone 4 (-30°F) zone 5 (-20°F) zone 6 (-10°F)
ground yes yes yes yes
in pots no no yes yes

What do you do with Hostas in the winter?

In the winter, you do not need to do anything with the hosta. At this time, the plants are dormant, and any action on them can only damage them.

I want to share with you one trick. If there is a small amount of snow in the winter but heavy frost, then you can collect some snow in a pile and cover the rhizomes of hostas. Snow will protect plants from possible damage.

At the end of winter, it is necessary to remove this snow from the rhizome to avoid excess moisture. Do this carefully so as not to damage the plant.

Overwintering Hostas in pots

Many ask: Is it possible to leave hostas in pots for the winter? The short answer is yes; next, we’ll talk about it in more detail.

Growing hostas in pots on the outside are possible, and I’ve been practicing this for several years. They don’t even need any shelter or move to the greenhouse for the winter.

Some people put plastic bags on pots to hibernate better; I do not recommend doing this; the benefit of this is minimal, and the risk of fungal development increases.

Also, some gardeners dig pots for the winter into the ground. This also does not make sense, and then it is better to plant hostas in the ground.

In pots, hostas can hibernate up to USDA Zone 5 (-20 ° F). At least I have friends who live in the area and successfully grow these plants in containers outside. I live in USDA Zone 6 (-10 ° F), and with my plants, everything is also ok.

In colder latitudes, where hosta can hibernate in the soil, it is also possible to grow them in containers. However, it is not all clear here; there are people who claim that their hostas successfully survived the winter in pots in the USDA Zone 4 (-30 ° F), while others had problems in the USDA Zone 5 (-20 ° F).

Be that as it may, one thing I can recommend for sure is if you live in Zone 3 (-40 ° F) or Zone 4 (-30 ° F), then start growing hostas in the soil and gradually move to pot growing.

When your plants grow in size, separate the part and plant in a pot. Do this in the spring, until the winter, the plant will take root in the container. Leave it outside, and if the plant starts growing next spring, it means that in your climate, hostas can winterize in pots.

Overwintering Hostas indoors

One of the popular ways of wintering hostas is indoors. So many gardeners choose this way, so let’s talk about it briefly.

If there are heavy frosts in your area, then wintering hosta in containers can be a problem—one way to move pots to a room.

Some people transfer hosta to a warm room, but it is not good, these plants require a dormant period, and the room does not contribute to this. Also, in winter, the leaves will fall off, and you will only have a pot of soil in the room. It is not possible to enjoy the beauty of this plant in winter.

It would be wiser to move the pots with the hostas to a garage or other unheated room. In such conditions, the plants will be more comfortable, and they will be able to survive the winter without problems. A small frost that can be a garage will not hurt them.

Also, you do not need to worry about the lack of lighting because the process of photosynthesis has stopped, and the plant lives on internal supplies of nutrients and water. You should occasionally ventilate the room and humidify the pots with little water.

People also ask

How to care for hosta in winter Zone 5?

There are no differences in this zone—the way hosta care I described above and applied to the winter zone 5.

What happens to hostas in the winter?

During the winter, hostas are at rest. All processes slow down; only in the spring, the plant begins to grow.

Do I need to cover hostas for frost?

It all depends on what climate zone you live in. The only area where the hosta should cover is Zone 3. Some gardeners claim that they have wintering problems in this area. If you live there, try to cover hosta for the winter, use synthetic materials as organics can cause disease.

What should I do if the hosta is frozen?

If you are sure that your hosta is frozen, then in the spring, dig a plant, remove the damaged part and treat it with a fungicide. Then put the plant in a new place and water it moderately; after a while, the plant will recover.