Hostas are relatively easy to care for, but to achieve successful results, you need to work a little. At different times of the year, hostas need different types of care. It is especially important to prepare them for dormancy properly; otherwise, you may have problems or even lose your plants.
In the fall, you need to prune the hosta at ground level and keep the soil slightly moist. Also, be sure to mulch the hosta with at least 2 inches of mulch and protect it from voles.
Read on to learn more about everything you need to do in the fall. Also, check out the main article Growing and Planting Hostas.
Cut back the hosta
The first thing you need to do with the hostas in the fall is to prune them. When the leaves start to die off, the best thing you can do is remove them. This practice has several advantages, so let’s talk about it in more detail.
It is difficult to give an exact answer when to cut off leaves as it depends on certain conditions. There are three periods when to do this.
The first is to prune the leaves and stems in early fall or even late summer. At this time, the foliage is still green and produces energy for the plant.
This method is used when hostas are infected with nematodes. In fact, it is almost impossible to get rid of this scourge, but it is quite possible to control it.
While in the leaf is the process of photosynthesis, nematodes are also there. When the leaves begin to turn yellow, these pests migrate to the rhizome. If you prune the leaves while it is still green, you will destroy almost the entire population of these microscopic worms.
The disadvantage of early pruning is that you will deprive the plant of energy that it could receive during the fall (from photosynthesis). As a result, in the spring, it will grow less vigorously.
Do not think of leaving infected leaves in the yard. It is best to throw it away or burn it.
Be sure to clean and sterilize all tools after use.
The second period will come in mid or late autumn when the first frosts occur. As a result, the leaves wither and gradually begin to turn yellow.
If the weather is warm again after the frost, some leaves may even survive for a short period. All you need to do is cut the leaf petioles to a height of one inch above ground level.
If you try to prune less than one inch, then you can damage the rhizome, and as a result, it can rot in winter. As in the first case, do not leave the leaves to rot near the plant. Some recommend leaving it to mulch the surface.
However, I do not recommend doing this because the leaves will rot, and nothing good will come of it, and it is better to mulch the hosta with another material, but more on that later.
The last suitable period is late autumn or early winter. By this time, the leaves will die and even have time to dry. You can easily tear dry stems from the rhizome, and it is better than pruning them.
This method has both advantages and disadvantages.
The advantage is that you do not cut or damage the plant. The place where the petiole connects with the rhizome dies, and there are no wounds; everything happens naturally.
The disadvantage of this method is that the leaves will rot for some time near the crown, which can lead to undesirable consequences. Therefore, try to tear off the stems as soon as possible and throw all plant debris in the trash.
Everything around the hosta should be clean, do not leave anything that can decompose.
The bottom line is that if your hostas have nematodes, then prune them in early fall. Otherwise, do it when the leaves turn yellow.
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 giving 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 hostas
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.
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 your 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.