Mulching hostas are very useful. If you have such an opportunity, be sure to do so. As in any case, there are many subtleties, and if you mulch the plants incorrectly, you can do more harm than good. Therefore, I will tell you all about it in this article, but first, let’s quickly define what mulch is and why it is needed.
The best mulch for hostas is compost and pine bark. Spread a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around the hosta in early spring. Renew the mulch once a year.
The advantages of mulch are that moisture evaporates slowly from the soil, and this is especially important for growing hostas because they are moisture-loving plants. Mulch also helps to retain heat in the ground that has accumulated during the summer. As a result, the plants feel more comfortable in winter.
Another advantage of mulch is that it creates obstacles to the growth of weeds; i.e., it becomes easier to grow plants. Each type of mulch has many positive features, which I will write about below.
Compost as mulch
One of the best mulches is compost. In general, it is an organic fertilizer, and it is designed to fertilize plants and create soil mix. However, many gardeners use it as mulch.
In addition to the fact that compost retains moisture, it also enriches the soil with nitrogen. Nitrogen is responsible for the growth of the green, and it is known hosta has large green leaves, so it needs a lot of nitrogen. Thanks to this mulch, your plants will look great.
I recommend using only high-quality compost from well-known manufacturers, as low-quality compost may contain non-rotten residues, and this can lead to disease in your plants. The compost must be clean and must not contain any pests.
I do not recommend using homemade compost for hosta, as it can do more harm than good. An exception may be the case if you are an experienced gardener and know how to prepare quality compost.
Pour a layer of compost up to 2 inches (5 cm) thick around your hosta. That will be enough. Under a thicker layer can hold too much moisture, especially during rains. Also, do not cover the top of the hosta with compost (if you are mulching when there are no leaves), as this can lead to rot.
Sprinkle compost on the area around the plant at a distance of 15-20 inches (30-50cm) from the crown. If hostas grow close to each other, fill in all the free space between them.
There are disadvantages to compost. The first is that quality compost costs money. However, this is the case when you should not save because you can lose plants that are more valuable.
The second disadvantage is that this type of mulch needs to be renewed every year because it becomes unusable.
Also, compost creates almost no obstacles to the growth of weeds. Other types of mulch, which we’ll talk about later, handle this better.
Pine needle or Pine Straw
Pine straw is a very good mulch for hosta. It has its advantages and disadvantages, let’s talk about it.
The first thing that distinguishes this mulch from others is air circulation. Due to the fact that it is not very dense air circulates freely in it. Good air circulation reduces the risk of disease. It is also much harder for weeds to grow because of this mulch.
Another advantage is that the needles slightly acidify the soil. Although this is a debatable issue, it is safe to say that hostas with this type of mulch have a brighter leaf color. This is especially true for variegated varieties with yellow stripes on the leaves. In addition, after decomposition, the needles release nutrients into the soil.
There are several types of pine straw, the most common being Long Needle Straw and a mixture of long and short needles. Different types of such mulch will be suitable for different varieties of hostas.
Large varieties are best mulched with Long Needle Straw. The thickness of the mulch layer should be no more than 4-5 inches (10-12 cm). As in the first case, do not pour pine needles on top of the crown.
Large hostas will look very original among the large needles. This mulch has a bright brown color that will contrast perfectly with the green and variegated varieties.
A mixture of different needles is suitable for medium and dwarf varieties. The thickness of the layer of such mulch should not exceed 2-3 inches (5-8 cm), and for miniature hostas even less.
Part of my hosta is mulched with pine needles from Scots pine. They look great. Despite the fact that the needles retain moisture, it also forms an air cushion around the plants in which heat is retained. This makes it easier for hostas to survive the winter.
The disadvantage of pine needles is that it quickly loses their bright color. Long Needle Straw is more durable and remains decorative longer, but it also has one drawback is the price. High-quality Long Needle Straw costs a considerable price.
You can collect needles in the woods or around the pines in the park. However, this will most likely not be good pine straw. It can contain pests or diseases and not rotted leaves, and so on. In addition, if you collect pine needles in the woods, you can harm nature. Therefore, use only quality purchased mulch.
Pine bark or Pine bark nuggets
The next good mulch for the hosta is pine bark. Its brown-gray color is very harmoniously combined with green leaves. Like other types of mulch, the bark provides moist soil for the plants.
The peculiarity of this type of mulch is that it creates a serious obstacle to the growth of weeds. The larger the bark and the thicker the layer, the fewer weeds will grow. In addition, fungal diseases under the bark develop less than in comparison with other mulch.
Pine bark among all types of mulch (except stones) lasts the longest. Depending on the type of pine, its bark can decompose for two years or even more. You need to renew it every two years.
The bark has fewer nutrients than, for example, compost. However, the bark still contains elements that will feed your hostas. It will not replace annual fertilization, but the result will be better in comparison with, for example, stones.
There are different sizes of bark. It is usually crushed into different fractions. In my opinion, the most beautiful are large pieces of bark, but they look beautiful only for large plants or for giant varieties of hostas.
For all other types of hostas, Pine bark nuggets of medium size (approximately 1 inch) are perfect. You should sprinkle the entire surface around the hosta bushes with a layer of mulch 2 inches (X5 cm) thick.
Another positive feature of pine bark is that it slightly acidifies the soil during decomposition. This, as in the case of pine needles, will make the color of the leaves of the hosta bright and contrasting.
Shredded hardwood bark
Another mulch that I recommend using for growing hostas is Shredded hardwood bark. These are crushed pieces of bark, and it is taken from oak and crushed on special machines.
Like previous types of mulch, Shredded hardwood bark does not allow the soil to dry out too quickly, reduces the number of weeds, and allows you to retain more heat in the ground.
This mulch is nutritious and provides plants with vigorous growth. Shredded oak bark is more nutritious than pine bark and less nutritious than compost. Although for better growth, hostas should still be fed with fertilizers.
The decomposition period of this bark is quite long, so you do not have to renew it too often. This is its advantage over compost.
A layer 2-3 inches thick will suffice for mulching. Do not pour too much mulch near the stems. Otherwise, there will be too much moisture, and disease may develop. Also, do not pour bark on top of the bush for the same reason.
Against the background of the dark brown almost black color of oak bark, the green leaves of hostas look stunning, especially after rain. So in addition to nutritional value, Shredded hardwood bark has high decorative qualities.
As in the previous case, I recommend choosing bark only from good sellers because only responsible manufacturers can provide a quality and clean product.
How to mulch hostas?
For most types of mulch, 2-3 inches, layer thickness will be enough. An exception may be pine straw; it can be covered with a thicker layer up to 5 inches (12 cm).
Miniature varieties need to be mulched in a very thin layer – 0.5-1 inch (1.2-2.5 cm). Otherwise, there will be excess moisture, and the air around them will circulate poorly. As a result, the plant may become ill.
The area to be mulched is important. If your bed grows a lot of hosta bushes and they are all planted close, then fill up all the free space between them.
If hosta bushes grow at a considerable distance from each other, then pour mulch around each plant in a circle. The area you need to cover should be equal to the width to which the leaves have spread. The roots under the ground extend to the same width, so you need to cover the entire surface above the roots.
Do not pour mulch on the stems. Close to the stems do not need a lot of mulch as it can be harmful therefore you should start mulch at a distance of 1 inch (2-3 cm) from the stems. Hosta loves moist soil, but it is not necessary that the stems were always moist. They should dry out after the rain, excess mulch near them will make it impossible. Constantly wet stems can be affected by a disease called Petiole rot.
If you are mulching hosta in the spring when it has not yet opened the leaves, then you should not pour mulch on top of the crown. This can also lead to negative consequences.
On average, you will have to renew the mulch around the plants every year. Some types, such as bark, are stronger and last longer. Compost and needles decompose faster.
Some cover the surface of the fabric or newspaper before mulching for better protection against weeds. However, this is not necessary, it can be relevant if you mulch with stones, but for other types of mulch, it is not necessary. In addition, the fabric will prevent the spread of hosta bushes.
When to mulch hostas?
Hostas are best mulched immediately after planting. This will retain more moisture in the soil, and hostas will be easier to tolerate transplant shock. Wet soil is especially important in the first weeks after planting; with a lack of moisture, the leaves may wither slightly.
If your hostas are already rooted, and you haven’t mulched them yet, it’s time to do so. This can be done at any time of the year, even in winter, if there is no snow. However, it is most convenient to do this in the spring.
There is no need to hurry because, in early spring, there is enough moisture, and hostas are still asleep. The second half of spring is the best time for this. Thanks to mulch, spring moisture will linger in the soil longer, and you will not have to water hostas often in early summer.
Does mulch hurt hostas?
Mulch can harm your hostas if you buy poor-quality mulch. Also, if you mulch hostas incorrectly, there can be serious problems with them. Another case is when you try to create mulch on your own and do it wrong.
Quite often, you can find low-quality mulch for sale. Usually, its price is low, and it is sold in bulk. By poor quality mulch, I mean the wrong process of creating or storing mulch.
In the case of wood chips or bark, if it is stored in high piles in the open air, the mulch gets wet and begins to decompose, the upper layers decompose right because there is air access.
The lower layers are very compressed, there is no access to air, and bacteria can not decompose such material. In the lower layers, various acids and alcohol begin to form (anaerobic decay).
If you buy such mulch, you will definitely harm your plants. Aggressive substances can quickly destroy the roots of the plant.
What can you do to avoid this? Buy only quality bark in bags. It should not have a pungent odor (smell of vinegar or alcohol). Mulch should be dry. Also, do not buy finely shredded bark; the size of the pieces should be at least 1 inch.
Another case is poor quality compost. Often producers in the production of compost use the branches and leaves of old plants that are highly infected with fungal diseases such as Verticillium wilt or Rhizoctonia solani. As a result, fungal spores can enter your garden and damage plants.
Compost can also be incorrectly created. With insufficient air, decomposition processes can occur incorrectly, and as a result, harmful substances can be formed there. If you mulch the garden with such compost, the soil will become too acidic even for hosta.
Buy only quality compost that already has reviews on the Internet or reliable recommendations. Do not buy compost if it has an unpleasant ‘sour’ smell.
If you mulch hostas with too thick a layer of mulch, the air will not have access to the soil surface. As a result, mold will start to form there, and your plants may suffer from it.
To avoid this, do not pour a lot of mulch. 2-3 inches will be enough for bark and compost. Pine straw can be covered with a thicker layer (up to 5 inches).
Can you mulch over hostas?
You should not pour mulch over hostas. However, for the winter, you can mulch a thin layer over the plant. The thickness should not exceed 0.5 inches (1 cm). I already wrote about it above. Under a thicker layer (more than 1 inch), the crown may begin to rot.
Can hostas grow through the mulch?
Yes, a hosta can grow through mulch. If the layer of mulch is thin, then the plant will easily break through it. If there is a lot of mulch, the plant will be difficult. In both cases, there is a risk that the plant will rot at the base of the stems, so avoid mulching the top of the crown.