Hostas are perennial plants that lose their tops every fall, but the rhizome remains underground for the winter. In the spring, young shoots emerge from it and the cycle repeats.
Hostas need to be cut back in the fall to be healthy and thriving. All you have to do is cut off the leaf petioles about an inch off the ground and throw them in the trash.
We’ll talk about this issue in more detail next. You will learn when and how to trim your hostas in the fall and many other important aspects of this topic.
When to cut back hostas in the fall?
In the fall, cut back hostas when they have already turned yellow. All hostas turn yellow at different times. So some hostas need to be cut back at the beginning of autumn while others need to be cut back after the first frost.
Throughout autumn, keep an eye on your hostas and cut them back as soon as the leaves turn yellow.
There is no need to prune your hostas in the fall if they are still green, only cut them off after they turn yellow. Even at this time, green leaves can benefit the plant. It will store more energy and overwinter better.
The exception to this is when the green leaves are droopy. Some hostas will droop in the fall while still being green. In this case, cut them back.
How to cut back hostas in the fall?
Next is the pruning technique. This is a very important issue because if you make a mistake, your hostas may suffer.
Cut your hostas about 1 inch above the ground. If you cut at ground level, you may damage the rhizome or dormant buds. This can result in crown rot.
Also, trim the flower stalks along with the leaf petioles. Very often by fall, dry flower stems will be left on the hosta and should also be removed.
Avoid tearing off the petioles instead of cutting them off. If you pull hard on several petioles at the same time, you can pull the hosta out of the ground or damage its roots. As a result, the hosta may not survive the winter and may die.
Tools for fall pruning
Garden pruning shears are best for pruning hostas. This tool is very handy and can be used to trim a lot of hostas fairly quickly.
You can also use a regular knife. The main thing is that the blade needs to be long enough to cut several petioles at a time.
Or you can use hedge shears. You can cut a lot of hostas in a short amount of time with this tool.
Whichever tool you choose, make sure it is sharp. Sharpen it if necessary. Also, be sure to treat it with alcohol before using it to prevent the spread of disease.
What to do after fall pruning?
The first thing you need to do after pruning is to remove all debris. You don’t want to leave leaves rotting around the hosta as this can lead to negative consequences.
Collect all of the trimmed leaves and petioles and throw them in the trash. You don’t want to make compost out of them or leave them to rot in your yard.
If you find after work that the roots of some hostas are sticking out of the ground, this needs to be fixed. The fact is that water (rain or watering) can wash away some of the soil near the hosta and some of the roots may be out of the ground. If this is your case, pour some soil over the bare roots.
Also, mulch the hosta after pruning. Spread a layer of organic mulch around the hosta about 2 inches thick. Put a layer of mulch no thicker than 1 inch where the leaf petioles used to come out of the ground. This will help the hosta overwinter better, but remove the mulch from this area in early spring to make room for young growth.
The last thing you can do is water the hosta. In general, a hosta does not need watering if it has no leaves. However, if the fall is dry and the soil is more than 3 inches dry, water the rhizome with a little water. This will prevent excessive water loss by the rhizome and allow for more vigorous growth in the spring.
What happens if you don’t cut back hostas in the fall?
If you don’t cut back your hostas in the fall, nothing tragic will happen. The leaves will lie around the rhizome and stay there until they rot. In most cases, everything will be fine.
That’s how hostas grow in nature. The leaves of wild hostas droop every fall and stay around them all winter. Many gardeners say this is a good thing because it provides free mulch and fertilizer.
However, wild hostas are much more immune than cultivated ones. As a result, the rotting of the fallen leaves rarely spreads to the rhizome.
With cultivated hostas, it’s a little different. They can rot if there is a lot of rotting vegetation around them. This won’t necessarily happen to your hostas, but the risk remains.
In addition, a garden that is not cleared of dead leaves and plant debris looks untidy. Therefore, it is better to remove the leaves of the hosta at the end of the season.
Will hostas grow back if you cut them down in the fall?
If you prune a hosta in the fall, it will definitely grow back. This will happen next spring. From where the petioles were, new shoots will develop into leaves.
The emphasis here is to cut about an inch above ground level. There are dormant buds at the base of the old petioles. If you cut too low, you might damage these dormant buds and the hosta might die or take a very long time to grow back.
Also, do not cut back if the leaves are still green. If you remove the green leaves, you will deprive the hosta of food. As a result, it may grow back more slowly than usual in the spring.