(with Laura Miller)
Hostas are popular shade-loving perennials cultivated by gardeners for their easy care and sustainability in a variety of garden soils. Hosta are easily recognized by their multitude of attractive foliage and upright flower stems, which bear lavender blooms during summer months.
Should you use fertilizer for hosta plants? These beautiful,low-maintenanceplants don’t need much fertilizer, but feeding hostas may be a good idea ifyour soil is poor or if your hosta isn’t growing and thriving as it should. Knowinghow and when to feed hosta can improve their appearance in the garden and helpthem reach their mature height. Read on to learn more.
Choosing a Fertilizer for Hostas
Hostas prefer a garden soil rich in organic matter. Prior toplanting hosta, amend the natural soil with compost made from animal manuresand leaves. Hosta roots tend to spread horizontally, rather than vertically.Working compost in the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches (30 to 46 cm.) issufficient.
Once this step is completed, consider testingthe soil to determine if additional amendment or fertilizer is needed. Youcan have your soil tested professionally or use a DIY home soil test kit. Checkfor both the nutrient level as well as soilpH. Hostas prefer a fairly neutral soil in the pH range of 6.5 to 7.5.
Adding and working compost into the soil around the hosta ona yearly basis is one method of supplementing nitrogen, potassium andphosphorus levels. Compost also supplies a variety of micronutrients. and canbe reapplied any time throughout the season. Organicmatter also improves soil quality and drainage.
If you prefer to use a manufactured fertilizer for hostas,it advisable to base your choice upon the results of soil testing. Forestablished hosta plants, consider retesting the soil every 3 to 5 years.
In lieu of soil testing, choosing a 10-10-10 fertilizer forhostas is a safe bet. Unless soil tests indicate a nitrogen deficiency, it’sadvisable to avoid using excessive amounts of a high nitrogen fertilizer forhostas. Doing so can result in soft foliage that is more susceptible to diseaseand a reduction in the amount of yellow or white coloration in variegatedleaves.
When to Feed Hosta
The best time to begin feeding hosta is in the spring whenthe leaves emerge from the ground. For optimal growth, continue to fertilize ahosta every 4 to 6 weeks while the leaves are growing.
Once hostas begin to bloom, their foliar growth slows downas energy is directed to the production of flowers and seeds. Their need fornitrogen will also drop at this time. Don’t feed your plants after mid- to latesummer. Fertilizer for hosta plants this late in the season triggers tender newgrowth that is likely to be nipped by frost.
Hosta Fertilizer Needs for New Transplants
The optimal time to splitand transplant hosta is in the spring or fall prior to seasonal rains.Newly transplanted hostas need to renew their root systems and are mostvulnerable during dry spells. This is especially true for spring transplants,which put more energy into leaf production.
To encourage root growth in spring-transplanted hostas,apply a “starter” fertilizer. These formulas have higher levels of phosphorouswhich promotes root growth. Likewise, you can also use a slow-releasefertilizer, which will nourish the plant for several weeks. Fertilizing falltransplants is not advisable. Excess fertilization can delay the onset ofdormancy.
How to Fertilize a Hosta
Once your hosta is established, a dose of fertilizer as soonas new growth appears in early spring will ensure the plant continues toperform at its best. This is a good time to use a slow-release fertilizer forhosta plants.
Refer to the label and choose a fertilizer that lasts three,six or nine months, depending on your climate and the time of application. Asix-month fertilizer works well when applied in spring and will sustain theplant throughout the growing season.
If you prefer not to use a time-release fertilizer, you canapply a regular, balancedfertilizer with a ratio such as 12-12-12 or 10-10-10 every six weeks. Awater-soluble fertilizer every couple weeks is another option.
If you think the plant needs a boost during the summer, youcan start out with a time-release product in spring. Then, supplement with awater-soluble fertilizer a couple times mid-season, usually May or June. Watersoluble fertilizer is also the easiest way of feeding hostasin containers.
If you’re using a dry fertilizer, sprinkle the granuleslightly on the soil around the plant. Water the plant immediately to ensure thefertilizer is evenly distributed around the root zone. Spray the leaves toremove any fertilizer that has landed on the foliage, as chemical fertilizerscan burn the plant.
Always apply fertilizer according to the labelrecommendations. Ultimately, the key to growing healthy, robust hosta plantslies in knowing when and what types of fertilizer to apply. Don’t overdo it;too little fertilizer is always better than too much.
Hosta Fertilizer Needs: Information About Feeding Hostas - garden
The American Hosta Society (AHS) is a not-for-profit organization. The AHS is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes, and especially to promote, encourage, and foster the development of the genus Hosta and public interest therein. These purposes are expressly limited so that the AHS qualifies as an exempt organization under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 or the corresponding provision of any future U.S Internal Revenue Law.
An invitation to join.
Join the American Hosta Society and receive The Hosta Journal mailed twice a year and have access to a third issue online in the Members Only section of the AHS website. This publication offers the latest information on care, feeding, and hybridizing pictures of new cultivars and news of upcoming meetings and conventions.
Hola Hosta Addicts, An old question for most of you, but new to me. What kind of fertlilizer and how much do I feed the Hostas in the Spring? I use Espoma plant fertilizer on all my other plants, but don't know if it will be good for Hostas.
I rely mostly on good soil, but I do use alfalfa tea - made by steeping alfalfa pellets in water for a few days. Be careful about using too much of any kind of fertilizer early in the season on hostas with white margins because some of them are susceptible to draw string effect where the inner green section grows much faster than the light outside margin. I experienced that on a couple of mine this year.
Hola Ann, It sounds like alfalfa tea is an aphrodisiac for a few loose Hosta girls - I mean you say it has a draw string effect. Well they better be careful around Hostas boys. There might be some new sports or two, all because of alfalfa tea. But thanks for the info.
All the Hostas I planted in the past few weeks I planted in really amended soil, but proceeded to add fertilizer to them. Before I plant my next batch I thought I should check out what I am doing, and find out sooner rather than later what I have done.
Ann, can you tell how much pellets to how much water?
If a hosta needs to be repotted in spring I threw in a little bit of 8-8-8 at the buttom and this practice had been good over the years and offcourse miracle grow during summer. Bellie
I tend to agree with Ann there is just nothing like good well balanced soil. I do however heap rings of compost around my hosta every fall. Most of it is Turkey manure compost mainly because it is dirt cheap for me to obtain around here. I also spray with compost tea a time are two in the summer. This is also made from turkey compost. Compost tea has the effect of goinf stright down into the plant for a instant feeding just like some liquid feeds. I want to say though that if you have excess to any poultry compost to tlk to people around you that might use it. Even in a well composted form it can still burn the dickens out if plants for a couple of years.
I use two cups of pellets to a large plastic bucket of water. Would have to measure the bucket to see how much it holds. (I did when I first started using it, but have forgotten.)
I use a weak solution of water soluble tomato fertilizer when I plant new hostas (or 15-30-15) if I'm out of the other. Forget the numbers on the tomato stuff.
Ann where do you find alfalfa pellets? What kind of store I mean.
Molly---- Any feed store should have both pellets and meal.
exactly - in this case it's called Ritchie Feed and Seed.
Thanks everyone. I'll keep looking for it.
I've heard you mention alfalfa tea in other threads, but wasn't sure if it would do much good in the sand. I had some serious issues with bunnies this year, so would there be a bigger temptation if I used the alfalfa tea?
We may be coming your way next week, so I may be d-mailing you for the name and # of the place in High Point. Do you wait until everything is died off for the year to put the compost on?
Rose---- That is fine with me. give me a advanced warning he owns a bunch of turkey barns and he is rarely there. The operation tends to take care of itself. It can be tricky,so if you want I will meet you in High point and you can follow me there.
Allnitro---- Yes it is bunny feed but some bunny feed may not be pure alfalfa for all I know.
We have a seed and feed store nearby , are they expensive?. Need to try this. Bellie
Mine weren't, but I think I've got a lifetime supply.
I use the meal form becuase I mixed in with grass clippings and leaves in my compost barrel. It really heats those up in a hurry in a compost barrel. I have spread it on my lawn also thru a lawn spreader also,but that can cause a problem as pellets do around here. The thing is I have a real bad deer problem,and if I sprinkle anything alfalfa on top of the ground it will bring them in like a magnet.
allnitro, if your using alfalfa pellets , buy the horse pellets not the rabbitt, rabbit is medicated, horse isn't. Jim
xuling, ammendments are good in the fall, but I wouldn't add fertilizer when they are going dormant. Jim
I have not yet used the alfalfa tea but plan on doing so.
I like alfalfa tea but if you spray in on you got to have a strong heavy duty sprayer. I am suppose to get a new ne for christmas from my family. I want a OS systems model OS 0. It is the top of the line and I have seen them. They are a 4 gal backpack model. They have a small impeller in the bottom that spins and keeps the contents of the tank mixed up when you pump the handle. A lot lot more pressure and hose size as well. They are not cheap(about 150.00 US) but they are worth every penny if you got a lot to spray.
Garden slugs are the most common problem of hostas. The most popular remedy is saucers of beer, which attract slugs, and then they drown. Use caution if you use slug baits since they can also poison pets. Space plants further apart. For slug control, see HGIC 2357, Snails & Slugs in the Home Garden.
Hostas will change color or fade if they are in too much sun. Most blue hostas need shade. In full sun, leaf color is pale and leaf dieback may occur, especially during dry periods. Yellow and cream edges may brown during dry periods. Blue-leafed cultivars sometimes fade to green if the waxy leaf covering that gives them their color is rubbed off by strong rain storms or vigorous watering.
Voles and deer can be a problem if wildlife is active in your area. Voles feed on the root system and kill the plant. Deer feed on the foliage and a portion of the leaf petioles.
Slugs can cause serious damage to foliage of hosta and many other low-growing annuals and perennials.
Joey Williamson, ©2019 HGIC, Clemson Extension
After nearby trees were removed, the exposure to intense sunlight resulted in sunscald on this variegated hosta. Notice that the sunscald initially occurs on the white, yellow, or lighter green sections of variegated hosta leaves.
Joey Williamson, ©2018 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Foliar nematodes can also be a problem. Buy new plants in late summer or fall so you can check for infestation. Do not purchase plants that show yellowing and browning in between leaf veins.
The yellow and brown leaf areas between major veins are from damage by foliar nematodes feeding within the leaf tissue. The elongate holes are caused by slug feeding.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Hosta virus X on a ‘Sum & Substance’ hosta, exhibiting sunken, dark green areas on an otherwise uniformly green leaf.
Joey Williamson, ©2014, HGIC, Clemson Extension
Hosta virus X on a ‘Sum & Substance’ hosta, exhibiting sunken, dark green areas on an otherwise uniformly green leaf.
Several viruses may infect hostas and cause symptoms such as mottling of the green color, ring spots, leaf puckering, twisting or distortion, necrosis and death. Viruses may be spread by insects or mechanical transmission. The latter can occur when there is contact of the infected plant’s sap with the sap of a healthy plant, such as when dividing plants, removing leaves or flower scapes. One common virus is Hosta virus X, which is more prevalent on certain cultivars, such as ‘Sum & Substance.’ There is no cure or chemical treatment for a virus infected plant. They should be dug and disposed to prevent the spread.
Hosta anthracnose can cause large whitish spots with brown edges to form on leaves and stalks. Remove the damaged leaves.
A question we get asked often is what fertilizer to use on the hostas. First and foremost we start this answer with amending the soil with compost. Incorporating compost into the holes when planting is the best fertilizer you can start with. That being said, if you want your hostas to grow to the best of their ability, a balanced fertilizer applied each year is key. As for what kind of fertilizer to use, the answer depends on the kind of gardener you are. If you just want to put a fertilizer down in spring to help the plants and be done with it then a slow release granular fertilizer is adequate. A common granular fertilizer has an NPK of 10-10-10. Those 3 numbers on a fertilizer bag which stand for Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. The slow release fertilizers slowly feed every time you water or it rains. They generally last about a month to two months depending on temperatures and how much water is applied. Be sure to keep the granular fertilizer off of the leaves and crown of the hostas as they can burn. That's why it is best to apply this fertilizer before the leaves unfurl.
If you want to get a little fancier and get the best growth out of your hostas then constantly feeding them through the spring months is key. I like to apply a slow release fertilizer as previously explained but I also like to apply a liquid feed every week to every other week for a quick boost. A liquid feed gives the plants a boost but only lasts 24-48 hours as it is either absorbed by the plants or leaches into the soil. I also like to mix a couple tablespoons of Epsom Salts to my liquid fertilizer. Epsom salt is made up of "hydrated magnesium sulfate" (magnesium and sulfur), which is important to healthy plant growth. Magnesium allows plants to better take in valuable nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus. It also helps in the creation of chlorophyll, which is vital for photosynthesis. Hostas love magnesium and therefore enjoy a shower of Epsom Salts. It easily dilutes in some warm water and can be mixed with any liquid fertilizer. When fertilizing please read the instructions and DO NOT over feed! More fertilizer does not necessarily equal bigger plants. It can actually do the reverse and burn the roots and damage if not kill the plants. If you water often then you will need to fertilize often as well because watering leaches the nitrogen away.