Fall is here, and that means its time to take care of your hosta plants before the cold and snow of winter arrives.
Proper care in the fall not only prepares and protects hostas for the upcoming chill of winter, it also helps keep future pest and disease issues in check. But best of all, it sets the stage for bigger growth and better blooms next year.
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Here is an in-depth look at autumn hosta care, including when and how to cut them back, how to mulch for winter, and how to divide and replant if they have grown a bit too large.
Fall Hosta Care 101
Cutting Back Hosta Plants
By mid fall, hosta plants begin to slowly lose their luster. Their once leafy, overflowing foliage begins to fade to fallish shades of brown and yellow.
As autumn progresses and the temperatures continue to chill, the plant quickly deteriorates. Especially if a frost or light freeze hits and kills the foliage back completely.
And once a good portion of a hosta’s leaf structure begins dying back, it’s a signal that the foliage and stems need to be clipped. As a good rule of thumb, if 25% or more of the plant is dying back, it’s time to cut it back!
So why is cutting back so important?
For starters, decaying stems and leaves maker for some pretty unsightly flowerbeds. But even more importantly, leaving the rotting foliage allows pests and disease a perfect place to find a home.
And if kept around all winter, they lay silently dormant, only to come back to life even stronger next spring to become serious issues for your plants.
Cutting Back Hosta Plants – Fall Hosta Care
The good news is, cutting back hosta plants couldn’t be easier. The loose foliage and stems cut easily with garden shears, or even a sharp pair of scissors. Simply lift up the foliage, and snip the plant to within a few inches of ground level.
As for the foliage remains, as long as it does not show obvious signs of disease or pest infestation, it’s a great addition to the compost pile. Now that the plant is cut back, it’s time to determine if your hosta needs to be divided.
Splitting and Dividing – Fall Hosta Care
Fall is the perfect time to dig up and divide overgrown hostas. Plants whose roots have become too large not only bloom less in subsequent years, but become more susceptible to pest and disease with their massive canopy of foliage.
A good rule of thumb is that hosta plants should be divided every 3 to 5 years. If your plants have become overly large and are having trouble blooming, now is the time to dig them up and divide.
Although this can be done in the spring, dividing and transplanting in the fall allows the hosta crowns time to establish before winter. This results in hostas that have much better first year growth patterns than spring transplanted plants. (See : How To Divide Perennials In The Fall – 7 Secrets To Success)
New Fall Transplants – Fall Hosta Care
Just a quick note on late season transplants. Depending on the weather, new divisions and transplants may send up new shoots before winter sets in. This is completely normal and does not hurt the plants in any way.
It simply means that the roots have become well established in the cool fall soil. A hard frost or freeze will eventually kill back the new growth, and the plant will head into dormancy for the winter months.
One thing you should not do in the fall is fertilize your hosta plants. Fertilizing can promote too much growth, especially if the temperatures happen to stay warm. Instead, as you will see below, you can provide a bit of slow-growth nutrients with compost.
Mulching For Winter Protection – Fall Hosta Care
Once plants have been cut back and any divisions and transplants needed have been made, it’s time to give the plants a protective layer of mulch before winter.
The fall mulching of plants is one of the most underrated chores of all. But it really can make a big difference in keeping perennials strong.
Mulch helps insulate the plant’s roots against temperature swings. Swings that can cause excessive freezing and thawing that can injure or even kill off plants.
In addition, mulching also helps keep competing weeds and weed seeds from blowing in and taking over. (See : Mulching Fall Flowerbeds, How To Stop Next Year’s Weeds Now)
For fall mulching, begin by putting a light covering (1 inch) of compost over the crown of each plant. Next, place a two to three inch layer of traditional mulch all around the plant.
Why the compost? Not only will the compost provide a bit of insulation, it also acts a slow release fertilizer for plants come next spring. It is especially helpful for new divisions and transplants to have added nutrients come spring.
Here is to putting your hosta plants to bed for winter with the proper fall care, and enjoying healthy blooming plants next spring!
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