Winter Care for Hostas - U of I Extension

News Release

Winter Care for Hostas

This article was originally published on January 3, 2017 and expired on March 3, 2017. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

Winter Care for Hostas BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Hostas are among some of the most cherished perennials of all time. They create a lush pallet of bright, muted, chartreuse, and variegated greens mixed with creams, and a splash of blue greens. Many hosta gardeners may not realize this, but there are a few winter garden tasks that will help maximize their display and are encouraged by University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. Hostas can come in miniature versions to lofting leaves as tall as a small child. They are commonly described as ''fabulous foliage plants" by the industry, but some of their blooms can be exceedingly showy, exceptionally fragrant and especially attractive to hummingbirds and bees. These perennials thrive when planted in the shade of trees and are acknowledged for their reliability and hardiness. Spreading by rhizomes, they can be easily divided in the early spring by digging up and separating growing tips. When it turns colder, there are a few tips to follow when caring for your Hostas. 1.     Cut back your hosta foliage and petioles. If hosta nematodes are present, they can be removed before settling back in the crown, plant debris or soil. Hosta nematodes are microscopic roundworms that live and feed on the hosta leaves. Symptoms show up in the early summer as yellow discoloration followed by brown streaking between the veins, eventually killing the older leaves.  If a disease is present, dispose of discarded spent foliage so that it does not spread the following spring. Cutting back the foliage also reduces future slug populations. 2.     Hostas prefer rich soils high in organic matter. Adding organic materials such as peat, composted manure, kitchen compost or shredded leaves will help improve soil structure and add nutrients. A good time to add organic materials to the soil is when cutting back leaves. 3.     Remove soggy wet leaves to discourage rabbits and voles (small rodents). 4.     If hostas are newly transplanted, a layer of mulch may be added after the ground has frozen. The mulch will insulate the soils to prevent frost heaving. In the following Spring, remember to remove the mulch, so the crown does not rot. 5.     Vole damage on hostas may have to be addressed through garden alterations, repellents, and trapping. If voles are a major problem, adding a layer of mulch for winter protection may not be a viable option and removing hiding places like tall grasses may help. There are repellents made of capsaicin (hot pepper) and castor oil, but their effectiveness is not fully known because of their short-term presence. It should be applied to the soil around the hosta crowns. Trapping voles can be done but must be used with other additional methods to be most effective. 

Source: Kelly Allsup, Extension Educator, Horticulture, kallsup@illinois.edu

Pull date: March 3, 2017