|The answers here are provided by John Cash of Bishop's Farm and Kevin P. Walek of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Hosta Society. Their answers are based on experiences and knowledge of growing hostas in particular areas of the country. Of course, your experiences might be different.
When is the best time to divide hostas?
How do I grow hostas from seeds?
When is the best time to fertilize hostas?
What fertilizer should I use for my hostas?
Do any hostas do well in the sun?
Can hostas grow anywhere in the United States?
Our hosta have finished blooming and we were wondering if we should cut off the long bare stems that are left?
How do you recommend planting a hosta?
What should I do to prepare my hostas for the winter?
- When is the best time to divide hostas?
- John Cash: "The best time to divide Hostas is in the the early spring as soon as they start to break ground. The sooner the better."
- Kevin P. Walek: "Hosta may be divided or moved at anytime. However, given the increased shock to the plant caused by dividing or digging it up to be moved,
spring has been much preferred. In fact, it is recommended that dividing
occur before the plant begins any substantial spring growth. Once the eyes
are evident, the plant should be dug and divided by using a sharp knife. It
is also recommended that the knife be dipped in a fungicide before making the
cut, and that the cut surface be dusted after the cut is made. There is another school of thought and that is, if you follow the life cycle of a monocot the best time may be the Fall. Under this school of thought, in the spring, if you divide you will need to give the plant more food as it needs food for foliar development as you have damaged the crown where food has been stored to aid in the foliar growth, you can divide in the summer but, since you are damaging roots, etc., you will need to add substantial amounts of water to compensate. Finally by dividing in the fall the plant has gone
predominantly dormant but is still in the root development phase and dividing
at this time does the least harm!"
- How do I grow hostas from seeds?
- John Cash: "You should first be aware that hostas grown from non-hybridized seeds are most likely to produce only a very weak green plant with little or no desirable features. I prefer to store the seeds in a dry cool dark area until December or January. At that time I plant them in a shallow container covered only slightly with moist potting soil and placed in a warm sunny spot such as a south facing window and supplemented with artificial light. The seeds can be started as early as December if started inside and they should germinate after a couple of weeks. Keep the soil only slightly moist until the leaves begin to form and then moisten the plants with a gentle mist. After the plants have produced at least three leaves begin to cull the undesirables and pot the remaining plants into larger individual cells. Continue the culling process until you have either nothing left or plant them outside after the climate becomes suitable to support growth. You can continue to repot them into larger pots if you desire rather than planting them in the ground. Use a weak solution of liquid fertilizer applied at least once a month until they show considerable progressive growth. Usually the only hosta to reproduce a seedling true to the mother plant is H. Ventricosa. Unless the flowers were pollinated by hand or by nature your chances of obtaining an acceptable plant from seeds are very slim. It can be fun though even if you have to discard all of the seedlings and you will have a head start on the procedure if you later decide to try pollinating the blooms."
- When is the best time to fertilize hostas?
- John Cash: "The best time to fertilize Hostas is in the late winter or the very early spring. This is before they start to break ground. You should use a balanced slow release fertilizer such as 13-13-13. You can also fertilize them during the growing season using a weak liquid mixture of a 20-20-20 fertilizer, with the emphasize on weak."
- What fertilizer should I use for my hostas?
- Kevin P. Walek: "There is much debate over the "best" fertilizer. Many persons find that granular or solid forms are better; then there are those that prefer foliar feeding. After the issue of method of application is resolved, there is the question of best nitrogen - potassium - phosphorus ratios. The norm seems to be an application of around 10-10-10, three to four times per year.
For those people who tend toward organic gardening, there are several
products that have worked for hosta gardeners. Some gardeners use Milorganite
or other treated sewage residue. Although there is an initial odor, it quickly
dissipates. Another alternative is animal manure, but, after considering the
price of hauling, it is not cheap and the potential for "burning" the plants
with "fresh" manure is greater. To some, a more pleasant smelling organic
fertilizer, at 8% nitrogen, is soybean meal. Rich in other elements, as well
as having a protein level of 46%, you practically could spread it on your corn
flakes. A problem in most metropolitan areas is that the nursery staff will
tell you that "if you want soybean meal go to a soybean mill. (It is
definitely worth a try, though!) We do carry cottonseed meal, but at 6-1-1 it
is for adding acid to the soil, not fertilizing."
If you are interested in how these various fertilizers compare; with
regard to composition in the other fertilizers, Milorganite is 6-2-0, and
Miracle Grow lawn food is 36-6-6 (generally speaking about 6 times more
concentrated than cottonseed meal), Miracid plant food is 30-10-10, and, for
you Peter's fans, you can get many combinations, but the most common used for
hosta is either 20-20-20 or 10-10-10. The big difference appears to be in
other components: Milorganite has 4% iron, both Miracle Grow products have
.325% chelated iron, and cottonseed meal has 0%. Only Soybean meal appears to
have any significant protein content! At one time Milorganite was not
recommended for use on property with well water, but that prohibition no
longer pertains as they have developed a means to remove the heavy metals."
- Do any hostas do well in the sun?
- John Cash: "Here in Georgia, typically the green or gold Hostas tolerate the sun the best. Blue Hostas cannot tolerate sun very well at all, they require heavy shade. If you wish to plant Hostas in an area that only has partial shade, make sure to avoid the afternoon sun. Green and gold Hostas planted in an area that receives morning sun should do just fine. Of course, that is my experience in Georgia and different areas of the country will give you different results."
- Kevin P. Walek: "In the Mid-Atlantic region north, if hostas are given sufficient water, e.g., watered in a manner resembling the watering conditions in the Far east from where they come the blues actually do better in more sun than the green and golds except plantaginea and its progeny."
- Can hostas grow anywhere in the United States?
- John Cash: "Hostas can grow throughout the Mid-Atlantic, East Coast, Midwest, Northwest, and the Southeastern United States. But they will not grow well in the deep South (Florida and the southern parts of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas), Southwest, and West. This does not mean they will not grow at all, it just means they will not grow as well."
- Kevin P. Walek: "We have ardent growers in Texas, Arizona and Northern Florida that have found certain species and their progeny survive as more than annuals, in some cases if properly watered thrive."
- Our hosta have finished blooming and we were wondering if we should cut off the long bare stems that are left?
- John Cash: "You can definitely cut off the stems (scapes). It will not damage your plants at all. If you are not doing anything with the seeds, you can cut them back as soon as the flowers finish blooming. If you are not concerned about the flowers at all, you can even cut the scapes before the flowers bloom. This will allow the plant to grow more quickly. This is a good idea if the plant has not matured yet. Once it has matured, you can then enjoy the flowers."
- How do you recommend planting a hosta?
- John Cash: "You should plant the hosta in an area that is shady and protected from the afternoon sun. Mix the soil with some compost and make sure that the soil mixture is loose. You can also add some slow release fertilizer (13-13-13 is what I use). Make sure that the root clump is level to the ground and water it well."
- What should I do to prepare my hostas for the winter?
- John Cash: "After the leaves become discolored, unattractive or killed by the frost they should be cut back to the surface. This will help prevent the possibility of
diseases, insects or other creatures finding a winter home. You may want to cut the
seed scapes about four inches above the ground to aid in locating the plants next season during spring cleanup. The plants need about eight weeks of temperatures below forty degrees. Freeze and thaw can harm the plants if you are in an area that experiences warm days and extremely cold nights. Pine straw or mulch will help keep the soil at a more even temperature during these times."