Hosta Care

Below you will find a great deal of information related to caring for your hostas and hosta gardens. At The Hosta Hideaway our goal is for you to be able to enjoy the purchases you have made from us and your gardens for years to come. Therefore, we want you to have the most up to date information related to care and keep of your hostas. Click on any of the links below to find information on the listed topic. 

One of the many beauties of hostas is that they are a mostly carefree garden plant. Hostas will grow in a wide variety of conditions and will remain their attractiveness throughout the season. However, one of the most annoying pests for the hosta is the slug, a slimy creature that can feed on the hosta leaves. Because slugs primarily feed at night, you may not notice who is the culprit damaging your plants. Generally, if you notice slime trails and holes in the leaves, you probably have slug issues. The good news is that there are ways to control slugs and the damage they cause to your hostas. Here are some organic methods (listed from most effective to least effective bases on our experience) to minimize the impact of slugs in your garden. According to the British Hosta and Hemerocallis Society, a diluted formula of 10% household ammonia and 90% water sprayed onto and under the hosta leaves is an effective method for killing slugs. The society also notes that since ammonia is an active ingredient in fertilizer it should be harmless to the plants. You can spray periodically in the morning or evening until you no longer see slug damage. Another method is sprinkling iron phosphate on the soil (an active ingredient in slug control products). Basically, iron phosphate damages the digestive system of the slug and it dies. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, iron and phosphate are natural occurring elements and are important for plant health. These two methods are organic and are relatively effective. Some people use diatomaceous earth (A fine powder with sharp edges), but when diatomaceous earth becomes wet it is no longer effective. Additionally, some gardeners use a beer filled tray to trap slugs (The yeast attracts the slugs and they drown in the beer). However, a tray full of drowned slugs can be somewhat gross. Two other tips that may be helpful are to avoid using too much mulch since that provides a haven for the slugs,, and to avoid watering late in the day since slugs can flourish in the wet overnight conditions. We hope this is helpful information to keep your hostas beautiful all season long.

We get asked regularly how to address the issue of deer eating garden plants, and so I have put together a list of methods to help tackle deer in your gardens. If you are concerned about deer it is better to be proactive in preventing deer damage rather than waiting to see eaten plants and then to react. Deer tend to be animals of habit so once they find a food source they may keep returning until they are deterred. Additionally, I would encourage utilizing more than one method, especially if you have issues. The list below includes both what we find effective and also what our customers have found to work to address the issue of deer.

Fencing- Creating a barrier is an effective but not always practical solution. Because deer are impressive jumpers, the fence needs to be at least 7 feet tall. Specific deer fencing is made from plastic netting and is practically invisible from a short distance away. Although it is an expense, we have found that it provides a peace of mind ( as an example). Other customers have used netting over their plants so the deer cannot effectively eat the plant leaves. And some people use fishing line as a fence spaced about 16inches apart to deter the deer since the line is almost invisible and it startles the deer when they brush up against it.

Repellents- Another option is to use commercial deer repellents such as “Deer Out” or “Liquid Fence” or Deer Scram” to deter the deer. Our customers have found these products to be very effective. Most failures are a result of not diligently using the products according to the instructions. There are also a whole list of homemade formulas that can be found at the following website so I am not going to list them here, although some of the ingredients can include Irish Spring soap, human or dog hair, egg shells, hot peppers and human urine (…/). Additionally, products with predator urine tend to be helpful. We have found one of the most effective repellents is actually a fertilizer called Milorganite, an organic material that omits an odor that deters the deer. One final product that actually scares the deer away is a motion activated sprinkler (a product from Orbit Yard Enforcer as an example). We just had a customer rave over how effective this method is in his garden! We hope this is helpful information in your quest to keep your gardens safe and free from pesky critters!!!

There are usually many comments on the internet and on websites related to Virus X (HVX), so I wanted to both ease your mind a little, but also provide some awareness related to the disease. Hostas that exhibit mottled foliage (I describe this as the colors separating on the leaf) may be an indication of plants infected with Virus X. However, not all hostas with HVX exhibit this characteristic, and there are some varieties that may show this characteristic but may not be infected. HVX is not a huge issue, but it is still an issue. First, although it may not kill your hosta, the virus could be spread throughout your hosta garden. Second, the virus has been around for a while so there is a possibility that a plant you purchased a number of years ago from another nursery could be infected. Additionally, if you purchase hostas from sources that do not have a specific knowledge of hostas, or for example, if you purchase plants on sale because they are not as healthy looking as the other plants, you could be putting your hosta gardens at risk (the reality is that it is hard to resist a cheap find sometimes from a “box store”, but you should know that you may be raising the chances of getting an infected plant). Just to be clear, I am not just trying to discourage you from buying “cheaper” hostas from someone else, but over the years I have spotted HVX in about 8-10 different large nurseries, box stores and personal gardens.

So here are some recommendations to help keep your hosta gardens free of HVX.

1) Purchase your hostas from reliable sources that specialize in hostas, since those hostas have most likely already been tested for HVX. For example, at The Hosta Hideaway we only purchase and grow hostas from reliable sources that have tested the plants for HVX. Additionally, since we have been raising hostas for over 30 years we know what to look for and how to care for hostas to minimize any risks.

2) Hosta viruses do not go away so once a plant is infected, you need to rid your garden of the diseased plant (not just the leaves). You should be careful in removing the plant and surrounding dirt (to get all of the roots). Place the material in a plastic bag and throw it in the trash. Additionally, you should wash all of the tools you used with a solution of bleach to minimize cross contamination to your other hostas.

3) You should consider removing any hosta that looks suspicious rather than “watch it” to see if it is really infected. My philosophy is do not take the risk with your garden investment.

4) You should not immediately replant a hosta in an infected area. Additionally, you should “watch” the other surrounding hostas for signs of infection, and also remove those plants if you suspect that the virus has spread.

5) If you divide hostas in your gardens, make sure you are dividing a healthy plant, and clean your tools after dividing each hosta to help minimize the spread of any disease.

6) If you are gifted a hosta from another garden you should be pretty convinced that the other person’s garden is also disease free.

7) If you compost and use that compost in your hosta gardens, when you clean up your gardens in the fall, you should not place the hosta leaves in your composting pile.

Finally, if you discover HVX in your hosta gardens, it is not the end of the world. You now have a start in knowing what to do to move forward in having a virus free hosta garden in the future.

Have you ever noticed a hosta shrink from one year to the next? Or have you had a hosta completely disappear and when you push on the ground where the plant used to be you notice that the ground caves in because even the roots are gone? Have you noticed shallow tracks in your gardens or even holes at the base of your hostas? These are all telltale signs of voles, a pesky rodent similar to a mouse that can damage or kill a hosta by feeding on its roots (If you want to see what voles look like or the type of damage they can cause to your plants, just Google it. Honestly, I like to provide information, but I am also optimistic, so I only like posting the beauty in gardens). Well, similar to the other issues that I have addressed like deer and slugs, there are ways to mitigate the issue. I am not an advocate for using poisons in the garden for a number of reasons, so the following are all natural solutions that have demonstrated success against voles.

  1. Cats: Last winter our Cat named “Weasel” adopted us and since moving in, she has snacked on her share of rodents, including voles. We even have neighborhood cats occasionally patrol our gardens, so cats are a great resource to address voles. Unfortunately, “Weasel” also likes the occasional song bird…
  2. Mouse traps: A regular mouse trap baited with peanut butter will help to reduce the vole population in your garden. Take a baited trap and place it in a vole path or at the base of a damaged hosta. You should place something over the trap that has openings for the vermin to travel through because voles like dark places. Additionally, covering the trap helps prevent other animals from being caught. We have used inverted plastic flower pots with rounded “doors” on each side. We also weight down the flower pot with a stone so that it does not get knocked over.
  3. Plant the hostas in wire cages: I am not a big fan of this suggestion because the cages will become entangled in the roots. However, a few customers have reported some success in preventing voles from eating the roots using this method.
  4. Planting hostas in pots: Container gardening has become very popular in recent years and some people plant most if not all of their hostas in containers. Voles tend not to be good climbers so they very seldomly will get in a planter. One note of caution if you use this method is to make sure that you use plant containers with drain holes on the bottom rather than on the sides. And make sure the container is made of something that the vole cannot chew through.
  5. Clean your beds in the late fall and do not over mulch. Voles will use cluttered or over mulched beds as cover in the winter to hide from predators such as owls and hawks, and to travel throughout your garden.
  6. Use Castor Oil as a deterrent: (the following information was posted by the American Hosta Society- we have not used this method, but it has been recommended by several hosta growers. Additionally, since this is also an organic method it should not cause harm to plants or the environment). For every gallon of water, one cup of Castor Oil (DO NOT USE UNSCENTED CASTOR OIL) and 4 ounces of dish detergent. Water all areas thoroughly where you want to deter the voles. Apply the solution in the fall after a few frosts and after you have cleaned debris from the beds, but before the ground freezes. Because voles tend to cause the most damage in the winter, you do not need to spray year round unless you have a major issue.

    I hope this information is helpful to address any vole issues in your gardens.

 Each fall we cover our large containers that are planted with hostas to protect both the hosta and the planter, especially if they are planted in clay pots. You can also watch the video below for instructions. Additionally, I will elaborate here on a few aspects of winterizing planters. First, this is still a little early in our area as we have not had a frost yet. I would wait until there are several heavy frosts or where the hosta leaves look to have died off for the season. For smaller containers you may want to just move them to an area where they do not get any significant moisture. They also do not need sunlight so an outdoor shed for example is acceptable. Remember that the hostas need to experience about six weeks of dormancy so putting the planters in a heated garage is probably not the best idea. The timing for uncovering the pots in the spring is dependent on the severity of the winter (usually the colder the winter the later the plants come up in the spring). We post on Facebook when we plan on uncovering our planters the beginning of each season. The reason we cover our hosta containers is because we have found that if they are just left out in the elements there is a higher chance of the plant roots rotting in containers. The containers may sometimes hold water over the winter and since the plant is dormant it does not absorb the moisture. This is not an issue for hostas planted in the ground. Generally, we use 6 MIL thick plastic, and most of the time we try to use black plastic to limit the sunlight on the plant. We hope this is helpful.