Autumn can be a odd time for hosta lovers, seeing your favourite plants starting their decline into dormancy knowing it will be a long 5 months until you see them again. It is however a very good time to start thinking about next year and how you can make your hostas look even better.
What will happen to my hostas in Autumn?
Towards the end of Summer and beginning of Autumn hostas start to look a little run down, brown marks start to appear on the edges of the leaves and colours start to fade. Many blue varieties turn green over this period and can often look like completely different varieties themselves. All of these things are completely normal and are all part of the winter shut down process.
As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, you will notice the leaves will turn yellow. Many people who are new to hostas may think there is something wrong, but this is completely normal.
(Above, Hosta 'Flemish Master' at the end of September)
What do I do with my hostas over Winter?
By Winter, hostas will have entered their dormancy stage and the leaves will have completely died back. You don't need to do anything with your hostas over Winter, they are completely hardy and do not need bringing inside or frost protecting. Young plants may benefit from being moved somewhere dry, this will help them avoid getting over wet.
We would recommend to clear the dead leaves off in late Winter, this way the leaves come away cleanly and you are not left with tough strands. There are a couple of reasons why cleaning the top of your plants off is beneficial. One reason is that slugs will sometimes lay their eggs in the shelter of the dead leaves in Autumn. By removing the leaves, you can also remove the eggs and young slugs at the same time helping to avoid early season slug damage when your hostas appear. This also makes it easier for birds to eat any slugs or eggs that have been laid in or around your plants. Another reason for doing this, is that fungal diseases that can be prevalent at the end of the season if it has been wet and warm can over winter in the dead leaves, this can then affect new growth that appears in the spring.
Whatever slug protection you choose to use, timing is important. Of course it can vary depending on the method of protection that you do go with. Generally, protection should be in place before the new shoots appear in March. We would recommend starting to think about this in mid February. If your hostas are not protected early, once the slugs are in it is a much harder job to control them and this usually has to be done by hand. For pots Copper Tape and Crushed Seashells work well.
When do you feed hostas?
Hostas can be fed at anytime in the Spring, but we tend to do this just before they emerge in March. Top dress feeds such as Fish, Blood and Bone or High Nitrogen Feeds are ideal. If you do not feed your hostas this would not be a problem, they are strong plants that can look great without any help. If you are planting new hostas, then we would recommend using a Slow Release Feed.