Hosta center die-out is sometimes referred to as "clump die-back" and “fairy ring.” The later is a nickname given to this problem that is said to result from fairies dancing in the middle of the plant.
It's a common problem with hostas since they are a very long-lived perennial, but this problem can be easily remedied.
What it looks like
In early spring when the pips begin to emerge from the ground, you will notice the middle pips are missing or sparse. Spring is the perfect time to do a yearly check on your more mature hostas to see which are in need of some further care.
When the hostas are mature, it is easy to see the die-out around the middle of the hosta.
Reasons that hostas die out in the center
- Hostas put on most of their new growth on the outside of the clump each year. After several years, the dead growth from past years will accumulate in the center.
- A lack of water through the season is one reason that the middle buds will start to die out.
- Crowns and roots can also be damaged and rot due to the heaving up and exposure of the crowns over the winter.
Which hostas are more susceptible?
Since the center die out takes some years to develop, it is often the older and more established hostas that are affected. Also, fast-growing hostas that reach their maturity faster can fall prey to this problem more often.
What to do about it
Dividing the plant is the best way to cure the problem. Dig up the entire plant, separate it into as many pieces are you'd like to replant or give away and dispose of the dead or rotted center parts. This division also serves to stimulate new buds and new growth. Replant the healthy pieces.
Hostas can safely be divided any time the ground is workable, however, the summer months can be rough on the divisions so more attention, water, and shade will be needed. Most gardeners prefer to divide their hostas in the Spring and Fall for that reason.
If the center of the hosta has actually rotted, soak the divided healthy parts in a mild solution of bleach (10% to water) before you replant.
If you want to replant some divisions in the same area, it's helpful to replace the existing soil with some fresh organic matter like compost or leaf mold.
To read our detailed article about making compost, click here.
To read our detailed article about making leaf mold, click here.
A balanced fertilizer will help the hosta divisions come back looking beautiful and healthy.
How to Prevent Hosta Center Die-Out
- Divide fast-growing hostas every five years.
- Hostas LOVE water. Give them plenty during the season, especially during the dry, hot months.
- Apply mulch in the Fall season to prevent roots from heaving up during the winter which can cause the roots to rot.
With just some basic care, you can keep your hostas healthy and beautiful for many years.
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