Why is my Hosta Growing So Slowly?
Ever wondered why your hostas are growing so slowly, or not growing at all, or are actually shrinking from year to year?
Even though hostas are naturally very hardy plants, which is one of the reasons they remain so popular for perennials gardens, their ability to put on healthy growth each year depends on several things.
The Type of Hosta
There are several different cultivars of hostas on the market varying in size, leaf color, striations. They also vary in the speed at which they grow.
There are fast-growing hostas, like Guacamole, Blue Angel, and the Tiara hosta group (including the Golden Tiara hostas pictured below.)
These cultivars will quickly produce large numbers of buds each season which results in a larger clump the following year. There are also slow growers like Praying Hands Hosta.
The Amount of Shade
The most common reason for slow growth in a hosta is the lack of sunlight. It is not true that hostas can grow in complete shade.
All hostas need some sunlight for healthy growth. A site with morning sun and afternoon shade are commonly felt like the best spot for healthy hosta growth.
Perhaps over the years, a tree has grown over the hostas cutting down on the amount of sun they're getting. If too much shade is the problem, simply moving it to a sunnier area may very well correct the problem.
There are sun tolerant hostas, like Sum and Substance pictured above, that can take even more sun than their shade-loving cousins. For a list of our sun-tolerant hostas, click here.
Another misconception of hostas is that they are always drought tolerant. Although once hostas have grown to their mature size they can tolerate an occasional drought, they are certainly not always drought tolerant.
Hostas receive as much as 60" of rainfall in their native land, so a steady dose of water is necessary during the season, especially in the hottest days of summer.
If you have a large garden, a good soaker hose is definitely worth the investment. I use several like the one pictured above. It's very lightweight, stores easily and I can move it around the garden.
In hotter climates, the heat may cause a hosta to temporarily go dormant and stop growing. You may notice that the outer leaves dry up and wither. Once the temperatures have cooled as Fall approaches, though, the leaf growth will usually resume. Additional watering during the hottest summer temperatures will go a long way in keeping the hosta healthy
Hostas may need to be watered during the Fall also. This is because when a hosta emerges in the Spring, it is emerging on the energy and food reserves that the plant stored in its rhizome late the previous Summer and Fall. If the hosta received sufficient water in late Summer and Fall, it should emerge the next spring as a larger plant because it was able to store away more energy than it used.
However, a hosta that does not receive adequate moisture in late Summer and Fall cannot build up the energy reserves it needs to increase in size. The result is a hosta that emerges the following Spring smaller than it was the year before.
Multiple unusually dry Summers or Falls in a row can be especially devastating for hostas, as they are unable to replenish their depleted energy reserves.
If your hosta leaves are looking healthy, though, moisture is probably not the problem. Dry soil will cause the hostas to grow more slowly and put out fewer leaves.
When hostas are allowed to grow through to flowering, energy is diverted from the leaves and roots. Cutting back the hosta flower stalks as they appear will keep the energy focused on growing the plant.
Although hostas are known to grow in nearly every soil type (another reason for its continued popularity), a yearly treatment of fertilizer will help it to thrive. If your hosta is remaining smaller than expected, this may give the plant the jolt it needs.
A balanced fertilizer like the one pictured above will do just fine.
There are as many fertilizing techniques for plants are there are gardeners. One way to give your hostas a boost is to apply a balanced 10-10-10 slow-release fertilizer around the emerging clumps in the spring as they emerge. Hostas fertilized in the spring will likely not need another treatment.
Do not fertilize the hosta in the Fall, as the plant is getting ready for winter dormancy.
A Treatment with Epsom Salt
The benefits of Epsom Salt on plants are many including that it’s organic, it’s gentle on plants and it’s inexpensive!
Further Reading: Using Epsom Salt on Hostas
By the same token, removing dead or damaged leaves right where they emerge from the plant will go a long way to keeping the hosta healthy.
Dead plant material left around the hosta has been known to harbor pests that lead to disease. Autumn is the perfect time for a major clean-up as this is the beginning of the hosta's dormant season.
If you have a large space to fill quickly, starting out with fast-growing hosta cultivars are your best bet. Site them as recommended and give them plenty of water and a shot of spring fertilizer.
Here at Sunset Hosta Farm, we grow and sell a number of fast-growing hostas. To see our list of great fast-growing hostas, click here.
Where to go next!
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