Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Are Hostas Drought Tolerant?

Reducing our dependence on water is one way gardeners love to be eco-friendly, so it comes as no surprise that drought-tolerant plants continue to be in high demand.

But are all hostas really drought tolerant? The answer is yes, and no.

If a hosta is healthy and of mature size, its root system has become wide-reaching and the roots can extend to collect enough moisture to get them through dry times. An otherwise healthy, mature hosta plant will only need added water in extreme cases. In that case, you can say that that hosta has become drought tolerant.

All plants are susceptible to sunscald and drought stress, even hostas. And while a mature hosta will probably make it through one drought, prolonged inadequate water can lead to several problems.

It's helpful to know how hostas grow to answer that question fully.

In late summer and fall, a hosta uses its rhizomes (roots) to store up the energy and food reserves that it will need as it emerges the following spring.

If that hosta experienced severe drought or prolonged dryness the season before, it may not have the reserves it needs to increase in size. The result is a less healthy, smaller hosta.

A dry summer and dry fall is often the cause of a hosta that actually shrinks in size from one year to the next. Multiple dry seasons make them unable to replenish their depleted energy reserves and cause these telltale signs of water stress.


  • Drooping or wilting leaves. This first sign of water stress can usually be remedied by a good, deep soaking with more attention to the plant through the rest of the season.
  • Scorching or browning of the leaf tips is the second phase. Simply removing the dead or dying leaves, or cutting back the hosta to ground level, with good watering will likely suffice. Everything hostas need to grow is underground.
  • Prolonged water stress can manifest itself on the plant by decreased leaf size and fewer leaves.
  • In severe water stress cases, the hosta can decline to the point of dry root rot. 

The better plan is to not stress the hosta in the first place.

Using a good soaker hose is a good assurance that your hostas will get the water they need.

So how much water does a hosta need?

In general once established, hostas are tolerant of an occasional drought but need to be watered when the top inch of soil has dried out.  And if you're in the south, 2” of water per week will usually ensure that your hosta survives through those hot, humid summers.


In the spring, hostas don't need a lot of water. Watering them in early spring can actually cause the roots to rot.  Be careful NOT to water the hostas in early spring until the threat of frost has passed to prevent root rot.

Hostas thrive in moist conditions. In their native environment of Japan, China and Korea, they can get 60" of rainfall each year. Hostas require 1” of water per week, whether by rainfall or irrigation. 

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As the weather turns colder, hostas will be happier with less water. Once the days cool, you can rely on Mother Nature for rainfall.

And as is true with most perennial plants, deep soakings are much preferred over lighter more frequent waterings as the soakings will encourage the roots to grow deeper into the ground, enabling it to reach out for moisture when needed.


There are hostas available these days that have been bred to be sun tolerant. Those hosta types need even more water if they are planted in some direct sun, even if it's only direct morning sun for four to six hours a day. fix

Here at Sunset Hosta Farm, we grow and sell a number of sun tolerant hostas.

To read a detailed article about sun tolerant hostas, click here.


Besides holding down those annoying weeds, a good 2” of mulch placed several inches away from the hosta crown and shoots will help cool the soil and hold in moisture.

For our article on great organic mulch choices, click here.


Hostas continue to be one of the most popular care-free perennials plants. They're hardy and beautiful, and you can keep them that way through the season with sufficient water.


Love hostas or know someone who does?
Visit our website for great hostas at an affordable price.
We only grow and sell hostas!

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How to fix Hosta Center Die-Out

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.

Where to go next!

Love hostas or know someone who does?
Visit our website for great hostas at an affordable price.

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