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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Growing Hostas from Seed


Growing hosta from seed is a tricky endeavor, but if you have patience and keep a few things in mind, it can be worth your time.

First, it's important to remember that hostas will not come true from seed. The hosta plant that you grow from seed will most assuredly be very different than the hosta you harvested the seeds from. 

Not every hosta will produce seed pods, some will produce them in large numbers, others produce pods but very few seeds. Sometimes the seeds are not viable and will not germinate.  In short, you never know what you'll get!


If you're new to starting plants from seeds, a good book like this one will help.

The Basics of Hosta Seeds

  • Seeds from a blue or gold hosta produce blue, green and gold seedlings.
  • Seeds from a streaked or variegated hosta may give you a hosta with streaks but odds are they won't. However, pods that have stripes will have viable streaked seeds inside.
  • Seeds from a green hosta will only produce a green seedling with the same or different characteristics. 
  • Seeds from a white hosta are not very viable at all.
  • If there is a specific hosta that you'd like to get seeds from, be sure to water it well throughout the season for its best chance at forming seeds.

So if you want a hosta just like the one you have taken the seeds from, there is no way to do that from seed. The only way to get a hosta of the same variety is to divide the hosta.

So if you're adventurous and still want to give it a try, read on:

Harvesting the Seeds
The Seed Pods

Green pods growing at the end of the hosta stem means that the flower has been pollinated. About 30 days after pollination, the hosta seeds should be ready to harvest. 

 As a rule, early-emerging hostas take longer to fully ripen their seeds. It may take over six weeks. Sometimes the pods that form in June aren't ready to harvest until September.
When the pod has turned brown or black and has dried out, the pods will begin to split lengthwise. That's a great time to harvest them.

In colder climates, though, the pods may not get to that point before the first frost. One way to harvest the seeds in those climates is to collect the green pods and place them in a paper bag to further dry out. But the general rule is to leave them on the plant as long as you can.

The seeds inside the pods will be black and papery, and viable seeds will have a noticeable bump on the end of the papery sleeve.

You are able to use the hosta seeds as soon as they're harvested. 

If you need to store them, though, you can store the thoroughly-dried seeds in a plastic Ziplock bag until you're ready to use them. The seeds will only be viable for one year.



Sowing the Hosta Seeds

Recommendations to hedge your bets on germination.

  • USE FRESH SEEDS. (Within a year of harvesting.)
  • Stratify the seeds before you sow them. This process improves the germination rate for all perennials, but it isn't necessary. A short visit to the refrigerator for two or three weeks will fool the seeds into thinking they have gone through the freeze/thaw cycle.
  • A general seed starting mix is fine. If you want to mix your own, use some peat moss to hold moisture, and Perlite, bark, and grit to make the soil loose enough for those tiny roots.
  • Thoroughly wet the soil before sowing the seeds as not to dislodge them later.
  • Sow the seeds thickly. Germination rates for hosta seeds are notoriously low. 
  • Sow them early. Hostas grow slowly at first. If hosta seeds are started indoors in January or February, they should be a good size to transplant outside by May giving them plenty of time to grow strong before you plant them out.
  • Hostas do not need light to germinate. You can cover the seeds with 1/4” soil, or just gently tamp down the seeds so they connect to the soil.
  • Spritz the top of the soil with a squirt bottle on the soft setting several times a day. The soil will need to be constantly moist from when sown to when the hostas have a few leaves.
  • Cover your seed tray with a dome to retain moisture. If the soil dries out, the seeds will not germinate. Check daily to make sure the soil is moist but not wet. Lift the lid when necessary to avoid condensation. Once the first leaves appear, you can gradually remove the cover.
  • Heat. Putting the container on the top of a refrigerator is enough to keep the tray warm. A seed heating mat is always ideal, but remove it once the seedlings appear to prevent root rot.

Be patient. It can take hosta seeds seven days to a few weeks to germinate.

Seedling Care

  • Bottom watering is always preferred. This lets the seedlings drink up the water they need without the roots being dislodged by pouring from the top.
  • Use a fan on a light setting to strengthen the hosta seedlings' roots.
  • Do not fertilize the seedlings until the four-leaf stage, then every two weeks with fertilizer at one-fourth strength.

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Potting Up Your Seedlings

At the four-leaf stage, you can transplant each one of your seedlings into a small two-ounce cup to grow on, then later into a four-ounce cup. 

Hosta seedlings thrive on frequent transplantings, so you can do this as much as you like until they're ready to go outside.

The Great Outdoors

Lastly, slowly introduce your hosta plants to the outside weather by gradually setting them outside for longer and longer periods over a few weeks. 


Enjoy your new hosta adventure!


Where to go next!

Love hostas or know someone who does?
Visit our website for great hostas at affordable prices!

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.

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!

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.

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.

Making and Using Leaf Mold in the Garden

A free, readily-available resource!


First, what exactly is leaf mold?

Leaf mold (leaf compost) is quite simply decomposed leaves. It is one of the best soil amendments you can use to bring new life to your soil. It has a texture much like compost, dark brown to black, and has an earthy aroma. 

Leaf mold acts mainly as a soil conditioner by improving the soil structure. It WILL NOT add nutrition to your garden plants but it will enhance the condition of your soil creating a soil that is rich in calcium and magnesium and is less prone to compaction.


Benefits of Leaf Mold

  • It's easier to make than compost as there is no mixing of greens and browns.
  • It increases water retention. In areas where droughts are a constant threat, this can be really important. It really soaks up the rain. It has been known to hold up to 400% of its own weight in water.
  • It can be used as an effective weed barrier.
  • It provides a great habitat for soil life including earthworms and beneficial bacteria.
  • It will lighten up clay soil.
  • It will help prevent sandy soils from drying out too fast.
  • If you leave the leaf mold piled up for two-plus years as many gardeners do, you will end up with hummus. Hummus is that dark rich crumbly organic matter that covers the forest floor – Nature's compost. It improves the soil structure and holds nutrients and moisture.
  • It's a free renewable resource!

Why not just add the leaves to the compost pile?

While it's okay to add thin layers of leaves into your normal compost, too many Autumn leaves, even if they're shredded, will tend to mat together and prevent airflow in the pile and you'll notice the pile will start to smell. 

 It's a better practice to decompose the leaves in a separate bed then incorporate the leaf mold directly into the soil.

Why not add the leaves straight into the garden beds?

This is something many gardeners choose to do, however, the leaves may take more time than one season to decompose into that wonderful crumbly texture.

Most leaves are slightly acidic as they fall, but as the leaves break down into leaf mold, the pH goes up into a more neutral range. This is the main reason gardeners prefer to let the leaves sit over the winter to decompose as opposed to placing them straight into the garden. 

Applying leaf mold will not correct a pH problem if you have one, but it will have a moderating effect.

How to Make Leaf Mold

Leaf piles can be made at any size, but it's recommended to pile the leaves 3 feet wide by 3 feet high, water the pile and let sit. You can use rounded chicken wire to hill them up to the 3 feet.

Some gardeners recommend filling a plastic bag with leaves and cutting holes in the bags for airflow. For a small batch of leaf mold, this may work well. If you have the space for a 3 by 3 area, I see no benefit to the plastic bag.

How to Use Leaf Mold

  • Acid-loving plants like Hostas, Blueberries, Azaleas, and Rhododendrons will love the boost they get from leaf mold. Mulch up to 4” around the plant but away from the trunk.
  • For perennial plants, use leaf mold as a mulch top dressing for winter protection. The best time to mulch with leaf mold is after the first few touches of frost. Remove any dead vegetation and apply 2” of leaf mold, then turn it into the garden or container next spring. 
  • For Ornamental Plants. Pile leaf mold 2-3”deep around the plant, within an inch of the base.
  • Just like regular compost, use the bottom of the leaf mold pile first as it will be the first to decompose.
  • Mix leaf mold into soil in containers for its ability to retain water.

Leaf Mold for your Veggie Gardens

For vegetable gardens. You can turn the leaf mold in at the end of the season which will create a soil that is less prone to compaction. Leaf mold is rich in calcium and magnesium which are essential for healthy vegetables. 

It is particularly good to incorporate in areas where you're growing carrots and members of the cabbage family. Remember that it does not provide the needed nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Apply up to 4”of leaf mold between rows and 2-3”around plants and till in at the end of the growing season.

Best Trees for Leaf Mold

Leaves of any trees can be used. The smaller the leaves, however, the faster they will break down. Smaller leaves like Birch, Alder and Japanese Maple only take six months to break down.

Using different types of leaves together will help balance and improve the quality of the finished product.

Here at Sunset Hosta Farm we have no shortage of leaves, so we take advantage of this valuable free resource by using it both as a leaf mold amendment to our container soil and garden soil and adding it to our compost pile

Ways to Speed up the Decomposition Process

Leaves naturally decompose slowly to furnish plant nutrients gradually and improve the structure of the soil beneath. Because leaves are basically carbon, it takes longer to break down than, say, grass clippings which are nitrogen rich.

This three-bin system is ideal for aerating the leaves as they decompose by moving them from one bin to another.  

Other ideas:
  • Run over the leaves with the mower before stacking. Small pieces always decompose more quickly.
  • Add nitrogen such as grass clippings, fresh manure or blood meal.
  • Turn your leaf pile over every few weeks.
  • Cover the pile with tarps to keep leaves consistently moist and warm.


Use leaf mold in containers for its ability to retain water

For perennial plants in containers or in the ground, you can use leaf mold as a mulch top dressing for winter protection. 

The best time to mulch with leaf mold is after the first few frosts. Remove any dead vegetation and apply 2” of leaf mold, then turn it into the garden or container next spring.

For Ornamental Plants. Pile leaf mold 2-3”deep around the plant, within an inch of the base.



Here at Sunset Hosta Farm we have no shortage of leaves, so we take advantage of this valuable free resource by using it both as a leaf mold amendment to our container soil and garden soil and adding it to our compost piles.  It's a great free organic resource!


Where to go next!

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