The Hosta Gardening Calendar
by Bob Solberg,
Spring (Foliage emergence begins): March- April early May
As the ground warms under spring’s ever increasing light intensities, the dormant buds of the hostas begin to swell and break through the mulch, looking like bullets coming out of the ground. The small bud scales that protect the true leaves open and recurve allowing a cigar-shaped flush of usually three to four leaves to emerge well above the ground. Soil temperature and moisture seem to effect the timing of the emergence of hostas the most. In very dry winters the emergence of hostas will be delayed unless the garden is irrigated. As the new hosta leaves expand, ample water is also needed for them to gain maximum size.
Labeling: Check for lost labels and replace as needed.
Light: Full sun, moderate intensity. Usually no shading necessary.
Nutrients: Apply slow release fertilizer (e.g. Osmocote, Nutricote, organic fertilizers) or 10-10- 10 granular fertilizer around clumps as the hostas emerge. If you only use a liquid fertilizer, then apply weekly beginning as the first leaves start to unfurl.
Pests: Begin slug control before hosta leaves emerge. The slugs will be active on warm nights before the hostas will. Try to limit their populations before they hide in the hosta foliage. If early attacks by deer are a problem, spray a repellent. Little is needed at this time but it may need to be repeated every 10 days as the hostas enlarge. Stay on vole patrol.
Protection: Finish your spring clean-up of fallen branches, old hosta foliage and scapes. Last chance to mulch. Pull mulch away from emerging hosta shoots to reduce the risk of petiole rot, especially if hardwood bark is used as mulch. Protect from late freezes with frost cloth, nursery pots, boxes, lightweight bed sheets or newspaper. Hostas with unfurled leaves can be protected by covering with mulch.
Propagation: Hostas may be divided in half or quarters as they begin to emerge. Be prepared to provide them with extra water and care as they will have oversized leaves for their recently reduced root system. New roots will not begin forming until the first sets of new leaves are almost fully expanded, several weeks after division. Save drastic division for late summer.
Water: Keep the soil evenly moist. Fresh hostas are mostly water, make sure plenty is available as they expand. Beautiful spring days with bright light, low humidity and brisk winds dehydrate new hosta leaves quickly, do not be afraid to irrigate generously.
Fun! This is the best hosta season of the year! Go out several times a day and watch your hostas spring from the earth. You can almost see them grow! Count the number of new shoots and calculate how much your hosta investment has increased. A one division hosta purchased for $25 last fall, with its three new shoots, has now tripled in value to $75. Drag you neighbors over to see your hostas do their magic act. This is the time of year when everything is right in the hosta world. Go to a local hosta meeting.