Can You Use Bone Meal on Hostas? – A Short Guide

Many people put bone meal on hostas for an organic fertilizer, but is bone meal safe to use on hostas without burning the leaves or stems?

 Many people choose to garden organically without the use of chemicals, and this leads to searching for natural alternatives to traditional chemical fertilizers. They wonder if they can use bone meal on hostas to give them a nutrient boost, and the short answer is yes.

However, there are ways to go about using it to ensure that your hostas stay safe. If you’re like me, you obsess over giving your plants the best food possible to keep them healthy and thriving, and you know that some things can burn or damage them. Since I like to garden organically, I dove into the world of bone meal as an organic fertilizer, and I’ve been pleased with the results so far. If you’re curious, read on.

Do Hostas Like Bone Meal?

What, exactly, is bone meal? I know it doesn’t sound very pleasant does it? But, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Bone meal is a mixture of coarsely and finely ground up animal bones with some slaughterhouse waste products added in. It’s a very important ingredient in organic fertilizers, and it’s also popular in the pet food industry to give a supplemental boost for animals. You use it as a slow-release fertilizer on your hostas and other plants. It’s low in nitrogen, but it’s high in protein and phosphorus.

Since phosphorus and protein are important to strong hosta growth, bone meal can be an acceptable organic fertilizer if you’re not going to use traditional fertilizer. Phosphorus, in particular, plays a very strong role in strong root system development and flower growth. Since hostas have larger root systems and big leaves with flower spikes, it’s easy to see how it could help.

Organic Fertilizer vs. Traditional Fertilizer

As I mentioned, bone meal is an organic-type fertilizer. But what is the difference between the two? Knowing this will help you understand why some people choose to go organic and some choose traditional fertilizers when they grow their hostas, vegetables, and flowers.

Can You Use Bone Meal on Hostas

Organic Fertilizer

Traditional Fertilizer


Long and short-term


Environmental Impact

Normally biodegradable

Can pollute the environment

Expiration Date






Soil Structure

Improves it over time

Makes it worse over time


High doses

Small doses (large ones will kill the plants)

When and How to Use Bone Meal on Hostas

One of the most important things to take away from this article is that bone meal is a form of organic fertilizer. You’ll have to consider your soil type, hosta needs, and more into consideration. If you water a lot, you’ll need to make a point to fertilize more because water can leach the nutrients away much quicker. If your hostas are in a shaded area, adding large amounts of bone meal may not produce bigger hostas because of the lack of sun. Clay soils retain nutrients much better than sandy soils. This is why it’s important to know our garden.

The good news is that  hostas “see” organic fertilizer ingredients and chemical fertilizer ingredients identically on a cellular level. As a general rule, organic fertilizers and bone meal tends to have a lower analysis number. In turn, it will burn your plant less but you’ll have to apply more of it to your hostas to give them the correct nutrient levels. It can also attract voles since many organic fertilizers use alfalfa and cottonseed meal.

You can choose a slow-release, granular, or liquid bone meal formula for your hostas. If you choose liquid, you can freely douse the soil and spray it directly on your hosta’s leaves without harming them. You’ll apply this liquid fertilizer once every two weeks when your hostas are actively growing.

Bone Meal an Organic Insoluble Garden Fertilizer

Granular bone meal fertilizer is inexpensive, and it can sit on your hosta beds for four to six weeks, depending heavily on your local rainfall amounts. You’ll apply it two or three times, and you want to start applying your granular bone meal formula right as your hostas emerge from the soil and continue until the growth cycle stops in the middle of summer. If your mix has a high amount of urea, it’ll release nitrogen after heavy rainfall, and this can burn your hostas. If this happens, rinse off your hostas thoroughly.

Slow-release bone meal fertilizers depend on the rainfall and temperature levels to release their nutrients into the soil around your hostas. Pick a release time between three to nine months that matches your hosta’s biggest growing period. You can get away with applying this type of fertilizer once or twice a year.

Do You Choose Liquid, Granular, or Slow-Release Bone Meal for Your Hostas?

The type of bone meal fertilizer you pick for your hostas depends on your gardening style. If you have the time to baby your hostas, try applying a liquid bone meal fertilizer once a week during their active growing season. If you’re like me and very pressed for time (or forgetful), pick a granular or slow-release version and apply it when the hostas first poke up from the ground in the spring.

Ideally, you’ll use an organic, slow-release fertilizer in the spring with a liquid fertilizer with a high nitrogen content twice, waiting a few weeks between applications. For me, the first application is around the middle of May. I apply another round of 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer in August.

The Myth of Mad Cow Disease from Bone Meal

In the mid-1990s and early 2000s, outbreaks of Mad Cow Disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) took the world by storm and caused a panic for the beef industry. Dubbed “Mad Cow Disease,” this was a progressive degeneration of the cow’s nervous system. It spreads rapidly, is fatal, and it can transmit to cattle if they eat infected food, and to humans who eat the infected beef. Humans were diagnosed with a form of Mad Cow Disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and it was believed they got it from eating beef products that had been contaminated with tissue from an infected cow’s central nervous system like the brain or spinal cord.

However, Mad Cow Disease doesn’t spread from infected animal to infected animal by touching. There were rumors flying that using bone meal in your garden could cause you to inhale it and become infected with Mad Cow Disease. However, there are no direct cases with a 100% confirmation that bone meal can transmit this disease to people. Also, Mad Cow Disease wasn’t as prevalent in the United States as it was in Britain, and the U.S. hasn’t imported beef since the late 1980s. So, no. You can’t develop Mad Cow Disease from using bone meal in your hostas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do hostas benefit from bone meal?

Yes. As long as you use it correctly as a slow-release fertilizer and realize that you’ll have to apply a nitrogen-rich supplement, your hostas will benefit from bone meal.

Is too much bone meal bad for plants?

No. Since bone meal is organic and it adds calcium and phosphorus to the soil, it’s almost impossible to add too much. It won’t burn your plants either like some of the traditional fertilizers.

What does bone meal do for your hostas?

The phosphorus in bone meal is an essential nutrient for your hostas that help new plants grow strong roots and produce flowers. Calcium helps balance the chemicals in the soil around your hostas and improve the water penetration.

Bottom Line

So, can you use bone meal on hostas? Now you know that the answer is yes. It’s a great pick if you want to use organic fertilizers on your hostas. If you’re not worried about organic growing, you can use any starter fertilizer to promote strong root growth while being cheaper than bone meal. Your results will vary, but you should see positive growth either way.