Because hostas are such a hardy and beautiful perennial, it’s possible to grow them in a host of different types of soil. You can have your hosta plants in sandy soil and heavier clay soil. However, I’ve noticed that hostas prefer moist, rich, and well-draining loamy soil that contains a lot of organic matter to be happy and grow strong.
If you have sandy soil in your yard, it’s still possible to have beautiful hostas. There’s just a little more work involved with amending the soil. This means that you’ll add peat moss, composted manure, leaves, or other types of organic materials to the soil before you plant your hostas. These additions will add nutrients to the soil, and it’ll create a more friable soil for your plants.
What is Sandy Soil?
Back when I first started planting hostas, I wasn’t sure what someone meant when they referred to “sandy soil.” However, I found out quickly that it’s important to understand the different types of soil because they all affect your garden hugely. For starters, sandy soil comes with a lower fertility rating than other soils, and it drains poorly while offering less water retention.
Sandy soil contains a mixture of particles that is mostly silt and sand. This composition makes the soil very easy to work with because it doesn’t have hard substances or a lot of clay. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that sandy soil contains very little organic matter. This means that the soil won’t be able to hold water well each time you give your plants a drink.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages to Growing in Sandy Soil?
Just like any decision you make in your garden, there are advantages and disadvantages attached to it. Once you know what they are, you can see the value of taking the time and effort to amend the soil and make it work for your hostas.
Advantages of Sandy Soil
Since sandy soil is much lighter, it can drain better than other soils. If you have erosion or problems with hillsides or slopes, it can help prevent it by draining the water off quickly.
Sandy soil will tolerate drought conditions much better since it dries out faster after each watering session. It allows hostas and other plants to get moisture quicker when it does rain or you water it.
Your plants will get great aeration with sandy soil, and this means that the root systems can grow deeper into the ground. This helps improve their drought tolerance, and it can prevent problems with rot at your plant’s base to keep them healthier.
It’s usually easier to work with sandy soil because it’s very light, especially when you compare it to heavy clay-based soils. This is great news if you want to do a lot of hoeing and digging around your yard! Also, plants find it easier to take root in this type of soil.
The soil is very fine and light, and this means that it’ll warm up much quicker in the early spring months than heavier clay soils will. You may see earlier growth and flowering on your hostas than you normally would.
Disadvantages of Sandy Soil
Growing in sandy soil can be challenging, and rapid water drainage is a double-edged sword. It isn’t the best at retaining moisture, and this means that you’ll have to put in more effort to water your plants more frequently to compensate for the faster drainage. If you don’t, your hostas can get too dry.
No matter what you do, it can be very difficult to get enough nutrients into the soil without amending it or incorporating compost. Without it, the nutrients leach out of the soil, leaving your plants undernourished. Routine watering and rainfall can flush out key nutrients.
The biggest disadvantage is that the water drains too easily through the sand and that the soil can be quite acidic. Remember, hostas like neutral soils with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. They can do okay in alkaline or acidic soil, but it’s better to aim for neutral.
How to Improve Sandy Soil for Hostas
The first thing you want to do to improve the growing conditions for your hostas in sandy soil is to add a large amount of organic matter to your planting area. I like to add a mix of leaf mold, aged manure, and compost. Using aged manure will introduce bacteria to the soil that breaks down the nutrients in the other organic materials for the hostas to use.
Compost will help to improve your soil’s drainage rate while giving your hostas a nutrient mix that is essential to help them grow and create an environment where worms and other organisms can live.
You can work three to four inches of organic matter into the soil. Next, apply mulch around your hostas with straw, hay, bark, or wood chips. Mulch will help the soil retain moisture while cooling the soil. Remember, sand heats up quickly. You’ll add at least two inches of organic matter to the soil each year.
How to Water Hostas in Sandy Soil
Ideally, hostas need between 1.5 and 2-inches of water every week when you grow them in the sun. When you grow them in the shade, this amount drops to 1-inch. You need to remember that hostas get a lot of water in their native environment, and it can be a challenge to replicate it with this soil.
How you water your hostas in sandy soil depends on whether or not you plant to amend it. If you do, the things you add to amend the soil will help retain water, and this means that you won’t have to water as much to keep your hostas happy. If you don’t amend it, you’ll have to water more because it’ll drain away quickly.
The trick with sandy soil is to water it for longer periods each time you water. Doing so will encourage your plants to form deeper root systems, and they can go down deeper into the soil where more water is available. Frequent light watering sessions encourage shallow roots, and this makes your plants less tolerant to drought.
Say you amended the soil. If so, you can water your hostas once or twice a week for shaded environments. The goal is to water enough to keep the soil lightly moist but not wet. In the fall, you won’t have to water as much because the plants start to go dormant. Don’t water when it freezes.
For soil that you didn’t amend, you’ll water several times a week. This can go up even more if you have the hostas out in the sun instead of in the shade. They can withstand drought, but some hostas won’t do so gracefully. The last thing you want is a droopy hosta in your yard!
When in doubt and the soil seems dry to the touch, water!
How Do I Fertilize Hostas in Sandy Soil?
Again, how you fertilize your hostas in sandy soil depends on whether or not you amend it. Hostas need nutrients from fertilizer, usually twice a year in amended soil. Traditionally, the first round of fertilizer would go on in March or early April, and the second round comes in around the middle of June.
This is different for sandy soil, and the biggest thing to remember with sandy soil is that it’s very easy to wash the fertilizer away with rain or routine watering sessions. This means that your hostas won’t get enough nutrients for strong growth.
To combat this, you can apply smaller amounts of fertilizer more often rather than the traditional method of applying a lot of fertilizer more infrequently. This is the general preference for sandier types of soil that have trouble holding nutrients. This method will supply your hostas with smaller amounts of fertilizer, but it’ll be continuously.
You’ll give your hostas a 10-10-10 fertilizer at a rate of one pound per 100 square feet. Since soluble fertilizers leach right through your plant’s root zone because the plant can’t use a large application of it at one time, a light fertilization once a month during the spring and summer growing season usually works well.
Once fall comes around and the active growing season is done, you can cut back on your fertilizing. Just be careful when you apply it so you don’t accidentally splash it on the leaves and cause damage to the plants. Also, don’t get the fertilizer right up to the base of the plant. Keep it a few inches away.
Will Mulching Help in Sandy Soils?
Mulching can be essential in this type of soil to get your garden, or hostas, established. Sandy-type soils have a lot more air space in them because of the larger particles than other types of soil. This allows water to evaporate much quicker than it would in clay soil.
You can prevent this from happening by applying a two or three-inch layer of mulch that has compost or organic matter to help stop the water evaporation and keep the soil moist. It’ll trap the water into the soil. Sandy soil heats up quickly in the sun, so a layer of mulch can act as a shield to keep it on the cooler side. This can extend the life of some flowers and plants, and it’ll help control the temperatures.
Will Co-Planting Help in Sandy Soil?
One thing I noticed when I started digging in the sandy soil is there was a large absence of, well, everything! There were no roots, no worms, no pieces of bark, and no rocks. Nothing. It was sand and more sand. Now, sand is a great filter, but the trick is to slow down that filter.
One way to do this is with roots. Roots will help slow down the water’s flow, take the water actively, and break down at the end of the plant’s life cycle to give short-term organic material and nutrients. Having roots in a sandy soil can really help!
I accomplished this by co-planting roses with my hostas. Roses have vigorous root systems that are larger and deeper than a traditional hosta root system. Roses also grow taller than hostas, and this can help provide a little shade. Shrubs and trees work well too when you want to add living roots to your sandy soil.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is sandy soil fertile soil?
Although you can grow vegetables, plants, and flowers in sandy soils, the soil fertility level is usually much lower. The fertility level depends heavily on the levels of soil organic carbon present, and this will typically be low until you manually amend it.
How does sandy soil affect plant growth?
Not putting in the work with your sandy soil to fix it and give you plants all the nutrients they need to grow well can cause stunted growth, hostas that don’t come up, or droopy specimens. Water loss is the single biggest issue with this type of soil, along with a lower nutrient content. Hostas need nutrients and water to grow and thrive.
Which nutrients are lacking in sandy soil?
Most nutrients can get washed out quickly in this type of soil. However, even in sandy soils, they usually retain phosphates. Calcium is usually in short supply, as are nitrogen and potash. Therefore, sandy soils have problems with acidity and fertility.
What problems does amending sandy soil solve?
Adding organic matter like wood chips, sawdust, or compost or topsoil to your sandy soil can address the three biggest problems you run into growing in it. First, it helps the soil hold water much better, and it’ll also help it retain any fertilizer you add. It also improves the soil life because sandy soil has a short lifespan due to lacking nutrients.
So, will hostas grow in sandy soil? The answer is yes, despite the less-than-stellar reputation this type of soil has. You will want to put the time and effort into amending the soil to create a better growing environment for your hostas, but it’s relatively easy to do. Pay close attention to your water levels and keep the soil moist to keep your hostas thriving all season long!