Across the United States, gardeners have, on average, 200 growing days per year in which to create beauty, function, and fabulous garden features using plants.
To optimize those days, gardeners need to provide each plant with its preferred environment, soil conditions, and water supply while meeting its nutritional needs and minimizing the threat of pests and diseases.
This article is an in-depth look at everything related to Hostas’ nutritional needs, including timing, quantity, types, and alternatives. This is the ultimate how-to Hosta fertilizing guide to help you optimize your annual growth window for producing penultimate quality hosta flowers and foliage.
With Hosta plants, premium foliage can be anything from cream-colored, yellow, chartreuse, and hues of green, blue, and grey.
While on the topic of added fertility, it’s important to note that the role of nitrogen (and magnesium) is primarily to boost chlorophyll production. If you’re growing variegated hostas, too much green may not be what you want.
Hosta plants need at least 30 days of cold weather to achieve dormancy to return invigorated and able to provide you with a fresh crop of that unique hosta foliage. Preceding that season of dormancy, the plant should have six weeks of ever-decreasing water and fertilizer inputs.
From mid-spring, when your hostas have sent out their first leaves (which stimulates the season’s first root growth), you want to provide your plant with everything it requires to flourish and live up to its unique Hosta potential.
Why Use Compost – Does It Really Help?
There are two approaches to plant nutrition; feeding the plant directly or feeding the soil. Adding organic matter to soil has several advantages; here are five:
- It improves the diversity of microorganisms in the soil, which boosts the bioavailability of plant nutrients.
- It improves the soil’s water management capacities, including balancing drainage and water retention.
- It acts as a pH buffer, meeting the plant’s needs for acidity or alkalinity.
- It improves the soil’s cation exchange capacity; the ability to keep negatively charged ions (cations) at the root’s proximity.
- Microorganisms in compost boost aggregate formation and quality, improving soil tilth and moisture storage capacity.
Hostas have two demands for health: organically rich soil that drains well while retaining moisture and midday shade. Their demands are relatively uncomplicated for the level of beauty Hosta plants provide.
Compare them to the aroid plants of similar beauty, and you’ll appreciate Hosta’s tolerance for approximative care.
While some hosta plants can tolerate sun, all varieties require soils that drain well yet retain moisture – a feature best achieved by adding compost.
While compost is generally viewed as the material added to boost the percentage of organic matter in the soil, maybe to lighten clay soil or improve the water retention of sandy soil, it is much more potent (and essential) than that.
Granular Plant Food
Slow-release fertilizer, for instance, requires the presence of a diverse microorganism population to release its nutrients, something best obtained from compost.
In this section, we’ll review one type of fertilizer that works well; granular fertilizer for hostas. I also provide tips on choosing the right granular fertilizer for your needs. So, read on to learn more.
What Is Granular Fertilizer?
Granular fertilizer is a type of plant food that presents as small granules resembling coarse salt. It’s usually sold in bags and comes as either a single- or multi-nutrient source formula. All fertilizer labels have three bold numbers.
The first number is the amount of nitrogen (N), the second number is the amount of phosphate (P2O5), and the third number is the amount of potash (K2O).
The label is known as the fertilizer grade and is a national standard. A bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer contains 10 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphate, and 10 percent potash.
What Are the Three Main Types of Granular Fertilizer?
Granular fertilizers come in three different forms:
- Artificial chemical fertilizers; sometimes called fast release
- Slow-release chemical fertilizers
- Natural or organic fertilizers
Chemical fertilizers are fast-acting, making nutrients directly available to plant roots and thus showing the quickest visible results. This is a low-cost fertilizer and a good choice for fertilizing your hostas if proper care is taken.
The risk of using uncoated fertilizers is over-feeding. To prevent that from happening, applications should be lower, more regular feeds, allowing the plant to use the available nutrients before it leaches from the soil into the water table.
The frequency of application can be as often as a light application every two weeks to provide a steady supply of nutrients to your hostas.
A quick rule of thumb is your first application should be about a week before the pips emerge, and your last application should be just after the hostas finish flowering.
How Do I Apply Granular Fertilizer for the Best Results?
With granular fertilizers, the application is the key. If you don’t apply them properly, you won’t get the results you’re looking for. Here are a few tips on how to apply granular fertilizer to your hostas:
- Spread the granules evenly over the surface of the soil.
- Or dribble the granules as a side dressing near or around the plants.
- Watering the soil well after applying the fertilizer is very important.
How Much Fertilizer Should I Use?
Artificial chemical granular fertilizers have little lasting power. A general rule of thumb is to apply no more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet every 6 to 8 weeks during the growing season.
Use Liquid Fertilizer Get Big Beautiful Hostas
Liquid fertilizer for hostas is a great way to get the most out of your plants. It’s affordable, easy to use, and only needs to be applied every two to three weeks during the growing season. Liquid fertilizer is of special interest if you’re growing hostas in containers.
Liquid fertilizer is a water-soluble concentrate that contains the essential nutrients plants require to grow and thrive. These concentrated sources of nutrients are made from natural sources or synthetic chemicals.
The two most common slow-release fertilizers are synthetic organic and naturally organic. Because they are less expensive than controlled-release fertilizer, they are a good option for gardeners who have used compost to provide a healthy basis.
Several fertilizers are produced by combining urea, a common form of nitrogen, with formaldehyde, and these are called urea-formaldehyde or methylene urea fertilizers.
One example is light blue nitroform, a 38-0-0 nitrogen fertilizer that is 70 percent “water-insoluble nitrogen” (abbreviated WIN on product labels).
The release rate is determined largely by bacterial activity rather than temperature and water. A similar product is isobutylidene-diurea (IBDU), a 32-0-0 fertilizer with 90 percent WIN.
Nutrient release is controlled by moisture, pH, and fertilizer particle size (smaller ones release nutrients more quickly). It is also a component of many lawn fertilizers.
Natural Organic Fertilizers
Many home gardeners favor natural organics, primarily for their soil-improving qualities. There are numerous kinds, and each has unique qualities.
Nutrient release rates are highly variable and determined primarily by soil bacteria and fungi, which require warm soil temperatures to be active.
Homemade Hosta Fertilizer
Homemade fertilizer allows you to compose a blend that matches the unique needs of your soil, plants, and environmental conditions.
Combining plant nutrient sciences with the art of gardening, gardeners get the opportunity to experience first-hand how our decisions affect growth.
Gardening is an art form involving your intellect, intuition, care, and curiosity. Growing vibrant hosta plants with their varied foliage forms and features is an easy introduction to one of the best physical and mental health practices – gardening.
To grow, develop, and produce at their best, plants need access to 17 to 20 essential plant nutrients (varies according to plant needs). Yet, when shopping for natural food for your hostas, the most heavily marketed product isn’t necessarily the best.
The basic premise of fertilization is to replenish the soil with parts of the twenty essential elements needed to grow. Some of these elements, like carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, can come from the air, and 80% of the atmosphere is nitrogen.
Microorganisms can extract this nitrogen from the air for plant availability.
The majority of the plant’s nutritional requirements are absorbed from the soil via the roots. The importance of each element varies, but all play a role in plant growth, and each one’s availability varies. Nature has a way of taking care of itself – well.
Do Hostas Like Manure
There is some disagreement over whether or not manure is beneficial for hostas. Some people say that manure gives hostas a healthy boost, while others claim it can damage their leaves.
Manure gives plants a healthy boost by adding nutrients and improving drainage and moisture retention. It is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, essential nutrients for hostas. Herbivore manure also contains the following trace nutrients:
- Boron – Increases flowing
- Chlorine – Helps control moisture loss and water stress
- Copper – Helps chlorophyll production
- Iron – Promotes dark green leaves
- Manganese – Helps chlorophyll production
- Sodium – Aids water regulation and photosynthesis
- Zinc – Enzyme and growth hormone production
Is Bone Meal Good for Hostas
These natural organic materials contain all the building blocks to maintain and promote life.
Organic fertilizers feed the soil and require the soil’s biology to increase its bioavailability to plants. Do you, like me, obsess over giving your plants the best food possible to keep them healthy and thriving?
I have a deep-seated trust in nature’s ability to care for itself, and it has never disappointed me. If you’re curious, read on.
Liquid Bone Meal for Plants
The principle of exposed surface area applies. The greater the surface area, the more exposed the specific material is to the plant.
Take a big block of ice, for instance. It only melts on the parts exposed to the environment—the exposed surface increases for every division of that block, and the melting rate increases proportional to the exposed surface.
By crushing a bone super fine, you maximize the exposure of the nutrient in the bone to the plant’s roots. Add that fine powder to water, and you increase both the exposure and mobility of the nutrients. But what are the essential plant nutrients in bones that will boost Hosta growth?
- Phosphorus – Root development and flowering
- Boron – Increasing flowering and seed development
- Sodium – Aids water regulation and photosynthesis
All plants need phosphorus to survive, and liquid bone meal is a significant source. Combined with blood meal, the two provide plants with much of their healthy growth needs.
Using Epsom Salt for Hostas
If you find that your older Hosta leaves are yellowing, it may signify that the plants have a magnesium or sulfur deficiency.
Yellowing leaves are more common in potted hosta plants than in beds, and this is because Hosta grown in containers need more frequent watering, draining nutrients more rapidly than their friends in a garden bed.
Epsom salt is crystallized magnesium sulfate, first mined in Epsom, a town in England. Magnesium is an essential part of chlorophyll production, and sulfur helps boost the dark green color in plants and boost seed production.
Do Hostas Like Wood Ash
Wood ash is typically recommended to hosta gardeners for its slug-repellent nature, while its impact on soil pH and nutritional value is overlooked.
Wood ash can be great for hostas growing in very acidic soil, as it increases the pH balance. It adds other benefits and nutrients, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
Hostas like soil with a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5. If your soil is more acidic than this, your hostas may benefit from a layer of wood ash to increase the pH balance. Hardwood wood ash has superior nutritional content to soft-wood pines.
Do Hostas like Coffee Grounds
The best use case for spent coffee grounds is as an additive to your composting process. Coffee grounds are rich in carbon, and a good compost heat requires 30 times more carbon materials (brown) than nitrogen materials (green).
Coffee grounds are an excellent slug repellent as a thin mulch (less than an inch) will boost the presence of other beneficial microorganisms. It’s important to note that contrary to belief, coffee grounds are pH neutral and ideal for hosta plants.
Adding too much spent coffee grounds to soils will harm plants by limiting the available nitrogen. This happens as organisms hijack the nitrogen for energy to consume the freshly added, unstable carbon matter.
Also, ensure that you crush any clumps of coffee grounds if used as a mulch.
As a thicker mulch, coffee grounds can compact and form clumps that hold too much moisture and prevent airflow. They need to be mixed into either soil or mulch, never layered on top of the soil alone.
Thick layers of coffee grounds can prevent evaporation from your soil and lead to root rot for your hostas.
When to Fertilize Hostas
We need to consider several variables to optimize fertilizer applications to perennials like Hosta. Application timing must coincide with growth phases, soil temperatures, plant hardening needs, nutrient requirements, and local climates.
Timing is essential in love, life, and fertilizer applications. We’ve got you covered on the fertilizer application front; you’ll have to read the signs to the love and life parts yourself for perfectly timed action.
Firstly, you need to consider the age of your Hosta. What you do in the first two years is different from more established Hosta Beds. Your hosta plants don’t need a lot of nutrients.
Fertilizing every second year is enough, especially if the hosta plants are well established. The best fertilizer is organic, and the microorganisms in compost play an essential role in making nutrition available to plants.
If you wish to boost your hosta leaves for a brighter display, do this about 42 days after the last frost when the plants have had an opportunity to acclimate to the warmer weather and the second set of leaves has emerged.
Fertilize Hostas at least a month before the first frost date if you’re transplanting or creating a potted hosta display. Ideally, you want to harden your Hosta off for winter, so cut on Hosta fertilizer and water in the six weeks prior.
Consider using a raised bed if you want a more extended season, enabling the soil to heat up faster. If you use a bigger pot, the soil remains warmer over winter.
How to Fertilize Hostas (A Simple Method)
Hostas do best with applications of slow-release, 10-10-10 fertilizer with a release period of about three months. Don’t apply more than one pound of fertilizer per 100 square feet. Apply the first round of fertilizer once in late March to early April and again in mid-June. This is the simplest way to feed your hostas.
For potted hostas, fortnightly applications of diluted liquid fertilizers can commence when your Hosta’s leaves unfurl. Our step-by-step guide outlines everything you need to know to grow these shade-loving plants.
Depending on the soil, hostas need more nutrients to help them grow to the larger sizes you see in many people’s yards. They’re very low-maintenance, but not getting enough of the nutrients they need can cause stunted growth and underdeveloped plants.
On the flip side, over-fertilizing your hostas can be more harmful than under-fertilizing them.
When you over-fertilize, your Hosta roots can be damaged, and fertilizing too late in the years will cause new growth to die off in winter, making your plants weak and easier targets for diseases and pests.
Adding a thick layer of mulch around your hostas is important because you can’t allow the soil around your hostas to dry out. Mulch helps trap moisture and hold it close to the ground’s surface.
As long as the mulch stays moist, it’ll encourage the fertilizer to release into the ground. Mulch can also reduce your need for water every day.
Hostas offer gardeners an artist’s palette of colors, textures, dimensions, and possibilities.
Whether you use this magnificent species to provide ground cover, edges, features, vase-shaped displays, or drifts, providing them with the right nutrients at the right time can significantly boost your garden’s visual impact.
Building a healthy base of soil rich in organic matter, i.e., compost will benefit your garden with the ability to manage your resource inputs better. Organic fertilizers, water, and pH management are all improved by adding compost to your beds.
Once that base is well established, any added hosta fertilizer can better benefit the plant. I always advise clients to keep a gardening journal; noting any amendments and their timing helps them better manage the impact of their actions and develop their skills.
Also, don’t take action on a whole bed; rather, apply fertilizer to one part of the bed and note the difference between added fertilizer and unfertilized beds in similar conditions.