A nice clump of hosts shoots ready to unfurl

Why Are My Hostas Not Growing?

If your hostas are not growing as they should, it could be for several reasons, ranging from pests and too much or too little water to improper care.

If you don’t take care of your newly planted or established hostas before fall, whether it’s due to not enough water, too much water, or a landscaping accident, they may not come up. When your hostas don’t return, extreme freezing and thawing or pests like voles and mice can be to blame.

Since there are several potential causes of why are my hostas not coming up in the spring, you want to narrow them down. If you’re like my area, it could for many reasons.

Reasons Your Hostas Aren’t Coming Up—Pests

One surprising reason your hostas aren’t coming up as you expect them to can be pests. Pests are a real problem in my area, and trying to get rid of them is a full-time job. I should know, I’ve been trying for years! Luckily, I’m winning and my hostas are coming along nicely.

Voles

Vole near a drainage ditch

Voles are a part of the rodent family. They’re usually a brown or greyish-brown, and they are between five and eight inches long. Voles can wreak havoc on your plants because they like to burrow, and they can damage your hosta’s roots. They can eat part of the roots or bite them, and this exposes them to fungal and bacterial infections.

Mice

Forest mouse

There are mice everywhere, and they like to eat the crown of a hosta plant. The tender shoots are a popular part of their diet, and they can eat the foliage right down to the ground. This can stunt your hosta’s growth or kill the plant off.

Snails

Garden snail on moss

Snails are nighttime foragers that like to eat hosta leaves and the shoots. They also find their way up the plant itself to eat any flower buds on your hostas. This can set their growing time back weeks.

Slugs

Just like snails, slugs come out and night and feast on your hosta’s leaves. They can leave slimy trails around and to the plant.

Garden Slug

Black Vine Weevil

Another big pest that occurs both indoors and out is the Black Vine Weevil. This small bug eats your hosta’s leaves and roots. You’ll notice the damage in the early morning hours, and they eat the edges of the leaves, leaving irregular patterns.

Black vine weevil on a plant stem

Keeping Pests Under Control

If you think you have a pest infestation, there are several ways to remedy it. For mice and voles, introducing a cat to the yard will help reduce the population. I have several barn cats running around that take care of any pest in the rodent family for me.

Snails, slugs, and black vine weevil control include both synthetic and organic pesticides. You can put out a pan of shallow water for the weevils because they’re attracted to moisture. They’ll climb in and drown. Snails and slugs respond well to common pesticides, or you can go the organic route and use a mixture of food-grade Diatomaceous Earth or eggshells. Tempting birds to the area is another option because the birds eat the snails and slugs. You get to watch the pretty birds. It’s a win-win!

Reasons Your Hostas Aren’t Growing—Improper Care

If you’re brand new to hosta care (and we’ve all been there), it’s very easy to not care for them properly and end up damaging or killing them by accident. This is especially true if you plan to winter them and it’s the first year you had them. Again, you’ll have to narrow down what you did and didn’t do by yourself, but I’m going to highlight the easiest mistakes people make when it comes to hosta care. Here is how to hold over bare root hostas for the winter

Reason One—Too Much Water

Watering your hostas is a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, they like to have consistently moist soil. However, too much water can encourage root rot. Since hostas have larger leaves, they can lose a lot of water each day. Generally, your hosta needs at least an inch of water a week. Watering them too much before the first freeze can cause water to pool on the top of the plant and damage it.

Signs you over-watered your hosta include yellowing leaves, droop, wilting, brown along the edges of the leaves, edema leading to blisters, and eventually root rot. Slowing down your watering can help your hosta recover, but it’s difficult to treat root rot.

Reason Two—Drought

Not enough water is a big problem for hostas too because they like to be consistently moist. However, they will usually tolerate one period of drought, even if they hate dry soils. If you continue to not give them enough water, it can lead to your plant declining. Dry rot is a problem, and this causes your plant to fall apart at the crown.

Check your hosta’s soil at least once a day. It should feel damp to the touch. You may find yourself watering more on very hot and dry days or if you live in an arid climate. A layer of mulch will help retain moisture, and this is a significant step to take if you accidentally forget to water once or twice. We all do it, but this can stop your plant from suffering.

Reason Three—Extreme Temperature Fluctuations

If there are wild temperature fluctuations after your hosta goes dormant in the winter from freezing or well below freezing to above freezing, this can encourage the hosta to sprout too early and possibly killed or damaged by later freezing cycles. Again, mulch can help minimize the problem.

Ideally, your hosta should be in an area that has a steady temperature range in the winter. If you can’t get it outside, you can put your hostas in containers and move them underground before covering them with a thick layer of mulch to prevent fluctuations.

Reason Four—Division

This isn’t technically improper care, but it is a valid reason your hostas may be late coming up. Eventually, you may want to divide your larger hostas into smaller plants. This division can temporarily slow down your hosta’s growth in the spring. They frequently emerge later and grow slower.

Two ways to avoid the problem is don’t make small divisions, keep several growths in each division. Second is do not divide your plants later in the growing season. Give them time to establish before going dormant.

Related Questions

How long does it take hosta bulbs to come up?

Hosta bulbs need temperatures between 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 4 and 10 consecutive weeks to grow well during the next growing season. If they get it, they’ll start emerging in the spring when temperatures reach between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why are my hostas so small this year?

Ideally, your hostas will get bigger each season. However, not giving your hosta enough water can stunt their growth. They may need more fertilizer, especially in poor soil. Another possibility is that you planted them by trees and they’re blocking too much sun.

Final Thoughts

There are several reasons your hostas didn’t come up. Maybe you didn’t water them enough, or you watered them too much. Perhaps you had a weird winter, and the temperatures fluctuated, or pests devastated your plants. Narrow down the reason and work on preventing it for the next season to protect the hostas you have left.