Use Liquid Fertilizer for Hostas – 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.

This post will help readers learn how to properly care for their hosta plants by using liquid fertilizer.

What is Liquid Fertilizer?

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.

How much Fertilizer is Needed?

You will find many opinions about this subject, however, I like to walk in the middle of the road. So here are my suggestions.

The recommended amounts on the fertilizer label are the place to start. Early in the spring when the spikes start to unfurl hostas have a high demand for food and you should apply at full strength as per the label instructions.

After the spring growth slows down I like to use the liquid fertilizer at half strength for the rest of the growing season.

Because I am leery of damaging the beautiful foliage I always foliar feed at half the recommended strength.

The fertilizer label is your friend, so, please don’t apply more than the recommended amount as this can cause your hostas to suffer from overfeeding.

How Often Should it be Applied

Liquid fertilizers do not last long as they are moved out of the root zone by water displacing the fertilizer. Heaver soils tend to hold on to fertilizer longer.

The soil’s binding capacity with the fertilizer ions can increase the longevity of the fertilizer, usually by a small amount of time.

Most packages of liquid fertilizer recommend repeat applications every two or three weeks. This is good advise.

An exception would be if you are using another nutrient source like compost. here I would test applying the liquid fertilizer at four to six week intervals.

How to Apply Liquid Fertilizer

The easiest way to apply liquid fertilizer to a hosta plant is to simply use a watering can. Add the proper amount of liquid fertilizer to the can add water and you are ready to go.

A much more efficient way is to use a hose sprayer, adding the concentrated, setting the dilution rate and the sprayer mixes the fertilizer and water to provide the concentration you want allowing you to cover a large area quickly.

There are two ways you can apply fertilizer.

First, you can apply a spray to the foliage, this is called foliar feeding. It is best to fertilize the foliage in the morning because later in the day when the sun is shining the water and fertilizer could cause some burning of the leaves.

Second, you can drench the soil, allowing the fertilizer to soak into the soil and be taken up by the hosta’s roots, a far more effective way of fertilizing your plants.

Benefits of Liquid Fertilizer

Liquid fertilizer is almost instantly available to the plant unlike other forms of plant food. 

Less mobile nutrients like phosphorus end up closer to the roots making for easier pickup by the plant.

They can be applied quickly and easily saving us time and work.

Let’s Talk Fertilizer Brands

Brands are not as important as the ratio and amounts of NKP in the container. Sticking with the better-known brands gives you some assurance of the quality of the ingredients but this is usually not a problem unless you are shopping the bargain basement.

Liquid fertilizer comes in two ways, in liquid form or a dry liquid soluble form.

The liquid form will always be more expensive than the dry soluble version. And the ready-to-use versions you do not have to dilute are the most expensive. You will notice the NKP in the container is less than the dry soluble. It is also a little easier to use.

The dry liquid soluble form dissolves easily and very quickly in water. The concentration of fertilizer elements can be and usually is much higher than in the liquid versions. Unless you just need a small amount for a few plants this is the one I suggest you purchase.

Miracle-Gro Fertilizer

Miracle-Gro is a very popular easy to use fertilizer. The two formulations recommended for hostas are:

Liquid All Purpose Plant Food a concentrated liquid 12-4-8 fertilizer is easy to find in the quart size.

Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food is a dry soluble form of 24-8-16 fertilizer available in several size packages from 8ounce to 10-pounds.

Jack’s Fertilizer

Jack’s 20-20-20 Fertilizer from JR Peters is a dry soluble available in many sizes from 8-ounce tubs to 25-pound sacks. This brand has been my go-to fertilizer for many years and even long before JR Peters acquired the brand.

Other Fertilizers

There are many other quality brands of liquid fertilizers available. If you have found one that you and more importantly your hostas are happy with just keep on using it.

Organic Liquid Fertilizers

Liquid natural fertilizers are available in an abundance of types and brands. Here we will be discussing just a few, mainly fish emulsion, seaweed extracts, and organic teas.

Fish Fertilizer

Fish fertilizer or fish emulsions have been available for many decades. These fertilizers are an easy to apply organic. The fishy odor is a turn-off for many people. Wintergreen is sometimes added to reduce the smell but does not eliminate it.

These fertilizers are available at local nurseries, big box stores, and online in many different brands and sizes.

Another form of fish fertilizer is hydrolyzed fish fertilizer also known as fish hydrolysate. The hydrolyzation process breakdown is accomplished by natural enzymes that hold all of the most important micro and macro acids and nutrients naturally found in fish.

Seaweed Extracts

Seaweed extracts are not only fertilizers, they also act as a biostimulant https://www.agribusinessglobal.com/plant-health/biostimulants/seaweed-extracts-what-makes-them-work/.

Seaweed is a tonic for plants that stimulates root growth, aids chlorophyll production, invigorates cuttings, and helps roots to absorb nutrients.

Seaweed extracts are a worthwhile addition to your toolbox if you are more than a casual gardener.  

Homemade Organic Fertilizer Teas

Fertilizer teas can be made from just about any plant or animal parts. How organic your tea will be is dependent on how organic your starting material is. The monetary cost is low but some labor input is required.

So, what are some teas that are more commonly made?

  • Manure, any manure
  • Compost
  • Weeds, any weeds
  • Worm castings
  • Seaweed

Lawn clippings

The basic method is to add the organic material to a bucket usually filling about one-third of the bucket. Water is used to finish filling the bucket. Next the bucket is allowed steep for days to weeks while being stirred every day to every few days.

When the tea is ready the liquid is poured off through a strainer and used as is or diluted in the case of manure teas.

Listed below are a few recipes for fertilizer teas from around the web.

Compost Tea

Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer that is made from compost. The compost is mixed with water and allowed to steep. The liquid is strained and used as is or diluted.

Compost tea consists of the liquid part of a compost pile, plus soluble nutrients from humus and microbes. It is a liquid product which facilitates easier utilization by plants, as it contains both solubles and organics.

Old World Garden Farms has an illustrated article titled How To Make And Use Compost Tea – The Perfect All-Natural Fertilizer! It is a quick read with enough details to guide you through the process the first time.

A well written article from the Rodale Institute titled COMPOST TEA: A HOW-TO GUIDE. Inside are detailed instructions on making both Aerated and Non-Aerated compost teas.

For additional information see the following two articles:

First from Southland Organics titled Buy Compost Tea – Don’t Risk Getting it Wrong. Not really about DIY, however, it explains the process and problems in some depth.

The second is from Fine Gardening titled The Jury Is Still out on Compost Tea. This article may give you second thoughts on making and using compost tea.

Manure Teas

Manure tea is a liquid fertilizer made from manure. The manure is mixed with water and allowed to steep. The liquid is strained and used as is or diluted. It has low nutrient content but high organic matter content which can be beneficial.

Liquid manure also contains new bacteria to feed hosta roots.

Processing of liquid manure helps break down the chemicals which make it more natural for plants. It also improves soil structure by adding organic matter to the soil.

Our Inspired Roots’ article Manure Tea or Compost Tea Recipe is a good overview with some nice tips. The recipe is detailed and easy to follow.

Another recipe titled DIY Manure Tea – Putting Manure to Work in Your Garden is well illustrated with captioned images and some general information on manure teas.

Weed Tea

Weed tea is liquid fertilizer made from weeds. The weeds are mixed with water and allowed to steep. The liquid is strained and used as is or diluted.

Almanac has an article on making fertilizer tea from weeds. Feed Your Garden With This Organic Fertilizer Tea—for Free! Take revenge on your weeds, I like it. Good recipe and a list of some interesting weeds. Be careful not to get any weed seeds in this tea…

Closing Thoughts

Liquid fertilizers are an excellent way to keep your plants happy and healthy.

It is amazing how many different ways there are to feed your plants with liquid fertilizer. They all work some are easy to make and use while some require more of your time and labor.

If you’ve been using chemical pesticides for years now but would like to start transitioning towards organic methods, then this could be one easy switch that will help get you started.