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Fertilizing Hostas – How To Keep Hosta Plants Looking Great All Summer!

When you fertilize hostas throughout the growing season, you give them the best chance at staying healthy and beautiful this year – and for many years to come as well!

It’s no doubt that hostas are one of the most popular choices for landscaping in they shadier areas of a property. They provide excellent ground cover with their large, attractive swooping leaves. Even more, they can fill large open areas with a huge span of foliage.

Unlike most perennials and annuals, hostas are grown for their beautiful foliage. They do produce bloom spikes in the summertime, but their main attraction is definitely their leaves. Their wide leaves come in a variety of solid and variegated greens, whites, creams and even blueish-green.

A group of three hostas growing - how to fertilize hostas
Hostas are the perfect addition to any shady location on your property. With a bit of added power from fertilizer, they can stay strong and healthy all season long.

In addition, hostas come in all shapes and sizes. You can find varieties that grow as short as 4 to 5 inches, all the way up to an impressive and commanding 4 feet tall. They are perfect for growing around tree trunks, along fence lines, around the edge of your home or outbuilding, or even along a hillside. 

While hostas are not heavy feeders, they will benefit from an added boost of nutrients to keep their beautiful foliage growing strong. Providing them with fertilizer at just the right time will help to keep them looking their best and thriving all summer long.

But there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you are using the right kind of fertilizer – and applying it at the right time. 

How To Fertilize Hostas Properly

There are many variables when it comes to properly fertilizing plants and flowers. Even low-maintenance, light-feeding plants like hostas require the right kind of nutrients to grow best. With that in mind, here is a look at when, how and with what to fertilize your hosta plants for best success.

Early Spring – Properly Fertilizing Hostas

The best time to apply your first dose of fertilizer is when the ground has just started to thaw in early spring. This is when hostas start to emerge from the soil after being dormant through the winter.

Early hosta growth in the spring.
As soon as the hostas start to push up foliage through the soil, it’s time to fertilize. At this point, a slow-release granular fertilizer is best.

For this application, a slow-release granular fertilizer works best. This will allow the hosta to have enough nutrients and energy to produce early foliage growth. But it will also prepare it for strong bloom sets in the summer too.  

Look for a slow-release balanced fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10 to 14-14-14. These types have an equal amount of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium and help to get your hostas off to a great start. (Product Link: Osmocote Smart-Release Flower & Vegetable 14-14-14 Fertilizer)  

Applying Granular Fertilizer

Always fertilize hostas early or toward the end of the day and not during the middle when the sun is at its hottest. Using the directions on the fertilizer package, mix the required amount of granules into the soil around the base of the plant. Water the area well to help distribute the fertilizer down to the roots. 

Be sure not to get the granules on the already growing leaves since fertilizers can easily burn delicate foliage. If you happen to by accident, simply rinse the foliage thoroughly with water. 

The earlier in the spring that you can apply the slow-release fertilizer the better. Also, keep in mind that it is better to under-fertilize these hardy perennials as opposed to over-fertilize them. Too many nutrients will cause a hosta plant to turn brown and shrivel up. That is certainly a look you want to avoid! 

All Throughout Summer – Properly Fertilizing Hostas

While the early spring fertilization sets the stage for massive foliage growth, what you do during the heat of summer makes a big difference in the health of your hostas as well. For best results, you should do monthly feedings of compost tea or another liquid fertilizer. 

A gloved hand pouring out compost tea into soil
Aside from using with hostas, compost tea is perfect for all sorts of garden plant applications.

Compost tea is the perfect 100% organic and natural liquid fertilizer available. The best part is that it can be made with two simple ingredients: compost and water. If you have a compost pile at your disposal, it’s completely free to make as well. 

If you don’t have your own compost pile, don’t worry. You can still make this miracle fertilizer by using purchased or bagged compost. A great additional bonus about compost tea is you don’t have to worry about it burning the beautiful foliage of hosta plants when you use it. 

Making Compost Tea

To make compost tea, fill a 5-gallon bucket up with about half compost and half water. Stir the mixture well and allow it to seep together. Vigorously mix the contents once or twice daily for about a week. 

All of the nutrients within the compost get soaked up in the water. Strain out the solids and put those back in your compost bin or use them as an all-natural mulch around your plants. The liquid is now ready to use!  

The next time you go to water your hostas, use about a quarter to half a gallon of your compost tea instead. Apply the liquid at the base of each hosta plant and repeat monthly during the summer months.  

Using Liquid Fertilizer

If you prefer, you can use a manufactured, all-purpose liquid fertilizer to power your hostas instead during the summer months. Always follow the instructions on the container to find out how much and how often to apply it. 

A woman pouring liquid fertilizer into a watering can
Always read the instructions that come with the fertilizer you purchase and use it accordingly. With hostas, never give more than a recommended dose.

Always be sure to apply these fertilizers early in the morning or late at night. In addition, keep manufactured fertilizers off of the foliage to avoid burning. 

Removing Spent Blooms – Properly Fertilizing Hostas 

Although this tip isn’t technically a fertilizer, it will still help to power your hosta plants. Hostas spend a lot of energy and resources to create blooms in the summer months. An easy way to keep the foliage healthy and strong is to remove the spent blooms. 

As soon as the flowering process is complete, cut the spent blooms off at the base of the plant. Even though the hosta blooms are dying, the plant will still use energy in order to maintain them. The sooner you remove the blooms, the quicker the plant can start using the energy for their foliage instead. 

You may even choose to remove the bloom stems as soon as they begin to appear above the foliage. It won’t harm the hostas to do this. In fact, keeping the plant from creating blooms will allow it to focus on maintaining better foliage instead. 

Fall Maintenance – Properly Fertilizing Hostas

The only time you will not want to fertilize your hosta plants is in the fall. Fertilizing at this point can promote late season root growth that can be susceptible to winter damage.

A large hosta plant putting up blooms
Hosta blooms can add beauty to the plants, but they take energy to produce. Consider removing them as soon as they start to die off.

As summer turns to fall, cease all fertilizing efforts. And once the plant dies off, remove the foliage and put a few inches of compost or mulch over top to help it overwinter.

By following the above simple tips for fertilizing, your hostas will not only be healthy and strong, but they will be thriving for many years to come! 

If you are looking to expand beyond hostas in your shady locations, be sure to check out “The Best Perennials To Grow In The Shade” for more great ideas. Not only can you find perennials with beautiful foliage, but many even feature stunning blooms as well like astilbe and liriope.

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