My gardening plans for this weekend include moving and dividing Hostas. Since I have over 200 of them there is often something Hosta related to do. A few of them are beginning to crowd each other out, so these will be divided up and I’ll either plant the divisions or pot them up to give away.
The best time to divide Hosta is in the spring before the leaves fully unfurl, because then you don’t have to worry about tearing the leaves or breaking leaf stalks. Many plants have a natural division point “built in,” and Hostas are no exception. If I were dividing them later in the year, I’d part the foliage to find where the leaf stalks were far enough apart to easily cut between them. Whether the leaves have fully unfurled or not, once I find a good division point I plunge a spade straight down through the crown, then I dig around the outside of the plant on the side that is going to become the new division and pop it out of the ground. This doesn’t hurt the plant at all; I’ve done it hundreds of times without ever losing a single plant.
Hosta are heavy feeders, so when I replant the divisions I dig a hole at least twice the size of the root ball and mix large amounts of compost and / or manure into the soil. Since I grow these plants for their foliage rather than flowers, a little more nitrogen is beneficial. If I were using chemical fertilizer I’d use one with a higher first number and mix it into the soil well before I filled in around the plant.
The three numbers on chemical fertilizers represent nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. (NPK) Higher nitrogen is typical in lawn fertilizers. Phosphorus is for root growth and flower production, which is typical in bulb, vegetable, and rose fertilizers. Potassium is for vigorous growth and overall health. The average homeowner will do fine with an all purpose 10-10-10, or a 5-10-5 for vegetable and flower production.
I use mostly organic fertilizers because the minerals in chemical fertilizers are in salt form and have greater solubility than organic fertilizers. The nutrients become available to plants quickly rather than slowly, like in organic fertilizers. Over use can dry out (burn) and sometimes kill plants. When this happens they literally overdose on chemicals. Always keep chemicals away from roots and crowns.
Hostas don’t need more than an annual side dressing of composted manure. They like lots of water and will take all you can give them, but established plants do fine with average rainfall. They also do well in the shade where they get cool morning sun, which makes them a valuable addition to shady gardens like mine. Other than daylilies, I can’t think of a more low maintenance plant than Hostas; maybe that’s why they’re the most popular perennial in the country.
Since it’s supposed to rain most of this week, today will be the perfect time to move and divide a few of them.