How to Prepare Hostas for Winter & Other Winterizing Hosta FAQs

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how to prepare hostas for winter

So if you find yourself here, you’re probably a responsible gardener who is asking the right questions! Read along as I cover how to prepare Hostas for winter.

There are three main phases to preparing your Hostas for winter. First, water your Hostas regularly each week in fall (roughly an inch of water). They need water to prepare for winter. Second, wait until they die back to the ground. Then, snip the dead foliage off to the ground. Thirdly, cover them with 3-4 inches of mulch.

Step-by-Step: How to Prepare Hostas for Winter

Step 1: Water Regularly During Fall

This is an important step in winterizing and it’s crucial to your plant’s success over the winter.

Hostas need water more than the average plant species. When they’re dehydrated, it affects them from their flowers down to their roots. Their cells aren’t functioning properly in this state and they aren’t ready to deal with environmental stress.

When you provide regular water, you’re helping to ensure that your plants have healthy foliage and root systems. This is a huge advantage for your plants over the winter.

When Should I Stop Watering in Fall?

Once your plants are dormant, you can stop applying supplementary water every week.

They’ll still need SOME water during their winter slumber, though. Water them deeply once a month during dry weather. You can skip this step if you get rain or snow regularly.

Step 2: Snip Off Dead Foliage

Why is this important? Well, for one thing, you want to remove old foliage because there may be harmful fungus or bacteria living on it. Removing these leaves will prevent reinfection of the new foliage once spring rolls around.

So first things first, wait until you have a sufficient freeze that causes your Hostas to go dormant. You’ll know they’re ready when the foliage is mostly yellowish-brown, somewhat translucent, and wilted.

Use clean shears when cutting off this foliage. Consider disinfecting them with a 1:1 water to isopropyl alcohol mix, or a 1:10 bleach to water mixture (be sure to wash off any remaining bleach/water). This way you will avoid introducing any pathogens to the plants that could cause rot.

Now, cut off the foliage at the ground level. Pick up and dispose of the leaves that you trim off in the trash.

Step 3: Add Mulch or Pine straw

The last step in how to prepare Hostas for winter is: Apply 3 to 4 inches of mulch or pine straw on top of your Hostas.

This top layer will insulate your plants, which protects them from extreme temperature shifts.

One other thing to consider, remember to remove this mulch/pine straw in spring. If you don’t, your plants may just die under there – especially small varieties. Bigger Hostas can usually push through successfully.

Wait until the threat of frost has passed in your area. Then, gently clear this covering off. Soon, you’ll be able to see new Hosta shoots appearing.

how to prepare hostas for winter
Young Hosta shoots. Photo by Zac Leone

Side note, you can eat these new Hosta shoots and they’re pretty tasty. I have a whole blog post on how Hostas are edible, so check it out if you’re interested.

What Temperature Can Hostas Tolerate?

There are two interpretations of this question.

  1. At what temperature will Hostas go dormant?
  2. At what temperature will Hostas die?

I will answer them both!

At What Temperature Will Hostas Go Dormant?

Going dormant is a scale. Hostas will stop growing and stop “business as usual” operations below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. But they truly go dormant (wilted leaves, browning foliage) when they experience freezing weather. So, around 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 0 degrees Celsius.

But that doesn’t mean that they’ll definitely go dormant at your first freeze. If your plants are well-protected by larger plants or structures, they may not get cold enough to go dormant.

On the other hand, if your plant is unprotected and there is a harsh wind, they may freeze quicker.

At What Temperature Will Hostas Die?

This depends on the breed/species, but most Hostas can survive down to USDA Zone 3. That means that they can theoretically survive down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Reading that, you might think, “Wow, Hostas would never die in my area over the Winter.” But USDA Zones can be misleading. They simply mean that the plant CAN survive down to a certain temperature, not that it definitely will.

A Hosta that survives -40 degree weather is likely several years old and in very favorable growing conditions. Consider these things:

  • If this is your Hosta’s first winter in your landscape, it’s much more vulnerable. It might not be able to handle temperatures below 0 degrees without some supplemental protection.
  • If your plant has struggled throughout the growing season, whether with a lack of water or some other issue, they’ll be much more vulnerable. You can’t turn back time, obviously. But you can provide the winter protection I covered above. Hopefully, they’ll make it through the winter and then you can get them back on track over the next growing season.

What Do Hostas Look Like in Winter?

The answer to this question is: “Not Much.” Hostas die back to the ground completely over winter. So they appear as little more than just a slight mound (or several slight mounds if you have spreading Hostas). If you don’t trim off the dead foliage, they’ll look like a bunch of sad, wilted, brown leaves.

How Do You Cut Down Hostas for Winter?

  1. Wait until your plants go dormant after your first real freeze.
  2. Cut off the old, dead foliage at the ground level. You can use snips (I think snips are easiest). You can use shears. DON’T use a lawnmower.

    Note: If you snips/shears are not brand new (you’ve used them before), disinfect them with a 1:1 alcohol to water or 1:10 bleach to water mixture. This will prevent them from introducing any pathogens to your plants that will fester over the winter.
  3. Gather up the foliage you removed and throw it away. If you leave it, you might infect the next year’s foliage with last year’s pests/fungus/bacteria.

Hostas in Pots Over Winter

So, you need to know how to prepare Hostas for Winter in pots. Will the same protection tactics work for them?

Unfortunately, no.

Hostas in the ground have natural protection from the elements because of the earth around and underneath them. If the air temperature gets to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the top few inches of soil will be frozen solid, but beneath that, the soil probably won’t be.

Plants in pots don’t have this advantage. If it gets to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the entire planter and everything in it is frozen solid.

So what can you do? Well…

  • You can wrap the planter with blankets, burlap, bubble wrap or plastic, and cover it overnight during hard freezes with frost cloth or another thick covering.
  • You can bury the entire planter (the top should be at ground level).
  • You can also try covering your planters with leaves in a big leaf pile. Try to make sure there is a foot or more of leaves on top of them. Then, throw a tarp on top of the pile.

Wrapping Up: How To Prepare Hostas for Winter

Now you should have some ideas for how to prepare Hostas for winter. If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to seeing your plants return happy and healthy every spring.

Remember:

  1. Water them regularly during fall.
  2. Snip off the old, dead foliage.
  3. Cover your plants with mulch or pine straw.

Thanks for reading! I hope you found the answers you needed here today. If you did, please consider sharing this post.

Happy gardening!

Want to learn more about Hostas? Check out my blog post on which Hostas like sun.

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2 Comments

  1. Janet October 14, 2020
    • Greg October 15, 2020

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