How to prepare hostas for winter

Although hostas are low-maintenance plants, they can benefit from some preparation to survive the cold months of winter, especially in the coldest climates.

To prepare hostas for winter, start by watering the plants deeply throughout the fall so that the plant is as healthy as possible before winter arrives. Then, once the first hard frost has killed the foliage, cut off the dead leaves at their base and remove them from the garden area.

Lastly, gardeners in particularly cold climates or with newly planted hostas can consider covering the plant with a temporary protective winter mulch like dry straw or shredded leaves over the footprint of the plant after the ground freezes.

Water your hostas consistently during autumn so the roots have all the water they need to store energy over the dormant season

How to prepare hostas for winter

Hostas can survive the cold and can even benefit from it if they’re winterized properly. To winterize a hosta plant in your landscape, you need to give it enough water, remove all dead leaves, and spread a layer of mulch.

1. Water your hostas

Watering your hostas thoroughly is the first and most crucial step to fall care, as it starts way before winter. Hostas typically require more water than your average garden plant. Dehydration affects hostas greatly, from flowers to roots, making them less capable of dealing with the cold of winter.

During the fall, you should water your hosta plant every week or so if the weather is dry to ensure it has all the water needed to enter dormancy in peak health. However, you may stop this routine when your hostas become dormant. You’ll still water your plant occasionally during the winter, just not as frequently, as hosta plants don’t need much water in the winter.

Prepare your hostas for winter

2. Remove dead leaves from the plant

Most gardeners trim off dead leaves in the fall to prevent pests from overwintering. This step is crucial to get rid of harmful bacteria or fungi. Your hosta is ready for this step when the leaves turn yellowish-brown. All you need to do then is cut the dead leaves at the bottom with clean shears.

3. Cover hostas with protective winter mulch

Finally, in cold areas, you should cover up your hostas with 3-4 inches of mulch or pine straw. Spread this layer of protective temporary mulch over the hostas to insulate the plant and protect it against the extreme cold of winter.

Mulch also prevents the growth of weeds and evens out the temperature difference that occurs in the winter. This layer should be removed in the spring so that your plant does not suffocate.

Tips for helping hostas survive cold winters

Now that you know how to winterize your hosta plants, let’s take a look at some of the tips that can help achieve the best possible winterizing results.

1. Water your hostas in the winter

Don’t stop watering your hostas altogether during the winter months. Remember that when the temperature falls below 50 degrees Farenheit, the hostas depend on their internally stored water for survival. Unless the ground is frozen solid, water your hosta at least once a month during the winter months until the ground warms again.

2. Quit fertilizing in the summer

Stop fertilizing your hostas in the summer. Let them “fall” into rest in autumn in preparation for dormancy. Fertilizing your hosta makes it exert its energy in producing new leaves when it should direct its energy towards conserving moisture and nutrients for its winter slumber.

3. Balance irrigation with natural precipitation

If it rains or snows regularly at your location, you might not need to water your hostas regularly during the winter season. While watering your plant once a month is usually recommended during the winter (unless the soil is frozen), the hostas may get the water naturally through rain and snow.

4. Remove dead leaves from the garden

You should trim the leaves of your hosta after the first frost before they rot. It can be a great way to get rid of any snails or slugs, which are normally attracted to hostas. It also prevents them from using the hostas as winter nesting locations.

5. Divide your hostas

It’s recommended to divide hostas every couple of years in the spring or fall if you’d like additional plants or to control overly large specimens. Dividing the hosta helps you maintain its shape and size, as well as allows you to share your hostas with friends, the local garden club, or neighbors. It’s also a good way to get rid of the dead parts of an older plant by keeping only the healthy portions.

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a quintessential Canadian gardener. An engineer by trade, she tends to an ever-expanding collection of plants. In her world, laughter blooms as freely as her flowers, and every plant is raised with a dash of Canadian grit.

Mary Jane is a certified Master Gardener and also holds a Permaculture Design Certificate. She's also a proud mom of three, teaching her little sprouts the crucial difference between a garden friend and foe.

When she's not playing in the dirt, Mary Jane revels in her love for Taylor Swift, Gilmore Girls, ice hockey, and the surprisingly soothing sounds of bluegrass covers of classic hip-hop songs. She invites you to join her garden party, a place where you can share in the joy of growing and where every day is a new opportunity to find the perfect spot for yet another plant.

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