Hosta is a genus of perennial herbaceous plants that are very popular in gardens around the world. In addition to being the genus, it is also the common name given to all species and hybrids. One of its most notable features is its foliage with large green and yellow or green and blue leaves. Its size varies greatly from one species to another, and can reach up to 50 cm long and 30 cm wide. In this post we will discuss how to use the fertilizer for hostas, when to apply it, the most recommended types and some basic care.
1. NPK values – What is its meaning?
Have you ever been to buy fertilizer? If you have already done so, you will surely have noticed that in the package of each fertilizer there are generally three numbers separated by a hyphen. In case you’re not a very skilled gardener, you probably don’t know what those numbers are.
It’s your lucky day, because before I start with each article I always have time to explain what those numbers are. They represent what is known as NPK values. Each of these letters represents the three essential nutrients for a plant. Obviously there are many more nutrients, and each contributes something, but as I said, those three are considered the most important.
- N: represents nitrogen, which is the most important nutrient for leaf development, and is also the main chemical involved in photosynthesis.
- P: represents phosphorus, being responsible for the development of roots, stems, flowers and fruits in a more vigorous plant.
- K: this last letter represents potassium, nutrient responsible for giving more strength to the plant. Contributing to a better initial growth, giving greater resistance to diseases, reducing possible stress and improving the quality of the fruits.
Let’s look at it with a very simple example. Suppose you buy a 5kg bag of fertilizer of a 20-15-10 mix. In that case, 20% of the total is nitrogen (1 kg of N in kg), 15% is phosphorus (750 g) and 10% is potassium (500 g).
As you may have noticed, it is not a science to understand what NPK values are. Knowing this, we are already in a position to continue with this publication about your hostas.
2. Growing hostas plants
Let’s start by analyzing what are the most important care that must be carried out to grow this plant. With this I want to make sure that you not only fertilize your hosta correctly, but also know how to carry out other tasks.
Here the list, which is ordered in a random way, each care is as important as in the previous and the following:
- Location: likes climates with good humidity. For this, and in case you don’t live in a very humid place, you can plant it under a tree that provides shade. This will increase the environmental humidity, improving both the foliage and its flowering.
- Soil: likes soils with a good amount of organic matter and which also retains water well. The ideal pH is between 6.5 and 7.5.
- Irrigation: Although you like humid environments and well-retained soils, you should not water until it is soaked. This can lead to root rot. Depending on the climate, irrigation can vary in its regularity, and it is also a good ally to improve humidity.
- Pests: development in a humid environment is the ideal climate for many pests. The most prominent are slugs and snails. The best way to keep these creatures at bay is to have regular monitoring. Then you can choose an insecticide or simply remove it manually.
- Pruning: generally does not need any type of pruning. Although it is always good to take scissors to cut dry leaves and / or those that are sick or attacked by a pest.
- Multiplication: spring is the ideal time to multiply this plant. The best method is to simply divide the plant and transplant the new seedlings.
- Fertilization: obviously you cannot miss fertilizing your hostas within this list. From the next section we will begin to delve into this aspect.
3. What is the best fertilizer for hostas plants?
There are hundreds of types of fertilizers that can be applied to a garden plant, each gardener has their favorites. But no matter what it is, it can be classified as organic or inorganic fertilizer.
For ease of use, we have separated this section between those inorganic and organic fertilizers.
3.1 Comercial fertilizer
Among the nutrients a hosta needs there is not one that stands out. In general, it is good to apply fertilizers with a balanced mix between each of the nutrients.
Since at the beginning of the article we already talked about the NPK values of a fertilizer, you can see that the one with the three equal numbers (example: 20-20-20), is a balanced mixture.
In case you know the soil components (you have done an analysis of it), you can choose to make a greater contribution of some missing nutrients. Otherwise, it is safer to apply a typical fertilizer 10-10-10 or 12-12-12, they are very common, so you will not have problems obtaining them in a nursery.
As for the format, you can compare it granular or liquid, both can be useful. Although its form of application may vary, we will see it in future sections.
If you are reading this post, you will probably be interested in learning about fertilizing these other plants.
3.2 Homemade fertilizer (organic)
There are not a few gardeners who try to do without all kinds of commercial fertilizers, always preferring to create their own fertilizers. This is a more than valid option, although it may be somewhat less simple than the first.
From this website, we encourage the exchange between these two types of fertilizers. Since each has some advantage over the other. For example, a compost releases its very light nutrients, while a 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer releases much faster.
The key is to know the advantages and disadvantages of each type of fertilizer for hostas. In this way you will know how and when it is good to apply each one of them.
Let’s see below some of the most widely used home fertilizers. You will see that there are some super easy to make.
- Homemade compost: it is generally made with all the organic remains of the houses. They can be food scraps, clippings of plants or grass, leaves, etc. Given its high degree of heterogeneity, it is very difficult to quantify the proportions of each nutrient, although in general it always provides some of the three most important.
- Manure: If you have animals like chickens, goats, cows, rabbits, etc., it is a very good opportunity to produce compost with your feces. Rabbits have the highest nitrogen rate and can be used directly on land.
- Earthworm Humus: A more sophisticated way to produce compost is through earthworms. These produce one of the best fertilizers that we can add to our plants. Remember that you need California worms.
- Fish Tank Fertilizer: In case you have a fish tank at home with some fish, this is a good opportunity to get some organic fertilizer. The most common thing is to save the water from the fish tank that is left every time you clean it. In general, it is very good at providing nitrogen.
- Milk Fertilizer: Like vinegar, milk is something we all have at home. When used as a fertilizer, it provides the three main nutrients, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.
We could name several more home fertilizers, but these are some of the most common.
4. How and when to fertilize your hosta?
We have already seen what are the main cares you should take with your hostas, what are the NPK values and what are the best fertilizers. It is time to see how and when you should fertilize.
We will divide this section into two sub sections, differentiating between a recently transplanted hosta and one that has been months or years after the transplant.
4.1 First fertilization
In this type of plants it is ideal to start with the fertilization tasks before transplanting (early spring). And if we talk about ideal situations, it is also a test in the soil to know the amount of nutrients it has. At least it would be good to check the ph.
Once the properties of the soil are known, you can start by modifying the pH, if necessary. Hostas prefer soils with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. In case the soil is too alkaline, you can apply powdered sulfur or iron sulfate. Otherwise, ground limestone.
In addition to the pH requirement, you should know that you like soils with a good amount of organic matter. So before transplanting you can apply some slow-acting fertilizers. This can be some compost or any commercial fertilizer that releases its nutrients slowly.
Keep in mind that hostas are not characterized by developing roots at great depth. So do not carry out fertilization tasks to a depth greater than 40 cm.
As one of the most important processes in a newly transplanted plant is the development of racies, the application of a fertilizer with high levels of phosphorus would help this development. An example of a high phosphorus fertilizer is wood ash.
4.2 Fertilization schedule
Once the plant has properly rooted in the soil, we will only have to carry out routine fertilizations. They must be carried out from the first days of spring until the end of autumn. In latent seasons (autumn / winter) it is not necessary to apply fertilizer for hostas.
The first thing to consider is whether you will be using slow-release or fast-acting fertilizers. With the first, you may only need to do one or two fertilizations per year, while with the second you will need to be more consistent.
In any case, you should always look for a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10 or 12-12-12). Always read the instructions on the fertilizer before applying. There you will find the proportions and the regularity with which you should apply.
A good option is to opt for a slow-acting fertilizer in early spring. Then, in the summer, and evaluating the state of the plant, analyze some fast-acting fertilizers. In this case, the use of a liquid fertilizer applied in irrigation is the most recommended.
Never forget to water well after fertilization. This will ensure a homogeneous distribution of nutrients in all the roots. You should also know that when it comes to fertilizing, less is more. It is easier to solve a problem due to deficiency of nutrients than to excess of them.
5. Video about watering and fertilizer hostas plants
Next, and as is customary in this blog, we leave a video (expertvillage channel). In it, some basic care of hostas is analyzed, especially how to carry out irrigation and fertilization.
And with this we have already reached the end of this article. I hope you have no doubts about how and when you should fertilize your hostas. 🙂