The Q&A Archives: Disappearing Hostas

Question: I planted hostas on the north side of my house last year. My soil is sandy so I amended it with compost and peat. My neighbor's sprinkler system in his north yard waters my hostas two or three times a day during the spring and summer. By summer's end, my hostas had all but disappeared. The only thing left was the bloom stalks. The leaves turned brownish-yellow and died. Are my hostas still there?

Answer: Based on your description, I am not certain what happened to your hostas. In general they prefer lots of moisture and will turn yellow or brown and shrivel if not given enough of it. They also prefer shade, and will show the same symptoms as a sort of sunburn. Occasionally they may also be affected by a disease which could cause the same symptoms. Frequent light watering is often insufficient to keep the soil moist down deeper where the roots are. The moisture will also "wick" away from the watered area into a nonwatered area. It is better to water deeeply but less often to encourage deeper rooting so that the roots are at a level that is likely to stay moist longer when the weather is dry. Finally, sandy soil is very fast draining, so it may be that you need to add still more organic matter. In some cases with a very sandy soil working in a twelve inch deep layer of organic matter such as compost, milled spagnum peat moss, well aged stable manure and bedding, or rotted leaves is not too much! Finally, several inches of organic mulch will also help keep the soil moist. Hostas are very tough plants, so I suspect they will resprout in the spring. You might consider lifting them and amending the soil further and then replanting them if you think the soil may be the problem.

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