The Q&A Archives: Hosta Dying

Question: I have a couple different locations at my house where I've planted hostas. All are doing well except the north face foundation planted hosta. The leaves are immature and yellowish compared to the other hostas on the northwest side of the house. Is the foundation the problem or not enough deep waterings or is it too shady?
thanks aaron

Answer: Hostas do well in deep shade, so lack of sun is not the problem. They are happy with average soil fertility and tolerate a range of soil types and are often used as a foundation plant. They need a soil that is evenly moist yet well drained meaning not sopping wet. It is best if the soil is organic and humusy and slightly acidic. Since your other hostas are doing well, I doubt it is a lack of moisture problem or soil problem because the north side is usually cooler and naturally moister than the east side for example where direct sun hits. (Overwatering could possibly be a problem, the soil should not be saturated.) It might be related to frost damage -- tissue damage due to frost often does not become apparent until later in the season. Or, it may be due to overfertilization (this can burn the roots and a granular fertilizer contacting the foliage can damage it as well) or accidental contact with an herbicide (weed and feed lawn products and pre-emergent weed prevention granules for example will damage hostas, check the label), or perhaps your mulch is too deep (two inches is enough during the growing season, do not allow it to touch the stems) or they are planted too deeply; perhaps something unusual has happened to the soil there at some time? (For example if your house is new, did something spill there during construction, or is the foundation leaching a lot of lime from brand new concrete?) It might also be that they were rootbound at planting time and so the roots have failed to spread out into the surrounding soil. You might try digging one up and see -- if this is the case you can slice or unwind the roots to direct them outward and replant. Keep the soil damp like a wrung out sponge. To know if you need to water, dig into the soil with your finger. If it is still damp, do not water yet. When you water, apply it slowly and thoroughly so it soaks down to encourage deep roots. After watering, wait a few hours and then dig down and see how far the water penetrated; sometimes this can be surprising. I'm sorry I don't know exactly what is wrong with your hostas but I hope this helps you troubleshoot. If none of the above seem to apply, you might consult with your retailer and/or your county extension to try to determine what is happening.

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