The Q&A Archives: My hostas have no leaves anymore!

Question: I live in Maryland and recently planted two hostas plants (not sure of the specific variety). They were doing farely well until this weekend. We went out of town for a three day weekend and came home to find the hostas no longer have any leaves! The leaf stems are still attached (non-technically speaking). I initially thought my lawn service cut them off accidentally but subsequently determined the lawn service was not at my home while I was away. Any thoughts as to what did this and can the plant be saved based on what I'm describing? What I can do to prevent it from happening again? I would assume it's deer. My neighbors all have hostas with leaves which haven't been destroyed.

Answer: As long as the deer left some stems, it's still early enough in the season that you'll probably see some leaves emerge in a few weeks. When they come back, they may not be as large as your originals were, but they will re-emerge next year as big as ever. Many hosta leaves suffer damage from things like slugs and hail storms during the summer. There are two schools of thought as to what you should do if your hosta leaves become damaged. Some sources suggest leaving whatever is left of the damaged leaves intact, not matter how unsightly, because they will help keep producing food for the hosta until its new leaves emerge. Other sources suggest cutting damaged leaves back to the stems (the stems will also continue to help produce food) as a way to "shock" the hosta into replacing its leaves more quickly. As long as the majority of the stem remains, both methods will work. How fast or if the leaves return is more dependent on how healthy the plant was to begin with and environmental factors like the availability of nutrients and water. You might also consider giving damaged plants a shot of alfalfa tea. Buy alfalfa pellets used for animal food at a local feed store. Dissolve 500mg to 600mg of pellets in a gallon of water for 48 hours (it will smell) and then pour it around your plants. The alfalfa contains triacontanol, which is a growth stimulant. You can use this tea on all of your plants every few weeks throughout the season. Hosta really seem to love it!
As for deer protection, you may want to erect a temporary enclosure for your hostas until they recover. You can make a tunnel out of chicken wire to set over your plants or you can make cylinder cages to set over individual plants. Be sure to attach some stakes to keep your barriers anchored to the ground.

Good luck with your hostas!

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