Ask a Question forum: Poor hostas or what's left of them

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Name: Lynn
Lockport, IL (Zone 5b)
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Lynn0805
Oct 5, 2013 5:25 AM CST
Planted 8 new hostas this July under a blue spruce. We created the bed two years ago and put about a foot of compost under the tree in hopes it would be a nice little bed. Well as you can see from the photos, something is eating away at my hostas...especially the miniatures. I've lost two complete plants already and two aren't far behind. I placed beer in small dishes hoping to catch slugs but none yet. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
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Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
I'm always on my way out the door..
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chelle
Oct 5, 2013 7:00 AM CST
Hi, Lynn. Welcome to ATP.

July is a tough time to plant out hosta in the Midwest. Ours here seem to grow best during the cooler/wetter months. If I can't get transplants in the ground by mid-May or early June, I usually hold them over in a container about twice as big as the one they were shipped in and set them on the east side of my house for TLC until fall.

Plants are much more apt to be chewed on if they're overly stressed. Many times these creatures are just cleaning up dead and decomposing plant tissues.



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Name: Jean
Hot Springs Vlg, AR, DeLand, F
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rocklady
Oct 5, 2013 7:54 AM CST
I agree and welcome.
Any day you wake up on the sunny side of the grass is a good day.

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Name: Paul
Utah (Zone 5b)
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Paul2032
Oct 5, 2013 8:04 AM CST
I agree that planting in July can be a challenge. Also under a Blue Spruce can can be a contributing problem. You mentioned adding 1 foot of compost. What type of compost and was it mixed in well? I received two orders of SBD iris this summer in mid-July when temps were hovering near 100. I planted 1 order directly in the ground and potted the other and kept the pots in partial shade, The potted ones did much better and i will transfer them to the ground soon. Don't get discouraged......
Paul Smith Pleasant Grove, Utah
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Oct 5, 2013 8:13 AM CST
Was the tree already there when you added a foot of compost? Hostas like to be in the shade most of the time. Are they in that situation? The compost may still have been a little 'hot' to plant in, in such a thick layer. The first couple pics give me the impression that the soil is very dense, airless, soggy wet all of the time, but pics of 'dirt' can be very deceiving.

Adding a pic of the overall area might help folks understand the situation.
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Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
I'm always on my way out the door..
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Forum moderator Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Dog Lover Cottage Gardener
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chelle
Oct 5, 2013 8:41 AM CST
purpleinopp said:

Adding a pic of the overall area might help folks understand the situation.


It definitely would help. Smiling

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Name: Lynn
Lockport, IL (Zone 5b)
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Lynn0805
Oct 5, 2013 11:37 AM CST
Thank you all so much for your helpful advice! As you can tell, I consider myself a newbie to gardening. I was brought up gardening with my dad but that was only planting seeds, weeding and harvesting in his vegetable garden (which you can see to the side of the new photos I have uploaded). Dad passed away 2 years ago and I inherited his home which I lived in previously for a short period of time. So the spruce tree in the photo was planted by us in 1974 so the hostas have some morning sun but are shaded in the afternoon (east to west). We had one year old "compost" delivered 2 years ago from a local horse farm so I wouldn't think it's still hot but I have no idea. I just went out and took a few more shots to give you a better idea of the surroundings the hostas are in. Also, we have had quite a bit of rain the past day or two which is why it is so wet but maybe they do need better drainage. When i was out taking the new photos, I checked the small containers of beer I put out next to the plants and there are A LOT of these little bugs ... they look like pill bugs to me. I think they are my culprits! As a matter of fact, I have had a heck of a time in my vegetable garden this summer with tons of pill bugs eating my beans and cucs. I put Sevin on the plants but then would need to reapply with the rain or when I watered. Not sure if I'm meant to have a garden...I'm no comparison to my Dad that's for sure!
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Name: Arlene
Grantville, GA (Zone 8a)
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abhege
Oct 5, 2013 11:44 AM CST
What a sweet bed! Sorry the hostas are not doing so well. I'm not one to ask about them but maybe the ground is a bit heavy?
Name: Lynn
Lockport, IL (Zone 5b)
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Lynn0805
Oct 5, 2013 11:53 AM CST
HI Arlene...Probably true especially since the bed is on a slight decline and the plants in the front look like they can even have clay looking soil around then right after i water them. Any ideas on what I would mix in to give the soil some lightness and not be compact. Although when I dig it really isn't compact but it does hold the moisture. I think we even mixed in some peat last year in the fall since I wanted to plant some hostas this year. Guess that wasn't a good idea either. Thanks for the complement on the bed but it's very sorry looking now. I have hope though for next year if I can get the plants through the winter. Wonder if I should just pull out the ones that are almost dead and see if I can overwinter them in the basement. I have fluorescent lights downstairs that I use to start my heirloom tomato plants.
Lynn
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Oct 5, 2013 12:22 PM CST
It doesn't sound like the compost was too hot, I missed the part about the compost being applied way before the Hostas at first. The tree does look big enough to provide enough shade.

That rock border is really cool, I wouldn't disturb it, but would add organic matter inside it later this fall when the plants have lost any remaining leaves from frost bite. I would probably avoid peat since it can alter the PH, the tiny particles can exacerbate a drainage problem, it holds moisture too long until it does dry, then becomes hydrophobic. Preferably leaves could be used, but mulch would be fine. As these break down over time, that will improve the tilth, drainage, add some fertility, and give those darn pill bugs something else to eat. They're supposed to be on the cleanup crew, but as you've seen, aren't above hunting a meal if necessary. This year has seen an exaggerated explosion of these things with all of the excess rain. Their numbers are not your fault, and as the weather returns to normal, so should their numbers.

After a couple years, the fertility of compost has likely diminished to negligible levels. A new sprinkle on top of the leaves I proposed adding would go a long way to pumping it back up. Hopefully the Hostas will emerge in the spring ready to look pretty all summer. Doubtful the pill bugs ate the whole things, hopefully not.

Many birds love to eat these things, and slugs. A bird bath in this area could help attract some helpful predators to groom your plants. They are probably more effective than Sevin, and no concerns about poison substances. There are also predators of other pests that might visit your plants that could be harmed by poisons also, eliminating some of your help in the process, and benign visitors like butterflies. I wouldn't want to put that stuff near plants intended as food for myself or wildlife. If you have multiple tomato plants, for example, spreading them to different parts of the yard if possible, or even just having other plants between them, can help avoid large adjacency-enabled explosions of pests.

There are so many pretty plants that would love to grow in that space. Many are not as beloved by pill bugs and slugs, so might be a lot more suited to being able to get going there.
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Name: Paul
Utah (Zone 5b)
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Paul2032
Oct 5, 2013 12:22 PM CST
You could add a wood based mulch/compost. At this point I would not disturb them as they may have developed root systems. They need a dormant season. As fall progresses and it gets colder mulch with some long pine needles. and hope for spring. The pictures are grubs of some type. I have always thought that pill bugs ate decaying plant material. Another thought....could the grubs have eaten the roots?
Paul Smith Pleasant Grove, Utah
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Name: Lynn
Lockport, IL (Zone 5b)
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Lynn0805
Oct 5, 2013 12:40 PM CST
Tiffany: Looks like I'm on the hunt for filled leaf bags in the neighborhood that have been put out on the curb. I mulch my clippings and leaves back into my grass. I know I need to mulch before winter also so that will help as you suggest. I have hope that next year the hostas will come back! You mentioned there could be better plants suited to this bed. Any suggestions since I lost a few hostas in this bed already?

Paul: Thanks for the advice as well as leaving the plants where they are and hope for the best!

EVERYONE: I truly cannot thank you enough for all your expert advise. This is a wonderful community of special people of which I am glad to be a part of (even if I am a "newbie")! Hurray!
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
I'm always on my way out the door..
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Forum moderator Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Dog Lover Cottage Gardener
Native Plants and Wildflowers Plant Identifier Organic Gardener Keeps Horses Hummingbirder Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle
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chelle
Oct 5, 2013 2:55 PM CST
Lynn, your last post made me grin happily. So glad you like it here. Big Grin

I agree with others that think you should be fine using this area for additional shade plants. Just keep in mind that the tree will draw all the available water it needs from this area, regardless of the needs of your smaller plants. Just try to pick a time for planting out when there's likely to be plenty of supply and less of demand. Now would be a good time in our area for planting out many perennials. Mulching after the ground freezes so that it stays frozen all winter long helps too. Have some on hand and store it dry if possible so that it doesn't freeze into unworkable chunks. I usually just cover my leaf pile with a tarp. Lower areas will sometimes freeze, but the top and sides of the pile are generally usable all winter long.

As for additional plants for dry shade, you might look into some of these...just a few of the many choices available.

Hakone grass, heuchera and others http://garden.org/apps/sets/view/315/
Lily-of-the-valley American lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis var. montana)
Foam Flower http://garden.org/plants/search/text.php?q=foam+flower&submi...
Jack-in-the-Pulpit http://garden.org/plants/search/text.php?q=Jack-in-the-Pulpi...
Anemone blanda planted in tree roots returns for me every spring; regardless if it gets any summer irrigation, or not. Grecian Windflower (Anemone blanda)

Colorful pots of annuals like mimulus, impatiens and begonias set uphill of new transplants will provide extra moisture for the ones in the ground below; provided of course, that you'd want to water them all season long. Smiling






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Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Oct 5, 2013 3:44 PM CST
I've never dealt with slugs or pill bugs when I lived in Z5 in amounts significant enough to have this issue, so was hesitant to suggest particular plants. Planting under a tree in general though, let the large roots dictate where you can/can't dig, and smaller plants require smaller holes. Takes longer to fill-in, but easier on the tree and plant to adjust to that, IME gardening under trees.

Some shade plants I've always liked, if they are pill bug or slug-magnets, I hope someone else can point that out...
Thalictrum
variegated Brunnera
Myosotis
Pulmonaria
Lamium
Trillium
Phlox divaricata
Aquilegia
Bergenia
Anchusa
bluebells
Hellebores
Artemesia
Alchemilla
Dicentra
Heuchera

Shrubs are more my thing, like beautyberry (Callicarpa americana,) Hydrangea, Pieris.

I miss bagged curb leaves! That's not the way it's done here. If you keep 'mulching' the lawn with clippings, mulching the bed with periodic applications of leaves, mulch, compost, the moisture loss will be much less in dry times, and drain/penetrate much more easily in times of too much, both in the bed and lawn although lawns by nature are lifeless (at the microscopic level) seas of dry, barren soil/clay/sand, with little or no organic matter.

In the bed, some supplemental water may be needed the first year as plants establish. Water as little as possible to keep plants alive, so the roots are forced to find their way to water as much as they can, and too much moisture can kill many plants as surely as too little. I LOVE the idea of doing that vicariously through potted plants, Chelle! A 2-birds/1-stone thing. Potted plants in shade are much easier to maintain than those baking in the sun. I've about given up on those and I LIKE to water plants.

Most folks don't let such wild things as these Ipomoeas and others grow in a tended garden, but I spotted this pretty beautyberry bush in the wild last week. A native, and birds love those pretty berries (as well as the other, native plants. They're just a bit too exuberant about spreading for most gardeners' patience level.)
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Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
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ShadyGreenThumb
Oct 5, 2013 10:27 PM CST
First thing, they are not pill bugs but rather they are grub worms. But I don't think they would bother your Hosts. The Hostas look planted a little deep, to me. So maybe the crown rooted? can you dig up one to see what's going on underneath?
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Name: Lynn
Lockport, IL (Zone 5b)
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Lynn0805
Oct 6, 2013 9:30 AM CST
Chelle: Thanks for the suggestions! The top link to "Multi-Plant Photos from ge1836" absolutely gorgeous! And I have never heard of Foam flowers which are so cool! I have some anemones I planted this summer and they are doing well; may be transplanting them Glare

purpleinopp: Thanks for long list of suggestions; as a matter of fact I just planted hellebores and heucheras last week in a different area of the yard. My problem is I don't know how to put multiple plantings together. But I'm on the right website because if I can't learn from ATP and the wonderful people here then I'm a failure...which isn't the case. I will conquer this bed and do some research on your suggestions to come up with a really nice looking bed.

ShadyGreenThumb: Thanks for letting me know they aren't pill bugs but grubs. That even sounds worse! I do have a tendency of planting deep which is a big problem of mine. I will try to raise them up a bit. Unfortunately we had quite a bit of rain again yesterday and last night. Should probably let them dry out a bit before digging. I'll let you know.

Again...thanks so much everyone for helping me with my problem. You have all given me wonderful advice and suggestions for plants to add to that bed.
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Claudia
Oct 6, 2013 10:39 AM CST
Welcome! Lynn!!!


I agree with Cheryl. They look like the crown is planted too deep. I would raise them up a bit if it were me. I usually cover my hosta beds with leaves in the fall once they are all dormant. Mid-late March I uncover and once the eyes are up good and just beginning to leaf out I pour an ammonia & water mix(1 part ammonia to 3 parts water) around the base once a week for as needed to control slugs. I have a dog who eats anything so I do not use slug bait.

You can also slug hunt at night with a flashlight. I have a small jar or bowl with ammonia and pick off the slugs and place them in the ammonia to kill them.

Hostas can tolerate more sun then most people think, though some do burn up easily and the blue ones tend to "melt" in the heat of July and August.
Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. ~Eeyore
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
I'm always on my way out the door..
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Forum moderator Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Dog Lover Cottage Gardener
Native Plants and Wildflowers Plant Identifier Organic Gardener Keeps Horses Hummingbirder Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle
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chelle
Oct 6, 2013 11:19 AM CST
I tip my hat to you. You're welcome, Lynn.

Have fun filling it up! Big Grin
Cottage Gardening

Newest Interest: Rock Gardens


Name: Lynn
Lockport, IL (Zone 5b)
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Lynn0805
Oct 6, 2013 12:22 PM CST
Claudia: I will definitely raise them up a bit. Hum ammonia/water that definitely sounds like a plan. I've not heard that one but I'll give anything a try; its better than putting dishes with beer around (i caught more than the grubs!). Like you I think the location is fine because they only get a couple hours or early morning sun. But something definitely was eating away at the leaves. Even if the leaves are almost all gone on a couple of the mini-hostas, with it being this late in the season, do you think I might have a chance they will come back if the roots haven't been damaged by something munching on them? Thanks for the helpful tips!
Name: Paul
Utah (Zone 5b)
Grandchildren are my greatest joy.
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Paul2032
Oct 6, 2013 12:33 PM CST
If you think they are planted to deeply I would carefully remove a little soil from around the crown for several inches. I do not like the idea of digging them and resetting them as you would destroy any roots that may have developed which will set them back further.
Paul Smith Pleasant Grove, Utah

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