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RE: what affects hosta growth

  • Subject: RE: what affects hosta growth
  • From: "Andrew Lietzow" <alietzow@myfamily.com>
  • Date: 14 Jun 2004 13:00:45 -0600

Chris and Hosta-openers, 

It continues to rain in Iowa but our favorite forecasters are optimistic about Wednesday thru Sunday, the time of the AHS National Convention.   If you look at http://www.weather.com for 50311, the highest probability for rain during that time is 30%.   This will be HEAVENLY Iowa weather and the Russ O'Harra Hosta Society is looking forward to being your hosts and hostesses for several wonderful days of great Hosta fun...   

As for troublesome Hostas, as we know, some plants in the genus simply do not have good genetics.   Their genes do not support vigorous growth and they can only be grown optimally with extraordinary attention to their quirky, microclimate needs.   If you have a degree in horticultural, botany, or are W. George Schmid, you may want to experiment with these.   I have room for only a few of such in this display garden.   In fact, I've allocated a special R.I.P. spot for the whimps when the relationship fails.   

We all only have 24 hours in a day so the pampered pets may become pampered dead pets. I am sorry, but I eventually I lose patience with such non-performers....   because ... I got interested in Hosta because of the vigor of the genus.   It is therefore cognitively dissonant for me to tolerate these whimps.   

Unfortunately, it is frequently MY OWN FAULT when they do not perform well.   For those, if I have the time, I have found an excellent treatment protocol to be 1) take them out of the ground, 2) spray off all soil with a graden hose, 3) soak in a 5-10% bleach (Clorox?) solution for 15 minutes, possibly even thirty minutes.   Get their roots squeaky clean and remove any mushy areas.   4) Soak them in cool tap water (in the shade) for 24 hours. You can leave them in cool water for 24hrs, possibly 48, but beyond that, you're on your own-- some tolerate the excess moisture for weeks, others quickly fade and you're left with complete mush.       

(I am, at this point, still trying to be nice to the plant as I am not going to give up on it just yet.   I want to do my part to help it thrive in my display garden, somewhere.   If it subsequently dies, then I have a right to blame it on the plant's genetics.   As you can tell, I kind of have to like the plant, a lot, for it to get such special treatment.   It can be very time consuming).   

(As Hosta farmers know, the key ingredients to optimal growth are sun, air, water, soil, and nutrients.   So, my last step is to prepare a $50 hole where there used to be a 50 cent hole because that is where the plant is so highly dependent on my skills as a Hosta farmer.   When I started collecting Hosta, all of my holes were 50 cent holes--I've mended my ways because of several "Optimal Hosta Growth Mentors" I've met along my journey--if the reader is not one, then I highly recommend you find a few).   

5) I stop and do some research/homework to make sure I understand how much sun the plant requires, what time of the day it likes the sun (Fire and Ice types, the medio-variegated ones, generally like morning sun -- Plantigenea and many others, tolerate or even like afternoon sun.   Many of the albomarginatas and a few yellows like 6 or more hours of sun, when they have plenty of water.   Expect a little burning but exceptionally good budding! when planted in more sun.   

Many times, when a plant is declining, it's simply that the location does not drain well or the soil never dries out (the risk is higher when plants are too close together, as I happen to like them).   The plant is drowning in humidity.   This is why I REALLY like raised beds, and in the absence of a raised bed, a hole prepared with 25-50% topsoil,   25-50% compost (preferably well-cured horse manure), and quart or two of sand is my perference.   Not a scientific formula but I try to trick the plant into thinking I am a soil scientist!, i.e. I no longer assume the Iowa loam, good for growing corn, is equally as good for growing Hostas.   It just ain't so.   

Incidentally, I never used to water or fertilize my Hosta.   Now I only water and fertilize the plants I want to grow.   :-)

Lastly, very rarely do I break up the root ball when transplanting.   It will take the plant 1-3 years to fully recover and I'm after a full, mature clump that shows off the plants optimal clumping characteristics.   I dislike busting up a clump because the plant will then dislike me.   

My 50 cents worth on this topic, or is it $50 worth?   

In Des Moines, where the sun is presently shining and it's about damned time!   

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