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Re: Fall planting

I'm not sure I agree with you about root growth until the ground freezes. I used to think the same, in fact I once had that on my culture page on the web site, but I tend to think that's not true now. I don't know where you live, but here, the month between fall color and ground freeze is mostly November, and I don't think the plants do much of anything in November here. Everything I've read says they don't do anything when dormant, so any growth they put on in November is, I think, not signfiicant. I could be wrong, I've never really looked that close.

But, while I don't have any arguments with Bill's discourse, as usual, I'm not sure he read my question before he so thoroughly answered it. Or maybe my question was confusing.

I'm not talking about how plants grow in the fall. My question is - is there any reason you can't put hostas in the ground late in the season? I don't mean should you leave them in a pot or put them in the ground. My customers are asking how late can they order? Is there any real reason you can't plant, if you want to, up until the ground freezes? I mentioned pots only because our plants are wintered over above ground in unheated houses. It seems to me that that environment is much harsher than being planted in the ground, whether or not the plants have time to root into the soil. In the pot, the roots, at least in some of the plants, are protected from the cold only by the wall of the pot, and yet they survive just fine. With 50 to 100 thousand pots, in most years our losses are virtually nil. So why does the hosta have to establish into its new location?

My thinking is - here's a hosta in a pot that's going to survive the winter just fine if it freezes solid tomorrow. Now if I take it out of the pot and put it in the ground, and the ground freezes tomorrow, from the plant's perspective, what's the difference? Why does it need to have time to root into the ground. As long as the ground is reasonably well drained, haven't we just put it into a different container? I guess what I'm asking is, when we go from the pot to the ground, what have we changed that will lessen the plant's chance of survival if we do it later than we commonly recommend? I'm not saying that we should plant in December, I'm just asking why not?

Heaving is a valid point. We don't have much of a problem with it here, but I can see that it might cause trouble. I suspect that mulching would solve that problem in most areas.

By the way, I just got my copy of the new hosta book by Grenfell/Shadrack, and highly recommend it to everyone. Amazon and probably others have it for about $35. Great pictures and narrative. I want to ask Mike something and have lost his email. Can someone send it to me?


Len Phillips wrote:

I would like to take Bill's comments one step further. I have always
advocated for fall division and planting of hostas. However, the work
must be completed to coincide with the peak of fall tree color. This
leaves one month for the roots of this divided or planted hosta to become

As everyone knows, in the spring the plant's energies are focused on leaf
and plant growth.  In the summer the leaves and roots work together to
store food and energy the plant needs for survival.  In the fall, the leaf
function starts to decline while the root function picks up.  The plant
seems to know that it must develop new roots to have the necessary
nutrient resources available for the spring growth surge.

You can see this if you are dividing your plants.  In the spring, new eyes
have very few, if any roots on them.  As the summer progress, the roots on
these new plants increase in size and number.  Divisions in the fall allow
for almost a maximum number of roots on each new plant.  The roots
continue growing right up until the ground is frozen.  (This usually
occurs about one month after the fall colors peak.)  As Bill indicated,
water and lots of it, as well as similar soils and sunlight, minimize the
stress that the hosta will experience during fall transplanting and division.

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