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Potted hosta watering needs

ClassicStyle (CntlTx; z8b)
6 years ago
last modified: 6 years ago

I ordered Hostas from New Hampshire Hostas and Green Mountain Hostas. The NH order arrived last week and are now planted in pots and "trying out" their garden spots. I planted in what they call gallon sized pots but they're more like 2 quart in size.

I also picked up several gallon sized Hostas from a local garden center. The containers they came in are the same size as the pots I planted the NH hostas in. They were called 1 gallon as well. The Hostas from the local nursery are Monrovia Hostas. I purchased Stained Glass, So Sweet, Earth Angel and Orange Marmalade. These are all "hanging out" in dappled shade with the exception of Stained Glass who gets a total of a couple hours of direct sun light at various times during the day.

I'm hoping for some help on watering requirements. I've had the Monrovia Hostas for a couple weeks now. I left them in their containers with the soil they came in. They all are growing and looking great (So Sweet is now about 16 in tall). When I water three of these plants (about every three days currently), the water comes out of the bottom holes after about 1-1 1/2 cups water except for the Stained Glass whose leaves are about 18 in above its pot. When I water her, the water comes out almost immediately. I can also see straw like matter which I believe are roots on the top of the soil and every other day she sighs if she isn't watered again after which she perks up again. She has 5 groups of leaves. I pulled three very wilted pale (yellow w/brown on rims) leaves from underneath her foliage but had to tug...the stems were still tightly attached; but because of her drooping every other day...don't think it's from overwatering but I'm in a foreign territory- so could be wrong). My gut tells me she needs to be transplanted but would really appreciate some advice on it.

I followed the advice on the you tube video from Richard of NH hostas on pot planting and purchased the best potting soil mix recommended at one of our family owned local nurseries. I then mixed it 50/50 with compost as recommended. This was used as the planting mix to pot up the NH Hostas (after a water soak).

My concern: I deep watered the NH hostas yesterday which was the first time since potting them - 3 days after potting them. All of them took a lot of water. I'd say more than three to four times as much as the Monrovia planted Hostas do (before water starts coming out of the holes in their bottom). Because of comparing how water drains with the two soil types (Monrovias and mine), I'm now concerned that the soil mix I used is off - maybe not enough compost?

One of the hostas purchased was a 2-gal size Paradym from NH Hostas and planted it in a #2 pot from Home Depot which holds about 3-4 times as much dirt as the #1 pot. The two gallon Paradym took about a gallon of water before anything came out of the bottom.

Whats the best watering schedule for potted hostas? How much water should they normally require?

Yesterday was in the low 80's but we've already had a couple days of 90 degree weather here...which I know is a factor. A cool front moved through yesterday and today's high will be 79 continuing to climb tomorrow to mid 80's and by weekend back to normal (for this time of year here) - upper 80's for a while.

Which watering results are typical? Does my soil mixture need to have more compost so they require less water (drain faster) and have more airy matter in the mix... ?

I purchased a water meter which just gives results for dry, moist and wet. I checked the hostas this morning. It's been about 24 hrs since they were watered til it drained out the bottom. Because of the cool front, the ground still looks damp around the pots where they drained. I've attached pics. The soil on top of the pots feels cool damp to the touch...not soggy but the meter inserted 2/3 into the pots is reading "wet".

My questions above relate to normal watering needs but on a side note: Normally, with our warm weather, the soil would have already lost a bit of moisture. But with new plants, I'm concerned. How long would the soil need to remain moist before I'd need to be concerned about root rot conditions? (Taking into consideration the weather pattern).

The first pic shows size of "1 gallon" pot, 2nd pic is meter reading I'm getting on all the pots 24 hrs after deep watering (til it ran out the bottom) using the recommended 50/50 potting soil/compost mix - meter reading "wet", 3rd pic is size of "2 gallon" pot that the Paradigm is planted in.

Thanks!

Comments (23)

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    6 years ago

    did you wet the media before planting ... if not.. repot ...


    what does it mean.. that a one gal pot that is 2 quarts???


    lift a sodden pot ... try to remember its weight ...


    do not water again;. until its half that weight ...


    use your gizomo to see how it changes with weight loss ...


    in the cool season ... pots just dont dry all that fast ... so on some level.. you might be trying to love them to death ...


    ken


  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    i didnt notice the TX part .. i will defer to bkay if shes wildly different than me ... ken

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  • Babka NorCal 9b
    6 years ago


    Regarding "gallon" sizes. Those are terms used in the nursery industry so everyone who is buying and selling and discussing...is on the same page, so to speak. When someone refers to a "1 gallon can", everyone knows what that looks like. Also referred to as a #1 container. It really only holds 3.? quarts.

    You are already learning how hostas talk to you when you say "she sighs if she isn't watered again after which she perks up again." She either doesn't like so much TX sun, or she is root bound. Slide her out and see if she is so packed with roots that she needs to be put into the next larger sized pot (#2 gallon size).

    Not so sure about your potting mix...I would want more bark or large particle stuff to provide air in there, but I don't grow hostas is Texas.

    Those meters are the pits. That tip will read "wet" if you poke it into a root even when the rest of the pot is dry. Do the lifting as Ken suggests

    Also, each plant will be different. Some grow faster, some grow slower, some require more water than others. So what you do for one, may or may not be right for the other. Just like kids. That is why we sometimes refer to our hostas a our babies.

    Most of all, HAVE FUN with them.

    -Babka

  • ClassicStyle (CntlTx; z8b)
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Thank you both. I'll check the roots on SG. I really appreciate your responses.

    I'm off to my garden with my kitchen scales.

  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    "purchased the best potting soil mix recommended at one of our family owned local nurseries. I then mixed it 50/50 with compost as recommended."

    I wonder what the "best potting soil mix" was made of? And then you added one part potting soil mix with one part compost? What kind of compost? Therefore, what media did you end up with?

  • ClassicStyle (CntlTx; z8b)
    Original Author
    6 years ago



    Yes, Babka, I was joking. I am in a fog though about the best way to work this out...

    New hosta lady, good advice on checking specifics. I was so excited to get this going...I followed advice for growing hostas in New Hampshire...50/50 compost and "any good potting mix". After your comment, I took pictures...I think I'm going to have to replant five new baby leafed Hostas. So...pulling them out of their fresh new potted homes won't shock them at this point?

    Btw...The potting soil says "ultimate water retention".

    Potting soil I used

    Compost.


  • Pieter zone 7/8 B.C.
    6 years ago

    There's a Houzz/GardenWeb forum that focuses on container gardening. By far the best posting in that forum deals with water movement through media mixes, click on this link and be prepared for an education and eye-opener, your 50/50 mix is the LAST thing you want to see in pots.....

    Pieter

  • ClassicStyle (CntlTx; z8b)
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Thank you Pieter! I'll check it out right now!

  • bkay2000
    6 years ago

    Hi, I received your PM. It sounds like your So Sweet may need up-potting. No, you do not need to add more peat moss. Add expanded shale or perlite. Peat moss will hold more moisture. On the plus side, peat moss is acidic, which most hosta love. It probably should not be more that 25 or 30% of your mix.

    NH hosta is a great company, but they don't know much about Texas. Do not use "water retention" soil in your pots. If you do, you need to re-pot in the fall into non "water retention' medium. It's great in the summer, but it will rot your hosta in the next winter and early spring as it won't dry out.

    Hosta roots need to breathe. If their roots stay too wet, too long, they will rot. Think about where they grow in nature. It rains torrents every day, but the volcanic "soil" is very porous, so it drains away quickly. They need air to their roots - every day. As Babka says, knock it out and look at the roots. If they are filling the pot, move it to a larger pot. You have to have enough soil to nourish the roots, but not keep them wet.

    Ideally, you need to get your hosta into a potting medium that you water every day. Of course, you can't meet that requirement. You are trying to mimic the environment they were born in. You can't do that, but you need to understand what you are shooting at. The pot that needs water every day in May will fry in July. So, you compromise.

    Some hosta will do better with the compromise than others. So Sweet is one of those that does well. Francie does well. Paul's Glory does well.

    Let me know how I can help. I'm willing to share all I've learned while growing hosta in Texas. I'll follow this thread if you have any questions I can answer.

    bkay


    ClassicStyle (CntlTx; z8b) thanked bkay2000
  • ClassicStyle (CntlTx; z8b)
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Bkay, I can't thank you enough! And I have lots of questions. I know these will not be all, but for what I'm dealing with now...just trying to get these babies potted up properly for our climate and get them off to a good start. Here goes:

    1) What do you use as your potting mixture?

    2) Do you plant your pots in the ground? ( if so, how deep?)

    1. pot size - I've heard not to plant in too big a pot so how do you determine what size pot to use? I rev'd an order from GM I'll be potting up tomorrow. The roots are much larger than what I received from NH but they haven't started leafing yet ( They have -I think the term is pips? The stocks -Before they leaf out.) please correct me if I'm wrong on the terminology.

    4) Which hostas have you had the most success with in our heat?

    5) Have you found greater success with a type of pot? (Plastic, Clay, glazed/Clay)

    6) What do you look for in drainage holes? ( some pots have only one, some have three or more)

    7) What is the best way to determine when to water? (Not sure the moisture probe is as useful as I'd hoped).

    8) So, the plants I've already potted in the water retention soil/compost mixture will be ok until Fall without rotting the roots?

    I went out and attempted to insert the moister probe in the Stained Glass pot and the soil was so dry, I couldn't shove it in..this after watering it yesterday till water drained through it. The other pots bought at the same nursery ...the prob slipped right in their soil. I will pull her out tomorrow and check her roots. She only has two sets of leaves - total of about 20 leaves

    I'm so very grateful for this forum!



  • bkay2000
    6 years ago

    1. I've tried everything. I've made my own and I've used commercial brands. I'm not sure I can give you a definitive answer to that one. I'm now using Miracle Grow with about 1/3 expanded shale.

    2. I've not had any luck with hosta in the ground.

    3. The hosta should be a little bit pot bound.

    4. I've had the best luck, overall, with fragrant hosta. The only things I've had difficulty with are those with large white centers or new varieties. I had difficulty with Olga Petryszyn hosta. Basically, anything that's been out more than 10 years should be fine for you. That doesn't mean that newer ones won't do fine for you. However, the older ones are tried and true. My favorites have been Francie, So Sweet, Paradigm, Paul's Glory, Fragrant Dream, Irish Luck, Sum and Substance, Blue Mouse Ears, Birchwood Parky's Gold, Guacamole and Squash Casserole. Sugar and Cream does very well, but it's similar to So Sweet in color. So Sweet stays more compact longer.

    5. I don't think the pot makes any difference. I use plastic. Babka uses nursery pots and puts those inside decorative pots. It needs good drainage. Stay away from the pots with built in bottoms. It's a great breeding ground for slugs.

    6. As long as it drains, it's fine.

    7. I try to keep all my pots at the same place. If one dries out too soon, I up-pot it. If it stays wet too long, I add more drainage material. In the spring, I water every 2 or 3 days. In the summer and fall, I water every day (unless it rains, of course). You touch the soil to see if it's dry, or lift the pot to see if it's light. In time, you can just see when it's time to water.

    8. The water retention soil usually doesn't hurt you in the summer. The problem is the following winter and early spring when it won't dry out. It's especially hard on young plants. It's my opinion that repotting in the spring is much easier on the plant than in the fall.

    Something you need to be aware of is our alkaline water. Hosta like acid. I would suggest you use an azalea food. I think many "potheads" use Miracle Grow and it comes in a variety for azaleas. Some hosta are more picky about that than others. If Chris at Hallson's can't grow it, neither can you. He has a alkaline environment, too.

    bk

  • ClassicStyle (CntlTx; z8b)
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Thank you! I already have two types of soil potted up and will move on to a little more drainage for the next batch of babies. I need to start a notebook To capture all the great advice and what works here in the long run. I may have been too optimistic about some of my choices ( they're just so pretty!). I now have:

    June, Paradigm, Touch of Class, Halcyon, Serendipity, Dancing Queen, Everlasting, Guacamole, Dick Ward, First Frost, Rosedale Golden Goose, Earth Angel, Grand Tiara, Stained Glass, So Sweet and Orange Marmalade.

    There are only a few of them in the Fragrant Variety. I hope the majority of these survive... I referred to the article about Hosta tests out of Louisiana which was shared on a previous post...but then deviated on a couple of them. I got Earth Angel, Orange Marmalade, Stained Glass, So Sweet, and Rosedale Golden Goose at a local nursery. The others as mentioned from NH and GMt.

    Thank you for your willingness to help.

    Email Comment155Bookmark105Like3


  • ilovetogrow z9 Jax Florida
    6 years ago

    I grow in Florida. Watch your smallest pot. It will dry out first. Keep it simple.

  • koffman99
    6 years ago

    Good luck with your re-potting. You have received some very good advice from some very knowledable people here. If I may add one thing. Be careful with the compost. The compost you are using may not be as strong as what NH Hosta's uses and may contain some very potent natural fertilizers like Bat Guano, Chicken Compost, Worm Castings, or a mix of all the above. If the plants are young they can be "shocked" by such a strong mixture if they aren't accustomed to it.

  • bkay2000
    6 years ago

    I have an Orange Marmalade, too. What one of our late members, Phil, said about Orange Marmalade is, "How good it looks in the spring makes up for how bad it looks in the summer." So, don't be disappointed. It goes south for most everyone. It is a survivor, though. It will be back next spring looking gorgeous.

    bkay

  • ClassicStyle (CntlTx; z8b)
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Thank you both for your comments. I love to grow - thanks for the heads up on watering. Koffman - The compost says its vegetable compost so I thought it meant all table scrap like stuff; but I'll double check to make sure. It didn't dawn on me the compost could be too strong/rich. I'm learning so much! Thanks!

  • ClassicStyle (CntlTx; z8b)
    Original Author
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Bkay, Thanks for letting me know about Orange Marmalade. Right now she's a shining star. She brightens up my back yard (under a tree). Definately an attention grabber.

    I think Dancing Queen may take her place as A favorite if she turns out like the online pictures. Dancing Queen will get dappled shade/sun most of the morning but some mid-day sun. By 1:30, she'll be fully shaded (light shade) for the remainder of the day. I'm hoping she'll be able to handle the two hrs of sun.

    I planted the Green Mountain Hostas. I purchased a different potting mix (this one has lots of wood fiber in it) and the Orchid mix you mentioned at a ratio of 2 parts potting mix to 1 part Orchid mix. The pots with this mixture drain at a much better rate than the first ones did.

    I retested the first pots with the water retention soil (using the moister meter) and they still show wet. Not much drying out yet - 48 hrs since watering. The plants look amazing though. I'm loving the leaves on Paradym! Oh my gosh! Beautiful ridges! If they don't start drying out soon...what should I look for to save them before it's too late?

    I also wanted to make sure I understand about The proper way to plant hostas. The leafing spikes (pips?) have roots coming out to the sides at the same level and cup down forming an upside down bowl - with a few stragglers that tend to stick up. Some of the hosta I received had one or two roots that were twice as long as the pot so I curved them following the natural inside curve of the pot . I brought the dirt up to the leaf spikes but left the umbrella (just under the stalks) exposed a little. I was afraid of covering the this part up too much (is this the crown?) based on what I've read about Hostas not liking their crown covered.

  • bkay2000
    6 years ago

    Dancing Queen fades as well. It loses that beautiful color and turns to a cream, usually. Those beautiful yellow ones rarely stay that way all season.

    I love Paradigm. It's a beautiful plant.

    I would go ahead and repot those in the moisture retaining soil and get it over with. They probably won't rot because the coming heat/lower humidity will dry them out. But, you have to do it sometime before fall.

    I'm not sure of the answer on depth. Post a photo and we can tell for sure.

    bkay


  • ClassicStyle (CntlTx; z8b)
    Original Author
    6 years ago


    Thanks Bkay. Here are some pics.

    This was how I planted the first batch anything that looked like a root was covered and d the dirt comes up the stalk very slightly. You can see the difference in the soil mixes from this plant and the next pics.

    F

    I planted the rest like these... also, some of the roots gotted out horizontally in such a way that in order to center the stalks, the roots on one side are pretty much against the inner wall of the pot. Is that a problem?

    Thanks!

  • koffman99
    6 years ago

    Ya Know, all this talk of the correct soil or media a Hosta needs got me to thinking why hasnt someone come out with a good pre-mixed hosta soil already ?

    I believe other plants like Succulents have thier own readily available mix, why not Hostas ?

  • ClassicStyle (CntlTx; z8b)
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    That's like an excellent idea! Especially for those of us who are clueless.

  • bkay2000
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    The first one looks a little deep to me, but someone else may have a different opinion.

    Pay attention to Paula (I love to grow). She is closest to your environment and has grown lots of hosta in pots. (Florida, so she gets more rain.)

    Babka also has grown lots of hosta in pots for years and years. She's a goldmine of info, but her environment is different. (California, so she doesn't get much heat or cold.)

    Let me know if I can help in any way.

    bkay

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