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What is happening to my Hosta (rhino hide)?

6 years ago
last modified: 6 years ago

Hello fellow hosta friends,

I purchased a 4 inch pot Rhino Hide from Gilbert Wild and Sons last year... It survived the winter (yay!) planted in the ground in a shaded woodland garden area in northern New Hampsire. I am a newbie to "real gardening" (real gardening is my idea of = love, interest, concern and caring if things die or thrive type of gardening). Lots of learning through forums and trial and error.

Everything seemed to be flourishing well for hosta Rhino Hide from spring into summer... In late June, before going out of town for 2.5 weeks, I applied Milorganite and a pellet form of slug bait (my first time using this since I would not be around to hand pick the slugs)... I returned to see sick and dying leaves, and the eyes easily are plucked off/ fall off the crown of the main Rhino Hide. This has only happened to the Rhino Hide Hosta.

Is this leaf death from dehydration?( I left the hostas to tough it out with whatever rain would fall. Chemical reactions? Disease?

To be clear, the holes in the leaf are not the issue- I have tons of slugs and snails to battle. But I am wondering perhaps the stem/leaf death is because of a slug or snail eating the eye at the base causing the leaf to die?

But then again, I saw no evidence of that... but then again the eye (stem) just fell off the crown when I touched it to examine it. 2 "sick" stems/eyes fell off the main plant.

Sorry for word "eye/stem" usage if it is incorrect.

Any ideas? Suggestions?

I have open ears to learn and much gratitude for any help.

Thanks in advance :)

Comments (26)

  • PRO
    6 years ago

    Could it be Sclerotium/Southern Blight with stem rot?

  • 6 years ago

    Southern Blight is very specific. It has little orange balls at the base of the petiole. There are photos of it on the internet if you search. The plant gets sick almost overnight and collapses. I always thought it took heat and humidity for that to flourish. I have never seen it in person, just the photos.

    What do the roots look like? Is the crown that is left in the ground all mushy? Do you ever get cutworms? Was there any rain at all? A one year in the ground plant has trouble fending for itself, but it seems to me that you would just find a flopped over dried up plant still attached to its roots if that was the case.


    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked Babka NorCal 9b
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  • 6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I've got more questions than answers. How much milorganite and slug pellets were applied? I wonder too how much rainfall there was or did someone water while you were away? How many shoots (eyes) does the plant have left? Can you dig up the plant and inspect the roots.

    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada
  • 6 years ago

    I rather suspect that if you dug around for roots you'd find the roots to have rotted. I doubt you'd find any firm, white roots. Please confirm, and give us a better idea of your winter frost/thaw/rain cycle this past winter...


    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked Pieter zone 7/8 B.C.
  • PRO
    6 years ago

    Hi and thank you all,

    Yes digging it up is the only way to figure this out...

    I was upset earlier by the Rhino Hide falling apart that I did not return to the hosta to investigate further. I was annoyed with it (if that makes any sense). Instead I was doing researching for possible culprits... ran to the internet to ask questions and search for information.

    So far, from what I saw on the internet nothing looks exactly like what I see on this hosta ...( however there was one gardenweb thread from the past with a similar question but photobucket blank spots did not help with visuals with the hosta).

    Yes, I will dig it up and give it a thorough inspection and I will report back soon.

    (overly detailed version below:)


    Maybe it is Anthracnose, or Fusarium root and crown rot, or Botrytis Blight?

    I am reading all the possible things online and getting worried for having the possibility of a fungal infection in my garden (it's like going to WebMD- to self diagnose... reading all worse case scenario signs and symptoms, looking at photos that do not exactly match yet could possibly be)...

    The withering leaf discoloration confuses me and the greyish blotches....

    It seems to be that on the leaf part.... but the stem falling off the crown does not match the Anthracnose symptoms, so I thought it was the Southern Blight due to the rot of the stem at the crown on that eye.

    But you are right Babka, it may not be southern blight. due to the conditions and

    I did not see any tiny orange balls and the entire crown is not mush- the main crown remains firm white with the hosta in good shape.


    I have no experience with cutworms preventatives... But the few times that I have seen greyish and brown cutworms I killed them by hand (ugh gross!). It was not many to alarm me, but maybe I need to reconsider that.


    A rainwater gauge that I emptied out before leaving had almost 2 inches when I returned ( do those things really work to determine how much water every plant is getting, I have my doubts lol). The garden area is under trees so it is usually average to dry soil- not a water logged area.

    Irrigation Watering:

    No one watered or tended to the garden while I was away... except the usual suspects in my neighborhood: cats and squirrels. But I say that in jest, I do not think a cat or squirrel would damage the hosta in that way.

    Last year I watered the entire area during late summer when it gets hotter and drier. That's how I made the discovery today checking up on the hostas before beginning the watering.


    Pieter, I will definitely look at the roots. I planted my hostas in a convex dome manner, with roots spread out underground fanned out as much as possible, so the waters do not sit at the crown and it could grow well. Of course, soil settling happens, but I also made a point not to bury it too deep- the crown is at the soil level.

    But with that said, I was not happy with the lack of vigor and growth this year -Rhino Hide was pretty small. so I decided to add fertilizer- Milorganite.


    NewHostaLady, I sprinkled "a bit" of Milorganite and I sprinkled "a bunch" of Garden Safe Snail and Slug bail around and at the Hosta. First time user of both products and I added this throughout the hosta garden.

    I have fertilized with a liquid fertilzer 1 time during the first flush end of May/June.

    I usually hand pluck snails and slugs, and I have twice used the ammonia 10% spray on the slugs and around the root (slug eggs?).

    For the Milorganite and the Slug and Snail Bait "the bit and the bunch" were applied willy-nilly around the hostas.

    I admit that I read the instructions and was loosely following said instructions, but it was done with my gloved hands- no measuring tools. I feel dumb because maybe I damaged my Hosta by applying the products in a sloppy manner. Most likely both products landed on the leaves and fell in between the stems.

    Hosta size- Eyes:

    Rhino Hide had 4 eyes. The 2 sickly ones with ugly leaves that fell off the crown when I touched them were the 2 newest eyes- I assume they are new because they are smaller and grew from the side of the center crown.

    Now only 2 or 1.5 eyes remain on Rhino Hide. It is small, same size maybe smaller now than last year.

    Weather Winter Frost Thaw Rain:

    As a former South Floridian Zone 10, new to New England Zone 4 weather, I realize different rules apply from one extreme to another with gardening.

    Pieter, if I remember correctly it was the second week of June was when the slow-poke hostas in the ground were pipped and others were leafing out. It was a cold winter and spring with only 2 brief flash of warmth and big thaw in mid February and finally in April.

    The inches of snow in the garden beds did not melt and refreeze, so I assumed that as long as there was snow covering the dormant hostas/roots all was ok.

    Last year was a long summer with warmer than usual temperatures into Autumn. It was a long cold winter ending with a late shortened Spring, then it warming up for a few weeks, before cooling off back into rainy cool temperatures for most of Summer until most recently.

    No mulch is used close to crown or the hosta leaves during growing season. However, I used a bit over an inch layer of leaf mulch during winter to protect from frost heaves and I pulled it away when true spring temps arrived (May), all with hopes to prevent crown rot during the spring.

    I am hoping that I did not cause a fungal issue to develop by recycling the leaves in my yard.

    *I promise future posts will not be this long. yikes!*

  • PRO
    6 years ago

    I also had asked Chris at Hallson Gardens perennialnursery forum...

    Chris replied that it may be nitrogen burn of the eyes or if it came in an elle plug (paper plug) that may have moisture issues: The plugs have to stay wet. If not wet, the roots will dry and rot becoming susceptible to develop fungal disease fusarium root and crown rot.

    I never knew that elle plugs had such disastrous potentials!

    I remember I painstakingly unraveled all roots of all the hostas I planted- even breaking that strange fiber I found in the pots (now I know it was some kind of elle plug) - but I do not remember if the Rhino hide came in an elle plug within the 4 inch pot.

    I am hoping it is nitrogen burn... silly me to think the "non-burning" on the Milorganite label gave me an open license to send pinches of fertilizer flying here and there without caution.

    Per Chris, if it is nitrogen burn maybe I can save what is left if the crown did not get burned-but eye and leaf in the photos are goners.

    Fingers crossed when I dig it up and rinse the roots the problem was my fertilizer craze and that it did not fully burn the crown and 100% hoping it is not root rot.

  • 6 years ago

    I was upset earlier by the Rhino Hide falling apart that I did not
    return to the hosta to investigate further.......... Instead I was doing researching for possible
    culprits... ran to the internet to ask questions and search for

    ==>>> im seeing this more and more on the forums ... most of us didnt have a gizmo to rely on back in the day ...... and just dug things up.. to see that which we couldnt see below ground.. so as to be able to generate information about is going on ...

    when you failed to do that.. you left out half of the pertinent info ... and now are left speculating about it all ...

    imo.. and i think chris and i argued about this long ago and far away ... SOUTHERN blight should be rather RARE in areas colder than z5 ... in my 20 years.. i can think of one season where i actually saw it in my garden ...

    and to be clear.. i ALWAYS defer to chris .... but that wont stop me from opining ....

    regardless if its rare.. its always possible ... but i would then think about how otherwise stressed plants can develop problems ... which leads me to wonder .. about water management .... were your plants in drought ... or totally drenched this early spring .... whats your native soil ... did you amend the planting hole ... did you throw fert in the planting hole ... how could you have somehow messed with your native soil ... to stress the plant out ...

    to be very honest.. i havent read all the verbage ... im not contradicting any of the above.. i just trying to show you how i would evaluate a problem.. instead of running to the gizmo ... BTW ... next time.. snap pix with the gizmo.. in the ground.. and after you dig it.. it would be so much better for us to see the situation ...

    as for fert ... in general.. ANY PLANTS ... THEY ARE NOT CHILDREN ... THEY DO NOT NEED TO BE FED ....... and unless you live in some barren wasteland.. your plants should never really need fertilizer ... to survive ... sure.. a little this or that will not hurt ... but it should be applied outside the the canopy far enough from the crown and roots .. so that the roots are encouraged to grow out into it .... when you put it on or too near the crown ... you MIGHT burn the crown or roots.. and of course.. once you do that.. they rot ... and that leaves you thinking.. i have a rot ... sure you do ... but the rot might have been caused by the fert.. or water problems.. etc ..... and if you just treat the result [the rot] ... but ignore.. or never figure out the cause ... then you are set up.. to keep having the same problem over and over again ...

    in summation.. ID the CAUSE ... and you will find your way to dealing with the EFFECT ...

    regardless .. you dont want to know how many i killed in collecting 1650 of them .... just dont get flustered and quit ... because one or two didnt appreciate your love ... there simply isnt enough time. to collect them all if you are going to worry about the few turds who die ... good riddance.. i didnt want you anyway ...


    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
  • PRO
    6 years ago

    Back with photos... I dug up the rhino hide (2.5 eyes remained) and took photos along the way.

    Are these healthy roots?

    Why is the crown purpleish inside?

    It looks wet because I did use a lot of water to rinse off the dirt. Crown feels firm (until the eyes fell off) and I do not smell an odor or rot stench.

    As I cleaned the roots 1.5 eyes fell off just as the other 2 fell off the crown the day before. I have a photo with colored circles- red was yesterday and the light blue is today's fall out.

    There were some tree roots entangled into the hosta rootball.

    Because I have read about it so many times... I decided to toss the hosta on the driveway to teach it- and myself- a good lesson... along with getting a laugh.

    Last year planting:

    When I planted the hostas last year I amended the soil with vermiculite for drainage, 10-10-10 fertilizer, leaf mulch, worm castings. I also used the potting mix that I had repotted the new hostas for 2 months before dropping them into the ground.

    I coddled them for 2 months because I had detangled the roots from the fibers of some sort of thing (elle plug?) and broke a few roots along the way. Plus, the mail ordered 4 inch pot hostas were pipsqueaks - certain to get lost and die in my woody garden.

    This year:

    I top dressed this year with compost and used a liquid fertilizer, before I added the Milorganite and Garden Safe Slug and Snail bait. I have also used Diatomaceous Earth around the plant for slugs and snails.

    below: blue circled eyes fell off today, red dotted circle is where 2 eyes fell off yesterday. yellow circle: a slug.

    Below: same photo without flash

    Below: Rhino Hide at "home site"

    Below: Rhino Hide dug up

    Below: Rhino Hide's leaf issue that prompted me to look closely and touch it, then 2 eyes fell off.

    Below: After the 3rd and 4th eye fell off while cleaning the roots, I decided to show this failing hosta who is who- hoping for miracle, mercy, revival, ultimatum, etc. I tossed it on the driveway.

    Below: root ball size perspective to my size small hands.

    Below: tree roots removed and amended soil

    Below: Rhino Hide fell apart: 3.5 eyes and a root. 1 eye remains attached to root ball.

    Below: Rhino Hide currently with 1 eye and it's roots (getting to know the driveway)

  • PRO
    6 years ago

    Above: It just looks so the mouth of a sci-fi monster... but this is the hole in the crown of Rhino Hide where the eyes fell off.

    Below: One eye that fell off/came apart from crown with little effort.

  • 6 years ago

    I'm no expert, but it looks to me like some critter made a nice meal of your hosta. Aren't voles supposed to do this? I'm curious to see what other people say...

    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked juliaarugula
  • 6 years ago

    I'd say possibly a combination of fertilizer burn and planting too high (hence the green roots?). Don't worry so much about the eyes that fell encourages new ones to come in soon. The roots look strong to me. My advice would be to plant Rhino Hide in enough sun, at crown level, and leave it alone. Think you're pampering your hostas too much, especially being young plants that can't handle a lot of fertilizer. Don't give them a ton of water either if you have them in soft/soil-less soil, especially if there might be water "traps" created by the difference in soil types and/or heights in their surrounding. In other words, when you do water, if you see any "pooling" of water anywhere, that might be problematic. And of course don't plant near tree roots...they will choke out your hostas.

    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked Kindness Matters (NE Ohio 6a)
  • 6 years ago

    You have done a lot to encourage this hosta to grow. You deserve to have had better results! Great job on the photos! I see a lot of rot---not only of the stems and crown, but also in the roots. If you look at the roots, you can see that some of the ends have rotted off. I have seen that in my own hostas which have been in pots. The media stays too wet and the roots start to die at the ends (well just about anywhere along the root) where it just can't dry. And crown rot begins too. I think you need to cut off any rot in the roots and crown and give the hosta a bleach soak before it is replanted in the soil or in a pot. If you are not familiar with the bleach soak, here is a good thread:

    If some of the roots are green, then they must have been exposed to light. So then the hosta was not planted too deep? Maybe fertilizer burn as Pretty Birds suggests and drainage issues?

    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada
  • 6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    There he is naked on the driveway. THAT will show him! You still have a lot of good roots left on him. Can you cut off the mushy part of the crown, then put it in a bucket (roots and crown under the water) with 10% bleach solution? I leave mine in for about 10 minutes but I've heard that longer won't kill it either. Then pot it up in fresh medium. You have nothing to lose as it appears to be going own hill quickly for whatever the reason. Dump the excess water into the hole where the hosta was. Chlorine evaporates quickly. EDIT: 10% solution means 1 part household chlorine bleach to 9 parts water. (didn't catch my typo...on drugs from Appendectomy) excuses, excuses.... ;-)


    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked Babka NorCal 9b
  • 6 years ago

    This experience is typical for a TC plant that has been "overgrown " in a pot, then planted without root pruning: root rot took over, for a myriad of reasons.

    Babka has the right prescription to save the remaining healthy crown tissue; I would prune the roots back until only healthy tissue, cut off the leaves and bleach for one hour. Replant in a moist shaded low heat environment and MAYBE within this season it will releaf.

    When you get a plant from TC with large root masses but limited large roots, shave off some of those and make sure you give it attention ( don't plant too deep, keep shaded and moist ) until it leafs out well and sends up new shoots next year.


    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked brucebanyaihsta
  • 6 years ago

    Angieg1- Would you please enable e-mails on your profile page? I would like to private message you. It will come thru Houzz and your real e-mail and mine won't be disclosed to either of us.


  • 6 years ago

    Bruce- I never heard of that before, and I want to know more! Is this more of a reason to get "field grown" plants? Whenever I have lost plants due to rot (and that happens to me a lot, mostly because of our cool nights here) I have blamed myself.


  • 6 years ago

    Babka, whenever a hosta has been left in a pot for too long (relative to its growth) and is kept wet it will not "harden off" due to stress - both moisture and weather. When you dump the plant out you see this large mass of very small feathery roots but not many stronger hardened off larger thick roots. When planted and kept moist it doesn't adjust well and with the type of soil stress it sees, the plant stunts back its growth. The fungi in the soil, with the proper moisture and temps, get started degrading the plant root tissue and the plant suffers. And we help by watering more and more, softening the tissues and letting the fungus grow more.

    When I buy my hosta plants I still dump a TC plant out of the pot, shave off many of the fine feathery roots and open up/separate the bigger roots before planting. Also bleach to minimize fungal attack, which is soil-borne so can't be completely removed.

    This technique makes the plant either grow and respond or die quickly: sounds cruel but otherwise you get these continual fadeouts which are demoralizing!!!

    I bought a large healthy ( in appearance) potted multi-stem Neptune 2 years ago; had to give it the major treatment and divide the smaller divisions off, but now have 4 strong and 2 weaker divisions growing.

    Field-grown divisions have outgrown the stress factors and have less problems.

    Bruce in SW Virginia mountains, where it is 80 degrees at 10 PM tonight, hottest day of the year at 89 for the high. No rain for one week so watering to save a few hosta in sunny spots. Mainly Aphrodite and Guacamole

    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked brucebanyaihsta
  • 6 years ago

    Bruce- If anyone in the world would know how to handle a hosta it would be YOU! We get down to the low 50's at night here so hostas are truly amazing to endure all these extremes in temps and humidity. Mine never get very big probably because of the stress you describe. Maybe that and the limited dormancy period. Excuses, excuses. Water water water only pertains to Ken in his sandbox, or you where the nighttime temps stay so high. I only water my pots twice a week.

    But those hand painted leaves done with a watercolor brush keep me coming back. As they do all of us. Hopelessly hooked.


  • 6 years ago

    Thought I would spice up this thread!

    Now if the nighttime temps stay warmer ( above 70) we will get southern blight in 1-2 weeks guaranteed. But forecast for next week back to low 60's which should be great. Two weeks ago we had 49 two nights in a row and the gardens looked stupendous!

    Enlarge those photos above and notice no slug damage in spite of almost 18 inches rain in past 4 months: lots of metaldehyde this year kept the little slugs in check and they did not reproduce. I bought some more for Fall application.

    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked brucebanyaihsta
  • 6 years ago

    I had a similar experience last year with Sweet Sunshine. When transplanting from pot to in ground, a few shoots just fell off and the whole plant was crappy and weak. I think it was to wet and poor medium in the pot.

    I trimmed the roots a bit and planted what was left in the ground. I took two of the separated shoots and put them in water. A month or so later they produced roots and I potted them up. This year I planted one shoot in the ground and one in a new pot. All three are doing quite well.

    Original SS this year

    after the water soak

    potted up last year

    No pics of these this year but they came back very nice and solid but small leaves.

    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked old_dirt 6a
  • PRO
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Well the best thing that has come from the Rhino Hide deteriorating situation is how much I have learned! Thank you everyone for contributing and thanks for the link.

    Juliaarugula, thankfully it is not Voles leaving my hostas without roots or crown... but who knows my garden is still young, there may be a year when I get a hungry vole. That will probably happen once I get the snails and slugs under control. hahah ;)

    NewHostaLady- I'm suddenly aware of green roots, and noticed a few hostas with green roots in my yard, these hostas are from the same place I got Rhino Hide. I never covered those green roots with soil because...I don't know?... I guess I just left it exposed as it was in the container (following the theory of planting at the same level it was planted in nursery pot and keeping crown high).

    I have to circle back and follow NewHostaLady, Babka, and Bruce's recommended procedure tomorrow for TC overgrown in pots .... and I mostly likely will have to dig up quite a few formerly potted TC hostas later that are probably lagging or stunted!

    I thought it was lack of "this or that hosta care" that I was supposed to be doing for it.

    After Rhino Hide's photo shoot the other day, I had sprayed the root and crown with 10% bleach and left it for about 2 minutes before rinsing the bleach off and potting into a container with potting mix and called it a day. But with today's posts and the details of what to do- I realize what I had did wouldn't be effective enough to help the hosta.

    Pretty Birds, you are right I have pampered them too much. I read all about the mature hostas and wanted my young pipsqueaks to grow lush and beautiful. I also tried so hard not to damage the roots. I hand water very little, so far, this year as rain has been good.

    Ken-Adrian I agree, gizmo's can help or delay the help by obscuring the obvious to ID the cause by digging it up (look and see). I have learned through your posts on other threads that hostas are not babies. It's a learning curve for a newbie hosta parent to trust that a plant with lush beautiful leaves doesn't need helicopter parenting.

    I consider this as my lesson learned.

    Babka- Email is now enabled. I hope that your appendectomy recovery is a speedy one. No worries I understood what you meant before you edited it. :)

    Bruce- along with sharing your lovely hostas garden thanks for the slug killer metaldehyde product tip. I read the link above about your 250 Sagae divisions (wow)- thanks again for a great visual instructional.

    All of my "delicate touch and TLC" that I have given since last year.... and now the hosta will get chopped from top to bottom, and take a long cool soak in 10% bleach, ha! HA! Ironic.

    I am nervous to "harm" the hosta ... but then again, Rhino Hide already has one foot in the grave, so I might as well cure it or speed up its slow demise.

    Old Dirt, your example with Sweet Sunshine just gave the confidence to be bold with my failing hosta. I still have the eyes/shoots so I will soak in water- it couldn't hurt. If it roots, then that would be a happy twist. Thanks!

    Now I have a better understanding of what's happening to Rhino Hide. Many thanks again to everyone who commented. I hope it has helped others who may have a dying falling apart hosta situation, too!

    If Rhino Hide survives I will post an update in the future for closure. :)

  • 6 years ago

    Speedy recovery, Babka! :-).

    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked josephines167 z5 ON Canada
  • 6 years ago

    Great thread!

    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked windymess z6a KC, Ks
  • 6 years ago

    Just when you think you have this hosta thing figured out, something new pops up. I really like this forum. Thanks, Bruce! And thanks to Angieg1 for the super pics to show exactly what was going on.


    Paradise Alcove LLC thanked Babka NorCal 9b
  • PRO
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Hello again hosta friends,

    I decided to continue the photo documentation for the sake of posterity and because as I started doing the hosta CPR* I was wondering if I was doing the root trimming/chop correctly.

    *Hosta CPR (Chop Procedure for Resuscitation) is what I will call it to help remember the recommended procedure for this failing hosta: shave off roots, cut leaves, cut out mushy crown, 1 hr 10% bleach cool water soak, then repot.

    Question 1: Bleach soak before or after cutting the leaves and doing a root chop?

    I did a bit before to prep the plant before I cut and then I did the hour long soak after.

    Below: Before I shaved off any roots I cleaned off potting soil and I dipped what was left of Rhino Hide for a few minutes in 10% bleach water. Then I cut the leaves off the top and I cut off a lot of the roots from the bottom.

    Below: The hour long soak in cool 10% bleach water. I also soaked the eyes that fell off (I will try to root them in water per old_dirt's post)

    Question 2: Did I shave off enough fine roots from the thicker roots?

    I removed rotted roots, but did I get all of them? (I ask this because I was not certain which roots were rotted aside from a few mushy brown roots.)

    Below: Root chop and I also carved off some of the bottom crown looking for soft spots.

    Basically, I was wondering the whole time "Did I chop off too much or not enough?"

    I know the procedure requires to cut off all the leaves, but...

    Question 3: Does leaving one tiny leaf cause an issue for recovery? If yes, then I will snip it off.

    Below: I let the Rhino Hide revisit the driveway for a final reminder of who is who while it air dried for about 15-30 minutes.

    *Plus appreciation for the Driveway story history: ( ) :)

    Below: It was then planted in the pot with potting medium and watered. I will keep it moist and it is in a shaded outdoor area.

    Thanks again for the help and guidance. :)