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Cutting Back Hostas

Published 1-4-2021

Hostas are a perennial plant, meaning that it’s leaves die back in the winter. Known for having large waxy leaves that produce long stalks with blooms, this easy to care for plant will need to be cut back in the fall. To promote healthy blooms in the spring, it is important to prepare the hostas for winter. As the weather turns colder, pests such as slugs and rabbits can attack the leaves and make them look ragged. In addition, the leaves of the hostas begin to wilt and die back. So, trimming after the first hard freeze is good for the hostas. 

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When to Cut Back Hostas

As a general rule, hostas should be cut back in the late fall. Start with leaves that have wilted or turned brown. Healthy leaves can stay a bit longer to help the roots store needed energy. If 25% or more of the hostas is dying, you will know it is time to cut it back. All of the leaves should be cut off following the first frost. This will help to prevent slugs and rabbits from making your plant it’s cold weather home.

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How to to Cut Back Hostas

1.  Cut back your hostas after the first frost.
The leaves wilt and turn brown after the first frost. Hostas leaves can house slug eggs. These eggs can then hatch and destroy a healthy plant. Cutting the leaves off will solve this problem.

2.  Cut the plant down to the ground.
The leaves and stems of hostas can be easily cut with garden shears or a sharp pair of scissors. Cut the plant down to the ground. You may want to leave an inch or two of plant to mark where it is in the garden.

3.  Mulch to insulate the hostas.
Put down a one inch layer of mulch to insulate your plant. This helps prevent too much freezing and thawing, which can affect the dormancy of the hostas. In the spring, remove mulch to prevent too much moisture and rotting.

Cutting hostas is very easy. Simply lift the leaves and cut the plant a few inches from ground level. Before and after cutting hostas, sanitize your cutting tools with disinfecting wipes or rubbing alcohol. Tiny foliar nematodes, a kind of worm, can live inside of hostas leaves. If transferred to other plants, these worms will eat away at other plants in the garden.

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Why Do You Cut Back Hostas?

Cutting back hostas is not to just to prepare it for the dormant winter. Getting rid of dead leaves prevents slugs and insects from hiding out in the garden during the cold. Rabbits, even deer will eat the plant, making it look unappealing. Cut back the plant after the first frost. If you don’t, you will have a mound of soggy brown leaves.

Hostas Cutting Back Tips

  • Cut back after the first frost

  • Cut the stalk to a couple of inches from the ground

  • Trim off any yellow, dead or damaged leaves

  • Sanitize the cutting tools before and after use

  • Mulch around the base of plant