How To Prune Hostas for Winter?

Pruning hostas at the beginning of winter is the best way to take care of these plants. The hostas’ dominant season is during autumn, and you may not notice any foliage until you get to spring.

As such, pruning is imperative, and you should do it over a period to ensure you effectively remove all the dead plants after completing the pruning season.

Here are 6 steps on how to prune hostas for winter:

  1. Divide the hostas.
  2. Sanitize your pruning tools before pruning your hostas.
  3. Trim the hostas as low as possible.
  4. Remove all the unwanted plants near the hostas.
  5. Mulch to insulate the hostas.
  6. Water the hostas to hydrate them.

Only a few steps before winter will ensure that your hostas return the following summer in abundance. Please read on to discover these six steps in detail.

1. Divide the Hostas

The first step is to divide the hostas. You can do this immediately after the fall season as preparation for winter.

Moreover, if you notice that some hostas are damaged or contaminated, dividing them allows you to remain with the healthy plants and avoid further contamination. Otherwise, you risk losing all your Hostas should the affected plants contaminate the healthy ones.

Additionally, this step is necessary if your hostas are close. The reason is that dividing them is an excellent way to ensure equal distribution of nutrients and moisture during the winter, thus keeping them healthy.  

The dividing process involves three steps:

  1. The first step is digging the hostas. You should dig around the hostas with your shovel to avoid cutting the roots. You must keep the hostas’ roots because they are integral to their growth.
  2. The second step is to de-dirt the hostas, which entails removing dirt on the hostas’ roots. You can use your hands or a shovel in this process. Furthermore, you can use a bucket of water to remove the dirt and clean it until you see the base of the roots and the new buds.
  3. The final step is dividing the hostas. You will notice that each shoot has its attached roots, and you should not eliminate the roots when dividing. Use your thumbs to untangle the roots and divide them into separate groups.

You should replant the hostas separately to ensure they are not close to each other. However, since people plant hostas for aesthetic appeal, you should replant them in a specific pattern. It ensures the hostas’ leaves grow evenly in your garden after maturing.

Another method you can use is replanting the hostas in containers after dividing them. However, this method is not as effective as leaving them on the ground. Uprooting and placing in containers limit the roots’ growth, which is essential to the plant regaining its foliage.

The dividing process is integral because you want your hostas not close to each other during the winter, ensuring you eradicate all the damaged and contaminated plants.

2. Sanitize Your Pruning Tools Before Pruning Your Hostas

Before pruning back your hostas, it is essential to sanitize your cutting tools. Unsanitized shears can hold a host of harmful organisms that can harm your hostas, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Dirty garden tools can spread disease among your plants which counteract all the good you hope to achieve by pruning your hostas. You may opt for various sanitizing alcohol solutions such as:

●          Methylated spirits.

●          Isopropyl alcohol.

Ensure that you dilute these solutions with ¾ alcohol to ¼ water to get a ratio of around 70% alcohol.  Then follow this simple process:

  1. Spray the 70% alcohol solution over the blades of your pruning shears
  2. Wipe the blades with a cloth to ensure no plant sap residue remains from previous plants.
  3. Respray the instrument and allow the blades to dry naturally before pruning your hostas.

If your shears are old or rusted, consider buying a new shear, such as the Garden Guru Ratchet Pruning Shears (available on This equipment has a sharp curved blade that makes pruning easy and can brunches that are 1.5 inches (3.81 cm) thick.

3. Trim the Hostas As Low as Possible

After sterilizing your shears, the next step is to trim the hostas as low as possible, including those stored in containers. You should cut their stems a few inches from the ground.

The main advantage of planting hostas is that it only requires the roots for survival. Thus, using shears or scissors, one can cut the plant 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 centimeters) from the ground.

You may assume that cutting these hostas down and leaving the roots will damage the plants. However, these hostas will regrow their foliage over time, leading to healthy and attractive hostas leaves and flowers.

Ensure you trim all the dead hostas to prevent crown rot and prohibit rodents and slugs from using these dead plants for shelter during the winter.

Furthermore, it prevents the spread of diseases. Apart from using the dead plants as shelter, these rodents and slugs may spread diseases to the surrounding hostas. Ultimately, it may compromise your plants’ health during the winter.

Additionally, when trimming the hostas, do not forget to cut the ones affected by the first frost.

Failure to cut the leaves after the first frost may lead to crown rot. This condition occurs because the winter temperatures may fall below 0 degrees Celsius, which is sufficient to rot your hostas’ crown and may cause plant damage.

As such, if you live in North Dakota or Minnesota, cutting the hostas leaves affected by the first frost is imperative since the temperature in these areas may go below 0 degrees Celsius during winter.

Trimming the frosted leaves during the winter or immediately before spring keeps your hostas plant healthy during this challenging season.

4. Remove All the Unwanted Plants Near the Hostas

Removing unwanted plants near the hostas is essential when preparing them for winter. This process is usually necessary during a cold season when the temperatures are low and it is snowy.

Most plants during this season struggle to acquire nutrients and water to aid their growth. As such, you should remove all the unwanted plants near the hostas and prevent the hostas from competing for nutrients with them.

The primary weeding method you should use is hand pulling.

It involves pulling the weed slowly using your hands, including its roots. You can use various tools, but hand-pulling the weeds is more effective because it ensures you do not uproot the hostas. 

Additionally, do not disturb the soil when hand-pulling the weeds because it may provide a place for the weeds to grow. However, one precautionary measure you should take is that you should wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt or t-shirt to prevent skin irritation.

Removing weeds before winter ensures that your hostas have sufficient nutrients in the soil to aid in their growth during this hardy season. 

5. Mulch To Insulate the Hostas

The next step involves mulching. Mulching spreads various materials, such as bark, grass clippings, straw, and shredded leaves, on the soil’s surface as a covering. The mulch will retain the soil’s moisture and prevent frost heaving, especially during the winter.

Insulating the hostas is crucial, especially for those in icy areas, such as Alaska. Although hostas are hardy plants during the cold season, they may not tolerate the temperature drop in these areas during winter. Ultimately, it may thaw, thus affecting these plants’ dormancy cycle.

However, if you do not have these mulching materials, you can use some of the pruned leaves to mulch. In addition to insulating the hostas, mulching boosts the soil’s structure, nutrient-holding capacity, and drainage, thus aiding in the hosta’s growth during winter.

For your hostas, you should mulch them using the following steps.

  • Clean the garden, especially the area where you planted the hostas. You should remove all rocks and debris near your plants.
  • Level the soil to ensure that it is even. Make sure you level the soil close to the hostas’ stems.
  • Move the mulch close to the hostas and spread it evenly. Ensure the mulch is three to four inches thick.

Mulching your hostas ensures your plants are ready for winter since it aids their development.

6. Water the Hostas To Hydrate Them

You should water the hostas after mulching. Since mulching aids in retaining the soil’s moisture, one should water the hostas to hydrate them. This process ensures the hostas have an adequate water supply during the winter.

Furthermore, watering the hostas ensures they have healthy foliage and a strong root system, which is essential during the winter.

Ultimately, hydrating the hostas aids them in coping with the environmental stress these plants will experience during the winter.

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Final Thoughts

Anyone with a hostas plant worried about winter can follow these pruning steps to ensure their plants’ survival. The overall tip is to regularly check up on your plants to spot anything unusual and keep pruning back your hostas to ensure the plant directs its energy into new and bountiful growth.

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