Should I Cut Damaged Hosta Leaves?

Hostas are one of the most well-loved ornamental, perennial plants, especially around Minnesota. Unlike other plants whose crowning glory is their flowers, leaves are the pride and joy of hostas. So what do you do if they’re damaged?

You can cut damaged hosta leaves. If the damage is severe, then the leaves should be removed immediately. However, if the damage is minimal, it may be better to leave the leaves on. Also, if very few leaves are left upon removal, it may be best to keep them for a while.

There is a consensus that damaged hosta leaves should be cut. However, whether they should be removed immediately or not is still being discussed. I’ll expound more on this, so keep reading.

When Should You Cut Damaged Hosta Leaves?

As I’ve said, the crowning glory of hostas is their leaves or foliage. Thus, a damaged leaf can be an eyesore, and you’d be tempted to remove it immediately. But should you?

You should cut damaged hosta leaves affected by disease or pests immediately to prevent the spread of pathogens. Otherwise, the leaves can be left for cutting in the late fall to prepare for winter. Pruning during the summer is not advisable, especially if it would leave the plant leafless.

Do Not Cut During the Summer

During the summer, especially around August to early September in Nebraska, it is not advisable to cut damaged leaves.

In this season, plants need all the nutrients they can get. Since leaves are the site of photosynthesis, which is the process that makes plant food, they need all their leaves. 

If you remove damaged leaves right away, the plant may have a more challenging time growing back new foliage because they have less energy or food-making factories.

Instead, you can wait until autumn when all the leaves start to die and the frost arrives. At this point, it’s alright to cut off the leaves.

Remove Pest-Damaged or Diseased Leaves Immediately

When it comes to pest-damaged or diseased leaves, removing them immediately is the best decision. This way, the plant can redirect its nutrients to healthy leaves instead of damaged ones.

Moreover, removing infected leaves could help prevent the spread of disease. When removing diseased leaves, disinfect your pruning materials (e.g., gardening shears) after you prune every plant. Disinfection prevents the spread of fungi, viruses, or other plant pathogens.

However, if the disease is fast-spreading in the plant, it may be wise to remove the whole plant and not just the leaves. This is to protect the other healthy plants.

Burn leaves or at least do not dispose of the infected leaves with the non-infected ones. If possible, discard them in a faraway area (e.g., a landfill).   

Start Cutting During the Fall Season

When fall turns around, that’s when you can cut the damaged and dead hosta leaves. At this point, the plant becomes dormant until spring. Thus, whether damaged or not, the leaves would naturally start to fall off.

It is highly recommended to prune your hostas during this season. Trim the leaves until ground level as a way to prepare for winter. Remember to wait until late fall, which is around the beginning of October in places like Arkansas, and the beginning of November in places like Florida.

You need to collect the damaged and dead leaves and not just allow them to rot near the plants. These rotting leaves attract pests, and the next thing you know, your hostas are damaged by slugs, insects, and other creatures.

Pruning During Spring

If you missed cutting leaves during late fall or early winter, it’s alright. You can also do that in spring, which is what some hosta owners do. There may even be advantages to cutting leaves in spring. In this season, the plants grow fast. Thus, those leaves that are cut away would be replaced faster.

Why Should You Cut Damaged Hosta Leaves?

You should cut damaged hosta leaves to prevent the spread of disease or pests. Cutting damaged leaves also prevents healthy leaves from getting deprived of nutrients. Pruning during autumn also helps deter pests like insects and deer from damaging the plants.

Understanding why you should cut damaged leaves would allow you to assess better whether your hosta’s leaves should be cut already.

For instance, if the plant has barely any leaves on and the leaf damage is not due to disease or pests, it may be best to keep them to give the plant a chance to recover. Removing the hosta of its last leaves might make recovery more difficult and slower.

However, certain situations like disease, infestation, pests, or severe damage demand immediate cutting. At this point, the leaf can no longer contribute to the food-making process and may even consume nutrients that should be better given to healthy leaves.

Why Hosta Leaves Get Damaged

Here are reasons why hosta leaves get damaged:

  • Pests: Slugs, snails, and black vine weevils are the most common hosta pests. Slugs and snails love to munch on their leaves at night, leaving holes and slimy trails. Meanwhile, the black vine weevil prefers the margins of leaves.
  • Viruses: An example of a plant virus that damages hostas is the hosta virus X (HVX). Some signs of the virus are green-lined veins, discolored leaves, spots, and wilting. Remove infected plants immediately and burn them (if possible) to prevent spread.
  • Nematodes: Nematodes or roundworms often infest hostas with diseases. They love moist areas and leave plant veins with brown stripes. Examples are foliar nematodes and root-knot nematodes. 
  • Animals: Beware of deer and rabbits. They love to take on hostas as snacks and may leave you with munched-on hostas or stems only.
  • Dehydration and heat: Like other plants, hostas can wilt and suffer under intense heat and little moisture. Take care of your hostas during the summer months.
  • Fungi: Many plant diseases, such as petiole rot, crown rot, and Southern blight, are caused by fungi. Some fungi you should look out for are anthracnose fungi.
  • Frost: Leaves are often severely damaged by frosts. Although you don’t have to remove them when they get frosted, it is encouraged.
  • Aphids: Aphids are small insects that can cause yellowing, wilting, or deformation of leaves.

If your plants are getting infested and sick, do not wait for the late fall to cut leaves and remove whole plants. The disease must be contained before it spreads to the remaining healthy hostas.

How To Prevent Damaged Hosta Leaves

Here’s what you can do to prevent damaging hosta leaves:

  • Prune before winter: Cutting off leaves and removing foliage before winter helps deter pests. Creatures love moist foliage and would burrow and make a home out of them given a chance.
  • Disinfect equipment during pruning: If you cut or remove infected plants and leaves, disinfect them at every turn. This would prevent passing on the illness to other non-infected hostas.
  • Beer traps: Traps are a great way to deter slugs and snails from further damaging your hostas. Bury pans until soil level and fill them with beer. Remove any slugs or snails that fall in the trap.
  • Handpicking pests: For some pests, like nematodes, pesticides are ineffective. It is best to remove them by hand before they can do any more damage.
  • Watering roots and not leaves: Avoid wetting the leaves and making them attractive to pests. Instead, direct water to the roots.
  • Fungicides: These can help control fungi that damage plants and cause them to become sick.
  • Fencing: Fencing off your area will help deter creatures like deer and rabbits. As an alternative, you can use chicken wire or mesh.
  • Plants: You can also use plants that deer and other creatures hate to deter them. Plant them around your hostas. However, the animals may get used to them over time, so you’d need a better solution.
  • Scent deterrents: Soaps, human hair, highly aromatic scents, rotten eggs, and blood are a few deterrents you can use to discourage deer from ransacking your hostas.
  • Avoid waterlogging: Too much watering can cause damage to your plants. Moreover, it can lead to a moist environment that encourages pests. 
  • Regular watering: Watering your plants regularly and properly, especially during summer, prevents wilting and damage.
  • Shade: Keeping your hostas under the intense heat of the sun at all times can lead them to get scorched and damaged. Thus, please provide them with shade, especially during hot months.
  • Transplant hostas during the evenings: Transplanting plants is a delicate process as they may get damaged. It is suggested to do that at night for cooler temperatures that help prevent damage.
  • Proper spacing: Evenly spacing your hostas can help prevent or delay the spread of diseases.
  • Hail protection: If there is a hail prediction, cover your plants with sheets or pots to protect them.

Big Daddy Hosta

Final Thoughts

Leaves are essential for photosynthesis; thus, they are crucial for energy and food supply. But for hostas, they are even more valuable. Their beautiful foliage makes them a sought-after ornamental plant.

Thus, proper care and attention are needed to maintain hosta leaves and prevent damage. Damaged leaves should be removed, but knowing when to cut leaves is essential to ensure that the plant can recover well and grow new leaves.

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