Dying indoor Hostas?

Asked May 28, 2017, 2:35 PM EDT

Hello, I think my hostas are dying and I am not sure why. I have them watered with a terracotta spike so they do not dry out. They have been doing fine for about a year and now they seem to be shriveling up. Please advise. Thank you!

Durham County North Carolina houseplants hostas horticulture

3 Responses

Answer:

Because hostas are not the typical houseplant, they need extra care. Keeping them moist was an excellent decision, but hostas need a period of dormancy in order to thrive.

Many of the typical houseplants come from the tropics: philodendron (South America), Chinese evergreen (tropics and subtropics of Asia), dumb cane (West Indies), rubber plant (Indian, Nepal, Myanmar, China, Malaysia & others). Source: “House plants expert” (www.houseplantsexpert.com/).

Hostas are native to the temperate regions of Japan, China, and Korea. They are deciduous meaning that they die back and go dormmate in the winter months.

I was not able to find information from our preferred sources – Extension or University websites. However, the information I was able to find seemed thoughtful and well-reasoned. From the website HostasDirect, “Can you grow hostas indoors?” (www.hostasdirect.com/learn/info/can-you-grow-hostas-indoors/):

Hostas can be grown indoors, but as perennials, hostas need to go into dormancy and be chilled. They need at least 6 weeks of temperatures below 42°F in the winter to go into and stay in dormancy. Depending on your climate, you can over-winter them in your garage, outdoors, or even in your refrigerator.

Though it depends on the variety, hostas like at least 2 hours of sunshine with morning or late afternoon sun being preferable. (Large hostas may need a bit more sun). Ideally, hostas should be given at least 1″ of water each week. Depending upon your soil, hostas may need fertilizer. Stop fertilizing about 4 months prior to forcing your hosta into dormancy, so they can harden off.

Remember, each hosta has different genetics so they are all unique.

There is an interesting discussion of growing hostas indoors on the Forum page at the American Hosta Society website: www.americanhostasociety.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=166

The first thing to do is to check the roots of your plants. If they are light colored and supple, the plant is alive. If they are brown and crumbly, most likely the plant is dead or dying.

“Importance of healthy roots – what do healthy roots look like” (www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/info/importance-of-healthy-roots.htm)

“How to tell if your plant is dead or just dormant” (lifehacker.com/how-to-tell-if-your-plant-is-dead-or-just-dormant-1791354166)

If your plants are still alive, it seems that they have decided to go into dormancy. It may be difficult to find a cool place to store them, but if you could try to simulate winter for them, they might recover. Eventually, you would like to move them to a more natural cycle where they are dormmate in winter.

Good luck!

Please call or email us if you have other questions.

Phone: (919) 560-0528.

Email: mastergardener@dconc.gov

721 Foster Street, Durham, NC 27701

Office hours: Monday thru Friday, 9 am to 4 pm

Nan Len

Durham County Extension Master Gardener volunteer





Thanks so much for your reply. I'm not sure if one of them is dying but I dug up the hostas and put them in my fridge (the only way I was able to put them somewhere cool). Should I water them while they're in the fridge? And I can take them out and replant them 6 weeks from now?
Thanks again.

I found a website from Cornell University called "Winter care of tropical houseplants" (blogs.cornell.edu/ccesuffolkligardening/2015/12/28/winter-care-of-tropical-houseplants/). I know that the hosta is not tropical, but this information relates to houseplants, so it applies.

If you have the plant in the refrigerator in some kind of closed container, it should remain moist. You certainly do not want it to be soggy -- you also do not want it to be bone dry.

I would not put the plants in a sealed plastic container -- you want something that breaths a bit. Remember that what you are trying to do is treat the hosta as if it is in the ground in the winter -- it is used to being in soil that is permeable.

As you had a routine of keeping the plant watered, I would think that there is enough residual water in the soil to keep the plant happy.

You certainly should see if the plant will grow in six weeks -- again, it will depend on the state of the roots.

Good luck!

Please call or email us if you have other questions.

Phone: (919) 560-0528.

Email: mastergardener@dconc.gov

721 Foster Street, Durham, NC 27701

Office hours: Monday thru Friday, 9 am to 4 pm

Nan Len

Durham County Extension Master Gardener volunteer