Hostas will grow in sandy soil if it’s been amended with lots of organic matter prior to planting to help retain water and improve soil fertility. Applications of mulch and regular fertilizer will add nutrients to counteract the low fertility of sandy soil so hostas grow to their full potential.
Sandy soil drains quickly and is often relatively low in fertility so there are some important steps to take when planting and caring for healthy hostas.
Keep reading for best practices of:
- How to prepare sandy soil for planting hostas.
- How much to water hostas in sandy soil.
- Tips on the importance of fertilizing hostas in nutrient poor soils
- Tips on mulching and maintaining the optimal moisture levels in the soil for growing hostas successfully.
Prepare Sandy Soil for Planting Hostas
To grow successfully Hostas need to be planted into soil that:
- Holds moisture around the roots to ensure their leaves remain plump and upright
- The soil structure needs to be porous enough to allow excess water to drain away and loose enough for roots to establish
- Rich soil to provide nutrients as hostas are relatively heavy feeders
- Slightly acidic to neutral soil (Ideally the soil should be pH 6-7)
Therefore sandy soil will need to be amended with plenty of organic matter. Compost, leaf mould and well rotted manure or all good options.
Ideally I would recommend using a mixture of leaf mould and well rotted manure as the leaf mould has an exceptional capacity to hold onto water whilst improving the soils structure so that excess water isn’t trapped and can drain away as the roots of hostas should not be kept in standing water.
This will help to readdress moisture levels in the soil as sandy soils drain too quickly for hosta roots to draw up water, particularly in times of drought.
Sand does not contribute much nutrients to the soil, therefore sandy soils tend to be low in fertility. Adding manure will help to increase the long term fertility of the soil and also stimulate the soils beneficial ecosystem.
Compost, leaf mould, manure will all decompose to around pH of 6-7 which is perfect for growing hostas.
- The first step is to dig the planting area for your hosta. The size of your hole will depend on the variety of hosta. Larger varieties such as ‘Jade Cascade’ will need a hole roughly 3 feet (1 m) across and 18 inches (45 cm) in depth, however smaller hostas (such as ‘blue crown’) need a hole 18 inches (45 cm) across and 12 inches (30 cm) deep.
- The larger the area you dig out and amend with organic matter the better for the long term prospects of the hosta.
- Remove the sandy soil and replace it with organic matter (ideally compost, leaf mould and manure). A mixture of organic matter will provide a broad spectrum of nutrients and water retaining capabilities.
- Hostas need to be planted at a depth where their crowns will be level with the top of the soil. (The crown is the point at which the leaf stems meet the roots). Place the hosta in the hole and add or remove material until it sits perfectly level, making sure you orientate the most attractive side of the plant to where you can see it most often.
- Back fill the hole with your mix of organic matter until the soil is level with the crown.
- Firm the organic matter with your hands to provide the plant with some initial stability but do not compact the soil as hostas like porous soil in order to allow their roots to establish.
- After planting water generously with around 2 litres which will help mitigate transplant shock and ensure that the leaves do not lose their shape or structure.
The soils ability to hold moisture is particularly important to hostas as they are foliage plants that lack a woody structure. Hostas rely on a constant supply of moisture at the roots which is drawn up consistently and transpires as water vapour from the leaves creating a partial vacuum. It is this internal pressure that maintains the structure of the plant in a process know as Tugor pressure.
This is why amending quick draining sandy soil with material that can maintain a consistent moisture balance in the soil is so important to the health of hostas.
Add Mulch to Hostas in Sandy Soil
A consistent application of mulch around the surrounding soil of the hosta is important to combat the dry and nutrient poor natural disposition of sandy soil.
The best mulches to apply are, any organic material that has a good capacity to hold and retain water.
Grass clippings, compost, leaf mould and manure or all good options. I would advise against wood chip or stone as it does not absorb water to the same capacity and will contribute little in the way of nutrients to the soil.
Apply layer of 1-2 inches of mulch on the soil surrounding the hosta but keep a 6 inch gap between the mulch and the crown of the hosta.
There is no need to dig the mulch in to to the ground as organic material on the surface of the soil will stimulate microbes and worm activity to break the organic matter down and integrate into the soil.
Also digging will likely harm the tuberous roots of the hosta.
Over time the soil structure, moisture levels and fertility of the soil will all improve.
Mulch can be applied at anytime of year but early spring is best to keep the soil at the optimal level of moisture for warmer the growing season ahead.
Fertilizer for Healthy Hostas in Sandy Soil
Sand does not contribute any significant nutrients to the soil so it is important to use a fertilizer as hosta prefer a nutrient rich soil.
Hostas will only be able to grow to their full potential in terms of size and colour with feeding. The larger the hosta is, the more demand it has for nutrients so regular fertilizer is necessary.
Thankfully feeding hostas is not complicated. All they require is a general balanced Nitrogen (N) potassium (P) and phosphorous (K) fertilizer at the start of spring once every two weeks, through to mid summer. Do not apply any fertilizer after the middle of August as this will promote new growth whilst the plant should be preparing for winter dormancy.
Hostas do not require a specialised type of fertilizer and any reputable multi purpose fertilizer brand (such as miracle grow) will be perfect. These fertilizers will also contain important trace elements that are necessary for healthy hostas and they will make up the short fall from nutrient poor sandy soil.
Regular mulching will help to promote long term fertility in the soil but it may not have the right balance of nutrients that hostas ideally need. So in sandy soils a combination of mulch and fertilizer in the growing season will ensure healthy hostas will rich colour and luxuriant foliage.
Watering Hostas to Counter Dry Sandy Soil
Hostas grown in sandy soils will need to be watered more diligently then normal due to the quick drainage and then inability for sand to store water around the roots as other soils do.
Amending the soil with organic matter prior to planting and a regular application of mulch will help retain water and increase the hostas resilience to quick draining soil and dry weather so it is important to implement these steps along side regular watering.
- Large hostas such as ‘Jade Cascade’ may need as much as 4 gallons of water per day in the hottest days of summer so that the soil does not run out of moisture. Water larger varieties with plenty of water once every 2-3 days in more overcast weather with occasional rain fall.
- Medium and smaller size hostas will need watering once every 3 days when the leaves start to emerge in the Spring and watering with up to 1-2 gallons every 2-3 days in the high temperature of summer.
Always water hostas generously as this will encourage the roots to grow deep into the soil and therefore increase the plants resistance to drought in the quick draining sandy soil.
Top Tip: Water hostas first thing in the morning as this will charge them with water for the day ahead. Watering at night is not advised as this will provide the ideal conditions for slugs and snails to emerge which have a taste for the succulent leaves of hostas.
Check Soil Moisture in Sandy Soils
Assuming you have the correct watering protocol in place for growing hostas it is also a good idea to check the soil moisture in the spring and summer months during dry spells particularly as sandy soils drain so quickly.
The easiest and most effective way to test soil moisture is to check to a fingers depth in the immediate surrounding soil around the hosta. If you can detect moderate moisture then your current watering or perhaps level of rainfall is sufficient to sustain the hosta in the hotter weather.
If the soil feels dry then you will need to give your hosta a good drink of at least 2 gallons to ensure the hosta’s soil remains at the correct moisture balance.
Another obvious sign is that hosta leaves may be drooping due to lack of water, in which case you should water thoroughly and add a layer of mulch to retain water and slow the rate at which the soil dries out.
- Hostas can be planted in gardens with sandy soil as long as you prepare the soil before planting.
- Amending the soil with plenty of organic matter will help the soil to retain moisture and increase the fertility of the soil. This is essential as sandy soils are often dry and nutrient poor.
- Mulch hostas in the spring to improve the soil and retain water to prepare the plant for hotter summer days that can otherwise dry out the soil.
- Fertilizer is essential to add the right balance of nutrients, for hostas to grow to their full potential in terms of size, colour and luxuriant foliage.
- Water larger hostas varieties every day with around 3 gallons in the height of summer to maintain the optimal soil moisture conditions. Medium and smaller varieties will need 1-2 gallons per day in hot weather or watering once every three days in more overcast or occasionally rainy weather.
- Water hostas in the morning to charge them with water rather then in the evening which will encourage slugs and snails.
- If you are unsure whether to water your hostas, check to a fingers depth to detect moisture. If the soil only somewhat moist or drying out water generously and add mulch to the surface for added water retention.