Dormant Hostas - I'm Getting Anxious

dougald_gwMarch 13, 2013

Today, I put on my boots and winter gear and took a walk through my garden. The snow is still almost knee deep despite a few days of above freezing daytime temps.

I am getting anxious for spring and want to rush it but it also got me thinking.

The hostas are dormant under a blanket of snow and that blanket will stay till about the beginning of April. Then the ground won't thaw completely till end April as the frost line is about 42 inches. The top foot or so should thaw by mid April and the hostas will start to emerge around the beginning of May.

Although frosts will nip at the hostas in early May the leaves are slow to unfurl ... then the growth to full size for the season is at a rocket's pace in the very long hours of daylight in late May and early June.

That snow that I crunched through today is likely very protective of the hostas dormancy. And after reading about others with problems prolonging dormancy, I should likely be thankful for the white cover.


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Doug, I hear you trying to talk yourself into being patient! I don't think anyone else could add more than you've already stated.

Yes, the hosta here have a small window of dormancy, and I hope it is enough for them to prosper this growing season. Otherwise, I guess I could rent a refrigerated trailer and put all the dormant pots in it for a couple of months. Hmmmm, if all else fails, try technology! But hopefully we are all okay.

Poor Doug, it will be hard to be patient two more months, I'm sure. At that point, I bet you'll be able to hear them growing.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 2:31PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

Doug, you're in zone 4. You won't see the Hostas till June. You are going to have to survive on pictures til then. Here's help. This is what I have in my basement.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 3:43PM
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I hear ya, Doug. I'm in Zone 5B so I'm still buried under the white stuff too. Reeeeeeeally getting spring fever. I was hoping to get a jump on the season by trying to germinate some seeds from Marquette Park but after 2 months of babying them nothing happened so I threw them out. Next week I will start tomato seeds indoors. I know those will germinate and give me a bit of indoor green.

At least it's mid-March (not December!) and we can feel a little spring in the air, can't we? The chickadees start hunting for nesting sites right about now so I had my husband build me 2 nesting boxes yesterday. Might as well watch the birds till the hostas start showing themselves!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 11:52PM
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Steve, that's a beautiful little hosta. What varieties did you cook that up with?

Don B.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 11:58PM
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Steve - a great looking little hosta ... is it your own creation?

With the temp at -16C (getting close to 0F) this morning when I got up and a fresh dusting of white on everything, the pics of hostas and birds are a reminder that spring will come eventually.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 8:47AM
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Well,hostas are SUPPOSED to be coming up here,but,it seems that winter isn't going away;in fact it is colder now than it was in January! 25 this morning with wind yesterday that could freeze you right in your tracks. I think we may not have a hosta year this season. I have been keeping my emerged hostas under leaves,and yesterday,I got a bunch of small cardbox boxes so I can keep covering them up every night. It looks as though winter will go right up to March 20th this year. Phil

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 9:28AM
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bernd ny zone5(5)

We also had 25 this morning, but all snow is gone. The average temperature is in the 40s but we will be 10 degrees colder all week. I can have spring though anytime I want, same as Steve. I go into my basement and there are hosta seedlings growing per this photo taken a week ago. Bernd

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 9:52AM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b


Thanks for the kind words. That's one of my new seedlings. It's Epsom Derby OP x Stingray. I got about 20 streakers from this cross. Here's a pic of the full tray.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 9:35PM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Bernd and Steve: Your hostas are looking suberb! Now since I am a Stage III hostaholic, I am not supposed to be interested in doing my own seedlings, but your beautiful hostas are making me think that just maybe I should dabble a bit on my own . . . . . maybe next year?

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 10:25PM
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Congrats Steve for your success with this cross! It certainly looks very promising though streakers are notoriously difficult.

Bernd also has managed to create a few - you guys are good.

While I am certainly much more a gardener than hosta specialist (hey - i choose my hostas based on foliage and what will give the look I want!), I still appreciate the effort and dedication it takes to create new varieties. And just maybe it is a way to bridge the late winter to spring when all is still frozen but I get anxious.


    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 8:15AM
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irawon(5a Ottawa)

Dougald, like you I'm thankful for the snow cover this year. It disappeared a little too soon last year while we were down south. Temperatures were in the high 20C and I almost lost some of my minis because they needed water. Where in the valley are you located that you're in zone 4?

Steve, Bernd, those are lovely looking seedlings... very healthy looking. How long did it take to get to that size? I'm thinking of my OP seedlings in the ground that were still tiny after 2 years. I admire your work to get them to that stage.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 10:03AM
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Nice seedlings, guys.

Hostanista, how do you keep the sparrows out of your nesting boxes?


    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 11:57AM
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Most of the Ottawa Valley exclusive of the city is in USDA Zone 4b which has normal winter minimums of -31C to -28C (-25F to -20F). Ottawa itself like most cities is a heat island about 3C degrees warmer placing it in the very bottom of Zone 5. But we all know that the USDA scale does not say anything about length of winter or early/late frosts.

I am about 50 km south and west of the city. Yesterday was arctic like with a windchill in the city of -24C and closer to -30C in the Valley. Today is just snow and snow and snow.

Last spring was early by about 2 weeks with snow gone mid March in record heat but I can remember 2008 when the last snow melted Apr 20.

My experience with small seedlings has been that lack of water especially coupled with high heat is one of the prime reasons why they do not grow rapidly Given good drainage, moderate sunlight and loads of water virtually all hostas grow well.

For example, the white centred hostas that many claim to be finicky appear to grow here just the same as other hostas. But I do have a sprinkler system installed that pumps water from the river and the soil is well drained.


    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 12:25PM
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This is our first year with the chickadee boxes, so we'll see who actually uses them, if anyone. The plans called for an entry hole of no more than 1 1/8" which is usually too small for a sparrow.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 6:38PM
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bernd ny zone5(5)

irawon, I have about 30-40 streaker seedlings. Since they have some white, it takes longer for them to grow. I planted the seeds around the middle of November. Seeds sprouted a week later, seedlings are now close to 4 months old and grow under 24 hrs light.

Seeds can be bought from places like Hosta Works, around $4 per pack, or from late-fall and winter auctions. Nearly all will sprout, but there will be a lot of greenies which I did not want because I was looking for streakers and culled those. It is gardening fun all winter. Which reminds me to go down again and stare at my beauties. Therefore, this year I will have another 40 or so new hostas via seedlings, last year I had 20-30 seedlings, and therefore some more culling is needed.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 5:42PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

Sometimes the little ones get big fast. Here's one that I had to transplant to a 32 oz yogurt container. It's going to flower soon.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 6:49PM
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Nice one, Steve.
Already a quart sized plant.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 11:01PM
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