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Too early for tender hostas

Because it has been so warm already, my hostas have been coming up much too early, and I’m afraid they’ll be damaged or killed if we have another freeze. Some are in pots and some are in the ground. What’s the best way to protect them?

hosta shoots

Hosta shoots are difficult to see when they emerge, but they should be protected from a freeze.

You are correct that hostas making an appearance too soon would be damaged by frost or a freeze, so it pays to watch the forecast and take action when the temperature drops. Cornelia Holland, a hosta collector in Franklin, Tenn., grows hundreds of hostas and other shade-loving perennials in a half-acre garden she calls “Tranquility.” She passed along these tips for keeping hostas healthy when they emerge too soon.

Use soil to cover emerging shoots, and place pots upside-down over the larger hostas, she suggests. In her own garden, Cornelia used frost cloth to cover emerging shoots that were poking up in the extensive beds in late February. (It’s important to check perennial beds carefully, as the emerging shoots are difficult to see, she advises.) If possible, consider bringing the pots that contain emerging hostas inside if the temperature drops too low.

March weather is unpredictable, but the plants can thrive with extra vigilance and care. “I’ll be watching the temperatures through April,” Cornelia says.

Cornelia is passionate about hostas, and has such an extensive collection that she donated hundreds of hosta species and cultivars to The University Tennessee in Knoxville a couple of years ago, where the UT Institute of Agriculture established Tranquility — The Cornelia B. Holland Hosta Garden. I wrote about the Knoxville Tranquility in The Tennessean at the time; you can find the story here.

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