How To Fertilize And Water Hosta Lilies

Hosta lilies are American gardeners favorite shade perennial plants because, aside from being so beautiful, they are so easy to grow and care for. There are many varieties of hosta lilies and they all have similar cultural requirements. 

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know regarding feeding and watering hosta lilies so you'll be growing them like the pros...

Feeding Hosta Lilies

Hosta lilies aren't super-heavy feeders but they will benefit from fertilizer. I recommend an annual feeding of hosta lilies in late winter or early spring, when you see leaf spikes emerging from the ground, with a slow-release fertilizer or a mild organic or natural plant food. Before using a fertilizer, always read and follow instructions on the product label. Hosta lilies will also benefit from mulch. A 1/2-inch layer of aged compost applied in spring, covered by another inch or so of shredded wood mulch or straw mulch, can provide enough nutrients to maintain healthy hosta lily plants while also helping to hold in moisture. 

Soil pH

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil, which is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline.

Hosta lilies grow best in an acid to slightly alkaline soil ranging from 5.5 to 7.5. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. 

If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, or whether or not it's suitable for growing hosta lilies, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil Sulfur, Aluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.

Watering Hosta Lilies

First, a little about soil and drainage. Hosta lilies grow best in a a moist but well-drained soil of average fertility. To grow healthy hosta lilies in garden beds or containers good soil drainage is essential. This means at planting time it is best to amend heavy clay or other compacted soils, which are known to hold a lot of water, at a 50/50 ratio with organic compost, bagged top soil or a quality planting mix. Any site that stays soaking wet isn't good for growing hosta lilies.

When you water your hosta lilies it's best to do so during the morning hours so that water can dry from the leaves before the sun moves to high in the sky. This helps to avoid leaf scald. To avoid foliage disease, avoid watering hostas, or any other plants for that matter, in the late evening or at night.

Watering Hosta Lilies At Planting Time 

Immediately after planting deep soak the soil in the planting area, including the rootball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball.

During the First Growing Season

In average garden soil you should not have to water your newly planted hosta lilies every day. More often than not, this causes soggy soil conditions that can lead to root rot and other harmful plant diseases. That said, hosta lilies growing in containers might need to be checked for soil moisture and watered more frequently. In the absence of sufficient rainfall, water only as needed to keep the rootball and surrounding soil damp to moist. Keep in mind that deep soaking less frequently is much better than splashing just a little water on the plants every day. Hosta lilies planted during the winter dormant season, when plants are not actively growing and the evaporation process is much slower, will require much less water. 


When established, hosta lilies are quite tolerant of dry periods. That said, during prolonged drought they will appreciate an occasional deep soaking. If you see leaves wilting or leaf color fading during a drought this could be an indicator your plants could use a good deep soaking.

Other Helpful Hosta Lily Watering Tips

Rather than watering on a fixed schedule, take weather conditions into consideration and use your fingers to feel the soil. If the soil is damp hold off on watering until it dries some. In containers, provide water when the top inch or two of soil has become dry. 

When watering with an automated irrigation system it's best to set your timer to water during the early morning hours and not in the late evening or at night. During the first few weeks after planting, check soil moisture often and adjust irrigation time if necessary to keep the soil moist but not constantly wet. 

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