Reader question… “Last year was the first time I have ever grown hostas and I’m afraid they might have died over the winter. I haven’t been able to find any of the three plants I had. My question — what should I be looking for? What do hostas look like when they first start to grow the second year?” –Karlie
You should look for eyes (new shoots) poking out of the ground. Usually young or small hostas have only one or two eyes, so they may be somewhat more difficult to see, but if you feel around in the soil where you planted each hosta you will probably be able to feel the hard pointed tips of the new shoots even if they aren’t visible yet. It is also possible that you have some late emerging hostas… some hostas just normally take longer to show growth than others and will be just starting to show eyes when other hostas growing under the same conditions already have leaves.
Some hostas have eyes that are skinny, other hostas have eyes that are thick and fat. The size and color of the eyes will also vary depending on the age and size of the hosta and where it is planted. The eyes might be green or purple, or even white if they have been covered by mulch or leaves.
Be very careful not to injure the eyes because any injury will result in deformed leaves. I like to use my hands to gently clear away any debris from around my emerging hostas… and I have hundreds of hostas, so spring cleaning them is a major task and accidentally stepping on emerging eyes could be a major concern. I have found a solution that works well for me… I always wait until spring to remove the previous year’s debris because the dead hosta leaves mark the location of each hosta and are an indication of each hosta’s current size so I can see at a glance if a particular hosta needs more space. When I cut flower stalks I always cut them several inches above the soil, and every spring these dried stalks show me exactly where the eyes will emerge.
Each fall hostas die completely down to the ground and yet each spring they come back bigger and with more eyes and leaves than they had the year before.
Hostas are truly amazing plants.