Mickfield Hostas
Established 1981

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why can't I buy plants through this website?
This website was created in 2001 to support customers who have bought plants from us already. It was designed to be an information resource in the true spirit of the Internet, rather than a means by which to encourage you to spend.
We have toyed with the idea of a web shop but we wouldn't be able to offer the very special/limited quantity cultivars this way and, as we operate across multiple selling channels during the season. We would hate to disappoint anyone by saying we have something for sale when we might have sold the last one at the nursery before we were able to update the shop.
The main reason for not operating an online shop is the fact that so many customers prefer to get advice at the same time as they make their purchasing decisions. This is far easier to do via the phone or email.
We do all we can to ensure we give all our customers the attention they deserve, whether they are contacting us remotely, visiting the nursery or attending a show. Maintaining an online shop is a complication we do not currently have time for.
Finally, we are also very wary of online fraud so by speaking to our customers directly, we can avoid any risk of personal details being hacked via a service we have no control over.

How can I view my selected plants in one place when choosing?

We do not have the facility to create a 'wish list' or basket on this website but there are ways you can create a list of your own in another window, which in many ways is much better than using a wish list that would disappear.
Open up a new document in a software package you are comfortable with using such as Word or Powerpoint. Copy images into that document and annotate as you would in a notebook. 'Right clicking' your mouse button on the selected image should give you a drop down list of options, including 'copy' or you can press 'Control' and 'C' together on your keyboard as a shortcut. Click in your document where you want the image placed either 'right click' your mouse for the drop down menu of options or on your keyboard press 'Control' and 'V' to paste.

Doing this gives you a very useful record of what you have selected/bought and can save lots of effort in the future trying to identify plants you have bought. It is also a very useful aide memoir for what you already have in your garden, helping you when out and about buying plants.

How do I look after my hostas?
Hostas are hardy perennial woodland plants that love shady, moist conditions so:

    • give them plenty of shelter: preferably from trees but walls and fences can to the job too

    • don't let them dry out BUT don't let them become water-logged: stand pots in a dish or tray and water from there. This allows the plant to take all it needs and takes the guess work out of watering.

    • take a look at the cultivation special newsletter - October 2020

There are a handful of cultivars that can withstand full sun but we recommend you provide good levels of shade for the very best colour.
Cultivars with white in the leaf are especially prone to scorching and can be damaged by drying warm winds as well as direct sunlight. Scorching reduces the white areas on a leaf to a papery, dry consistency so you will be able to see the damage at an early stage. If your plant does exhibit damage then try to provide more shelter for it.

Hostas are also prone to weather damage if exposed to heavy winds and rain so planting in a well sheltered spot will help protect against this. Over winter, we suggest you leave your pots on their side to avoid waterlogging and then freezing as this can damage the root system of your plants (and your lovely pots).

If you are collecting miniature hostas then we recommend you pop them into containers for the first few years until they have established themselves sufficiently to compete with the other plants in your garden.

People often ask about difficult growing conditions they experience in their gardens and we have distilled a range of these, with suggestions as to how to deal with them on our inspiration page.

What should I feed water my hosta and how much water does it need?

Multipurpose compost/feed warning
If you use feeds designed for annuals on your hostas they will become stressed, look weak and probably die back completely in the autumn never to return.
Food additives in multipurpose composts are often too aggressive for hostas, especially if the plants dry out a little as this can intensify the nutrient levels.

As woodland plants hostas gain their nutrients through the continual decomposition of rotting leaf litter.
Therefore, they do not require very much in the way
of food. If your hostas live in pots then give them a couple of feeds of half-strength tomato food during the year, but no more. All our sales plants, and the majority of our parent plants, are grown in pots and we apply a seaweed feed in the spring as the only feed for the year.

If your hostas are planted in the garden then the application of well rotted manure or garden compost, when the plants enter dormancy in the autumn, will serve them well during the winter. Top dressing with the same in the spring, together with an application of slug pellets will give the plants an extra boost during emergence whilst combatting early damage by the slugs emerging from hibernation at the same time. An early top dressing can also help protect the emerging shoots from late frosts.

Our soil mix
As we have hinted, hosta are woodland plants and therefore a soil mix that mimics those conditions is ideal. However, hosta are not fussy and can grow in very poor soil. We use a mix of products from Melcourt and Dalefoot, opening it up with the addition of sand and a little fine composted bark.
We use a gentle, slow release feed to mimic the nutrients offered up by nature.

Every gardener knows the importance that water plays in the growth of their plants, it is vital for the plant to survive. What is sometimes not appreciated is the amount of water a plant requires, not just to survive but to flourish.
We have all experienced the rush to get the hose pipe out when we get home from work because the healthy plants we lovingly planted on the weekend have wilted during an unexpected sunny Monday. The stress on the plants at this point has already caused some damage and will affect the plants full potential to grow and flower or fruit.

Plants grown in pots and containers or greenhouses will dry out more quickly than those in the borders, so now the frequency of watering becomes very important. These plants should be watered at least twice each day and in very hot weather more frequently. Try to avoid watering into the centre of the hosta as this risks crown rot.
We advocate the use of shallow dishes or trays of water in which to stand your containers. Keeping the trays topped up with water helps take the guesswork out of how much water to use, and is a natural barrier to slugs and snails.
Water round ground grown hosta infrequently but well, an intermittent soaking does more good that too frequent shallow watering. This only encourages the plant to shallow root and will be less able to withstand prolonged dry periods.

Can I split my hosta?
Yes, but we recommend you wait until the spring and see how your hosta looks as it emerges. If the new shoots are looking a bit crowded together then that is a sign the plant could do with splitting. If your plant is pot-bound then it may throw up premature flower spikes rather than produce leaves - this is a sign that the plant is stressed as it is trying to reproduce too early in the year.

Dividing hostas is easy - details of how to do this can be found in our May 2007 newsletter, December 2009 newsletter and the most recent special issue April 2022, which includes a step by step guide with photos.

What is your secret weapon against slugs and snails?
Before we start, please exercise some perspective on the subject of pest control. We do not advocate the wanton scattering of slug pellets as we have hedgehogs, frogs and birds in great numbers around the nursery. Judicious use of pest control measures tend to be much more effective in our experience and we are happy the methods we use ensure the chemicals do not enter the food chain.

First, determine what has damaged your plant:

Is it slugs or is it snails?
  • Slug damage is indicated by holes in the leaves on emergence. The slugs that do the damage emerge from hibernation at the same time as your hostas and the only things on their minds is food and reproduction. They are best targetted early.

    In the past we have used Nemaslug to great effect. Indeed it gave us two seasons of control in one application. It is a common misconception that control only lasts for the six week life cycle of the nematode, since during this time the creature produces and itís progeny take over the task, if there are enough slugs left for them. We also noticed that the nematode worked against young snails.
    However, the nematode is temperature dependent and only works below ground. Prolonged drought or cold spells will make it necessary to re-apply

  • Snail damage shows as large lace-effect gashes in the leaves throughout the season. Snails are the most damaging of hosta pests aside from vine weevil and you will need to spot treat regularly throughout the growing season to combat this pest effectively.

    We have devoted a few newsletters to this subject:

Because snails live above ground, they remain unaffected by nematodes, as do many slugs. However, garden slugs, which hibernate below the soil, can be effectively targeted with nematodes. These slugs can usually only damage your hosta shoots within the first few hours of emergence. Beyond that point, the shoots harden off, especially ground grown ones, and become less susceptible.  In exceptionally dry years we have witnessed slug damage during the season but if you deploy snail treatments then this should also affect the slug population.

Don't forget that snails lay down a slime trail as they move. If you have any damage to your hostas then look round for a trail and disturb it if you find one/several. Snails spend valuable energy on laying these trails and will use them to navigate their way back to your plant, which often explains why one hosta can be eaten whilst the one next to it spared. By noticing the early signs of damage you can prevent further grazing. Better still go back at night and wait for the critter to come along, and dispatch it for good.

Slug pellets

NOTE: Metaldehyde based slug pellets are now illegal to use (as of March 2022) but you can still purchase alternatives. When using slug pellets it is really important that you follow the manufacturer's guidelines and we suggest the following hints to help to use them effectively:

  • Start using your pellets early on in the year, when the first warm weather hits.
  • Don't scatter widely and wantonly, remember slugs and snails hunt by smell so you risk attracting more of a problem than you need to solve if you do scatter.
  • Keep your pellets dry by putting a a few of pellets in a jar (on its side) hidden among the foliage. This keeps the pellets effective for longer and any snails in the vicinity will snack on the them in preference to your plants. The image above is for illustration only, you do not need a whole teaspoon of pellets, a dozen is about all you need per jar.
  • Place the jars in the coolest, darkest, dampest parts of your garden - think like a snail, where would you hide and that is where you place the jars. You shouldn't be able to see the jars as you tend not to be able to see snails during the day. Under dense foliage, at the base of fences and walls, round compost bins and pots are good places.

Using nematodes to combat the slugs, and pellets to combat the snails, leaves us with a little time to combat vine weevil, which is altogether a more tricky pest to deal with:

  • Vine Weevil damage shows as notches nipped out along the leaf edges. This is done by the adult weevil, which feeds at night and does not fly. Itís larvae feast on plant roots to devastating effect. The larvae are white, about ĹĒ long, with brown heads.We have found that they are most likely to cause damage in potted plants, probably because they like the friable soil. To combat this we always add 20% sharp sand to our potting mix. We also take the precaution of re-potting plants we buy straight away, in case we have imported any pests.
    NOTE: Vine weevil need air to breathe, so submerging any plant found to have an infestation in a bucket of water for around 10 minutes will bring them to the surface, ensuring you have found all the potential nibblers.

Nemaslug also produce a nematode solution for Vine Weevil - find out more here

Plant/leaf damage

  • Weather-related
    Hostas can suffer weather-related damage to the leaves, just like any other plant. Hail, very cold rain and frost can cause very localised damage to the cells, which then develop what looks like rust spots. Wind and sun can scorch leaves, bleaching their colour and turning then papery in consistency. Most of the images we are sent of leaf damage can be explained as weather-related.
  • Viruses
    There are some plant viruses that can affect hostas and over recent years hosta virus X, or HVX, has become more prevalent. The American Hosta Society is funding research into this particular virus to understand what causes it, and to determine how best to deal with it. AHS policy is to destroy any suspect plants and to notify the nursery who supplied it. The nursery can then screen their stocks of the variety, if they don't already do so.
    Find out more about the virus and AHS funded research.

    Interestingly, it does seem that this virus can lay dormant for quite a few years before showing any sign of infection, rather like many other viruses that affect plants, and humans come to that. Indeed, we have seen some very mature plants, which have obviously been cultivated for a number of years, show signs of the virus. It is conceivable that the symptoms could be triggered by climate changes or severe weather conditions.
    We rather feel this has become more of a problem over recent decades due to the proliferation of new introductions that have not been properly screened before entering the tissue culture process. So far research suggests that the virus can survive this process, which obviously increases the potential of occurrance considerably.

Read more about HVX from the links to the AHS website shown above, and we devoted a newsletter to the subject in November 2008

Ordering from us
Ordering from us is easy, simply call us on 07988 585218, or email us, with your order.

We have an ever-growing list of highly satisfied customers who have successfully ordered plants from us and love to tell us of their joy at receiving such beautiful plants in this way. We could list a whole bunch of bouquets but feel you should experience our mail order for yourselves. Why not give it a go?
More information about ordering from us

To give them the best start plant in a well prepared humus rich soil that is sufficiently friable to ensure good contact with the roots. Make sure they do not dry out whilst establishing themselves, but do not over water. Removing flowering shoots for the first season will encourage plants to concentrate their energies on producing more crowns and strong roots.
If planting out when frost may be a problem, protect with mulch. This is also recommended for the early emerging cultivars, e.g. H. montana 'Aureomarginata' and plants from the Tardiana group.

Xylella fastidiosa
The RHS have a leaflet on their website, which links to the DEFRA directive aiming at preventing the spread of Xylella fastidiosa to the UK. Public awareness needs to be raised about the serious nature of this latest disease, and ways in which we can all act to prevent it entering the UK. Although Hosta have not been identified as a host, or at risk, we still have a role to play in helping the rest of the industry combat the spread of disease.
As a consequence we would like to ask you not to send in the post or bring us directly, any live plant material you would like us to identify/diagnose. It is especially important that you do not bring any plant material to a show.
If the disease was to be found at a show, every nursery exhibitor would be affected and, although destruction of host plants only is specified, caution would suggest that all plant material be destroyed.

Please spread the word
and if you have an issue with a plant, which you would like us to help you with - take photos, even if it is just to identify the cultivar. Prevention is always preferable to cure but in this matter, the cure could potentially damage UK horticulture for many years to come.
Vigilance is the key to preventing further spread, so we urge you to follow up the recommendations outlined in the directive and make sure your protect yourselves by knowing the origins of the plants you buy for your own garden.

Last updated: 12/7/2024