Asked on Feb 19, 2016

Will mulch affect hostas growth?

by Louise
I got a huge load of mulch yesterday, and now plan to put it in my front yard. I can't grow grass due to so many trees so have been planting shade plants. I had hoped to get free mulch long before now so I could put the mulch out while the hostas were still green, but that's not to be. But here's the question -- I'm going to put down layers of newspaper, wet it and cover with mulch. I've read and have been told that doing that will keep weeds from coming up for maybe 2-3 seasons because in the warm weather that's a huge problem. BUT, will it keep my hostas from coming thru the paper and mulch? My daffodils are already up and that had been a concern previously. You can see in this photo where I already have some green weeds.
  35 answers
  • Dfm Dfm on Feb 19, 2016
    wait until the hostas are showing ...leave them a ring about 4 inches around them that just gets mulch, not newsprint. this will allow them to add new shoots and spread. find a method that will kill the root of the weeds. it might take a sharp trowel, but get as much of the roots as you can before you lay down the newsprint. i've had weeds poke thru plastic film, news print, wood chip, rock.....brick blocks
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Feb 19, 2016
    I would put a safe weed control down such as Preen.This will aid in the control of the weeds. Wait until the hosts start to emerge then proceed with your plan.
  • I want to warn you about free mulch! I know here in my area the free mulch is from the dump where people dump all kinds of lawn debris such as invasive ivy, vinca, as well as trees and shrubs and any weeds and leaves. If you do not know what is in the mulch, just be aware that weed seeds and even roots from many invasive plants will grow. The newspaper serves 2 purposes- suffocating the weeds and weed seeds and breaking down to be compost material. You have to wait as stated above until your hostas come up and Preen is for weed seeds only - does nothing to already germinated plants and roots. Weed seeds can lay dorman for many years and when you disturb the soil that is when many times the seeds will figure out its time to grow. I suggest (as said above) cut down the weeds before laying the newspaper and use several layers. There are several ways you can do the shade plants too- ferns are great ground covers such as the native Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) which is also an evergreen. It is a great fern that is seen many times in the woods. I do not know the soil in this area but there are many shade plants that love to grow together - Astilbe, Foam Flower, Heuchera (Coral Bells), Aquilegia (Columbine). I love my shade garden packed with plants that grow tightly together so I rarely have to weed. Just some thought for you.
  • Alice Alice on Feb 19, 2016
    Always be wary of free mulch because of weeds etc and you really don't know what type of tree it is from...but you do have to leave the hostas some room as they will not penetrate the paper. good luck
  • Hope Williams Hope Williams on Feb 19, 2016
    Agree with the above. Wait till your host as come up first. It will kill them.
  • Tra3151851 Tra3151851 on Feb 19, 2016
    Your hostas will come up threw just about anything! There hardy and their pointed stiff ends just push up three, after you see their breaking ground you can push aside the mulch. I also use preen slow release, but remember you need to weed it all first.. Or you can if their already threw, spray on weed be gone! Make sure there is green showing, it only works by being absorbed by the plant... Hope this helps? Love to garden in N.H.
    Trees are often removed when they are disease infested then turned into mulch. Diseases can be transported to your own yard as a result of this free mulch. It's a big risk in my humble opinion...
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Feb 19, 2016
    To add to my comment Preen is just a control not a weed killer.
  • Paula collins Paula collins on Feb 19, 2016
    I am in south Texas & used newspaper in this way .The fire ants built up under it horribly so it was not worth it for my area.
  • Kay Kay on Feb 19, 2016
    Wait until the hosta start poking up. The newspaper is an excellent way to keep the weeds down. I have used this newspaper idea for years and love it. I have done the fabric and will never ever use that again! I live in Michigan and use shade plants as well. I simply waited until I saw the shoots for my hosta to appear and went around them. Do this before they start to leaf out so that you can get as close as possible around them. It will look really nice!
  • Rae Rae on Feb 19, 2016
    I have used both newspaper and weed barrier fabric. The first thing you need to do is get rid of the existing weeds you have. My hostas are always visible just above the ground where I cut them back every fall so I am able to work around them. You should be able to see their stem peeking through the ground so you can avoid covering them with whatever barrier you use.
  • Louise Louise on Feb 19, 2016
    Thanks, everyone. I guess what I'll do is put out the mulch in all the areas there are NOT hostas (since I know generally where they are -- and Rae, I'll look for their stems peeking thru, too) and then finish up when the hostas are coming out. One problem is that if my mulch pile is here too long, the county will want it removed. If anyone can tell me about when the hostas will come out in north metro Atlanta, that will be helpful. I'll also Google to find out. I've had them for years, but never noticed just when, but it seems like they're late in the spring.
    • @Louise You live in zone 7b or 8a I think (I am in zone 7b) and my hostas start coming up in early March with some varieties not poking until April.
  • Sbsb1005 Sbsb1005 on Feb 19, 2016
    Last summer I layed 15 layers of newspaper and mulch and the weeds were popping up before I could finish the project. (It was a large area) So I added the landscape fabric on top of the paper as well. Some weeds even found their way through seams but it does look so much better. Your photo appears to show an incline? I would stagger hostas and other shade loving plants so hold the mulch in place. A good rain and it may slide some. Hens and chicks are good and for color Impatience love shade too - but pot them so you dont breach the fabric
  • Colleen Walpert Colleen Walpert on Feb 19, 2016
    I also like to use newspapers for a weed barrier. From experience, I learned that you need many layers of paper, more than you would imagine. Lay them in an overlapping, criss cross pattern to eliminate as much weed break through as possible. Water thoroughly, until all layers are soaked through before applying mulch. Again, a thick layer of mulch will be best so the newspapers don't peek through. I agree with Rae, you should be able to see where the hostas were and give them some space. Additionally, you do need to get rid of the weeds first. Although it seems daunting, pulling them before they go to seed and digging the leftover roots will be your best choice. Each year, you will see fewer and fewer until you only will need to do an occasional pull on the most stubborn ones.
    • DORLIS DORLIS on Feb 19, 2016
      @Colleen Walpert that is the secret, persistence, patience. Don't expect overnight results. Besides, the exercise is good for you.
  • UpState UpState on Feb 19, 2016
    I always use newspapers below the mulch....never use fabric anymore (hated it). If it's a decent day - dump all/alot of your newspapers in a 'watertight' wheelbarrow, add water from the hose, give it some time to absorb, then put down the wet newspapers in the criss-crossing manner described by Colleen Walpert of Shell Knob, MO.... Newspaper will be easy to tear into irregular shapes you'll need to put close to your plants and the odd shapes of the bed.Shell Knob, MO
  • Crystal Cochrane Crystal Cochrane on Feb 19, 2016
    I use cardboard in my flower beds. It's much thicker and doesn't move as much as news paper. You can even use both together. Still follow the instructions to wet the cardboard and newspaper followed by thick layer of mulch
  • Dot D Collett Dot D Collett on Feb 19, 2016
    I never had enough newspaper or patience to lay under mulch in the large areas. Large boxes work great and last longer, you don't have to wet them, and they are for for the asking at many of the local stores. They usually last longer. I used the newspapers around and close to the plants. I especially liked the rice hull cardboard from China because it was softer and 3 ply but there is the question of what pesticide was used on it.
  • Laurie Laurie on Feb 19, 2016
    Wait for your hostas to come up. You don't want to put a barrier over them.
  • Susan Kimmer Susan Kimmer on Feb 19, 2016
    I had a raised bed veggie garden a few years back that had a weed problem. I used a large layer of shredded paper to it. No more weed problems.
  • Gail_riggio Gail_riggio on Feb 19, 2016
    Pinestraw and black paper and news papers work well.
  • Linda Linda on Feb 19, 2016
    The answer to not getting weeds is a thick layer of mulch. Most people don't use enough. A few weeds will come through, but very few.
  • Grace Gleason Grace Gleason on Feb 19, 2016
    Yes, it will kill your hostas. Let them come up first.
  • Man2157524 Man2157524 on Feb 19, 2016
    better to avoid to pollute the ground with newspapers ink; a thick layer of mulch should be enough if it is put evenly. As long as you put your mulch around (and not on, of course) the place where your hostas are, it shouldn't be a pb with them.
  • Catherine Smith Catherine Smith on Feb 19, 2016
    You can add both wet newspaper and mulch and your hostas will do just fine. However, once they up and going, do check around the base for possible slugs. Mulch suppress weed growth, but it's also a nice dark damp environment for those little pests.
    • Pam Pam on Feb 19, 2016
      @Catherine Smith You can put egg shells for the slugs. It cuts them up when they crawl over them.
  • Johnchip Johnchip on Feb 19, 2016
    If it was 'free mulch' it was likely from a tree mulching done by a service company. I had this delivered once. It grew its own weeds and plants in the first season. Big mistake.
  • Jacusa Jacusa on Feb 19, 2016
    Regarding the pesky slugs…. I've used crushed eggshells - I dry them in oven… don't even need oven on… then put in plastic bag crush them and store in kitty litter jug or other plastic storage container. It works wonders keeping slugs away. Just sprinkle around hostas
  • Jacusa Jacusa on Feb 19, 2016
    Catherine Smith in the post above mine said something about checking around hosta base for slugs… I simply wanted to offer a suggestion. Thx!
    • Crystal Cochrane Crystal Cochrane on Feb 21, 2016
      @Jacusa it's funny how the answer to one question can result in related questions and answers that are also good to know :) Thx
  • Vicki Mann Vicki Mann on Feb 19, 2016
    I use a section of the newspaper at a time to give the barrier thickness but it only lasts one year at the longest. So you will have to replace it. I just rake out the mulch, pull any weeds and replace the paper. I place the paper around the base of the plants so they have no problem with coming up through it.
  • Jean DeSavage Jean DeSavage on Feb 19, 2016
    When I did the wet newspaper/mulch thing I put the paper down around my plants, that allows them to come up the next year. I did find it only works for a year in Southern Michigan, but it's actually good for the soil. The other thing to remember is to NOT use the slick colored sales flyers. They don't break down nicely like the regular newspaper. Also the colored inks aren't as innocuous as the black soy ink. Also, it works best if you pull existing weeds when putting the paper down. Good luck!
  • Christine P Christine P on Feb 20, 2016
    You will kill the hostas if you cover them up. Put the newspaper around the hostas and then mulch. Won't last long though, maybe one season and then you will have to do it again. I use landscape fabric. Last's a bit longer.
  • Mickey Baron Mickey Baron on Feb 20, 2016
    Pull the weeds. Lay the paper down AROUND the hostas. No shiney ads. If you had black, landscaping paper, felt side down, on top of the newspaper, cutting slits right where the hostas can fit through. Always leaving the plants you want to "save" open & free to grow. Then spread down your mulch.
  • Dot D Collett Dot D Collett on Feb 20, 2016
    Only one person has mentioned thickness of mulch! Here's what I've learned: Seeds /weeds only germinate in the top 3 inches of soil. Turning soil brings up more seeds from below the three inch level (some seeds are viable for 90 years. Curley Dock is one) So mulch as a weed barrier needs to be three + inches deep but since it does compost down, needs more added to keep it that depth. Any time a weed or plant is pulled up or new plant added, the soil is stirred and more seeds many be brought into the 3 inch zone. Yep! Maintanence Free is a myth!
  • Rae Rae on Feb 21, 2016
    Louise just backtracked and saw your comment. I live in the far north western corner of Ohio. I am sure your Hostas will be peeking through soon where you are. Up here they are one of the first welcome signs of spring.
  • Ginger the farm gal Ginger the farm gal on Feb 22, 2016
    Put the mulch down now, when hostas pop thru, then put down your paper and add more mulch, ground probably needs the extra mulch n e way, this will allow you to add less mulch each time yet keeps it moist.
  • Dmotan Dmotan on Oct 24, 2016
    Yes it would kill them. If you landscape cloth, the hostas won't spread as there is no room. Just mulch with pine straw or good hardwood mulch keeping in mind where your plants are.