When someone asks me why they should grow hostas in pots, my first response is, “How much time do you have?” There are so many advantages to doing this that I needed most of this article to list them. But here goes...
Color, Color, Color
While the leaf colors of hostas, although beautiful, are mostly limited to blues, greens and yellows, with a myriad of variations and margins, the colors of gorgeous pots on the market are limitless.
Pots are a great way to add some 'pow' and extra color to any garden spot. Any inexpensive light-weight plastic pot from the second-hand store can be repainted apple red, cobalt blue or any color of the rainbow.
In addition to their beauty, pots can be plucked down anywhere there is a problem area; on top of tree roots or in that area that just won't drain well.
Focal PointsIf you have a prized or special hosta, it's easy to move it onto a deck or patio where it can be seen up close.
Staging a potted hosta at eye level will complement the surroundings plantings and serve the same purpose.
Every season there can be a different look. Didn't work over there; next year try it over there. You can't do that with hostas in the ground.
Sun and Shade
The shades of the colors of hosta leaves can vary greatly depending on the type of hosta and the amount of sun the hosta gets during the day.
As a rule, dappled shade is the best siting for most hostas, especially morning sun and afternoon shade. That will keep every hosta pretty healthy, but some hostas will thrive with a little more sun. These are called “sun tolerant hostas." These hostas were bred to take four to six hours of direct sun.
The ability to move the pots around to just that right mix of sun and shade for a particular hosta can be priceless. Also, moving a stressed hosta to a more shady area can give the hosta a respite from the heat and sun during the hottest part of the summer.
Ease of Dividing
Here at Sunset Hosta Farm every once in a while we run into a difficult kind of hosta, or sometimes just ones that seem to need a little more TLC than others.
When we divide our hostas here, we are sometimes left with very small pieces with just enough root to survive. And like any hostaholic, that hosta piece DOES NOT go into the compost bin. It's lovingly placed in a small pot in an area where we can baby it and give it every chance to survive. It's amazing how many do end up thriving.
Less Slug Damage
If this were the only reason to put your hostas in a pot, I think it would be worth it. Slugs can chew holes in hosta leaves to the point of a swiss cheese look.
For a list of some of the great small and mini hostas that we sell, click here.
Hostas with Beautiful Petioles
There are some hostas these days with beautiful petioles. (The slender stalks that attach the leaf to the stem.) These specimen hostas can be lifted to eye level for maximum impact.
A few of the best specimen hostas in this category also available at Sunset Hosta Farm.com are:
Cherry TartHeight 10” Width up to 25”
Cherry Tart emerges with lance-shaped bright chartreuse leaves that brighten to a glowing yellow if given some bright light. Put his one in a container at eye level to show off its lipstick red petioles.
Fire IslandHeight 15” Width up to 24”
This beauty has acid yellow leaves accented by red petioles which extend to the base of the leaves. A prominent raised position in a fairly sunny spot will display both the bright foliage and the striking petioles.
Ready to plant your hostas in pots? Here's some things to remember:
Pot Size MattersWhen choosing the pot size for your hosta, keep the mature size of the hosta in mind.
Since hosta roots grow horizontally, for purely aesthetic reasons, the width of the pot should be greater than the height and the width should be no wider than 3” in diameter than the current root size of the hosta. This gives the hosta roots a chance to spread out and still nicely display the hosta's lateral and fan-shaped leaves. If you put a small hosta in too big of a pot, the hosta would be subject to root rot.
At Sunset Hosta Farm, we use a lot of azalea or rhododendron pots which are the perfect size for small hostas.
Hostas in pots need soil that has good air circulation to the roots and good drainage. Perlite, bark and grit are some of the additives that can be used. An addition of sphagnum peat moss or coir peat will help hold in the moisture. Any kind of general potting soil will do which already has all of the above.
Drainage, Drainage, Drainage
I am a big fan of the more the merrier when it comes to holes in the bottom of my pots. I very rarely encounter hosta root rot doing this. Also a one to two inch layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot will aid in drainage.
- Fill the container one-third full with the prepared potting mix.
- Set the hosta roots in the container.
- Adjust the depth so the top of the root ball sits about two inches beneath the container rim.
- Fill in around the roots with soil until the hosta is planted at the same depth it was growing at previously.
WateringIf there is no appreciable rainfall, pots will need to be watered every other day during the warm weather and every day during the hottest part of the summer. Shallow waterings cause shallow roots, so soak the water through the container.
Fertilizing Hostas in Pots
The nutrients in the soil will be washed away by repeated waterings so some fertilizer is necessary. Fertilize the potted hosta once a month beginning about two months after planting. Apply a water-soluble balanced fertilizer at the package recommended rate through the late summer. Stop fertilizing the potted hostas two months before your first expected frost date to help them get ready for their winter sleep. Resume fertilization when new growth appears the following Spring.
Overwintering Hostas in Pots
Hostas are a perennial and need a six-week period of temperatures below 40 degrees for their winter sleep, but when temperatures plummet during the coldest part of the winter, the pots need additional protection from the cold and wet.
Smaller Hostas in pots
The smaller the pot, the more likely the hosta will freeze solid without some sort of protection. There’s a few things you can do.
- Move the small pots to an unheated garage for winter protection.
- If you have a lot of small pots, you can bury the entire group in the ground, or huddle them together out of direct sun and cover with leaves
- Another trick is to place the pots on their sides once the freeze hits. This will ensure that there is not too much rainfall to rot the roots.
Here in Zone 6, they are overwintered in an unheated greenhouse checking weekly before the frost hits to be sure they don’t completely dry out. Once the freeze hits, they are left on their own until it begins to warm up in March.
Larger hostas in pots
- Large potted hostas will normally overwinter well. A two to three-inch layer of mulch will help.
- If you have a prized hosta that you don’t want to take chances with, you can always bury it in the ground for winter and repot in the Spring.
And remember, snow is a great insulator!
Whether you use potted hostas in a group or for one special raised focal point, they are sure to bring beauty to your garden for many years.
Where to go next!