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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Winter Care for your Potted Hostas


Hostas are a very forgiving plant but hostas in pots do need some care over the winter. 

 Hostas need a six-week period of temperatures below 40 degrees for their winter sleep. But since during this time the potted hostas can be exposed to several freezes and thaws, they need extra care to prevent damage to their roots.
Here are some tips on getting your hostas in pots to survive the cold winters.

As a general rule, your growing zone and the species of hosta you have are factors to consider.  Hostas with plantaginea and Lancifolia lineage are more sensitive to the cold.


A little bit about microclimates.  In every garden, there are warm and cold spots, spaces where the wind flows through and areas that are more protected from the wind.

Guacamole Hosta

Years ago, I learned a valuable lesson about this.  I had three large mature Guacamole hostas like the one above in big beautiful red plastic pots that I confidently left outdoors for the winter several years in a row.

Well, one year I moved the three pots (for whatever reason) next to the shed for the winter.  Well, winter water drained right off the shred and down into those pots for the entire winter season rotting the roots.  Lesson learned.

    Hostas in Smaller Containers

Blue Mouse Ear Hosta in Hypertufa Container

The above Blue Mouse Ears Hostas is snuggled in a hypertufa container.  If you've never tried to make garden planters with hypertufa, you are really missing out!   For our Hypertufa 101 article with full instructions and pictures, click here.

The smaller the pot, the more likely the hosta will freeze solid without some sort of protection.  Although the hypertufa (cement) container above can withstand freezing temperatures, these mouse-eared hostas may not.

Here are some options for making sure they make it through the winter months.

  • Move the small pots to an unheated garage, shed or greenhouse for winter protection.
  • Here in Zone 6, our younger hostas are overwintered in an unheated greenhouse. We check them weekly before the first frost hits to be sure the soil doesn't completely dry out. Once the hard freeze hits, the hostas are left on their own until it begins to warm up in March.
  • 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.  If you do bury your pots, make sure you uncover them before the leaves unfurl in the spring.  If a late frost threatens, recover them to prevent late frostbite.
  • Another option is to place the pots on their sides once the freeze hits. This will protect them from excessive rainfall which can rot the roots.

Hostas in Large Containers

The Shining Hosta

Large potted hostas will normally overwinter well.  The above large The Shining hosta is planted in a plastic red pot.  Here is Zone 6, it survives the winter without being taken into an unheated shed, garage or greenhouse.  

To help ensure it survives the winter:

  • Adding a two to three-inch layer of mulch will help.  Be careful, though, not to smother the roots with too much mulch.  The roots need some airflow.  Leaves and straw are two of the best mulches to use as they're lighter and provide air pockets.
  • If you have a prized hosta that you don’t want to take chances with, you can always bury it halfway or fully in the ground for the 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. And if they're cared for well in the winter, they will continue to bring enjoyment for many years to come.


Where to go next!

various hostas in a grouping

Love hostas or know someone who does?
Visit our website for great hostas at an affordable price!

Friday, October 25, 2019

When is it Time to Divide my Hosta?


Hostas continue to be one of the most popular and easy-to-care-for perennials in Zone 3 through 8 gardens.  It's no secret that many gardeners want to divide their hostas to spread the hosta love around their own garden or to share divisions with other hosta lovers.

Because hostas are such a tough plant, you can divide them in spring, summer and fall, and dividing hostas in each season is explained more fully later.

Hosta with Center Die-Out

However, there are times where a hosta plant will tell you it needs to be divided.

Hostas are a long-living perennial, and over time, the center of the plant may begin to die out. This is commonly referred to as center die-out, clump die-back or fairy ring. The later is a whimsical nickname given where the problem is said to result from fairies dancing in the middle of the plant.

Hostas put on most of their new growth on the outside of the clump each year. After several years, the dead growth from past years will accumulate in the center.

Also, a lack of water through the season is another reason that the middle buds will start to die out.  Crowns and roots can also be damaged and rot due to the heaving up and exposure of the crowns over the winter.

Spring is the perfect time to do a yearly check on your more mature hostas to see which plants are missing some or all of the pips in the middle of the plant. That's when you know it's time to divide that hosta.

Which hostas are more susceptible?

Since the center die-out takes some years to develop, it is often the older and more established hostas that are affected. Also, fast-growing hostas that reach their maturity faster can fall prey to this problem more often.


Dividing and Curing Center Die-Out

Dividing the plant is the best way to cure the problem. Dig up the entire plant, separate it into as many pieces as you'd like leaving good healthy roots on each piece. 

Dispose of the dead or rotted center parts. If the center of the hosta has actually rotted, soak the divided healthy parts in a mild solution of bleach (10% to water) before you replant.

This division also serves to stimulate new buds and new growth. Replant the healthy pieces.

Spring, Summer and Fall

Hostas can safely be divided any time the ground is workable, however the summer months can be rough on the divisions so more attention, water and shade will be needed. Most gardeners prefer to divide their hostas in the Spring and Fall for that reason.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of dividing hostas in each of those three seasons:

hostas buds coming up in spring


Spring is the best time to divide fast-growing hostas, specifically as soon as the eyes are popping up but before the leaves unfurl. This is usually a two-week window. Fast-growing hostas recover quickly from division. 

It is advisable to only divide non fast-growing hostas in thirds or quarters if doing this in the spring.


Hostas can be divided in the summer months, but much more care needs to be taken to be sure you don't stress the plant or divisions. Water well and shade the planted divisions for at least a week until the divisions are well established. Keep a close eye on the divisions.  



Fall is a great time for division. The hostas need for water is not as great now. In northern climates, that is September, in the southern, October.

Hostas will frequently throw up a small flush of leaves as the temperatures moderate from the summer heat in July, especially if it has been rainy.

Dividing them at least 30 days before the first expected frost date takes advantage of this growth spurt as well as giving the hosta divisions time to settle into their new home before their winter sleep.

How to Prevent Hosta Center Die-Out

  • Divide fast-growing hostas every five years. 
  • Hostas LOVE water. Give them plenty during the season, especially during the dry, hot months and even into the Fall if there's a lack of rain.
  • Apply mulch in the Fall season to prevent roots from heaving up during the winter which can cause the roots to rot.

Other Tips for Dividing Hostas

  • Sterilize your tools with a 10% bleach to 90% water solution to prevent transferring any diseases from hosta to hosta. 
  • Divide them on a shady day. 
  • The leaves can be tied back gently with string at the base of the plant, or cut down to a few inches from the base. 
  • Water frequently for the first few weeks. 
  • If planted in a sunny location, it's a good idea to shade your new divisions from the sun for the first week using a folded piece of cardboard, umbrella, etc, anything that gives some respite from the direct sun as they adjust to their new location.


So that's it.  Hostas will provide you with those beautiful, healthy leaves for years on end with very little care and maintenance.  


Where to go next!

Love hostas or know someone who does?
Great hostas at affordable prices!

Care for Hostas in Pots


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...


Mighty Mouse Hosta in Thrift Store Mini Watering Can

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.  


Fire Island in a Thrift Store Metal Pot


Difficult Places

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.


Stiletto Hosta in old pottery

Focal Points

If 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 surrounding 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.


First Frost hosta in a Ceramic Pot

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.

Guacamole in Red Plastic Pot

Ease of Dividing

The above Guacamole hosta was ready to be divided and replanted.  There is no backbreaking digging into the hard ground with pots.  Just tip the pot over, divide and replant.

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.

To read our full article on how to control slugs, click here.

Blue Mouse Ears in a Hypertufa Planter


Miniature and small hostas are the most popular sizes of hostas purchased for containers and pots. 

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 Tart

Height 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 Island

Height 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 are some things to remember:

Rain Forest Sunrise in Pottery under Blue Angel Hosta

Pot Size Matters

When 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 no more than 3” wider 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.  

The Soil

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.

My tried-and-true potting soil is Pro Mix. I buy it in bulk but it comes in plenty of sizes.


The Shining Hosta in bloom in a plastic planter

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.


Sun Power Hosta in a plastic pot

Planting Tips

  • 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.


So Sweet Hosta in Hypertufa Pot


If 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.


Wolverine Hosta in Hypertufa Pot

Overwintering Hostas in Pots

Hostas are perennial plants 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 are 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.


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