Growing Hostas in Pots? Why Not!

Using perennials—and even small shrubs—in containers has become more and more common as gardens shrink and breeders develop compact varieties. Hostas are among those perennials that do very well growing in the confines of containers. They come in thousands of cultivars and they are easy to care for, making them the perfect plant for busy or distracted gardeners.

hosta dish gardenMini-hostas, particularly, like the tight spaces of a container and can be very attractive on a porch, patio or stoop when arranged in a group or with other diminutive plants. But any size hosta can be grown in a container.

Plant 'em Tight

blue hosta in blue containerGrowing hostas in pots requires only a few considerations. First, most experts recommend choosing a pot that is somewhat on the small size for the mature size of the plant. When you plant the hosta in the container, you want less than 3 inches of space between the roots and the edge of the container. A small pot may require more frequent waterings, but it's best for the overall health of the plant.

Like all container plantings, make sure you have good drainage. The water should easily flow out of the bottom of the pot after a thorough soaking. Get good drainage by drilling a few extra holes in the pot. It's better to thoroughly water the container less frequently than to give the plant just a little water every day. In warm or especially dry weather, however, you likely will need to water your container every day or two, no matter what. One nice thing about hostas is that when they are dry they will wilt a bit, but they won't dry up and die right away. If your hostas are wilting, they are asking for a drink. Your bigger risk with hostas is watering too often, causing crown rot.

deck garden of hostas in containersWhen growing hostas in pots, use a standard potting soil (never garden soil) and water the plant in. Some growers recommend a soil that is fast draining. Set the container outside in a part-sun or shady spot. While some hostas can take deep shade, most prefer dappled shade or a bit of morning sun.

What About Winter?

You can keep your hostas in containers from year to year, but it's not as easy as overwintering the ones in the garden itself. In fact, some folks will plant their container hostas in the ground for the winter.  Other gardeners bury their pots outside, so that the roots are underground, just as a garden hosta would be. Another option is to more the pots to a somewhat protected area (near the side of the house, etc.) and cover the pots with a lot of mulch. That may be tricky, though, if we have a very harsh winter. A fourth option is to bring the pots into an unheated garage or shed after they have gone dormant. The plants will require water a couple of times during the winter, however, to keep the soil from wicking water out of the dormant roots. Whatever you do, do not try to over-winter hostas as houseplants. They need a cold, dormant period.

Do you grow perennials in containers? Which ones?

 

42 Comments

  1. Karyn on January 21, 2015 at 11:06 am

    I am a big fan of planting perennials in containers! My farm is in zone 5 therefore winters here are cold and snowy. I’ve found that most perennials overwinter great in containers if they are planted early in the year so that they have an established root system going into winter. A few of my favorites are: Rudbeckia Herbstonne, all Heucheras especially the trailing varieties, Hostas, and Nepeta (for the hummingbirds). Great post – thanks you, lots of good information:)

  2. Vladlokshin on January 26, 2015 at 4:24 am

    I enjoyed planting and always wanted to learn about it, the information in this article really useful for my project, thank you for sharing

  3. Magdalena Aders on November 27, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Thank you for this! I have a hosta in the type of container that you recommended. This will be its second winter. Last year I did bring it into the house (but I have the heat on low or not at all when I’m not home, usually). However, this year, as per your advice, I will put it in the shed. Thanks again!

  4. Charlotte Tillman on May 26, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    I have planted almost all of my hostas in pots. They do great and come back each year healther and a little bigger.

    • Kimberley Waggoner on September 10, 2019 at 12:26 pm

      Hi Charlotte, how often do you water. Do you take your Hostas to the garage.

      • jody on May 3, 2020 at 11:40 am

        Kimberly I have HUGE hostas in pots. I have done this for years! I am Rhode Island zone 5b/6 and they come back each year. I just leave them in their spot in the garden as they are too huge to move. I don’t wrap them, water them, or do anything. I just forget about them like all the other gardens all winter and they are always perfect

        • Imrana on May 28, 2020 at 4:21 am

          This is awesome to hear! I’m in zone 5 (Ontario) and I have always wanted to grow hostas in pots, but I’ve been too afraid that the maintenance for Winter would be too much. I think I’m going to try to plant a few and do what you do!

        • BarbaraD. on May 31, 2020 at 12:50 pm

          @ Jody : Thank you very much for your useful information regarding taking care of Hosta in containers. I ” discovered ” these
          perennials this year and I am charmed by them . I bought a couple of varieties of Hosta plants and Heucherella plants as well
          and I placed all of them in containers. I LOVE them ! They truly give me a lot of joy.

        • Barbara Piper on April 5, 2021 at 5:54 pm

          What size pots do you use for your hosta that you leave outdoors all winter? Please email me if I lose this site.

        • Vivien on May 13, 2021 at 11:10 pm

          VERY interesting! Are your pots sitting on soil (in the garden) or concrete (like a porch)?

          • Mary Lahr Schier on May 14, 2021 at 2:06 pm

            Both!



          • Em on June 13, 2021 at 10:24 pm

            What type of container? Ceramic??



          • Mary Lahr Schier on June 15, 2021 at 3:04 pm

            If you are leaving it outside or in a covered area in the North, choose a plastic or resin pot — something that is less likely to crack.



  5. Malcolm Pledge on May 31, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    I have just purchased some hostas for the side of my house. My house has pea gravel at the side because of a leak in my basement and it was filled in with pea gravel about 10 feet deep all along the side of the house.
    Can I plant these hostas in their pots that I purchased them in ?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on June 5, 2019 at 4:55 pm

      You could, though a larger pot might be better.

    • K Gemmill on July 17, 2019 at 2:18 pm

      I had to take my hosta’s out of the ground because slugs were relentless. Tried everything to keep them slugs away. Not sure but wondered if ground area was too damp or shaded so perfect for slugs. Now need help figuring out what to plant in that area. I appreciate your information. I now have them in pots so hopefully they are safe and stay healthy . Thank You

      • Mary Lahr Schier on July 19, 2019 at 3:10 pm

        It’s been a bad year for slugs in Minnesota! Too much rain.

      • Dan on November 6, 2019 at 7:53 pm

        Crushed eggshells are the ticket for deterring slugs and snails. I start scattering the shells before the plant sprouts in the spring to ensure the ground underneath all the foliage is covered. I then continue to add shells around the plant as it grows. The only real way snails or slugs can get into the plant surrounded by the crushed shells is from above, so be diligent about not growing your hostas near taller plant where snali/slugs could migrate from their host plant to your hosta. Works for me. Good Luck!

      • Sharon McLaughlin on July 25, 2021 at 3:33 pm

        I have recently found slugs in my hosta garden. I sprinkles table salt on them and they ‘melted’ within minutes.

  6. Billie Graham on August 27, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    I noticed how well my hostas grow in pots but not in the ground. Will they be healthier, bigger if I sink the pots in the ground to plant ?

  7. Terry Vance Sheldon on October 16, 2019 at 1:10 am

    Do you cut back the Hostas in the fall if they are in pots?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on October 16, 2019 at 1:31 am

      It’s optional. I usually cut mine because they get messy in the spring. Be sure to give the pots a little protection for winter.

  8. Bea on April 19, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    I plant my hostas in containers. However, I live in Wisconsin and when can I bring those out for spring? They are starting to come up, I have them in my garage. I don’t want to bring them out to early. Please help

    • Mary Lahr Schier on April 19, 2020 at 3:16 pm

      I’m not sure where in Wisconsin you live, but if you are in zone4 or 5, you should be able to bring them out now. If it gets super cold overnight, you could throw a blanket over them. Hostas are pretty tough.

    • Sherri on May 29, 2021 at 2:23 pm

      What part of WI?
      We are near Eau Claire and I’d love to try hostas in pots, but I’m afraid we get too cold.

      • Margaret on August 28, 2021 at 12:37 am

        I am moving next June & would like to take some garden hostas with me and grow them in pots. Is there a best time to dig them & pot them for this move? This Fall or wait til spring?

  9. Karla on June 18, 2020 at 3:01 am

    Do hostas in pots require repotting at some point? I have a huge one in a large pot and I feel like it’s out growing the pot!! Thank you!!

    • Mary Lahr Schier on June 18, 2020 at 2:24 pm

      Yes, anything grown in a pot may require repotting at some point. You can go to a container one size up or plant it in the ground.

    • Joann on April 12, 2021 at 6:52 pm

      Hi there. I am wanting to plant Hostas in containers as you have written in your article. My question is ( maybe I misunderstood on what to do) if I put the Hostas in the shed for the winter they will freeze so how do I water them as you have suggested. They will be solid. I live in a cold climate as well. I also want to put them in large wooden flower boxes that the roots will not be able to grow into the ground.(just in the box) so how do I winterized those ones? If they require a small space should I divided the box into sections that way they will be more confined?
      Sorry for all the questions!! Thanks in advance

      • amy on July 21, 2021 at 6:10 pm

        Unless you put the hosta pots away completely soaked (and you shouldn’t for this reason), they wont be frozen solid. I’m in Michigan, and we get freeze and thaws periodically during the winter and during those times, the pots will lose some moisture. Just make sure you keep the dirt from drying out, (thick mulch will help) and they should be fine.

  10. Johnny Hosta on June 30, 2020 at 10:48 pm

    For slugs, I put self-adhesive copper tape on the tops of my planters (you could put an additional row at the bottom if you wanted) as slugs and snails won’t cross it. Sure is easier than all the other baits, salts, etc. and seems to be working so far. I got a 30 foot slender roll for $9 on eBay but they sell it at any home improvement store as well. It also made my planters look more upscale.

    • Suzan on August 23, 2020 at 8:05 pm

      I may have to dig up my hostas to plant in containers. The rabbits have eaten one I’ve had in ground for 8 years and 2 out of 4 that I planted earlier this year. They have left them alone after I put dog hair clippings around them. I live in zone 5 (Denver) and am concerned about over-wintering. I have a shed but no garage.

      • Mary Lahr Schier on August 24, 2020 at 7:36 pm

        In your climate, a shed should work fine for overwintering the hosta in its pot.

  11. Marisa Moeller on September 4, 2020 at 3:27 am

    Great article. Filled with useful information. Was looking to grow more hostas in pots in a shaded area near the house. Was concerned since I live in New York, zone 5b. Wasn’t sure how to overwinter them. I am glad to hear that some people are leaving them in pots, right in place, during the winter. Hoping I can do the same.

  12. Karen Case on September 8, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    This article and the comments have been so informative. Thank you all! I am not a true gardener, but love Hosta. I have had great success growing Hosta in zone 6, but now live in zone 8a (Wilmington, NC). I have tried for 2 years to grow Hosta with only limited success due to very hot summers. I have been thinking of putting my Hosta in containers. I would love any suggestions you might offer.

  13. ML on April 16, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    We moved into a house when my kids were little and there were hostas growing on the side of the shed. My boys being boys trampled over them when they played and I thought the plants were destroyed. Nope. The hostas grew bigger and more beautiful. My boys did as well but far less careless. I’m a huge fan of these plants.

  14. Lh on May 16, 2021 at 12:20 pm

    I planted hostas and they are huge. My husband doesn’t like how big they are so I’m going to move them to pots. We are in zone 7b. When is a good time to transplant them? Glad to see the comments about leaving them outside in pots all winter. Do I need to water them in the winter?

  15. Melody on May 18, 2021 at 12:23 am

    The top of my hosta’s are dry trimmings, they were stored outside in the pot, not covered, for the winter. Will these regrow or no? I am in zone 3b.

    • Mary Lahr Schier on May 18, 2021 at 6:25 pm

      I’d give it a couple of weeks outside with some water, but if it’s not growing by then, the odds are it’s dead.

  16. Sherri Toelke on May 29, 2021 at 2:26 pm

    I am in Wisconsin, zone 4a/4b. Will it be okay to bring them into an open pole shed? I would absolutely love to try hostas in pots, but am leary. Our winters are brutal!

    • Mary Lahr Schier on June 1, 2021 at 2:35 am

      I think that would work. Make sure your pot is not ceramic or something that could crack over winter.

  17. Kulwin Arora on June 27, 2021 at 4:45 pm

    Hi ,
    I live in zone 3 . I have huge heavy planters (3’ by 3’ ft). What plants perennial can survive in those containers that come every year. No choice of moving planters indoors.

    Please suggest something. I really love my planters and spend so much on those.
    Thanks

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