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?

 

10 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.

  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.

  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 ?

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