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?