It was a garden tour—actually, three tours—that inspired me to grow hostas in containers. Each yard was quite shady, so all those sun-loving annuals and perennials would have been off the table. I loved how each gardener embraced the conditions of their property, and put together some beautiful shade-loving plant displays, which were predominantly hostas in all shapes and sizes. Because you don’t want to treat your hostas like an annual plant (you’ll want to display it year after year), there is some TLC involved in helping them thrive. I thought I’d share some tips on how to care for hostas in pots.
Choosing a container for your hosta
All the growing conditions you provide, from the pots to the soil, to regular care, will help contribute to your plant’s success. When choosing a container, make sure the pot can accommodate the eventual full size of your hosta. Your plant won’t grow to its full size during that first season in a container. You also want to make sure there are holes in the bottom of the pot, so the soil drains well.
Another thing to be mindful of is the material of your container. Terracotta, ceramic, and hypertufa can crack over the winter, during freeze-thaw cycles. Think about how you’ll overwinter your plant when choosing a container.
Choosing hostas for pots
If you have a shady yard, deck or patio, consider planting one or more of this popular shade plant in containers. Arrange them in groupings with pots of various sizes.
Hostas range in size from miniature to four feet in width, so there are lots of options. You can also choose from a wide range of foliage textures, from crinkled (there’s a hosta variety called ‘Curly Fries’) to smooth. Foliage can range from a vibrant lime green to deep forest green. And many varieties have variegated foliage. My favorites are the ones where the edges of the leaves are white. There are even blue hosta varieties. The foliage on these plants feature a wax-like, glaucous coating that gives the leaves a blue tone.
Check the plant tag for information about the spread, which indicates the eventual width of a full-grown plant. Consulting the tag will also reveal whether the plant is tolerant to a lot of sun or just a little. Most hostas thrive in dappled shade and don’t mind a bit of morning sunshine.
Planting hostas in pots
To help your hosta thrive in its pot, choose a good-quality potting soil amended with compost. Remove the plant from its nursery pot and gently loosen the roots if the plant is a bit root-bound.
Add a few inches of your potting soil and compost mix to the bottom of the pot. Place your plant in the center, and then fill in the sides with the rest of the soil. Plant your hosta as deeply as it was planted in its nursery pot.
How to care for hostas in pots
Hostas are fairly low-maintenance plants, but you do need to keep an eye on them. You’ll want to water your plants about twice a week. Avoid watering your hosta when the soil is already wet. Overwatering can lead to crown rot. If the leaves start to droop, it’s an indication that your plant is thirsty.
And while containers can provide a bit of a longer journey for slugs to reach your plants, compared to when they’re in the ground, they can make their way up to do damage. There is copper tape you can put around the inside rim of your pot that will deter slugs.
Use a slow-release fertilizer as part of your care routine. Read the package directions for frequency, but usually you would fertilize every three to four weeks from spring when you put the pots out on display, through the summer months.
You may also find that with a few heavy rains, the soil will be lower in the container. Sprinkle some fresh potting soil and/or compost to top it up, being careful not to bury any of the plant. You may want to do this in the spring, as well, as the plant will have used up a lot of the nutrients in the soil the previous season.
Eventually you’ll need to divide your potted hosta, usually about every three to four years, and especially if it seems to be outgrowing its pot. Spring is a good time to check and see if the clump is overcrowded. Make sure you use fresh potting mix when dividing your plants. You could also divide a plant in your garden and put the new plant into a pot for a shady spot.
How to care for hostas in pots over the winter
I will nestle a lot of my pots (the ones that won’t crack over the winter) in a protected area of my garden against a shed and between one of my raised beds. You could also bury the pot in the garden and surround it with leaf mulch.
Another option is to move your plants into an unheated garage or shed late in the fall season, after they have gone dormant for the winter. This is necessary if your plants are in terracotta or hypertufa pots that could crack over the winter in the garden. I’ve lost pots this way by inadvertently leaving them out too late in the season. Check on them periodically and give the plants a bit of water if the soil seems dry. Then bring them out in the spring after all threat of frost has passed to enjoy for another growing season.
More shade plant options
- Shade-loving perennial flowers: 15 beautiful choices
- Brighten up dark areas of the garden with annual flowers for shade
- Flowering shrubs for shade
- Where to plant forage habitat for pollinators in shady areas
- Herbs that grow in shade