Hostas can be successfully grown in containers. The major advantage of container hostas offer is more versatility in the garden; you can move them around for an ever-changing display, and find the combinations and designs you enjoy! Also, bringing your hostas closer to you on a patio or path lets you see your favorite showy hostas up close and display their best foliage-containers allow you to more fully and easily control slugs! Hostas also make a great contrast to other plants within a mixed container, or within a grouping of containers in their own pot.
Hostas need a well-draining potting mix. Start with either a fast-draining packaged mix, or add shredded bark or mulch at 50-50 with a peat-based potting mix. Make sure whatever you use is soilless-don’t use garden soil in containers, since it doesn’t drain well.
Pots shouldn’t be too big-hostas only need 2-3” diameter larger than their current root ball. Anything bigger invites root rot or watering problems. Pots should have enough holes to ensure good drainage, but the holes themselves should be covered with wire screening or netting so the growing mix doesn’t leak out the bottom with the water! As your hostas grow, they should be transplanted into larger pots to prevent becoming root-bound.
Hostas in containers will need water more frequently than the ones in ground; water every 2 days, and every day if it is hot or windy out! Make sure to water UNDER the leaves, directly to the roots/soil surface: watering over the foliage can cause water spots, fungus, or even crown rot! Water thoroughly, until water comes out the bottom; this makes sure the soil is saturated-shallow watering promotes shallow root systems!
Hostas grown in containers may need a little fertilizer; use a balanced water-soluble one, but be sure to stop fertilizing at the end of the season (2 months before typical frost) to give the plant time to wind down growth before going dormant for winter.
To overwinter hostas in pots, you can keep them in an unheated garage, plant them outside and cover them, or tip them on their side and cover them. If you’re keeping them outside, the BEST thing to do is plant them in-ground for the winter, and dig them up again to repot in the spring. If you want to try overwintering in pots, a thick layer of leaves or straw to completely bury the pots (to insulate) and a layer of non-black plastic (to keep dry) are essential to helping your hostas survive the winter without frostbite or crown rot. The key is to keep them somewhere away from overhead moisture and protected from sudden changes in temperature. Keep in mind hostas don’t need anything during their dormancy but protection!
Sue Broberg, our hosta expert who works in the greenhouse, uses this method for overwintering her container hostas:
I overwinter quite a few hosta every year. I bury smaller pots in a trench, & group the larger pots together, as close as possible, out of any sun. Then I bank them with soil or bags of compost, & cover with leaves. This method has worked very well over the last 10 years that I’ve been heavy into hosta. I do this in early Oct before we leave [for Arizona], and uncover in late April when we return.
Make sure to uncover your hosta pots before the leaves unfurl in spring, but if a late frost threatens, you’ll have to cover them back up again to prevent frostbite.
Some hostas are better at surviving the winter and growing in containers, and it may depend on your area. Mini, very small, and small hostas are recommended for growing in containers. Large, giant, and blue-foliaged hostas are more difficult to grow in pots. It’s very possible that you may lose some hostas to overwintering; not every hosta is strong enough to make it through every winter, and container-growing can be hard on some hostas.
We’re located in Wisconsin and Minnesota, so our experience is in our climate. To give your hostas the BEST possible chance of making it through the winter, please contact your state’s closest University Horticultural Extension, or your state’s Hosta Society for more information specific to your area.
To select hostas by various sizes for your containers, consider using the HostaSearch™ Database.
To purchase hosta varieties, please visit our Buy Hostas Page. You can filter by size.
To purchase hosta varieties to grow and use in cut-flower arrangements, please visit our Buy Hostas Page.