Hostas

in Containers

Hostas in Containers

Garden in motion

Most hostas will grow perfectly in a container. This gives you the advantage you can move them around until you have found the perfect spot, and it's the ideal solution for people that don't have a real garden or when the soil in unsuitable for hostas (like to alkaline soils).

Container grown hostas give you the opportunity to arrange and rearrange them to your aesthetic preferences.

Container type and size

Always go for container that is big enough for the clump you want to put in to it. A fast growing giant will need a large pot straight from the start.
Young hostas can be grown in a smaller containers for the first years. Give them a larger pot every year, until maturity. Eventually, each hosta will need a container large enough to accommodate a mature plant, so it is wise to inform yourself on the final dimensions of a plant in advance.
To grow really healthy, lush hostas, this means BIG !! containers.

You can use plastic containers, terracotta, in fact any kind you prefer. Make sure they have drainage holes, because even though hostas require loads of water and prefer moist soil, without drainage almost every hosta will drown.

The soil

Hostas prefer an organic soil with a good water balance. For hostas in containers, go for a mixture that will not dry out to easily. A lot of commercial potting soils are peat based mixtures.  Very often it's almost impossible to them get moist again once they dry out. Adding some extra clay can works wonders.

Mature hostas usually remain in the same container for years, so make sure to add some organic stuff every year. A mulch layer of compost twice a year will do the trick. Make sure not to cover the shoots themselves, as this may cause rot.

"Hosta Mill potting soil" recipe (updated 2009)

After a couple of years, I noticed the mixture I was using, had some drawbacks.

  • the water-air balance was wrong: it didn't contain enough air.  This would cause roots do die after long wet spells, resulting in the loss of young plants, plants that were bought bare root and losses during winter time;
  • it was to rich, contained an overdose of one particular nutrient.  This resulted in deformed leaves and abnormal growth.  Combined with the soil being to heavy, it even caused some extra losses.

This is the mixture I use now: changes are marked in red. 

  • 70 liter of ordinary potting soil (peat or coco based), without extra supplements
  • 5 liters of perlite (can be replaced with vermiculite)
  • 1/2 liter of granulated organic manure for the vegetable garden
  • 1/4 liter of bentonite
  • 1/4 liter of basalt meal
  • 1/8 liter of kieserite

Here's the old mixture:

  •  70 liter of ordinary potting soil (peat or coco based), without extra supplements
  •  1 liter of granulated organic manure for the vegetable garden
  •  1 liter of bentonite
  •  1/2 liter of basalt meal
  •  1/4 liter of kieserite

Mix everything together thoroughly (kids just love this).

And where shall I put 'em

Look in the 'Sun or Shade' topic. The base rules explained there apply to container grown hostas as well. With hostas in pots you can experiment until you have found just the right spot. You can have ever changing groups, according to your preferences. Hostas in flower or plants that look particularly well can be put in the picture.

As long as the freezing nights aren't over, you can find them a sheltered space, where the young shoots are protected. A little more spring sun can be given, as well as some extra shade and cool in summer.

Companion plants

A combination with other plants will put your hostas even better in the picture. I won't give any advice on which companion plants to use (de colores et de gustibus). I leave this up to your personal taste.

Fertilizing

If your potting mixture contains an adequate amount of nutrients (like my soil), the plants have plenty to make it through the first year.  With plants that stay in the same container longer, I go for the simplest solution: hostas in containers and slow releasing resin fertilizers like Osmocote and Miracle Gro are a perfect match. As they work for about 6 months, one dose a year should do. Make sure the soil with mature plants doesn't get exhausted.

Water

Even more than with hostas planted out in the garden, watering hostas is of the utmost importance.

Winter Care

After the foliage has died back, I put all containers together in a sheltered spot (I make sure rain can reach the containers, but there's no standing water; a little moisture is good, to wet is certain dead) and leave them outside for winter. I don't remove the dead leaves until spring, as it offers protection during the cold months of winter). Another advantage is the HVX virus can't survive in dry leaves.  In early spring I remove the dead leaves, all weeds and add a layer of mulch. This has often proved to be the rescue of many of young shoots, that would otherwise get frost bitten.

Warning: hostas under trees

Sometimes putting your containers under a tree canopy gives them the perfect spot. But tree roots quickly discover the fresh supply of soil that's in the containers. Within a matter of weeks they can take over a container completely, leaving you with a dead hosta in the worst case. Put a barrier in between the tree roots and the containers to prevent this.