Growing hostas in pots

Growing Hosta in Containers

I love having potted hostas in my garden, but then what should I do with them in winter? I am in zone 6 and too tight with my money to just throw them out in winter.

Some gardeners in your part of the country have told me they had good luck leaving hostas in the pots overwinter. I tend to take a more conservative approach and would rather spend a bit more energy to insure the plants survive. Here is what I do with my perennials in containers. I grow the plants in a cheap pot, usually one a shrub came in, and set it inside my fancy pot for summer. When fall arrives I sink the potted perennial in a vacant part of the garden and store my nice container in the garage. Next spring I divide and repot the perennials as needed and start the process again. If space is limited you may want to move the containers to an unheated garage. Northern gardeners may want to add a bit of insulation around the roots. Water whenever the soil is thawed and dry. I occasionally need to overwinter some containers outside and above the ground. I pack them in tight next to my garage or other protected spot. I cover with woodchips or surround with bales of straw (used as fall decoration), or some other items to help insulate the roots. I pile on the salt-free snow when present for another layer of protection and added moisture. Check these containers throughout the winter and water whenever the soil is thawed and dry.

When you don’t want the bother of replacing bedding plants every season, hostas are an excellent choice for all-year-round tubs. They look cool and sophisticated, with showy foliage and some flowers. And in tubs, it’s easy to defend them from slugs, so you see them at their very best.

Preparation

Choose a high-quality container that can be left outside without risk of shattering if it freezes in winter – a frost-resistant terracotta or ceramic tub, or a wooden half barrel is ideal. A 12-inch tub is big enough for one single hosta, but use a 15 to 18-inch tub for a group of three plants.

Prepare your own moisture lovers’ compost by mixing John Innes No 3 and peat-free multipurpose compost 50:50, then adding some made-up water-retaining gel. Add the granules to water, stir and wait until they turn to a wallpaper paste-like consistency before mixing the goo into the compost.

Choose hostas with strong, healthy, intact leaves. Big, blue-green varieties with large, waxy leaves look impressive in containers; if you choose variegated kinds, make sure each leaf has a pronounced pattern. If you want a trio for one tub, choose one blue-green, one variegated and one gold-leafed variety. For a more mixed scheme, team hostas with moisture-loving flowering plants such as mimulus.

How To Grow Hostas In Containers

By: Sandra O’Hare

Hostas make a lovely shade garden plant but there is no reason that these hardy and versatile foliage plants need to remain tucked away in your shade garden. Hostas will also thrive in containers and look wonderful accenting a shady patio or porch. Also, if you have serious trouble with slugs in your garden, container gardening with your hostas may be the answer.

How to Plant Hosta Plants in Containers

To plant your hostas in containers:

  1. Fill the base of the pot you’ve chosen with rocks for drainage. One or two inches will do.
  2. Fill the pot with your choice of soil mix. Don’t fill it completely just yet, though.
  3. Place a handful of slow release fertilizer in the container.
  4. Add a little bit of soil to the fertilizer, mix it up well and then put the hosta on top of that.
  5. Remove the hosta from its growing pot and fork over the rootball to help free the roots. This will help the plant establish quickly in the new container, but will not damage the roots.
  6. Center the hosta in the pot and then fill the container with more soil.
  7. Make sure you water the plant carefully.
  8. Finally, cover the surface of the container with a thick layer of small pebbles. This stops any slugs and will help keep the roots of your hosta cool. It’s also going to prevent the soil from drying quickly.

Remember that hostas in containers need water regularly. Make sure you water them below the leaf canopy and around the crowns. Excessive wetting can mark the leaves. At the same time, make sure that the container you plant your hostas in has good drainage. This is important to keep root rot from setting in.

You can tuck in a few other shade loving flowers and plants as well. Hostas make a wonderful backdrop to help make the colors of the flowers pop. Even on their own, hostas can help add a tropical feel to a shady but soilless area in your garden.

A common way to grow mini hostas is in hypertufa troughs. This is a porous concrete mixture, usually lightened with peat moss. If properly cared for, these can last for years.

Note that in any case, you will want to make sure that your container, once in place, can drain easily. Don’t set them right on the ground, as the drain holes will quickly plug. You can find attractive pot feet, or set them on inexpensive paving stones.

Second, use a well-draining potting mix. There is a lot that can be said about this. Many growers will use a mix that contains a lot of pine bark fines (a fine-grind mulch, really). You may even find a “nursery mix” at the garden center. Note that this material breaks down fairly quickly, so you’ll have to repot more frequently. Another recommendation is to use commercial potting soil mixed with poultry grit, about 3:1 by volume. You may have to go to a farm/feed store to find some; the grade of grit really doesn’t matter. However, this is heavier than the potting soil you’re used to, so it does make the pots heavier. Other DVHS people like to use the Organic Mechanics potting mix, which is based on grain hulls, and so is both light and quick-draining.

Once you have selected your hosta(s), pot and potting mix, put some kind of open mesh across the bottom drain holes, to limit how much potting mix leaks out. (I have used the plastic mesh sacks you might get in buying onions.) Partially fill the container and place your hostas as you would typically plant in a pot, being sure to untangle the roots and spread them out in the pot. If you’re creating a miniature garden (sometimes called a trough garden), use your creativity. You can also include some companion plants, choosing ones that will have the same winter needs as the hostas.

The downside to a quick-draining soil mix is that you must not neglect the watering! Water the plants in well after planting, then water frequently during the growing season, every day or two during hot periods. Frankly, opinions are quite mixed on using moisture-retaining additives in potting soil. If you have used such products and like the results, then give it a try. Fertilize lightly, even if you don’t routinely fertilize your in-ground hostas, but stop by mid-August to let the plants head for their winter nap.

Basic Hosta Care and Maintenance, including Growing Cycle, Watering & Fertilizing, Weeding, Mulching, and Blooms.

Hosta Growing Cycle

In Minnesota, the shoots begin to emerge from the soil about the 2nd week of April until the 2nd week of May (depending upon the specific cultivar, plant location, and weather) and elongate and unfurl into leaves.

To promote an early hosta growing cycle a balanced 20-20-20 or 10-10-10 fertilizer could be applied just before the hostas emerge. The next growth spurt takes place in the roots in early to mid-June, when you can apply a second dose of fertilizer, with lower nitrogen content but with higher phosphorus and potassium content.

Trees

The type and size of trees is important hosta garden information which needs to be taken into account to get the most out of your hostas. Shallowly rooted trees not conducive to hostas include: beeches, birches, cherries, maples, and willows. Trees producing excessive suckers include cherries and poplars. Trees that can be good for nearby hostas include oaks, some hard maples, lindens, hickories, elms, pines, spruces, ash, larch and dogwoods. Although walnut trees are not compatible with some plants, they are compatible with hostas.

Moss

Moss grows in wet, often shaded, acidic soil. Rather than using expensive moss killers, try removing the existing moss with a shovel and disposing of it. Then use lime to slightly change the pH of the soil and the moss will disappear. However, remember that hostas like acidic soil.

Erosion control

Most hostas are clump-forming herbaceous perennials that have a rhizome (an underground storage organ). In a few hosta varieties, the rhizome is stoloniferous, meaning it grows horizontally and produces new plantlets along its length. These hostas are particularly useful for ground cover, slopes and erosion control. Since they grow tightly, you do not ever need to divide them to create new plants.

Watering

Water-related hosta maintenance is minimal if you live in reasonably moist area. Hostas prefer about 1 inch of water per week, depending on the plant, location, temperature and soil.

In most soil types, 1 inch of water will soak down about 12 inches. In loose, sandy soil, water will soak down more quickly. Ideally, water should be applied to the base of the plant (not the leaves).

Hostas should be watered in the early morning so that the leaves dry off before the intense afternoon sun comes out. Water on the leaves increases the sun’s effects. Morning watering also reduces the attraction for slugs and snails.

Make sure there is adequate soil moisture, in particular during the hot months of July and August. New plantings and slow-growing hostas are most vulnerable to moisture fluctuations, including sieboldiana and tokudamas.

If the root system dries out at an early growth stage, the plants seem to shrink in size over time. As a regular part of your hosta maintenance, be sure not to let your gardens become completely dry for longer than a week.

Watch as Tom Carlson demonstrates several hosta watering methods and explains how trees and shade can affect your hosta watering amounts.

Fertilizing Hostas

H. ‘Blue Mouse Ears’

In mature hostas, forgetting to feed will not make a huge difference. How much to fertilize your hostas depends on your garden situation, because healthy plants need a balance of light, water, nutrients and the proper soil.

Hostas that are constantly moist may require more nitrogen as nitrogen will leech (wash out) of the soil. Sandy soils will leach nutrients faster than more clay or humus soils.

If your garden is in deep, dark shade, more fertilizer might not be the solution to increase the plant size or growth rate because the problem is insufficient light. Excess fertilizer in this circumstance could burn or stunt your plants!

Overall, fertilizing can provide hostas with a boost if they are in nutrient-poor soil.

Fertilizing Tips and Tricks

Tom Carlson’s fertilizing video explains some of the best hosta fertilizer hardware and how to use it. See the hosta videos page for more HostasDirect Productions.

Fertilizer Types

Fertilizers come in liquid feed, granular and slow-release. Liquid hosta fertilizer is ordinary garden fertilizer such as Peters, Shultz or Miracle Grow that can be drenched into the soil or sprayed on the leaves as a foliar spray. Drenching the soil is more effective but is harder to do after the hostas unfurl. Standard 10-10-10 inorganic garden fertilizers are quite inexpensive. However, the nitrogen can leach out of the soil fast depending on the amount of water applied and soil type.

Do not let granular fertilizers remain on hosta leaves as they can burn small holes in the leaves.

In Minnesota, using a time and temperature released fertilizer may create problems. Some types of hosta fertilizer require a temperature of 70 to 77 F to start releasing fertilizer into the soil and will release fertilizer for 60, 90 or more days, which releases fertilizer in August. It is important not to fertilize hostas past late-July, as the plants should not be over-stimulated to make new growth. This can be harmful, since fertilizing hostas after July 31 may promote soft, sappy growth that slugs and snails will appreciate. Hostas need to slow down in the fall and harden off for winter.

High nitrogen fertilizers that are often used for lawns such as 30-0-5 can produce tremendous growth, but may make the plants more susceptible to various fungal and bacterial rot. Osmocote has many different time release products that are excellent.

Foliar Feeding

Foliar hosta fertilizers are liquid fertilizers which are absorbed through the leaves and roots. Foliar fertilizer needs to be applied every two to three weeks during the growing season if not weekly since it remains in the root zone for shorter periods of time than soil-fed fertilizers.

Soil Feeding

H. ‘Fire Island’

These fertilizers are absorbed through the soil.

Organic fertilizers have lower analysis numbers than inorganic fertilizers and, therefore, tend to burn less. However, you will need to apply them more frequently to get the same amount of nutrients. They may also attract voles.

Manure

BE CAREFUL! Some manure is full of weed seed that will create extra weeding for you. Make sure the manure is well-rotted so it does not burn the plants as it decomposes, and also free of weed seed. This is tough to guarantee. If you do find good manure, it can really make your hostas grow with low maintenance as it breaks down, naturally fertilizing hostas for years.

Weeding

Kill all weeds before planting. We like Roundup and recommend our premium garden weeding tool to quickly pull weed roots out of the soil. Be sure to continue to weed frequently in order to eliminate weeds from ever going to seed. If you do this, you will find your hostas will keep out most weeds because they create so much shade and your garden will be low-maintenance, look beautiful and be much less work than grass. Again, do not let weeds go to seed!

Weed Killers

Some gardeners use Preen in the spring. Preen is a granulated, pre-emergent weed killer which is compatible with hostas. Some use Round Up, which will kill anything green, so it is wise to be careful with it. Some gardeners use a combination of both.

Mulching

H. ‘Ann Kulpa’

There are pros and cons to mulching hostas. The benefits to mulching as a form of hosta maintenance include: controlling weeds, keeping soil cool and moist, and adding compost as the mulch breaks down. (Wood chips and green grass clippings can deplete nitrogen from the soil as they decay.) On the downside, mulching provides hiding places and food for pests and diseases such as slugs and viruses.

After much thought and study, HostasDirect does not apply mulch except to cover new plantings in late fall. This is because newly planted, very young, or prized plants should be covered or mulched with oak leaves or straw for the winter. Mulches should not be applied before the ground is nearly frozen in the fall, and it should be left in place several weeks after the ground thaws in the spring since it will prevent alternating freezing and thawing, which can cause plants to heave out of the ground. Do not use freshly cut grass as mulch; allow it to turn completely brown before using it as mulch.

Blooms

By cutting off your hosta’s blooms, you will provide more energy to the plant that would otherwise be used to make seeds. You do not need to cut the blooms off until after they fade, but they can be cut off at anytime. However, leaving your blooms on is helpful to the declining honey bee population.

What are hostas? How to cook and eat those delicious plants in your yard

Teri Weaver | [email protected]

How to cook hostas

By Teri Weaver | Staff writer

That’s right — you can cook and eat hostas, an ornamental perennial plant that grows throughout Upstate New York.

Hostas are easy to grow. They like shade and multiply easily. Unfortunately, deer like hostas as well. And now we know why.

So why not try to beat the deer at their own game?

Those early shoots that come up in April and May are edible. And you can harvest them without ruining the entire plant. Here’s how to make sauteed hostas with honey and soy sauce.

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Teri Weaver | syracuse.com

It’s the early shoots that you want

According to the Guardian, any hosta is edible, though a popular variety to eat are Montanas. Harvest time is early spring, when the plant sends up tightly-rolled shoots.

Cut off a few at the root from each plant, much as you would asparagus. Only harvest from plants not treated with pesticide. It’s a good way to thin the plant without damaging the crown.

Hostas are originally from Japan, according to the Guardian. Other ornamental plants that can be eaten in early spring include fern shoots (or fiddleheads), Shepherd’s purse, and bamboo.

Note: Hostas are toxic to dogs, cats and horses, according to the SPCA.

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Teri Weaver | syracuse.com

What’s a hoston?

Hostons are the early, unfurled shoots that grew out of a hosta crown in the early spring. This is the stage for harvesting.

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Teri Weaver | [email protected]

Treat the stems and leaves separately

The bottom part of the shoots should be parbolied in salted water for about 90 seconds.

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Teri Weaver | [email protected]

From stem to leaf

The leafy part can be added to the saute pan toward the end. I added a splash of water, so the leaves briefly steamed then cooked along with the stems.

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Teri Weaver | [email protected]

Where to buy harvested hostas

Sunswick Farm in Moravia specializes in honey. The farm also sells hostons — early hosta shoots that are edible — at the Central New York Regional Market in Syracuse.

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Teri Weaver | [email protected]

Make the sauce

Josh Cochran at Sunswick Farm recommended a traditional Japanese sauce, which is seven parts soy sauce and 10 parts honey. I mixed 3 tablespoons honey with 2 tablespoons soy sauce.

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Teri Weaver | [email protected]

Parboil the stems

Parboil, or blanch, the stems in salted water for about 90 seconds.

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Teri Weaver | [email protected]

Saute the stems

Next, transfer the blanched stems into a heated skillet coated with a tablespoon or two of neutral oil.

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Teri Weaver | [email protected]

After a couple minutes, add the leaves

Saute the stems for two to three minutes on high heat. Then add the leaves, a splash of water and cook quickly. Salt and pepper to taste. At the end, I turned off the heat and drizzled in about a teaspoon of sesame oil.

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Teri Weaver | [email protected]

Drizzle with sauce

Sauteed hostas with honey and soy sauce.

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Teri Weaver | [email protected]

Makes a bright side dish

The hostas made for a great side with leftover rice and pork tenderloin.

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Letchworth State Park

Read more: 40 fun daytrips in Upstate NY

Letchworth State Park

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Hosta Blossoms

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You don’t often think of grandma’s hosta patch as the best place to harvest lunch, but perhaps it’s time to open your eyes to all the wonderful edibles lurking in your very own yard. Foraging doesn’t have to mean traveling to a wilderness area. There are dozens of edibles lurking in the average suburban yard. Some of them are wild, like dandelions, and others are cultivated plants that happen to be tasty edibles.

Hostas happen to be both…they’re a plant that was once harvested as a tasty woodland edible, that became a cultivated plant in our backyards. Somewhere in the process, the edible part was lost in translation, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still delicious!

Long before hostas were planted in shady corners of suburban backyards, they were a wild plant in Japanese woodlands. In Japan, hostas are known as Urui, and they’re part of a class of vegetables known as “Sansai” or “mountain vegetables” which describes wild edibles that are commonly harvested and eaten.

Hostas are no different than any other wild foraged spring edible, similar to fiddlehead ferns, wild ramps or morels. Those wild edibles are starting to be cultivated for markets in the US, and you can in fact plant and grow ramps right in your backyard. Though they’re beautiful, we’re not likely to forget they’re also tasty in the process.

Somehow though, when hostas made the transition from wild woodland plant to backyard ornamental, people forgot about eating them. Perhaps because they crossed an ocean to get here, but whatever the reason, it doesn’t mean they’re any less tasty.

In our yard, hostas are essentially a wild edible. They live completely untended at our woods edge and under out fruit trees, thriving in shady woodland conditions that aren’t too different from their native land.

Just like any plant, the taste will vary a bit from variety to variety. The hostas in my yard taste a bit like a cross between a scallion and asparagus. There’s a slight hint of onion, but the overwhelming flavor is the green goodness of asparagus.

They have a pleasant crunch, a bit like the juicy green mouthfeel of iceberg lettuce, but with a lot more flavor. The best time to harvest hostas is when they’re young shoots just emerging from the earth in spring. I’ve heard the flowers are also delicious later on in the summer, and you can eat those without cutting into your actual plant, which may be a better choice if you’re actually harvesting grandma’s patch.

Use a sharp knife to slice hosta shoots off at ground level. The size of the shoots will vary from plant to plant. Obviously larger hosta varieties mean larger shoots, and these in my yard are a giant blue hosta variety that gets really tall by the late spring. The shoots are likewise pretty large, meaning there’s more to eat. Since this one’s in desperate need of being thinned, it’s no big deal to harvest a few shoots.

Take off a handful or two from each plant and there’ll be more space for the remaining stalks to thrive.

Giant hosta varieties will be a bit taller and have a lot more girth. Mini hosta varieties may be much smaller. Regardless of the variety, choose shoots that are tightly coiled and haven’t opened their leaves. Mine made it to about 6 inches high before they started unfurling their leaves.

The inside of a hosta shoot looks a lot like a leek, and mine had a bit of leek or scallion flavor. Give them a quick bite raw, and that’ll give you an idea of how your hosta variety will taste cooked. Since mine tasted like asparagus and scallions, I decided to give them a quick pan fry in a little butter.

I’m thinking they’d also be lovely in a spring vegetable tart, or a quiche.

The outside of the hosta shoot carmelized like an onion, which shows you that they have a good bit of sweetness. The total cook time was only about 2 minutes in a hot pan, and if I had to do it again I’d give them even less time so they maintain more of a crunch.

The flavor was amazing, and though I do love asparagus, I’d have to give the win to hostas.

Beyond the shoots, which are a tasty spring vegetable, the blooms later in the summer are also edible. If you’re worried about harming your prize backyard hostas by harvesting the shoots, just be patient and wait until later in the summer when they bloom.

You can pluck off hosta blossoms without any cutting, which is a better option for young plants that are just getting established. Hosta blossoms taste sweet and floral, a bit like daylilly blossoms (which are also a delicious perennial garden edible).

Hosta Nutrition Facts

So if hostas are edible, what nutrients are you getting when you eat them? For the most part, they’re green roughage like lettuce or asparagus with few calories. My Fitness Pal estimates that each leaf has about 2 calories, so they’re not exactly a survival food.

I did find one scientific study that analyzed the vitamin and mineral content of hostas as a vegetable. The study found that “The leaf K content of 12 hosta plant taxa ranged from 2.85 to 4.05%; the P content from 0.13 to 0.34%; Ca from 0.02 to 1.15%; Mg from 540.00 to 794.12 ppm; Mn 26.93 to 133.77 ppm; Zn 115.39 to 334.52 ppm; Cu 1.78 to 5.95 ppm and Fe 26.43 to 251.95 ppm.”

Where to Buy Hostas

While hostas are a pretty common backyard plant, especially in the Northeast, I’d never heard of them living out west. In New England, most local nurseries will carry them, but they’re often pricey at $15 to $20 for a small hosta in a nursery pot.

But where did the nursery buy that hosta in the first place? They bought them in bulk as bare roots for just a buck or two each. Pot them up and sell them for 10 to 20 times the price and it’s a pretty good rate of return. If you’re looking to plant hostas, buying your own bare roots will save you a bundle.

Generally, bare root hostas sell for $2 to $8 each online. Here’s a bundle of 6 hostas for $2.50 each with free shipping, and another bundle of 6 with different varieties for about $6 each, still free shipping.

You can also grow hostas from seed, but that takes a bit more work. Hosta seeds are dirt cheap, literally pennies a piece if you’re willing to learn how to sprout them. If you do want to try it, watch this video on growing hostas from seed.

How to Grow Hostas

Once you have hosta bare roots or some successful hosta seed starts, how do you tend them?

In their native Japan, China and Korea hostas grow in woodlands and along stream banks. It makes sense that they’d grow best in conditions that mimic their natural environment. That means shade and moist, rich soil with a lot of organic matter. Direct sun can harm hostas, causing the leaves to burn and bleach white.

Plant hostas in part to full shade, ensuring that they’re in shade during the heat of the day. They’re a perennial plant, so they’ll come back year after year in the same spot assuming they’re well tended. Protect them from deer and rabbits, which love the tender succulent leaves. Slugs can also be a problem.

In general, hostas are hardy from zone 3 to 8, but this can vary a bit by variety.

There are a lot of different hosta cultivars, each with different flowers, leaf color, and size. The most common flower colors are purple and white.

Mini hostas stay tiny, somewhere between 6 and 12 inches tall. Giant varieties can grow to 3 feet tall with huge leaves that cover a lot of ground. We have a lot of sprawling woodland space on our homestead, so we grow mostly giant hostas.

Choose varieties that best suit your planting location, saving smaller varieties for near narrow walkways and interplanting with other shade perennials. Be aware that hostas with green leaves (as opposed to variegated or striped varieties) are generally more dependable in the garden.

variegated hosta (striped) and green hosta side by side

Hosta Recipes

I prepared my hosta shoots rather simply, but if you’re looking for more creative inspiration, try any of these hosta recipes:

  • Bacon Wrapped Hosta Shoots
  • Hosta Shoots Salad with A Balsamic Reduction
  • Pan Seared Hosta Shoots with Ramp Butter
  • Hostas with Prosciutto and Pesto
  • Midwestern Vignarola – With Hosta Shoots & Wild Spring Edibles

Looking for more fun backyard garden edibles? Check these out…

  • How to Cook a Rose (and other ways to use them)
  • How to Make Rose Cordial
  • How to Eat a Pine Tree (Every part is edible)
  • How to Eat Linden Trees (Every Part is Edible)
  • 16 Medicinal Trees for Your Herbal Medicine Chest

Gardening: Try growing hostas in pots | Charlotte Observer

This hosta named June is an excellent choice for growing in a medium-to-large container HANDOUT Proven Winners photo

Gardening always surprises, and that is part of its charm. One of the big surprises of my gardening life has been how well hostas grow in pots. It’s a practice I learned from my garden mentor, the late Willie Royal of Charlotte, who loved hostas and looked for ways to keep his beautiful plants safe from pests, especially voles.

I had not thought of perennial hostas as container plants until his turned out so glorious. In the ground, mine had done just OK and seemed to have rather short lives, probably due to voles, which eat plant roots. This troubled me, partly because I admired their beauty, partly because they were made for the shade and partly because I had invested in some expensive ones.

Given a push by my mentor, I dug some up and put them in large terra-cotta pots where they have flourished. Perhaps the voles looked elsewhere for an easier path to the plant roots they love. Deer, which have been sighted in my neighborhood more than once, have passed them by, and that’s a reason to rejoice since hosta leaves are a delicacy for deer.

So, mine grow in pots sitting on the front steps. They have lived like this for years, just one plant per pot. I don’t think just having them in a pot is the deterrent to deer, but maybe having them on the front steps is sufficient.

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The pots look bare all winter as the foliage goes away in late autumn, so I tend to stick them out of the way under an azalea until they show signs of life.

For the first few springs, I wondered if they would reemerge, and sure enough those fresh shoots poked out of the soil and began to unfurl. What a joy that is, particularly since these hostas are the variety June, considered by many to be among the most beautiful hostas with soft tones of gold through the center of leaves and bluish-green margins. This hosta gets just enough morning sun to maintain the gold color. In shade, it would become greener.

When I moved my hostas from ground to pot, I used first-rate potting soil that has kept the plants going for several years. To ensure good drainage, I put a piece of broken terra-cotta over the hole in the bottom of the pots, which keeps the hole from clogging and also keeps the good soil from washing out.

And while most gardeners like to see a combination of plants in their containers, I think medium-to-large hostas look better solo. This is due, I think, to the spreading shape of the plant which is so graceful on its own.

The smallest hostas, however, could be used in combination with other shade-tolerant plants such as begonias. These hostas have small leaves and do not grow very high or wide. They could be used as the green contrast for red, pink or white begonias that are more compact and vertical.

Ask Nancy

Q. I am looking to attract hummingbirds with a vine that has a long season of bloom. One I tried seemed to bloom out and leave nothing for the hummingbirds later on in summer.

A. The mandevilla, which comes in beautiful red forms, is a long-blooming tropical vine and considered one of the top vines for attracting hummingbirds because of the tubular shape of the flowers. It has a very long bloom season, but will not survive winter outdoors in the Piedmont. Some gardeners keep it in a pot they store in a garage or other frost-free area through the winter.

Growing Hostas In Pots and Containers

Hostas are really enjoyable and addictive to grow. With so many different varieties now to choose from in all shapes, sizes and colours collecting has become a popular pastime. Growing in pots is an excellent way to display your prized hostas, from miniatures to giants all hostas can be grown in pots given the correct care.

Select a pot that is size appropriate for the variety you wish to pot. We have a Sum and Substance on the nursery that is over a meter across and has been in a large terracotta pot for 20 years and it is still very happy…but it is a big pot.

When preparing to plant your hostas in a container begin by checking that there is sufficient drainage. Most terracotta pots come with plenty of drainage holes but if you are planting in a makeshift container holes may need to be drilled. Fill the bottom of the pot with gravel, broken pot or polystyrene to ensure the drainage holes are not blocked with soil and roots. On top of the gravel cut a piece of taram sheet and cover the bottom of the pot. This taram allows water to pass through but will stop the soil and roots from clogging near the base of the pot.

Now your pot is ready for planting use a mix of John Innes no.3 and general purpose compost, this allows adequate water retention. Fill the bottom with your soil, keep in mind the size of the root system of the plant you have chosen. Remove you hosta from the plastic pot it is in and run your fingers through the roots to free them (if you have ordered from our online shop this will already be done for you). Place your hosta in the pot and begin filling around the sides. Once full press the soil down otherwise it will sink as soon as it has been watered, then top up if needed.

Now your hosta is happily in it’s new pot water it in thoroughly. Keep an eye on watering when you are growing in pots especially in the first year of planting. In is very important that they are damp but not waterlogged. Miniature hostas especially can rot if the soil around them is waterlogged. Once established in a pot feed your hostas to keep them happy. High nitrogen feeds for the leaves and high potash feeds for the flowers.

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