Overwintering In Pots

cheesecake983(7a)September 2, 2011

Hello Everyone!

I am planning on dividing my 6 foot "patch" of undulata albomarginatas during the next month or so to spread out along my front porch. I'm wanting to leave space between them for planting some annuals and seeds in the spring, so I know that means I'm going to end up with more hostas than I have space for.

I have another bed that I would like to move them to, but I need to move other flowers out of the way first and that won't happen until the spring (too much shade for my coneflowers and hibiscus). I would like to put my "extra" hostas into nursery pots (those cheap black plastic ones) until I have space freed up in my bed. Will the hostas survive the winter in those pots? Should I put them in our shed so they don't get too cold? It's just a prefab shed... no heating or anything.

I'm hoping this will work because I'll also be getting some hand-me-down plants from a friend, come spring, and I would like to do just a big spurt of gardening :) Any suggestions would be appreciated. Unfortunately, I don't have any other pots I could use.

- Rachel

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

please tell me why the other perennials need to wait for spring.. they can be moved in fall ...

otherwise.. just dig a 5 by 5 foot space.. and stick them all in the ground .. and be done with it ...

pots are a PITA .... i would find any other solution.. to let mother earth take care of them ...

you are aware.. you use potting media in pots.. not soil .. right there the cost is prohibitive.. in my world ..

all that said.. leave them on the driveway all winter in z7.. and most will probably live...


    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 3:43PM
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Good point on the cost of potting soil... didn't think about that.

I was under the assumption that you should move plants opposite their bloom time, which, for the hibiscus, would be in spring. Plus I need to really figure out what needs to go where.

I maybe I should just put the hostas where I'm thinking the hibiscus and others will go and then swap them in spring. Hadn't thought of that either.

- Rachel

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 4:30PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the assumption that you should move plants opposite their bloom time

==>>. the simpler rule .. is to move DORMANT plants.. with enough soil and least root damage ... and i will yell. .. SO THEY NEVER KNOW THEY WERE MOVED ...

you might want to check in the perennial forum.. since my only experience is z5 ... but if moved in fall.. you have many months of root growing to get ready for next year ...

why move a plant a month or two before the heat of next summer?????


    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 5:52PM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

Hi Rachel,

Yes, lots of people overwinter hosta in pots. I'm in Texas and I grow mine in pots and can just leave them where they sit or move them behind the shed once they die back.

Hosta love the cold, so you don't have to worry about them freezing. What you have to worry about is rot. You don't want them staying wet for long periods. You don't want them thawing and freezing. So, putting them in the unheated shed would probably work well.

Maybe Chris will chime in. He's from Maryland.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 7:16PM
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BKay, do you have wet winters? Our winters in 8B AL tend to be on the wet side, if it is a normal year. I now am concerned about the ones already in the ground there, not from cold but from the wet ground. They were put in my new beds this past spring, so far none have endured our winter season.

It seems to me I should leave the ones in pots that I take south from MA, until spring comes, and then put them in the ground. I'll just have to trust that my Fragrant Queen, Blue Angel, and Winter Snow will come back next year. The pots can spend the winter in a hardware cloth enclosed old chicken coop with a good roof.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 8:26PM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

Actually, I don't think we have wet winters. We get about 35" per year. It's pretty well spread out except it's usually dry in July and August.

I don't have huge numbers of hosta, so I can't be considered an expert by a long shot. I've had a few hosta for a long time and they are in pots. I leave them where they sit. It rains on them or it doesn't. I don't water them.

This last year was the first time I have lost a hosta over the winter. I think it was a three pronged problem. One, was moisture control potting soil. Two, was some plants that had been really pushed with hormones and fertilizer. Three, was rocks over the top of the soil to deter the squirrels from digging up the small plants. The rocks acted like a mulch and kept the soil moist.

If you're concerned about the soil being too wet, have you thought about raised beds? We have clay soil here. If you want to grow hosta in the ground here, you have to amend the soil considerably and probably put them in raised beds. The ones at the arboretum are in raised beds.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 6:43PM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

I just re-read my post. I'm saying I don't water in the winter. I water a lot in the summer.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 10:28PM
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I've opted for Ken's suggestion of not waiting until the spring with the hibiscus. I think I'll give them a couple more weeks and then away they go. I've got some hostas hanging out in pots right now, waiting for me to find them the perfect home... but none should end up being stuck there for the winter.

Thanks everyone!
- Rachel

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 7:34AM
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Last fall, I potted up some hosta to sell in our rummage sale. Had some leftovers and didn't know what to do with them. We had a large pile of stump grindings where we'd had lost an oak and had the stump ground. You gotta' move that stuff because grass won't grow in it for a long time. Anyway, it's about 75% small wood chips & 25% sandy dirt. Ended up popping the hosta out of their pots & 'planting' in that pile just before winter set in. Had a brutal winter yet every hosta survived with flying colors.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 6:39PM
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Thank you for asking the question, and excuse me for intruding. Knowing next to nothing about hostas, and
anticipating climate problems at the onset, I could not
let the chance pass to ask about the hostas I plan to move
south when we go.

If I take my hostas south in pots, after they go dormant, I will leave them in the pots over the winter. Most of my beds are raised about 4-6 inches above the regular ground level, but not bordered for the most part except by leriope or maybe paving blocks. We generally get a good bit of rain, so I'm thinking it is easier to leave them in pots, cover their location with a tarp, and keep them in as cold a spot as I can find. No watering. We warm up pretty early in the year, so I hope to pop them into their beds when the eyes first wake up.

I will take the advice to be fairly rough with them so the roots will be stimulated to GROW.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 10:04PM
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I loved this comment Ken made...

"the simpler rule .. is to move DORMANT plants.. with enough soil and least root damage ... and i will yell. .. SO THEY NEVER KNOW THEY WERE MOVED ..."

LOL. It makes them seem so human! Spoken like a father that often has to put the kids to bed after they have fallen asleep in the car.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 10:20AM
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jel48(Z4 Michigan)

The results of leaving plants (including hostas) in pots over the winter depends greatly on where you are and what sort of winter you have. Maryland is a whole lot different then the Michigan U.P. (practically on the shores of Lake Superior) and I have no idea how well it works there.

I've spent three winters here now and have hostas and many other plants that have been in pots since I moved here, and others that have been in pots a single winter or two. Some are now in the ground and some aren't.

I've had nearly 100% survival rate on all kinds of plants outdoors in pots. The list includes hostas, day lilies, clematis, honeysuckle, penstemon, foxglove, and many others I can't think of at the moment. I guess they like being covered by 3 feet of snow all winter.

The pots, however, are another matter. I have NOT had 100% survival rate on clay or ceramic pots... my own fault. I know better. Clay/ceramic is not good outdoors in winter! Plastic is good.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 1:23PM
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Jel48, when we leave zone 5B Massachusetts in late November,we leave outside in pots a few things. Not hostas, but just things like chives and some heuchera. The plants survive better than the clay pots.

A heuchera survived in a clay pot, but the pot just crumbled into thin flaky layers when I found it the next May. The chives, however, was in a nice looking plastic or acrylic or whatever synthetic material pot which after about 4 years still looks great. It is the color of terra cotta pots, but quite nice. If I remember correctly, I got it at Jones Farms here in Chelmsford MA, when they had their containers on sale. The pot still looks good, and the chives are looking great as well.

I'd hesitate to leave a hosta sitting in a pot otherwise unprotected though. However, I do not have experience to speak about that.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 3:08PM
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jel48(Z4 Michigan)

Moccasinlanding, I have about 8 - 10 Hostas that have been in pots since I moved here in 2008, and another 20 or so that have been in pots since 2009. 4 of them are actually in tall urn shaped pots (top about 20 inches above ground level) so are 'up in the air' so to speak. Like I mentioned,, it's all about where you are and what sort of winter you have. You wouldn't believe what can survive under a solid 30 - 36" snow cover of lake effect snow! I'm pretty far north, but can grow things I couldn't grow when I was in southern MN.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 5:30AM
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Jel48, the kind of wintering over in pots that you describe gives the hostas a constant and unrelenting frozen period.
In south Alabama, we had up to 2 weeks last winter when temps were below freezing. But the last time we had MEASURABLE snow was at Christmas 1997, when it laid down a "powdering." There was no snow under the big oak trees, just enough to hide the brown grass on our lawns.

So it seems to me that the best thing I can do for my hostas will be to try to keep fluctuating temps from doing too MUCH of a thaw, and thus to just keep them as cold and as dry as possible. They will break dormancy pretty early anyway, but I don't want to lose them. A lot of pine straw mulching can keep new eyes breaking the soil from freezing, because they will undoubtedly emerge before the last frost.

Today, I up potted all the hosta from the garden into their travel pots. Now they sit in the shade and perhaps they will get rained on the next few days. But only a little bit. I had a hellashus time getting a few of these jewels into pots, because in two years of growing in great soil, they really got a big root system on them. And, they do look great in pots.

My 'Sum & Substance' is nothing like the mature specimens I saw at Seawrights garden in Carlisle MA the other day. However, it barely fit a 5 gallon bucket. Massive roots.
I was careful to bring up the whole root ball.

With so many plants needing a ride home, I might have DH take a plane so the SUV won't be crowded!!!! :) I bet THAT goes over big. hehehehehehe

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 10:20PM
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