Can Great Expectations ben Grown Well in Containers?

gogirlterri(5 IL)November 19, 2012

I am the 'pothead' of my family since I have no garden other than what is shared with another. We historically cannot seem to grow Great Expectations (all 4 of us in 3 seperate venues).

But I love how it looks and have seen mature GE I could die for! So my question is, if any of you GE keepers can post pics of you mature GE in containers, and some hints on how you've done it, I probably will try it once more!

Steve, you attend many shows. Have you (or anyone else) seen & photographed it in containers. There is always the risk a hosta could be put in a container for dispay purposes only and not grown in it.


psTS: I thank GW for the preview feature! I'd made a typo at the start of this post and typed 'Poohead' instead of 'pothead'. I thought some of you would appreciate that! I can name some people who might agree with the typo! :)

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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

I've never seen it in a container, but I don't see why not. I believe the key with GE is to give it about 4 hours of direct morning sun and lots of supplemental water. A container would allow you to put it in a position to get both of those things (along with good drainage). So it could be done. I think most people that grow it though want one that looks like this.

So they put it in the ground.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 10:46AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Great Expectations is a mystical plant. Some have no problem growing it and others swear it is impossible.

As far as containers there are some who say it works best to establich GE. They say it likes to be somewhat rootbound, at least while being established.

The general groundrules are that it should have a good amount of sun and does not like to be moved. I would say that you might want to start it in a pot exactly where you want it to end up. You will have to bury the pot for the winter in your area. I think moving it indoors for the winter vilates the 'no moving' rule. I would also make sure to keep the compass orientation the same. I think that revolving plants from their existing orientation to the sun is a setback for any plant; in my opinion.

I am sure that you will need to keep trading up to larger pots. I would suggest not 'teasing' the roots for this tempermental hosta.

Once it gets too big for a pot it could then be set in place in the soil. Once again not teasing teh roots or spinning it out of its orientation.

There are plenty of GEs in pots that can be Googled living happily in gardens and not just posed for a picture. I think it is not only possible but should be very easily done as long as you don't keep moving it to try and get it going and you don't kill it with kindness.

I bought 2 this season and they have both thrived. The leaves did not get very big, but they developed a lot of new growth and grew vigorously...even the one I stepped on and broke off 1/3 of the leaves.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 10:52AM
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Gesila(MI Z5)

Here's mine, second year in this pot. I had to bring it in the house since it emerged so early this year.

It sits next to the big tree in the front yard. I pretty much ignore it all season.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 11:43AM
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Jon 6a SE MA


The secret to success may be, in addition to enough sun because the leaves are bright and don't have a lot of chlorophyl, keeping it moist, which is true for just about every hosta, and ignoring it as you do.

Part of the reason many have problems may be because they compensate for knowing it may be difficult and they move it around, over fertilize it or otherwise play with it when it just wants to be left alone. It may have been better named Greta Garbo.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 2:58PM
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ilovetogrow z9 Jax Florida

Here is mine. I will always be in pots here as I cannot compete with tree roots. 2 year old plant for me that gets a lot of sun. Have a great grow day, Been working Paula

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 6:59PM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Gesila and ilovetogrow---your two year old Great Expectations are looking great. They are a very good size for 2 year olds.

I began growing my GE in the soil in my garden several years ago, but last year I put it into a pot with moisture control potting mix. I overwintered it in my unheated garage and to my delight it survived. I lost many of my pictures and had not backed them up, but I do have this picture taken May 2012. I am in southern Ontario.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 11:04PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Yes! Beautiful! Newhostalady, I'm guessing that in a garage means no water during dormancy, right? When did you begin to water? When the pips popped up?


    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:28AM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

Babka-I love your "popping-pips" analogy.

Your potted GE's all look quite healthy and beautiful. Thanks.

Les wants to add something:

"Hey-The Great Expectations I'd tried and lost spent each of their short lives in one spot. Jon - your newbee GE is too new to use as an example. All of ours looked great the first year-new leaves and so on, giving no indication of the degredation that followed in ensuing seasons. None survived into their 4th season. Then I tried Dream Queen with the same result: genetic? DQ received 6 hours of morning sun 4 feet away from the water spigot.

The GE's I refer to were planted in Arkansas, Wilmington IL, Joliet IL and Channanon IL so I can't claim it to be the soil. Bobbi across the street has them growing like weeds. Huh!

My strongest feeling is that they don't compete well with roots from any other plant. My first was in Arkansas and may have been water depraved. My second was moved from Arkansas to IL and planted among Lily of the Valley. My 3rd was planted at the opposite end of the house among mixed companion plants such as Daffodils, Heuchera and a few other non-intrusive perenniels. I doubt if I will every try one again. Les"

I thought it best to let him tell his story. I think I will try one in a pot. They are sold by every nursery around here in the spring, attesting to its eye appeal as a stock plant, and it won't break me to spend $5 on one.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 7:26AM
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Jon 6a SE MA


This year I have purchased the following 'difficult' hosta-

Brim Cup
Island Charm
Fire and Ice
Great Expectations

All these are on the Hosta Library list of reported problem plants. I also have Dream Queen. Of these; Fire and Ice has been a disappointment, Dream Queen grew 5 nice big leaves but looked sparse. Brim Cup, Island Charm and Great Expectations all seemed to be thriving.

These good performers may continue to grow well next year or they may not, but they have all gone into dormancy with good crown growth which should get them off to a good start next year. Fire and Ice is questionable. Dream Queen will decide next year if it is going to do well or not.

Time will tell. There must be something basic that creates so many failures of GE and yet allows so many successes. The 3 suspected problems, repeated often, are not enough sunlight, not watered regularly and dislike of being moved. My 2 have good morning sun, are watered regularly either by nature or me, the soil is loaded with organic material and the ph is slightly acidic (about 6), they are well mulched and they will grow where they are or end up in the compost pile. If they fail because of some other reason, I don't know what it might be and I will not keep buying new plants to try and figure it out.

I have as good a shot as I can possibly have control of. If they don't do well then I will join in the chorus of those who started with great expectations and ended up bitterly disappointed.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 8:25AM
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That's funny,my Dream Queen has always been a good grower,though slow,but this year the leaves were huge! As for Great Expectations,I'm on my second one,but it seems to like it's new location,so I'm leaving it for now. Phil

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 9:30AM
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Here is a pic,hopefully,of my Dream Queen,but not from this year. Phil

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 9:36AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Mine from this, its first, year (planted late last Fall). Big leaves, but not much sign of new growth. It also gets bombarded daily by guano from Eastern Red-Shouldered Hawks that have a nest directly above it.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 9:53AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

We historically cannot seem to grow Great Expectations (all 4 of us in 3 seperate venues).

==>> what more do you need to know.. add my 12 failures to your list.. and you have all the knowledge you need ...

let me put it this way ... do you want to buy the same failure again.. or would you rather invest your money.. in a plant that is not an absolute failure ...see wall.. bam head on wall .. again?????



    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 11:09AM
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Ha ha ha Ken , hosta people are like the farmer , MAYBE NEXT TIME MAYBE NEXT YEAR!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 11:14AM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Babka: I began to water the potted GE that was overwintered in the garage only when it began to grow in the spring. I think the fact that it was in a larger pot, meant that it didn't dry out too quickly. This year I have put it in the garage again along with many other pots of different sizes. I will have to make a note to check on them in a couple of months or so.

I potted it in 2011 and kept it in the same pot this year. I added about an inch of leaf compost on the top of the pot this spring. No fertilizer this year. I think the moisture control potting mix had fertilizer mixed into it when I first planted it.

My GE gets a lot of sun in the spring before our trees leaf out. Then it only gets two hours of sun each day. I water every second day, except when it is very hot. Then I need to water daily. When reading earlier postings, it has been said that it is important not to plant GE too deeply. I don't know, but that may be worth a try also.

GE can also be quite photogenic in the fall. This picture is not that greatest---I'm no professional---but, it gives you an idea of what it can look like.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 11:38AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Ken, as someone who has tried (unsuccessfully) twelve times to grow what arguably is the most beautiful and best selling hosta of all time; you must realize the irresistable temptation to give it a couple of tries to become the 5th person in the world to successfuly grow it.

newhostalady, nice picture, how old is your Great Expectation? I think not planting to deeply would (with some exceptions) be a rule for most plants especially hosta.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 12:21PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


is because there are idiots who buy the same plant 12 times ...

how about a statistic of how many actually lived ...

or how many each successful person had to buy .. before they got one to grow ...

BTW ... where did that stat come from.. one might suspect june to have outsold it .. or golden tiara ... are you making poop up???

its a piece of carp.. do what you do with dead fish.. GIVE UP ON IT!!!!


ps: yeah.. yeah.. if anyone can do it.. i can do it.. i know where you are coming from with that .... but see above about the numbers 2 thru 12, which i bought ...

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:25PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

"because there are idiots who buy the same plant 12 times ..."

I can't believe anyone would do such a thing. :~)


    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 3:35PM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

Les and daughters did it 5-6 times or more, and I am tempted to try it in a container. If it is truly the best selling hosta it is only because it shows well as a juvie, and is being bought by the unknowing. I hate to think of how many potential hosta lovers have been lost because of GE failure.
Ken, I really am with you. I will only try it once in a container. 'T' Once shame on you; twice shame on me!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 7:03PM
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bernd ny zone5

There are quite a few people here who have GE growing in their gardens. I bought two 3 years ago and have those two still growing nicely, must be my soil, light or whatever. I just bought two more cheaply.

Here is some advice given by forum member 'dhaven' :

"Some varieties are very picky about growing conditions, and unless they are planted in optimum conditions, they will either remain small, or fade away and die. The best example of this I know of is Great Expectations, which also happens to be my favorite hosta. A great many people have lost this one, sometimes more than once. I have three very large mature plants, and they are the prettiest thing in the garden. It took some experimentation, but there are three things that GE absolutely must have to thrive. First, and most importantly, plant it shallowly. It's going to be a very large plant, so the natural inclination is to plant it deeply, but this will kill it faster than anything else. Plant it so shallowly you are convinced that it will tip over, and you've got it right. Secondly, it likes a lot of light. Dappled shade is ideal, but it will take several hours of direct sun, either morning or afternoon. Third, it likes a lot of water. If you give a GE all three of these things, you will increase your chances of growing it into an absolutely stunning plant.
If you want to try any of the hostas that have the reputation of being difficult, be prepared to try different locations and growing methods, and possibly go through several plants before you discover what works for that variety in your location. When you do find out what works, please share the information with the rest of us!"


    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 7:33PM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Jon: My GE is about 8 years old, divided once. It's the only one that I have ever had. I bought it when I wasn't much into hostas. But now it is the one that I am most anxious to see in the spring. With all the negative reports on GE, it makes me wonder whether it will survive another year. When it does, I am so appreciative and thankful. Its beauty brings me a lot of joy.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 9:53PM
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Jon 6a SE MA

new hosta lady,

Whatever you are doing, or not doing, is working so I wouldn't try to do anything different to 'improve' its chances. The fact you were not very much into hostas at the time may be the reason for your success. Benign neglect might be a good part of the answer.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 7:58AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

so steve.. fess up

how many failed.. before you got that one to grow???


BTW .. pick the GE with the BIGGEST green edge ... very important as a babe.. to have the chlorophyll production ... when its an adult.. it will look proper.. mostly because it will be alive.. lol ... i would guess.... that the first 6 i bought.. at 8 inch size.. had the thinnest green edge.. otherwise known as a terminal white .... and therein i learned about a white tissue being a net negative on a plant ...

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 12:37PM
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We tried benign neglect and that didn't work either. My daughter Lorrie only knows benign neglect as the only way to grow hostas. You should see the fantastic Elegans and Frances Williams she has. They both look like mountains.

But I have 5 different hostas I have rescued from her garden, among them August Moon, Summer Fragrance, and Gold Standard. The Serendipity division I'd traded her is doing fantastic. But not GE. I'd bought one for each of my twins when I lived in Arkansas, promissing them the most fantasticly colored hosta they have ever seen. Neither made it into the third season.
\ Shrug!!! Oh well! Promisses don't always work out right.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 1:52PM
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I always enjoy the back and forth conversations when the subject of GE comes up. I got lucky with my first and don't dare try another, ;) :) Unfortunately I don't have any experience with it in a pot but here's my five year old from this year.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 9:22PM
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