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i need advice on overwintering pots

Posted by i-like-to-grow 6 (brambofrazzleroot@yahoo.com) on
Mon, Jul 30, 12 at 6:47

Gonna try overwintering hosta in pots for the first time this season. Any advice would be appreciated. I live in southern Kentucky...we have variable winters... Most of the time the ground barely freezes and we have little snowfall. Our temperature usually doesn't get very far down into the teens and its only at night. The wind here isn't very bad either. So far what Ive gathered... Water your hosta until they go dormant...move them into a sheltered area where the temperature is more stable, out of the wind, precipitation and Sun... Don't water them...leave them there undisturbed all winter... In springtime, when your in ground hostas are starting to emerge... Bring them out and start watering them... Be cautious of late frosts... And viola... Please correct me if I'm wrong... I really want to do some containers on a large scale and do not want to lose 250 bucks worth of plants lol
John


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: i need advice on overwintering pots

As far as storage space goes... Would my attic or the loft in my shed be a better storage option? Possibly on my front porch covered by a tarp? What would happen if I put lids on the top of my pots to keep stuff out of them?


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RE: i need advice on overwintering pots

I'm so glad you've asked this John.

I believe that I've read that many people lay their pots on their side to overwinter. Not sure if that's only applicable in certain zones and/or pots that can freeze and crack?


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John, I'm sure you've heard all this before, but I'll say it again. The thing you have to worry about is rot. That's why babka covers hers. They have wet winters. Once they go dormant, she prevents rain on hers until spring.

In the great north, they turn them on the side after they freeze and put them on the shady side of a building so they don't continually freeze and thaw. That's so the top of the pot won't thaw on milder days and leave water sitting on the crown.

I don't anything to my pots in the winter. We don't have much freezing weather, so rain runs right through mine. I have them on concrete and on "pot feet" so they drain well. I use a coarse potting soil.

Keeping them in a shed or somewhere indoors will usually get them to come up early. Coming up early lends them to late freeze damage, so you need a plan for that if you choose a shed or enclosed porch.

So that's potted hosta 101 - keep them from rotting in the winter.

bkay


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so I can leave them on my porch... and just make sure they don't hold water... sweet... did I understand that right?


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bkay hit it. but i am not sure it registered ...

is your porch north facing.. will the pots NEVER be in sun ..

prolonged cold wet soil.. rots things ...

ken


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I am in zone 6 also,but I don't have very many pots. I do have half whiskey barrels,and I do nothing with them,just let the leaves fall on them. I have one pot,but it sets under the roof overhang,and always survives. My climate is similar to yours,so just make sure your pots have good drainage. Phil


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My porch is covered and faces northeast... it will get the sun rising up over the horizon... but thats it... they will stay dry... so I can just leave them out there... I don't have to worry about them drying completely up?
John


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btw Kenny... it registered... I just failed to mention my porch was covered... which confused the replies... but its cool...
Another question... does the actual container make much of a difference... I'll be using the standard grade black nursery pots for most of them...
John


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RE: i need advice on overwintering pots

John,

During dormancy you want your Hostas to stay dry. I leave my potted Hostas tipped on their side on the North side of my house. If I bring one into my unheated enclosed porch then I will give it a very small drink about once a month or just put a little snow on it if available. Sounds like your porch is roofed but otherwise exposed to the elements. In that case a little snow or ice or a small amount of water once a month should do well also.

Steve


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Excellent Steve... I think I can do this lol... just the thought of losing one sucks..
John


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RE: i need advice on overwintering pots

Yes, you can do it, John! If your porch is covered and they won't get rained/snowed on, I don't see any reason to tip the pots on their side. I imagine you have much milder winters in zone 6 than I do in zone 5b.

I do have some concerns that the "standard grade black nursery pots" will absorb heat at the roots from the morning sun that you described. This may cause the freeze/thaw action. As a side note, those type of pots should have very good drain holes.

I over winter potted hosta in my unheated garage under a window without direct sunlight. They always emerge before the "planted in ground" hosta do. After shoots come up in the spring, before the leaves unfurl, I set them out under my covered porch. My thinking is for them to harden off and get used to outside temperatures. If there is a chance of hard frost, I will cluster them together and throw a sheet over them for the night.

hth,
Deb


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RE: i need advice on overwintering pots

ok, you are going to laugh, but I had great luck sitting my few potted plants on their sides, under an old pickup truck I have ;) they don't get wet,they get no sun, and it doesn't really warm up under there either.

I guess the biggest risk would be some animal that would dig into the pot to eat roots?


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RE: i need advice on overwintering pots

John,

Mine sit in the sun all the time and I don't keep them dry. As far as I know, all my overwinter plant losses (2)can be attributed to moisture control potting soil.

bkay


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Woohoo... So I should be confident...


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I went today and got the materials for a basic porting mix.... 6 gallon vermiculite, 1 bag mini pine nuggets, 5 gallon organic peat moss, 1 cup garden lime... So no moisture control!
John


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RE: i need advice on overwintering pots

I don't think it's not the freeze/thaw that gets them. It's the frozen like a lollipop at the bottom and thawed at the top that's the problem. Mine freeze all the time. They thaw all the time. They never stay frozen, though. Our freezing temps never last long. Typically, it will freeze overnight and be up to 45F the next day. At the most, we will have two or three days of continuously freezing weather.

Something to think about is watering. Babka doesn't water hers at all. I don't water mine after they go dormant, but they get rain.

A couple of years ago, I planted five hosta in a planter box, with the idea that it's just a big pot. They did well the first summer. The next spring, only three came back and they needed life support. I'm not sure what the problem was. It may have been the soil as I didn't replace all the soil. The other thing was that they got no water all winter long. The planter box is under an overhang, so it gets no rain.

All that is to say I would think about watering them a few times during the winter, unless they are going to stay continuously frozen.

bkay


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RE: i need advice on overwintering pots

Right bkay like Steve said... Keep them on my porch and give them a little water once a month and they'll be fine..
John


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I walk away till spring. I do throw a light layer of leaves on top of them so they have a blanket. If it rains I do not worry it would be raining on them anyway if they were in the ground. I use a well draining mix and I also use black pots. My lowert temps are 24F. Just keep it simple. Go USA! Paula


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  • Posted by babka 9b NorCal (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 30, 12 at 21:05

I don't water mine, because they get one good fungicide drench after they go dormant. They never totally get bone dry over the 90 days they are asleep. (Dec, Jan, Feb). They emerge in March and I water them then.

I once went to a garden show where they gave away free samples of Super Soil and radish seeds with the instructions to just add water when you get home. Mine got tipped over and I put the mixed up soil/seeds back in the little 4 oz cup and left it in the bathroom. No water. No sun. That soil was as damp as it comes out of the bag, which is how they were doleing it out. We had a family emergency and I had to leave immediately, so that cup was there for a couple weeks with no water. After the funeral, I'll be darned if those radish seeds hadn't begun to sprout, you could see them thru the clear plastic container!!! It was then I realized that even tho you cannot feel the moisture with your hands, it is still there. Dormant hosta roots are not sucking up any water. The moisture in those pots stays there for a long time. When I get bare root hostas from Hallsons in Spring before they have leafed out, they are packed in fine sphagnum moss which feels dry but probably provides just the right amount of humidity.

The tarp goes over the top of the atrium around Thanksgiving, keeping them shaded and dry. We often get into the 60's on Winter days, but as long as they are around 40 degrees at night, they are happy.

The first 3 years I grew them in pots, I had no tarp over the atrium and they got winter rains. They did fine, but then after that one really rainy winter, I lost about 50% (out of 90 pots)to rot. (heartbroken, hear that, Phil? ;-)Mostly, as far as I can tell, it was the ones that weren't very crowded in their pots, so they had too much potting mix and stayed too wet.

The best advice, I think, would come from someone who has experience with growing them in pots in your particular area. Is there a Hosta Society/garden club near you?

-Babka


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Nothing close... this is daylilly country... and even the society in Louisville... which is almost 2 hours away... is a hosta/daylilly club lol..
John


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  • Posted by babka 9b NorCal (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 30, 12 at 22:20

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm...there are 21 members in the AHS in Kentucky, or where is your Louisville? (as of 2010, my most recent directory). You don't have a "My Page" in Gardenweb. How did that happen? Don't you need to join Garden Web to make a post? I had to. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

-Babka


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No idea babs... I'll look into it... Louisville is the biggest city in Kentucky... home of Church Hill Downs.. the Kentucky Derby... its north central Kentucky on the Ohio... Lexington which is like 3 hours east... home of the NCAA Basketball National Champions 2012 the UK Wildcats.. is more uptown.. civilized people... close to there is the Bluegrass Nursery... I think one of two Hosta nurseries/display gardens in the state... and its small to boot.... I just don't have the energy.. nor the extra time to travel..
John


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Babka, I found his member page, plus email addy on it. He joined in 2010, for GWeb anyway.

Yeah, Louisville is 700 miles north of Mobile, straight up I-65....drove it, made one turn at a L'ville exit, and I was right at the hotel. One turn, man cannot beat that for easy trip.


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  • Posted by babka 9b NorCal (My Page) on
    Tue, Jul 31, 12 at 0:36

Hah! I was clicking on the place where the "My Page" usually shows up. Not on the name. Learn something new every day.

I really do know where Louisville, KY is located. But he only said "Louisville". I just recently discovered that just about every state has a town named "Bloomington". Anyway, there are still 21 members listed for the state of KY. Are there that many micro-climates like there are here in CA? Surely someone there in KY is also growing hostas in pots.

-Babka


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I would say just four micro climates... River/creek bottom land....mountains of eastern Kentucky, Appalachia..... Forest preserves, Daniel Boone National Forest....And all the barren farmland... Each is host to a wide variety of plants of its own...
John


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In our zone 5b we tip hosta pots over on their side and cover with 3-4 inches of leaves or straw. Facing them north helps in early spring when the sun will start to heat things up.
Wintering over hundreds of small hosta seedlings in 8 oz cups, to more mature hostas in quarts, gallons and larger pots, havent lost many. If we do its usually do to having them to wet or a late spring frost.

Thinking there would be a big difference on how one would be wintering over pots from zone 6 and zones 9.


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 11, 12 at 11:28

Freeze/thaw cycles aren't an issue for temperate plants in containers - they will tolerate cycle after freeze/thaw cycle with no problem, as long as the temperature doesn't drop below a 'killing low' temperature, which is primarily genetically determined but also influenced by cultural conditions. I over-winter hostas regularly in a wide variety of pots, including black nursery pots, by placing them on the ground on the north side of my garage. Because I use a very chunky soil (5:1:1 mix) for hostas, I don't worry about them getting overly wet, but if I had that concern, I would either partially bury the pots or add a wick to one of the drain holes & let it rest directly on top of the soil, or otherwise put measures in place that prevent them from becoming too wet. I'm careful to not let them become completely dry, tossing a little snow on top of the soil in the containers when appropriate. They can also be over-wintered in an unheated garage or outbuilding. I repot (different than potting up) every spring and divide at the same time if they need it.

Al


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Al,

Everything you said is correct except that Hostas should be tipped on their side to avoid crown rot. The problem comes in late Winter/early Spring you can end up with a partially frozen mix followed by rain. The crown is then sitting in water and will rot. There is no drainage (regardless of wicking or not) because the bottom of the mix is still frozen. The Hosta shown below was lost to us when its hybridizer divided it into several pots and the crown rotted over the winter in each of those pots. Tipping pots after the mix is frozen will prevent this from happening.

Steve


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  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 11, 12 at 13:00

I think that thought paints with too broad of a brush. For instance, I have never tipped my plants on their sides and have never lost one to crown rot. In fact, I have 3 plantings that over-winter outside I'll describe. 1 is in a shallow (4" deep) solid granite trough that just sits on the ground under a very old HL walking stick, the other 2 are in dish gardens planted in collection saucers less than 3" deep. I think we all know that shallow containers like these significantly increase the likelihood of problems associated with perched water in the soil, so the fact that these plantings survive year after year speaks to something other than me tempting fate and just being lucky.

So, given that I don't tip my plants on their sides and don't have problems, can I logically say it's necessary to follow this practice? NO. Can I logically say it's unnecessary (for me?) YES, I can.

If a mix is partially frozen, it can still partially drain. If the center of a pot is frozen, or the part farthest from an extraneous heat source is frozen, any rain falling on the pot will drain through the unfrozen soil. The problem arises when the soil being used is inappropriately water retentive. Soils that naturally hold little perched water will drain as soon as the soil thaws. The soil in contact with the container walls will thaw first, and by that pathway the water in the upper few inches of soil will exit the pot.

Finally, hydrologically speaking, water in a nursery container resting on the ground acts the same way it would if it was in a raised bed that used the same soil as what is in the pot, because establishing continuity between the soil in the container and the earth technically turns the pot into a mini raised bed.

I'm not saying that tipping the pot on its side can't be helpful, but I think some qualification of the statement, sop it's not so broad, should be added: In some cases, when using highly water-retentive soils where freeze/thaw cycles are common, tipping the pot on its side during periods of winter rain can sometimes help reduce the potential for ill effects due to over-saturation and the crown rot that can accompany those conditions.

Al



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