Hosta Containers and Companions

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.


Hosta When finding containers for your hostas you have to think outside the box: “Carolyn’s Gold” hosta in an antique kerosene can.

This is the third post in a three-part series on small hostas.  My nursery specializes in miniature hostas, and I have over 30 varieties available right now, both at the nursery and mail orderIn I LOVE Mice, I raved about the mouse ears series of hostas.  In Beyond Mice, I highlighted some of my favorite non-mouse ears hostas.  My 2011 post Miniature (& Small) Hostas also gives an overview of little hostas and how to use them in the garden.  Now I want to focus on the containers you might use to hold your hostas and the plants that will keep them company.


Probably my favorite medium sized hosta, the straight species Hosta tokudama.

Why would you want to grow hostas in a container?  One reason I do it is to highlight a hosta’s very special ornamental attributes.  I think Hosta tokudama (photo above) is gorgeous so I grow it in a pot outside my front door.  Here are some other hostas that I think merit their own container (read my previous hosta posts for photos of other single hosta containers):

Hosta ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ has bright gold leaves and deep red stems that look like rhubarb.  I placed its pot on a wall by my front walk so I can admire the stems up close.

The elegant hosta ‘Hanky Panky’ grows in an old dogwood stump, also along my front walk.

I love the very unusual hosta ‘Praying Hands’ and have it in three different containers, here with violas.

There is no other miniature hosta that looks like ‘Sparkler’ so I gave it its own spot in an antique metal pitcher salvaged from the dump.

Small hostas can get lost when planted in perennial borders unless they are massed.  Growing special miniature hostas in containers brings them up to eye level.  Here are 16 miniatures in my strawberry pot:

It also allows you to pair them with other miniature plants to create a tiny garden.  My previous posts contain many photos of my containers of little hostas.  However, I thought I would show you some of the planters I have recently created to give my customers ideas and to sell at my upcoming hosta open house:

All these containers were purchased inexpensively at flea markets and antique stores or were salvaged from the dump at the bottom of our property.  You probably have a suitable pot, pan, or other hosta garden holder gathering dust in your attic right now.

Hosta gardens waiting at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens for a new home.

Choosing tiny companion plants to go with your miniature hostas is another fun part of growing them in containers or in a rock garden.  Plant collecting urges are satisfied by all the plants that can be crammed into a small area.  In the planters above, I used violas, sedums, hens and chicks, ‘Heartthrob’ violet, ‘Tiny Rubies’ dianthus, and pasque flower (Pulsatilla).  Here are some more combinations:

Hostas ‘Shiny Penny’, ‘Green Eyes’, and ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ paired with sedum, hens and chicks, and rosularia in my dish garden.

Mouse ears hostas with dwarf Solomon’s seal, Polygonatum humile, in my stone trough.

Hostas ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ and ‘Blonde Elf’ with miniature lady fern, Athyrium filix-femina ‘Minutissimum’, in the rock garden.

Hostas ‘Little Blue’, ‘Blonde Elf’, and ‘Little Wonder’ with a small epimedium in the rock garden.

Gardening with tiny plants and salvaged containers is so much fun.  I hope you will give it a try.


Nursery Happenings:  If you are interested in receiving miniature hostas mail order, click here.

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62 Responses to “Hosta Containers and Companions”

  1. Hostas and violas are a combination I’m going to try. I love all the containers you use. You inspired me.

  2. How absolutely gorgeous these containers are – unique and so beautifully designed with plants. Just the right thing to bring interest to any dull corner. Thanks for these ideas!

  3. I just love the enamel containers – did you drill holes in the bottom?

  4. These are so beautiful , you did a great job.. serious plant envy! Jeannine

  5. Jan @ Thanks for today. Says:

    Thanks for sharing these photos and great ideas! I have several mini hostas and it is kind of hard to make them ‘stand out’ when placed in regular beds; plus, I’m wondering if keeping them in containers could help prevent slugs from getting them…I need to try some of your ideas. I have dwarf solomons seal in a regular sized bed and it doesn’t stand out that much either. Guess I have some rearranging to do:-) But only after I finish planting the many plants I purchased weeks ago and am trying to get in the ground. I’ve been working in the garden daily and can’t seem to find time to blog anymore;( So much going on that I get ‘lost’ when I think about uploading photos! Take care, Jan

  6. This would be a great idea for people here you have shady balconies or terraces; they are always looking for plants for shade and I don’t think many would think of Hostas. Another great post

  7. I love these ideas for containers. The mini hostas arrived yesterday and I will be planting them in a cement dish container this weekend. They are gorgeous.

  8. How interesting! The antique kerosene can is inspired, but my favorite is the pitcher! What beautiful pictures. I have a couple of hostas, but they’re one of the few plants in my garden that are actually in the ground.

  9. I LOVE the creativity. What can one do with the containers in the winter?

    • Debbie, I leave all my containers outside for the winter unless the container itself can’t take freezing like terra cotta. The hostas are fine through the winter outside in a pot. They actually multiply faster. Carolyn

      • Jennie M Malave Says:

        How cold does it get for you that you can leave your containers out in winter?

      • It can get down to zero or below but mostly the low will be 10 degrees. The hostas are fine. You have to worry about the contIners. Terra cotta or poorly made ceramic containers will crack. Good glazed containers, metal, concrete, etc are fine.

  10. I like the praying hands in the container with violas. I may have to dig up my praying hands and put it in a pot to really show it off. I really like the solomon’s seal, fern and hosta combo.

  11. Love the metal pitcher! The shape of the foliage works so perfectly with it

  12. Marilyn Cellucci Says:

    How do you protect your containers over the Winter?

  13. Your combos are very well done. I wished I lived closer, as I would probably be a regular.

    I work for plants! lol

  14. Love the one in the stone trough!! And the violets are just perfect companions.
    I have been thinking about doing Hostas in containers for a while, but didn’t know if they will tolerate Ohio winters. I see you said you leave yours out but I know you are in a different zone. I guess I should try it with a hosta I wouldn’t care to lose before I buy some of the more valuable ones.

    • Pearl, I am in zone 7A (until recently 6B). Yes, you should experiment with a less expensive hosta. It is also important how big the container is. Sometimes if we are getting really cold weather I will take one or two of the tiny containers into my unheated garage for a day or two. I don’t think I need to do this (and I ofter forget) but it makes me feel better. Carolyn

  15. cathywieder Says:

    Carolyn, what do you do with them (the hiostas in containers) in winter? I have a shallow fountain base in my shade garden that would make a wonderful planter, but I’m concerned about winter…. it would be very heavy and cumbersome to try to move it to the garage.

    • Cathy, In my zone, I leave them out in the winter as long as the container won’t freeze and crack. You have to have drainage holes in the bottom of the container. Drill a lot of holes and also place the container on an uneven surface or raise it up off the flat surface slightly so it can drain. Carolyn

  16. Carolyn – After reading this post I’m tempted to go outside, dig out my hosta from the flower bed and plant it in a pot.

    Do you leave the roots in the pots during winter ?

  17. I love the miniature gardens! Many are little worlds unto themselves. I also love the hostas in the strawberry jar! I wouldn’t have thought of that. Great idea!

  18. I never get weary of your Hosta posts Carolyn. I like them in pots, as well as looking good it keeps the slugs away. Now, I wonder if I also have a pot that looks like an elephant.

  19. Carolyn, I love all the old recycled containers. Great way to reuse old items and they look wonderful too. Do you drill holes in the bottoms of the metal containers?

  20. The containers look great, but did you drill holes in the bottom for drainage? I really like the mouse ear hostas and need to find a spot for one. 🙂

  21. What precious hostas. We went to the Shadracks’ when we were at the Buffalo Garden Bloggers Fling and I fell in love with those tiny hostas. In Central Texas with our 70 days over 100 and excessive drought, deer bulb-loving dogs, I have struggled with them. I love the idea of trying them in containers. Look forward to seeing you in Asheville next week.

  22. I love these ideas!! I saw the plants Donna bought from you – beautiful Carolyn!! So wish I could order from you :).

  23. Carolyn, I think I have figured out how to leave a comment on a WordPress blog…without having to sign in to WordPress. It took some ‘doing’ and ‘undoing’…apparently I ‘did’ have a WP acct. in 2010 but I never used it. If this comment goes through, it means I should be able to leave comments at last…finally…

  24. Carolyn, I definitely want to give using small hostas in containers a go. My only concern is overwintering the containers. Do I need to shelter them or protect them in some way?

  25. You have given me some great ideas in this post. I like the idea of using a strawberry jar…I have just the one to try. This has been a fantastic series, Carolyn.

  26. Loved all these hosta ideas. Great blog! Wish I’d had more time to visit with you at Fling12 🙂

  27. […] Hosta Containers and Companions ( […]

  28. […] more… 722 more words This entry was posted on 25 July 2012, in Container Gardening, Plant in Focus, Planter or Pot […]

  29. Laura Bloomsbury Says:

    Carolyn, You have a creative and unique range of planters – assume you make drainage holes in all of them? I only keep hostas in pots surrounded by gravel to control slug and snail damage – what do you do about these gastropods? I organic spray with nematodes.
    p.s. have ‘followed’ you since Blotanical days and every so often like to pop by to see what is growing in your garden – always a treat

    • Laura, I do make drainage holes in all the containers if they don’t have one. I don’t really have problems with slugs although that might change this year as it has been raining for two weeks and I am finding a lot of them. Had forgotten all about Blotanical! Carolyn

  30. […] Gardens whose blog I love and highly recommend. (You can see Carolyn’s strawberry pot here: It was my first attempt at displaying minis in containers and still one of my […]

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