Container Vegetable Plants: Suitable Vegetable Varieties For Containers

You may think vegetables aren’t well suited for container gardening, but there are many good container vegetable plants. In fact, nearly any plant will grow in a container if the container is deep enough to accommodate the roots. Read on for more info on some good container vegetables.

Veggie Plants for Container Growing

As a general rule, the best veggie plants for container gardening are dwarf, miniature or bush types. (A few suggestions are offered in the list below, but there are many varieties – check the seed packet or nursery container). Most container vegetable plants need a container with a depth of at least 8 inches. Some, like full-size tomatoes, need a depth of at least 12 inches and a soil capacity of at least 5 gallons.

The larger the container, the more plants you can grow, but don’t crowd the plants. For example, a single herb plant will grow in a small container, while a medium-sized pot will accommodate one cabbage plant, two cucumbers or four to six leaf lettuce plants. A large pot will grow two to three pepper plants or a single eggplant.

Vegetable Varieties for Containers

Use this helpful list of container vegetable plants to inspire you to try your hand at porta growing with vegetables.

Small Pots (1/2 gallon)

(and most compact herb plants)

Medium Pots (1-2 gallon)

Cabbage (Baby head, Modern Dwarf)
Cucumbers (Spacemaster, Little Minnie, Pot Luck, Midget)
Peas (Little Marvel, Sugar Rae, American Wonder)
Leaf lettuce (Sweet Midget, Tom Thumb)
Swiss chard (Burgundy Swiss)
Radishes (Cherry Belle, Easter Egg, Plum Purple)
Green onions (All varieties)
Spinach (All varieties)
Beets (Spinel Little Ball, Red Ace)

Large Pots (2-3 gallon)

Dwarf carrots (Thumbelina, Little Fingers)
Eggplant (Morden Midget, Slim Jim, Little Fingers, Bunny Bites)
Dwarf tomatoes (Patio, Tiny Tim)
Brussels Sprouts (Half Dwarf French, Jade Cross)
Sweet peppers (Jingle Bell, Baby Bell, Mohawk Gold)
Hot peppers (Mirasol, Apache Red, Cherry Bomb)

Super-Large Pots (3 gallon and up)

Bush beans (Derby, Provider)
Tomatoes (Needs at least 5 gallons)
Broccoli (All varieties)
Kale (All varieties)
Cantaloupe (Minnesota Midget, Sharlyn)
Summer squash (Peter Pan, Crookneck, Straightneck, Gold Rush Zucchini)
Potatoes (Needs at least 5 gallons)
Pumpkin (Baby Boo, Jack Be Little,
Winter squash (Bush Acorn, Bush Buttercup, Jersey Golden Acorn)

Vegetable Gardening in Containers

If your vegetable gardening is limited by insufficient space or an unsuitable area, consider raising fresh, nutritious, homegrown vegetables in containers. A window sill, a patio, a balcony or a doorstep will provide sufficient space for a productive mini-garden. Problems with soilborne diseases, nematodes or poor soil conditions can be easily overcome by switching to a container garden. Ready access to containers means that pest management is easier. Container vegetable gardening is a sure way to introduce children to the joys and rewards of vegetable gardening.

Container gardening is an easy way to grow vegetables, especially when you lack yard space! If you have a small garden or simply a patio, balcony, or rooftop, explore the magical world of gardening in pots!

Want to have more control over growing conditions and enjoy higher yields with a lot less work? Garden in containers.

Tips for Container Gardening

Pots: The Bigger, the Better

  • Large plants need lots of space, and most roots need room to grow. Avoid small containers as they often can’t store enough water to get through hot days. Plus, the bigger your container, the more plants you can grow!
  • Use barrels (a wooden half-barrel can yield an amazing amount of food), buckets, baskets, boxes, bath- and other tubs, and troughs—anything that holds soil. Just be sure that it has drainage holes in the bottom.

Care Tips for Container Gardening with Vegetables

  • Clay pots are usually more attractive than plastic ones, but plastic pots retain moisture better and won’t dry out as fast as unglazed terra-cotta ones. To get the best of both, slip a plastic pot into a slightly larger clay pot.
  • Black pots absorb heat when they are sitting in the sun.
  • Many plants grown in pots must be watered as often as twice a day. To keep plants adequately cool and moist during hot summer days, double-pot: Place a small pot inside a larger one and fill the space between them with sphagnum moss or crumpled newspaper. When watering the plant, also soak the filler between the pots.
  • Hanging baskets make good use of extra space, and herbs, cherry tomatoes, and strawberries grown at eye level can be easily tended and harvested.
  • Add about 1 inch of coarse gravel in the bottom of containers to improve drainage.
  • Vegetables that can be easily transplanted are best suited for containers. Transplants can be purchased from local nurseries or started at home.
  • Feed container plants at least twice a month with liquid fertilizer, following the instructions on the label.
  • An occasional application of fish emulsion or compost will add trace elements to container soil.
  • Place containers where they will receive maximum sunlight and good ventilation. Watch for and control insect pests.

Window Boxes

A large window box can provide the makings for a handy salad within arm’s reach! (Here’s a video on how to grow salad greens in containers.) Whatever the size or type, place your containers where they are most convenient to be cared for and will grow best. Most vegetables need 6 to 8 hours of direct sun in order to thrive and produce well.

Plants in containers need the best possible soil, aeration, and drainage for healthy root growth and optimum harvest. Do not use soil from the garden: It is too heavy, can become waterlogged, and brings disease and insects with it. Choose instead a soilless mix (quick-draining and lightweight) or use compost, alone or combined with a soilless mix.

Attractive in window boxes, edible flowers such as nasturtiums, calendula, and signet marigolds also add color to the plate!

To keep vegetable plants growing, feed them organic soil amendments, like liquid seaweed, fish emulsion, or manure tea, weekly. To ensure growth, vegetables need consistently moist soil.

Plant Supports

Support your climbing vegetables with trellises, stakes, netting, twine, or cages. Here’s how to build your own trellis or wooden supports.

A teepee of bamboo stakes will hold pole beans or snap peas. Cucumbers trained to climb up a nylon mesh fence will develop fruit that hang down and grow straight. To avoid damaging the plants or their roots, put supports in place at planting time.

To maximize space and thus your harvest, plant root crops, low-growers, and tall climbers together in the same container. The climbers will eagerly scramble up a trellis, while the small plants spread around their base. You’ll hardly need to weed because there won’t be any room for weeds to gain a foothold, and during the height of summer, some low-growers (leafy greens, for example) will thrive in the shade provided by the taller plants.

Mix quick-maturing plants, such as lettuce or radishes, with longer-growing ones, like tomatoes or broccoli.

Group plants with similar needs for sun and water, such as pole beans, radishes, and lettuce cucumber, bush beans, and beets tomatoes, basil, and onions and peas and carrots.

Read seed catalogs. Many list varieties of vegetables bred specifically for growing in containers.

Which Containers To Use for Your Vegetables

Here are our recommendations on which vegetable varieties are container-friendly and which container types are most suitable for each veggie.

Check out our video for more information on which plants will thrive in your container garden.

For supplies, you only need a good container, the right soil mix, and appropriate seed (or transplant) varieties. In addition to providing 5 hours or more of full sun, watering is critical. As mentioned above, you may need to water daily or twice daily in hot weather, the soil can dry out quickly. The good news: less weeding! Containers are generally low-maintenance.

Beans, snap
Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: Bush ‘Blue Lake’, Bush ‘Romano’, ‘Tender Crop’

Container: 1 plant/5 gallon pot, 3 plants/15-gallon tub
Varieties: ‘DeCicco’, ‘Green Comet’

Container: 5-gallon window box at least 12 inches deep
Varieties: ‘Danvers Half Long’, ‘Short ‘n Sweet’, ‘Tiny Sweet’

Container: 1 plant/1-gallon pot
Varieties: ‘Patio Pik’, ‘Pot Luck’, ‘Spacemaster’

Container: 5-gallon pot
Varieties: ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Ichiban’, ‘Slim Jim’

Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: ‘Ruby’, ‘Salad Bowl’

Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: ‘White Sweet Spanish’, ‘Yellow Sweet Spanish’

Container: 1 plant/2-gallon pot, 5 plants/15-gallon tub
Varieties: ‘Cayenne’, ‘Long Red’, ‘Sweet Banana’, ‘Wonder’, ‘Yolo’

Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: ‘Cherry Belle’, ‘Icicle’

Container: Bushel basket
Varieties: ‘Early Girl’, ‘Patio’, ‘Small Fry’, ‘Sweet 100’, ‘Tiny Tim’

See our individual Vegetable Plant pages for advice on growing other common vegetables.

Container Vegetable Gardening Ideas

Growing Vegetables in Pots or Planters

Growing vegetables in pots is easy and low maintenence, but there are a few guidelines. Here are some container vegetable gardening tips to get you off to a good start! Photo by ‘BHG‘.

  • Choose pots that are large enough to grow your desired veggie… If you try to grow potatoes in a 6 inch terra cotta pot, you aren’t going to get too far. While you don’t need as much space as the packet might call for if you were to plant it in open ground, use good sense. Lettuce doesn’t need much space. Carrots need a deep pot. Potatoes and squash need large containers. Tomatoes need containers with support.
  • Choose pots with good drainage, or add drainage with gravel. Megan at ‘The Wellness Essentials‘ has a complete guide to growing vegetables in containers, and she suggests you use small potting rocks in the bottom of your planters to improve the drainage.

  • DO NOT use soil from your garden in your container vegetable garden. It will simple compact in pots or planters and suffocate the plant. Use a good potting or planting mix.
  • Pay attention to the sun and shade requirements of the vegetables you want to grow. We love container gardens on wheels, so that we can move them around to get maximum sun each day. (Or to shade sensitive veggies from hot afternoon summer sun.)
  • Use a regular fertilizer. Since containers get watered more often, they tend to lose their nutrients faster. We recommend an organic water soluble fertilizer. Try “Jobes Organics“.

  • Watch for pest and disease, and treat early. While vegetables grown in containers tend to be healthier, they can still become victim to bugs, blights, mildews and fungus. We use organic pest & disease products from ‘Gardeners Supply‘.
  • Do not feel like you have to grow vegetables in ugly containers. Just because they are edible plants doesn’t mean they are simply utilitarian. Veggies are beautiful too, so give them beautiful containers for a gorgeous garden! So on to our vegetable garden ideas for pots and planters that you can DIY!

Container Gardening Ideas for Vegetables

So if you want your vegetable garden to be grown in more than a plastic pot from Walmart, then we have some awesome DIY tutorials for you. Get started making your own container vegetable garden!

Build this tiered vegetable planter box with these free plans from ‘Anikas DIY Life‘ She even has a video walking you through her whole tutorial. We love how the upper level has a decorative trellis. It’s pretty, and prefect for veggies that need some support.

Remember when we mentioned how useful a rolling container is for vegetable gardens? ‘Kleinworth & Co.‘ has a tutorial for a vegetable container garden so pretty, I would plant anything in it. Yep, and it’s moveable!

Plant a lettuce basket with these instructions from ‘Home Depot‘. You can grow your own salad makings away from slugs and other ground pests, and it’s lovely on it’s own. And, lettuce can grow in part shade, so it’s perfect for a patio vegetable garden!

Another way to grow your own salad container garden is to use barrels. You can grow everything you need for your best Cobb or Ceasar with this tutorial from ‘Garden Therapy‘. Another one that is decorative enough for the patio, and close enough to the house for easy access.

Build your own tomato planter with trellis, perfect for growing the best on the block! No ugly tomato cages here! Instructions at ‘How To Specialist‘. You could also grow beans, peas or even cucumbers in this planter.

Want fresh potatoes that you can harvest without having to dig them up? Make this potato tower with the tutorial from ‘Craft Thyme‘. This uses slide out boards so you can harvest from the bottom while the plants are still growing.

Save space, and protect your tomato plants from slugs by planting them in an upside down hanging container. This tomato planter from ‘Our Hand Crafted Life‘ is made from an ordinary galvanized bucket. Tomatoes love growing this way, and she has a video tutorial to walk you through this easy project.

If you want to grow a more complete vegetable container garden, then try this tiered planter box from ‘Chris Loves Julia‘. Perfect for patio gardening! The tiered design makes sure each level gets enough sun.

Create a complete garden with this container idea for vegetables from ‘Blue Roof Cabin‘. They used a 40 gallon stock tank. You can buy 2 smaller ones from ‘Amazon‘ with free shipping with a Prime account.

You can grow every veggie you will ever need in this vertical container vegetable garden from ‘Helpful Homemade‘. Use this tutorial to create planters that are so pretty, you won’t believe this is all just vegetables!

Lastly, we have a recommendation for those of you who want an easy to maintain container vegetable gardening idea, but don’t have the time or skills to build your own. ‘The Vegepod‘ comes with a protective cover for those late frosts or windy days, it’s self watering, and it has detachable legs to raise it up to waist height if you prefer. It comes with a 10 year a warranty, and free shipping from Amazon when you have a Prime account. If you want to grow your own vegetables, this is the real deal!

So no matter how small your yard, you can have a container vegetable garden you can be proud of! We think you will also love our posts on 14 Herb Garden Container Ideas, and be sure to check out our post on Should You Eat Organic Vegetables?: The Dirty Dozen & the Clean 15 over at our sister site, OhMeOhMy!

Thx for sharing on Gardening Week, DIY IdeaCenter

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Kitchen Garden Plants

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are a must-have for your small-space garden. These tiny treasures can be grown one plant per 12-inch pot or in hanging baskets.

  • How about this for a name? ‘Baby Boomer’ cherry tomatoes are perfect for the patio. Wildly prolific, each determinate bush unleashes a bumper crop of 300 one-inch one-ounce little sweeties bursting with great big flavor. GROWING TIP : Plants call for caging.
  • ‘Patio Choice’ (see below image) gives you the choice of red or yellow fruiting plants. Yellow fruits are 1 inch across and the plants are 18 inches tall. Red fruits are a little larger.

‘Patio Choice’ Yellow Cherry Tomatoes

  • ‘Sweet ‘n’ Neat’ bears clusters of 1-inch red cherry tomatoes on a plant that grows to be only 10 inches tall. Starts bearing fruit in only 48 days from transplanting.
  • For an even larger cherry, try ‘Totem’. Its red fruits are 2 ½ inches across and each 18- to 30-inch tall plant can bear up to 10 lbs. of them!

Bush Tomato Varieties

You are not restricted to growing only cherry-size tomatoes. There are plenty of bush varieties that don’t take up a lot of room but still bear large fruits. Plant one in a 5-gallon or larger pot.

  • ‘Atlas’ is a hybrid beefsteak that grows only 2 to 3 feet tall but bears gorgeous 1-pound fruits 65 days from transplanting. It is good for container growing or put it right in the ground. Give it a wire cage for support and stand back!
  • Look for anything with “bush” in its name. We grow ‘Bush Blue Ribbon’, ‘Bush Early Girl’ and ‘Bush Goliath’ in large nursery pots every year, positioning them around the edge of the driveway to take advantage of the day-long sun there. All three grow to a manageable size that can be corralled in a regular tomato cage and bear early, medium-sized tomatoes.


Lettuce is the most practical container plant. They don’t need a lot of root space so a 6- to 8-inch deep pot works great or plant them around the edge of a larger container, leaving room in the middle for a pepper or tomato. Leaf lettuces can be harvested as a cut-and-come-again crop by snipping off the outer leaves as needed and letting the rest of the plant continue to grow.

Choose a variety of colors and textures for an interesting salad mix.

  • If you want to harvest whole heads, look for ‘Little Gem’, a mini-romaine that forms a single-serving sized 4-inch wide head in only 35 days. The small green heads are perfect for individual salads, and its firm upright habit makes it great for sandwiches as well.

‘Little Gem’ Lettuce


Eggplant is not only a delicious edible, but a pretty plant as well, with its purple flowers and velvety leaves. Plant one in a 2-gallon pot and grow it right out front alongside the ornamentals.

‘Patio Baby’ Eggplant

  • ‘Patio Baby’ grows 18 to 24 inches tall and forms lots of lovely little 2- to 3-inch long tender purple fruits in 50 days.
  • ‘Fairy Tale’ has larger 2-inch wide by 4-inch long fruits that are lavender with white stripes. Forming clusters of 4-6 fruits in 50 days, they are as eye-catching as they are delicious. The plants reach between 18 and 24 inches tall.


Whether you like your peppers hot or sweet, they make great container plants. Use any 8-inch or deeper pots you have, one plant per 2 gallons of soil.

  • ‘Tangerine Dream’ bears 3-inch long, sweet orange peppers on an 18-inch tall plant in 70 days. We grew this one last year for the first time and loved its flavor.
  • ‘Mini-Belle Mix’ offers multicolored little 1¼ by 1¼ inch sweet bell peppers that ripen to red, orange, or yellow in 60 days. Plants are only 24 inches tall.
  • ‘Sweet Heat’ bears mildly spicy 3- to 4-inch long fruits on a 12-inch tall plant in 56 days.
  • ‘Thai Hot’ is as pretty as it is prolific, dripping with bright red 3-inch long HOT peppers. The plants are only 16 inches tall and start to bear fruit in only 40 days.


Who knew you could grow carrots in a container? Use a very deep one, 12 inches or more, if you are planning on long roots otherwise try these true baby carrots. They’ll need a 6- to 8-inch deep pot. (Once you have mastered carrots, give other root crops like radishes and beets a go.)

‘Thumbelina’ carrots need no peeling.

  • ‘Adelaide’ grows only 3 to 4 inches long in 50 days.
  • ‘Little Finger’ reaches 3 to 5 inches long in 62 days.
  • ‘Parisian Market’ and ‘Thumbelina’ form round carrots in 50 to 70 days.

Squash and Cucumbers

Squash and cukes are usually out of the question for a small garden, but these varieties have been bred to stay bushy and not take over. Plant one each in a 5-gallon or larger container and encourage the vining types to grow up a trellis.

  • ‘Butterbaby’ is a mini butternut squash that bears 1- to 1½-lb. tan fruits on short vines in 100 days. Since the single-serving-size fruits are so lightweight, the vines can be grown on a trellis to save room.
  • ‘Honey Bear’ acorn squash is another small, single-serving-size winter squash that weighs only 1 to 1 ¼ lbs. each. The plants are compact and bushy and bear in 85 days.
  • ‘Pick-A-Bushel’ is a semi-bush cucumber with 2-foot long vines that can be encouraged to climb a trellis. Each plant bears between 18 and 20 3- to 5-inch pickling cukes in 50 days.

For slicing cucumbers, look for old standbys like:

  • ‘Spacemaster’ was developed at Cornell in 1980 and is still popular with home gardeners today. It bears 7- to 8-inch long cukes on 3-foot vines in 60 days.
  • ‘Salad Bush’ the 1998 AAS winning cuke bears 8-inch tender-skinned fruits on 24-inch vines.
  • ‘Fanfare’ is a 1994 AAS winner that bears 9-inch long cukes on 24- to 30-inch long vines in 63 days.

‘Salad Bush’ cucumbers take up little space when grown in a container with a trellis.

These are just a few of the dwarf delights available for your kitchen garden this year. Don’t let a lack of space keep you from growing the foods you crave!


If you decide to grow a time- and back-saving container garden, Shepherd urges you to pick something that you really like to eat. "It's just having the right size container and soil, thinning the plants out and feeding them. I don't think it's that complicated, and it's a lot of fun. That's the main thing. Besides being a really satisfying experience," she added, "it will put you in touch with the environment and you will notice things you wouldn't have otherwise noticed."

Container Gardening

If your vegetable gardening is limited by insufficient space or an unsuitable area, consider raising fresh, nutritious, homegrown vegetables in containers. A window sill, a patio, a balcony or a doorstep will provide sufficient space for a productive mini-garden. Problems with soilborne diseases, nematodes or poor soil conditions can be easily overcome by switching to a container garden. Ready access to containers means that pest management is easier. Container vegetable gardening is a sure way to introduce children to the joys and rewards of vegetable gardening.

Vegetable Gardening in Containers Infographic

Vegetable Selection

Almost any vegetable that will grow in a typical backyard garden will also do well as a container-grown plant. Vegetables that are ideally suited for growing in containers include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green onions, beans, lettuce, squash, radishes and parsley. Pole beans and cucumbers also do well in this type of garden, but they do require considerably more space because of their vining growth habit.

Variety selection is extremely important. Most varieties that will do well when planted in a yard garden will also do well in containers. Some varieties of selected vegetables which are ideally suited for these mini-gardens are indicated below.

Suggested Container Grown Vegetables

*Name (Container Size, Number of Plants) – Varieties

  • Broccoli (2 gallons, 1 plant) – Packman, Bonanza, others
  • Carrot (1 gallon, 2-3 plants. Use pots 2 inch deeper than the carrot length) – Scarlet Nantes, Gold Nugget, Little Finger, Baby Spike, Thumbelina
  • Cucumber (1 gallon, 1 plant) – Burpless, Liberty, Early Pik, Crispy, Salty
  • Eggplant (5 gallons, 1 plant) – Florida Market, Black Beauty, Long Tom
  • Green Bean (2 gallons minimum, space plants 3 inches apart) – Topcrop, Greencrop, Contender, (Pole) Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder
  • Green Onion (1gallon, 3-5 plants) – Beltsville Bunching, Crysal Wax, Evergreen Bunching
  • Leaf Lettuce (1 gallon, 2 plants) – Buttercrunch, Salad Bowl, Romaine, Dark Green Boston, Ruby, Bibb
  • Parsley (1gallon, 3 plants) – Evergreen, Moss Curled
  • Pepper (5 gallons, 1-2 plants) – Yolo Wonder, Keystone Resistant Giant, Canape, Red Cherry (Hot), Jalapeno
  • Radish (1 gallon, 3 plants) – Cherry Belle, Scarlet Globe, (White) Icicle
  • Spinach (1 gallon, 2 plants) – Any cultivar
  • Squash (5 gallons, 1 plant) – Dixie, Gold Neck, Early Prolific Straightneck, Zucco (Green), Diplomat, Senator
  • Tomato (5 gallons, 1 plant) – Patio, Pixie, Tiny Tim, Saladette, Toy Boy, Spring Giant, Tumbling Tom, Small Fry
  • Turnip (2 gallons, 2 plants) – Any cultivar

This free, 7-page publication explains how to grow vegetables in containers when insufficient space or unsuitable soil conditions make a traditional garden difficult to achieve. Topics include container materials, crop selection, growing media, seeding and transplanting, fertilizing, watering, and harvesting, among others.

Watch the video: How To Grow Vegetables in Containers-FULL INFORMATION

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