Growing edible crops in pots has been gaining in popularity in recent years, and it’s really small wonder given all the benefits it offers to city dwellers. Pursued as a hobby in urban environments, container vegetable gardening doesn’t require a whole lot of space and in return for your efforts, you will be able to enjoy fresh produce grown on your very own balcony or windowsill. And if you do have a garden, then growing veggies in pots is a great method if you would like to maximize your space, keep pests and elements at bay and move your plants around in search for sunny spots.
So, all things considered, what are the best vegetables to grow in pots? Which vegetables will produce the most attractive crops when given limited space? Generally speaking, dwarf varieties of many popular vegetables, especially nightshades like peppers or tomatoes, will likely flourish under your green fingers – as will any fast-growers like lettuce and peas. Here’s our top ten of container-friendly veggies, arranged in no particular order as we love them all very much.
The 10 best vegetables to grow in pots
Tomatoes somehow manage to rank high among everyone’s favorite container vegetables, even though they’re actually fruits. Plant taxonomy aside, potted tomatoes are beautiful, delicious and easy to grow – but they do need a lot of sunlight and they love big containers. Most varieties produce heavy yield and will require some staking or a cage to make sure the vines don’t break, but it is also possible to avoid this by opting for smaller, determinate types of tomato.
Growing guide: Buy short, stocky seedlings with no blossom, and plant them deeper than you would most other plants. Harden them off gradually before you put them out. Last but not least, water your tomatoes regularly to avoid the heartbreak of cracks appearing across their surface.
We love both hot and sweet peppers for their culinary versatility, but they also make for great decoration with their pretty coloring and curious shapes when they set fruit. They’re typically easy to grow too, so long as you can put them in a large pot and provide them with abundant sunlight and consistent watering.
Growing guide: Make sure you strike the right balance on that last count – the soil mustn’t be too dry or too wet if you want your peppers to thrive. Keep the temperature below 90 degrees Fahrenheit – and wear gloves when you harvest the hot variety! And if you’re looking for peppers that are super easy to grow in pots or containers, then you’re looking for banana peppers.
While they do require a lot of soil and consistent watering, home-grown potatoes will reward the extra effort with a taste that’s quite unlike when you buy potatoes in a store. Freshly picked potatoes have higher water content and come with a slightly bitter, earthy flavor.
Growing guide: There are hundreds of potato varieties, all with different shapes, flavors as well as growing times, but they all enjoy rich, loamy soil with good drainage and ample exposure to sunlight. Growing potatoes in containers means that you’re giving them an additional layer of protection against diseases – but make sure you plant your seeds in soil which is at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
A sprinter among potted vegetables, lettuce grows much quicker than most plants and also requires much less sunlight. Depending on the season and your location, lettuce can be quite expensive and so growing it on your own makes perfect sense – especially that it’s also delicious and nutritious!
Growing guide: If space isn’t a problem, get a large container and grow multiple heads simultaneously, and given the plant’s productivity you should be able to harvest it for several weeks. Because of its shallow room system, however, lettuce will also make do with a small pot and shady areas – as long as you provide it with moist and fertile soil to start with.
Another quick-growing, easy-going plant in our list, peas come in three main varieties: sugar snap peas, snow peas and English peas, and they’re all any plant’s perfect partner for crop rotation as they enrich the soil with nitrogen.
Growing guide: Plant them in early spring and when they have finished producing, put another plant in that very container. And if you want your peas to prosper in the first place, then plant them in loamy soil, provide them with plenty of sunlight – and just watch them grow before your eyes!
It only takes them a month to go from seed to harvest, and radishes don’t need much space either – all of which makes them a great, fun addition to any container garden. As a matter of fact, they’re among the most compact vegetables out there, happy to grow in containers that are 4 to 6 inches deep (or shallow) – provided the containers are filled with moist soil and good drainage.
Growing guide: Radishes do best in cooler, spring temperatures, but you can control this to a certain extent by moving them into the shade on hotter days or by cooling them down as you water them.
A delicious vegetable but also an eye-catching decorative piece, eggplant typically grows heavy and dense and therefore doesn’t lend itself so easily to gardening in pots. Unless you’re ready to go with large containers and staking systems to support fruit-laden branches by the end of the growing cycle, your best option will be to choose smaller eggplant varieties such as Patio Baby, a mini eggplant which doesn’t grow more than two feet tall.
Growing guide: For anyone struggling to grow eggplants in a cold climate, potting the plant will help regardless of its size as the container will allow the soil to warm up faster. Provide your eggplant with plenty of sun, moist soil and good drainage, and let it please the eye with its unique looks.
A wonderful addition to your container garden, onions come in several easy varieties and colors. A staple in most of your meals, it’s always great to have a few of them at your disposal, especially given how easy to grow they are.
Growing guide: Onions grow as well in pots as they do in the ground, provided you plant them in well-drained, loose soil. They have a very short root system, meaning they require consistent watering for their bulbs to develop. Green onions are probably the ones that you will have the least trouble with, if you’re looking for an easy choice here.
There’s a good reason why cucumbers are grown in containers all around the world – they thrive in them! Your job is essentially to provide them with two things: sufficient moisture and sufficient warmth, and a good container will help you on both counts here. A moisture-retaining pot will keep the soil warm enough, on top of keeping it moist, as soil temperatures generally rise faster in containers than they do in the ground.
Growing guide: Cucumbers are fast-growers and they come in two main varieties, bush and vining, and they can both grow in containers. Enrich the soil with commercially available fertilizers for best results.
Seen as nothing more than garnish until very recently, kale has become popular as a highly nutritious ingredient of salads and smoothies. It is a great vegetable to grow in pots, just make sure you get one of its smaller varieties like curly kale – not more than 2 feet tall and therefore well-suited for pot life.
Growing guide: Kale likes cooler temperatures of spring and fall, so make sure you provide it with some shade during hot summer days; it will also appreciate it if you plant it in a large container with good drainage. Just a few of these plants should be enough to supply you with a nice weekly harvest.
And that’s a wrap! Ten of the best vegetables to grow in pots, in our opinion. Not sure you know how to start growing them successfully? Check out our practical beginner’s guide to gardening in pots.
And if you’re looking to put some of these wonderful veggies in reliable pots and containers, why don’t you have a look at our extensive collection of multi-purpose flower pots?