Home gardens don’t have to take up a ton of room to be productive.
If you only have a patio or balcony (or if you’ve run out of precious real estate in your raised beds), then growing edible plants in containers is an easy way to bring the many joys of gardening to whatever outdoor space you have.
And thanks to so many seed companies creating dwarf, micro, and container varieties of our favorite fruits and veggies, there’s never been a better time to start your container garden.
Let’s look at some of the best plants to grow in containers. Make sure to keep reading for our tips on finding easy container gardening success.
THE 20 BEST EDIBLE PLANTS TO GROW IN CONTAINERS
- summer squash
- swiss chard
I’ll talk about each of these plants in groups below to help you figure out which ones will work best for you.
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ROOT CROPS YOU CAN GROW IN CONTAINERS
When people think about container gardens, they often think of herbs and flowers, but plants we grow for their roots also do really well in container gardens.
Radishes, carrots, potatoes, and beets love loose soil and plenty of space side to side so their roots can swell.
Radishes are easy to grow & take just 30 days or so
These little roots are the easiest and fastest-growing veggie in town. So, if you’re impatient or you’re just learning how to garden, then radishes are the perfect vegetable to grow, even in containers.
Your container only needs to be about 6″ deep to give these little taproots plenty of room to grow. Make sure your container gets at least 6 hours of sun, and monitor the moisture level daily.
Here in Central Texas, we can grow radishes from mid-October all the way through mid-March to take advantage of cooler temps.
Pro tip: Any of these fun radish varieties will do well in a container garden.
Radish greens are edible and super nutritious. Cut some greens while you’re waiting on the roots to grow and toss them in your salad to maximize the production from even the smallest of gardens.
Learn more about growing your own radishes.
Carrots can grow on balconies and patios
Carrots are so fun to grow in the spring and fall when it’s nice and cool out. The real treat comes when it’s time to pull these taproots from the soil and see what’s been forming these past couple months!
The container you choose should be a couple inches deeper than the anticipated taproot length of the carrot variety you want to grow. Plant carrots in rows or blocks of just carrots so they don’t get shaded by larger plants.
When growing carrots, it’s really import to pay attention to the moisture in the soil, especially while you’re waiting on seeds to sprout.
Pro tip: Grow varieties with shorter taproots if you only have a shallow container. At just 3″ to 4″ long, these little “Babettes” Baby Carrots are so cute!
One of the best things about growing your own carrots is being able to break away from the standard orange sticks at the grocery store and explore all the fun colors available!
Find the steps to grow your own carrots.
Potatoes are so fun to grow in containers
Containers are actually my favorite place to grow potatoes (which are not so much roots as offshoots of stems called tubers).
Potatoes have a fairly shallow root system for such large plants that produce pounds of delicious produce. That means they grow well in barrels, buckets, or large grow sacks. Find something at least 18 inches deep so you can fill the container with about 15 inches of soil and leave a couple inches to mound up the soil around potato stems as they grow later.
The best time to plant potatoes in warmer climates is mid-February to March (around the time of our last frost date) for a summer crop, or mid- to late August so that you can harvest tubers before the arrival of cold temps.
We’ve got all the info on growing your own potatoes.
Beets are the sweetest vegetable
Beets are surprisingly easy to grow in containers during cool weather. And for a vegetable, they’re pretty sweet (not to mention so, so good for you)! You’ll get a ton of flavor from each plant, but you won’t have to give over much garden space to grow it.
The one annoying task when growing beets is thinning the plants once they’ve sprouted. For each seed you plant, you’ll end up with 3 to 6 little seedlings all competing for space. You just have to pick the strongest-looking one and cut the rest at the base. That way, your beets don’t feel too cramped.
Like with radishes, you can harvest and enjoy the beet greens whenever you’d like.
Check out our guide to growing beets for more help to get started.
FRUITING PLANTS YOU CAN GROW IN CONTAINERS
Consider the plants in this category only for those with a sunny spot. Fruiting plants need at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight so they can have the energy to form flowers and then fruit. If you want to have a container garden on a North-facing balcony that’s shaded by a majestic live oak tree, you’ll want to skip the following plants and stick with leafy greens.
Unless you’re growing a dwarf variety, many of these plants will need some kind of support structure. You can find obelisk trellises in all sizes to fit your container, but make sure to add it when you’re planting so that you don’t disturb the roots later.
Cucumbers only need a sunny spot & lots of water
These guys technically belong in the berry category, but we’ll keep them here because you can grow them similarly to tomatoes.
Cucumbers grow on creeping vines that need a trellis or some type of support structure to wrap their spiraling tendrils around. Look for container varieties unless you want to turn your outdoor space over to vines. (I actually don’t see an issue with that…)
These sun-lovers will grow quickly in a large container as long as they receive enough warmth and tons and tons of water.
Pro tip: These Bush Slicer Cucumbers are a dwarf variety that will produce lots of little fruits without needing a trellis.
Beans make pretty potted plants
You can grow pole beans in a container as long as you give them something vertical to climb, or you can go for a bush bean.
Container bush beans are the best option for small spaces. French Mascotte produces beautiful cream-colored blossoms followed by crispy green beans.
We can grow beans in the warm season, which is spring and fall here in Central Texas. You will want to have no more than 4 plants per square foot for bush beans, or a spacing of 6 inches for pole beans.
Harvest your beans often so your plants will continue to produce more beans for you.
You’ll be amazed by how much production you can get from one bean plant—and how pretty beans are!
Pro tip: Store harvested green beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you have enough for a meal.
Tomatoes can give you harvests for months
You don’t need a farm (or even a huge backyard) to grow your own tomatoes. You only need a container about 12″ to 18″ deep.
In addition to sun, tomato plants love warm but not hot weather. We get two chances to grow them here in Central Texas: once in the spring and then again in the fall.
Pay attention to whether the variety you’re growing produces vines or not. Vining tomatoes will need some kind of trellis to climb, while bush tomatoes might need a tomato cage or stakes to help them bear heavy fruits.
Pro tip: Not all tomato varieties are well-suited for container gardening. Look for varieties intended to be grown in a large pot, like Litt’l Bites Cherry Tomatoes.
Fresh tomatoes right on your patio or back stoop? Yes, please!
Learn more about growing tomatoes in a container.
Eggplant thrives in the summer
I never appreciated eggplants until I saw how pretty they look dangling from a branch.
Eggplants will need to be started indoors by seed 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date. (Follow the steps in our indoor seed starting guide to ensure success.) Another option is to purchase seedlings from your local nursery once all threat of frost has passed. From the time your little eggplant babies are moved outdoors, they’ll need 65 or more sun-soaked days to produce.
You can grow a single eggplant in a pot at least 12″ deep and wide, or you can plant several small varieties every 8″ in larger containers.
Container varieties like Little Prince can still produce a lot of fruit. You might need to use stakes or one central pole to support the plant.
Summer squash is super productive in containers
Summer squash is actually a group of gourds that are harvested while their flesh is still tender. This includes the summer classics, zucchini and yellow squash.
These guys don’t love being moved, so you’ll wait till all chance of frost has passed and then start them by seed right in their own little pot or container.
You’ll need a large container per plant, and some kind of support structure is helpful but not required.
On extra-hot days, you may see your squash plant’s leaves look a bit wilty. Make sure the plant has enough water and consider providing some afternoon shade.
Look for compact vines or bush varieties like this Astia container zucchini.
VEGGIES YOU CAN GROW IN CONTAINERS
If your outdoor space only gets a couple hours of direct sun per day, leafy greens are the perfect option. They’ll continue to grow with only 4 hours a day (though they’ll produce leaves faster with a bit more sun).
Skip flowering veggies like broccoli and cauliflower unless you get closer to 6 to 8 hours of sun.
Broccoli & Cauliflower can grow in pots
Broccoli and cauliflower are quintessential cool season vegetables to grow in your container garden. Grab a pot or container that’s at least 8 inches deep and 18 inches wide (these guys spread out), and you can grow your own florets.
We have short windows of time to grow these veggies, so you’ll want to buy young plants at your local nursery or start your own seeds indoors ahead of time. (Follow the steps in our indoor seed starting guide to ensure success.)
The cool thing about broccoli is that you can harvest the main head and then wait for the plant to form side shoots for you (basically smaller heads). You can eat the leaves while both of these plants are forming their flower heads (the part you normally buy from the store).
Lettuce is the perfect container plant
Growing your own lettuce might not sound very exciting, but we highly recommend it! There are so many different varieties you can try that you’ll never find at the store because they don’t travel and keep well on shelves. Plus, the plants themselves are really attractive and easy for beginner gardeners to master!
Lettuce plants have super shallow root systems, which makes them ideal for container growing. You can even pack them pretty close together if you plan to harvest the outer leaves regularly, instead of waiting for the plants to form full heads. Begin taking leaves as soon as they’re big enough for your liking. I just use my fingers to pinch off each leaf for my daily salads.
Pro tip: There are so many lettuce varieties that are suited to grow in containers. Here are three options that will give you the most well-rounded, beautiful salad bowl you could imagine: Sweetie Baby Romaine, Garden Babies Butterhead, and Ruby & Emerald Duet.
If you want to really step up your container garden game, consider investing in a Garden Tower. You’ll be able to grow at least 50 lettuce plants at one time, all while you’re feeding them with nutrient-rich compost, which the tower itself makes for you when you feed it your kitchen scraps! Planters like this one make growing lots of healthy plants in a small space a snap.
Head on over to our complete guide on growing lettuce for more.
Kale and Swiss chard are great container plants
These are two of the healthiest veggies on the planet, and you can grow them each in a 12-inch-deep pot.
Both kale and Swiss chard love cool weather but can hang out for a couple of years if given some shade in the hotter months.
If you’re short on tending time, opt for Swiss chard. It can handle a little neglect, including lack of water, better than kale.
Once the leaves are about the length of your hand, you can begin twisting off the older, outer leaves. Give the center ones time to grow, and you’ll soon have another leafy harvest!
For kale, you can choose between curly leaf kale, dinosaur kale, red Russian kale—or grow them all! You can even find dwarf varieties, like this dwarf blue curled kale.
For Swiss chard, you can taste the rainbow with so many fun varieties like this container Pot of Gold Chard.
Spinach is a great plant to grow on shady patios
Spinach is a low-maintenance plant to grow in a container garden from fall through spring. If you’re not a huge fan of spinach, try growing your own—there really is no substitution for fresh leaf harvests!
Spinach has shallow roots, so you only need something at least 6 inches deep.
Make sure your spot gets at least 4 hours of sun. Giving spinach afternoon shade will help it last longer in your garden once the weather warms up.
Pro tip: Little Hero Baby spinach is great for growing in containers or small spaces.
Check out our spinach growing guide for more how-to’s.
BULBS YOU CAN GROW IN CONTAINERS
If you’re willing to devote some space to bulbs, you can actually grow your own onions and garlic.
These guys are perfect for containers as long as they have plenty of space side to side for their bulbs to swell.
The strong scent of onions and garlic actually repels garden pests. Keep your bulb container near your favorite leafy greens to protect them.
Onions grow really well in containers
One of the lesser-known truths in the gardening world is how awesome homegrown onions are. They’re easy to grow, they store well, and they’ll quickly become a cooking staple.
The best container for onions would be something that’s really wide so that you can plant several staggered rows, spacing each onion 4 inches apart.
Onions need about 3 months to form full bulbs after being planted by set (the easier option for beginners). You’ll plant onion sets in January and harvest bulbs in April or May—and get to experience the treat of homegrown onions!
Learn more tips and tricks to grow your own onions, including which types to grow.
Garlic is the best thing to grow in a winter garden
You’ll plant garlic in mid-October. Plant cloves in rows in a wide container, or tuck a clove here and there in open spaces in other containers—just make sure each clove has 4 to 6 inches of space.
If you’re growing here in Central Texas, make sure to purchase a softneck variety, which does better in our warmer climate.
You’ll leave garlic to do its thing over the winter. It won’t be ready to harvest for 6 to 8 months, depending on our weather.
If you can stand the wait, you’ll fall in love with fresh, homegrown garlic.
Read our tips to grow your own garlic.
BERRIES YOU CAN GROW IN CONTAINERS
These fruiting perennials will call your container garden home for years. Each season, they’ll reward you with pounds and pounds of delicious fruits.
Strawberries are easy to grow in containers
Strawberries grow in little leafy mounds, and unlike the other berries on this list, you can get fruits in your first year growing from seed.
Like blueberries and blackberries, strawberries are perennials. Anytime you’re growing something that you want to stick around for a long time, you need to give it space. Avoid overcrowding strawberries. Plant only 3 per square foot. (If you have a Garden Tower, you could grow one plant per pocket.)
Give strawberries their own little container or hanging pot or plant a petite version like these Mignonettes on the edge of a pot so they can drape over the sides.
One mistake I made with strawberries the first time round was not giving them shade on hot days. They don’t like to be overheated. You’ll also want to keep the soil moist.
Strawberries spread by sending underground stems called runners. You can control these (so that your strawberries don’t take over a mixed container) by snipping them with a clean pair of pruners.
If temps are expected to drop below 28 in winter, provide your plants with some insulation or bring them indoors.
Blueberries are best grown in containers
Blueberry bushes are pretty simple to grow here in our warm Texas climate, especially compared to other fruit bushes and trees.
With regular fertilizing (you’ll want to focus on adding acidity) and watering, blueberries can produce fruits for you by the bushel.
Look for a pot or container at least 18 inches deep so that the roots of your blueberry bushes have plenty of space to dig down deep.
For best results, grow two different types to help with pollination. Watching the delicate little flowers form and then drop off so that berries can grow in their place will be a treat in early spring every year!
Pro tip: Dwarf varieties are typically those that only grow about a third of the size of the normal plant. Lowbush blueberries have much more compact growth than highbush blueberries, as the names suggest. Sunshine Blue Blueberry Plant grows well in containers (it only gets about 3 feet tall).
You can explore our full guide to growing blueberries for more tips to grow pounds and pounds of sweet berries.
Blackberries can be grown in containers
The key to growing blackberries in containers is to grab a large pot (10 gallons or larger) and to choose a compact container variety. Might we also recommend looking for a thornless variety? There’s no need to risk being stabbed every time you step out on your patio!
Blackberries require a full 8 hours of sun to be most productive. Like most plants, they’ll require more water in a container than they would need if they were planted in the ground.
Pro tip: Thornless blackberry varieties include: Kiowa, Triple Crown, and Chester. It’s helpful to have a trellis or support for the branches but not required. A fun container blackberry variety is Baby Cakes.
TIPS FOR CONTAINER GARDENING SUCCESS
Make sure whichever pots or containers you’re using have at least one good drainage hole to make sure excess water can easily drain out of the bottom.
Cover the bottom of the pot or container with weed barrier cloth so that your soil doesn’t run out the drainage hole when you water.
Match the plants you want to grow to your level of sunlight. You can still grow your favorite herbs and leafy greens on a shaded patio or balcony.
Check the moisture in the soil frequently. One downside of containers is that they dry out much faster than raised beds, so you might find yourself needing to water plants every day during dry and hot periods.
Water long and deep until water comes out of the drainage hole.
Aim your water over the roots instead of the leaves. We recommend using a long watering wand so that you can get right to the base of the plants. Or if your container size allows, plant a small Growoya with your plants. All you have to do is keep the little water reservoir full. It saves time and water and should last several days between refills.
Use a high-quality potting mix like Fox Farms Ocean Forest, Coast of Maine Premium Potting Soil, or Epsoma Organic Potting Mix. Do not fill your container garden with raised bed soil mix or garden soil from garden centers; those are a little too heavy. Potting mix is ideal for container gardens because it contains peat moss, which helps with moisture retention and provides good drainage.
Mix organic material like compost or earth worm castings into your potting mix whenever your plants need a little nutrient boost. Use organic fertlizer to keep plants fed and healthy as plants grown in containers loose nutrients quicker than those planted in larger spaces.
Don’t be afraid to interplant. Add some chives around the edges of a pot. Plant low-growing filler flowers like sweet alyssum in the warmer months or pansies and violas in the cooler months. Grow short leafy greens in a circle around taller plants like kale and Swiss chard. Bare soil dries out faster, so fill ‘er up!
LETTUCE HELP YOU
I hope these tips help you find success in the long term growing your favorite fruits and veggies in a container garden.
If you still need to get your garden space set up, we’d love to help you. We service locally in Austin, TX, or virtually all over the world.