10 Best Vegetables for Your Container Garden

Growing Veggies Without a Garden Patch

Illustration of the best vegetables to grow in container gardens

The Spruce / Ellen Lindner

There is no such thing as foolproof vegetable gardening, but container vegetable gardening comes close by reducing problems posed by weather and critters. This makes vegetable container gardening a good option for beginners. Another benefit of container gardening is you don't need a vast space or an in-ground garden patch. For instance, a small balcony vegetable garden idea might include a few pots that fit the space, along with hanging containers or ones that attach over railings.

Some vegetables that do well in containers include nightshades, such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Fast-growing crops, including peas and lettuce, also are some of the easiest veggies to grow in pots. In general, to fill a container for planting vegetables, use a quality organic potting mix with good drainage. Some mixes specifically state they're good for use in vegetable gardens.

What size container you need to grow vegetables depends on what you're growing. Some veggies, such as leafy greens, have relatively shallow roots and don't need a deep container. But others, such as potatoes, need deep soil to develop properly. Some container gardening ideas include using fabric pots that are lightweight to move as needed or planting vertical gardens with pots mounted on a fence or wall. You can also experiment with vegetable combinations in container gardens using the same pot, as long as the plants have similar growing requirements. For example, herbs and salad greens often can be grown together. 

If you're searching for container vegetable garden ideas, here are 10 vegetables that do well in containers on a porch, patio, or balcony as long as they can get sufficient sun exposure.


Container plants tend to deplete soil moisture and nutrients faster than those in the ground. So be sure to adjust your watering and feeding accordingly to keep your vegetable container garden healthy.

  • 01 of 10

    Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)

    tomatoes growing in containers

    The Spruce / K. Dave 

    Growing tomatoes in containers is easy and incredibly satisfying. Most tomatoes are happiest in big containers and will need staking or a tomato cage. This support keeps the heavy fruit from bending and breaking the vines. If you are buying tomato seedlings, look for short, stocky plants that do not have blossoms yet. Keep in mind the larger the tomato variety is, the bigger the pot it will require. Small cherry tomatoes will not require the same amount of room and soil as a large beefsteak type tomato, for example.

    Tomatoes do not like the cold, so do not put them out too early. Make sure you harden off or gradually acclimate seedlings to outside living before you plant them. When planting tomato seedlings, remove the seed leaves and the first set of true leaves, and place the bottom half of the seedling in the ground. Tomatoes are planted much deeper than most plants. Also, keep dogs and cats away from this plant. The leaves are toxic if ingested by pets.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Grown as an annual in all zones
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Deep, moist, good drainage
  • 02 of 10

    Peas (Pisum sativum)

    sugar snap peas

    The Spruce / K. Dave 

    Peas can be planted in early spring and then again when it gets cool in the fall. There are three types of peas: English peas, snow peas, and sugar snap peas. They are perfect for succession planting because they enrich the soil with nitrogen.

    Depending on the variety grown, most peas will require some type of support. Plant them in early spring. Once it gets warm and they finish producing, pull them out and plant something else in that container.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Good drainage, enriched or loamy soil
  • 03 of 10

    Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)

    Potatoes covered in soil in sunlight closeup

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Freshly picked potatoes taste entirely different from the potatoes you buy in a grocery store. They have higher water content and a bitter, earthy flavor to usher in the freshness of spring.

    Growing ​potatoes in containers requires a lot of soil and water, but it is worth the resources and effort. Containers also add an extra level of protection against fungus or blight (Phtophthora infestans), which spreads easier among in-ground plants.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 10B
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Good drainage, loamy soil
  • 04 of 10

    Squash (Curcurbita)


    The Spruce / K. Dave 

    Squash is an easy vegetable to grow, and squash blossoms are beautiful, delicate edibles. Most squashes require a lot of space and a reasonably large container. Ideal growing conditions include lots of light, good soil, as well as consistent watering and feeding.

    If you are going to grow a winter squash such as butternut squash in a container, make sure the variety you choose is not one of the giant types, which can weigh more than 20 pounds and topple the containers. 'Honeybear' is an award-winning smaller variety of acorn squash, and there are even tiny pumpkins you can grow.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich soil, good drainage
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Lettuce and Salad Greens (Lactuca sativa)


    The Spruce / K. Dave  

    Growing lettuce and other salad greens in containers is fast. Container growing gives you the flexibility to control weeds and pests more easily than in-ground planting. Most lettuces and salad greens are spring crops although there are newer varieties developed to withstand summer heat. You can also extend your harvest by moving your container to a cooler shady area as the growing season heats up. Lettuce does not need as much sun as most vegetables.

    Some great salad greens and mesclun mixes you can buy for container gardens that taste great and look good in decorative pots include Johnny's Elegance Greens Mix and Hudson Valley Seed Company's Mesclun Mix.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, fertile soil
  • 06 of 10

    Hot and Sweet Peppers (Capsicum annuum)

    chili peppers growing

    The Spruce / Grace Thomas 

    Both hot and sweet peppers can be spectacularly beautiful, especially orange and purple sweet peppers in containers. They thrive in grow boxes but can be grown in any large container with plenty of sun, good drainage, and consistent watering. Dry soil or overly wet soil is disastrous for peppers.

    One of the most significant benefits of planting peppers in containers is that you can move your plants inside if continuously stormy weather threatens your area for several days. Peppers come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Hot peppers range in spice level from mild to searing to hardly edible.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Grown as annuals in all zones
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist soil with good drainage
  • 07 of 10

    Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus)

    cucumber growing in a container

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

    Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are a fast-growing vegetable commonly grown in containers. These water-loving plants do best in large plastic or ceramic pots that help retain soil moisture. Growing cucumbers in containers is a great way to give them the heat they love (hotter ambient temperatures raise soil temperature quicker in pots than in-ground).

    There are two main types of cucumbers: bush and vining. You can also choose to grow a variety more commonly used for pickling or one more popular for eating. Both types are good in salads, but slicing cucumbers will not generally make good pickles. Either can grow in a container. Bush cucumbers tend to be shorter with smaller yields. Vining cucumbers will require a trellis or tomato cage.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 12
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Good drainage with moist, fertilizer-enriched soil
  • 08 of 10

    Radishes (Raphanus sativus)


    The Spruce / K. Dave 

    Radishes grow quickly; most go from seed to harvest in just a month. They also do not need much space—they can grow in containers that are 4 to 6 inches deep. These plants will bolt in hot weather, but you control this easily by moving the plant into the shade or adding water to cool them down.

    There are many varieties, which means you can select your seeds based on appearance and flavor; some types are gorgeous. The tops of radish greens are also edible, as are the pods. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Good drainage with moist soil
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Arugula (Eruca vesicaria)


    The Spruce / K. Dave  

    Spicy arugula leaves are tasty, and its edible flowers are a sweet treat. They are also beautiful. Arugula does not need a huge container—a pot 8 inches deep and 6 inches in diameter works.

    A benefit of growing arugula in a container is that you can move it. Arugula needs about 6 hours of direct sunlight but does not like scorching, afternoon sun. It is best to let this plant get full morning sun and move it or position it so that it only gets partial sun in the afternoon.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Good drainage with moist soil
  • 10 of 10

    Eggplant (Solanum melongena)


    The Spruce / K. Dave  

    Eggplant is one of those great vegetables that also works as an ornamental. Some eggplant varieties can get dense and heavy; do not use those types in your container garden. Look at compact cultivars like 'Fairytale' and 'Hansel' which are beautiful and tasty.

    Large containers are needed to support the roots of this plant and its bush-like growth. Also, if you are getting ceramic pots, consider getting glazed pots, which retain water longer.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 12
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Good drainage, evenly moist soil

Watch Now: 8 Mistakes You're Making in Your Container Garden

Article Sources
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  1. Solanum lycopersicum. North Carolina State University Extension.