Tips for Growing 10 Types of Vegetables in Containers

peppers growing in a container

The Spruce / Grace Thomas

Many vegetables grow well in containers. You might not be able to grow as much as you would in a vegetable garden, but container vegetable gardening still can be quite productive. There are some special considerations when growing vegetable plants in pots, but they are by no means deterrents. For instance, though any variety can be grown in a container, compact plants do best. Be on the lookout for keywords, such as bush, compact, and space saver.

Here are some tips for growing popular vegetables in your container garden.​

  • 01 of 10

    Beans

    Long green bean pods hanging from vines closeup

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

    Pole beans are a great choice for containers. They grow up instead of out, and they continue producing beans for a couple of months. They will require some type of support to climb on, as vines can reach 8 feet tall. The support can be as functional or decorative as you like. You can even use pole beans as a privacy wall or curtain.

    Harvest frequently, so keep the beans coming. Even the pretty flowers are edible. You can start seeds in late spring and start a second batch in midsummer to keep harvesting beans well into fall. Bush beans aren't as productive as pole beans, but they start producing earlier and you can succession plant throughout the summer. Either type will need regular water, perhaps daily in hot weather. They will drop their flowers if the soil remains dry.

    • Minimum container size: 8 inches deep
    • Spacing: Bush: 3 to 6 inches, pole: 5 to 6 inches
    • Approximate yield: Bush: 20 to 50, pole: more than 50
    • Recommended varieties: Bush: 'Contender', pole: 'Triumph de Farcy'
  • 02 of 10

    Carrots

    Carrots with green talks lying on ground with roots exposed

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Long carrots require two months or longer to mature, and tending to a container of carrots can be tedious. However, you have two options to make it easier. You can seed a few carrots with potted flowers. The ferny foliage is attractive, and you will be pulling the carrots before the roots of the flowers take over the pot. Another option is to choose a fast-growing round or baby carrot, such as 'Babette' or 'Paris Market'.

    Carrots grow best and sweetest in the cool temperatures of spring and fall. The seedlings will need to be thinned to 1 to 3 inches apart​ once they are about 1 inch tall. But other than that, the only thing you'll need to do is make sure they get regular weekly watering. The roots will toughen and crack if they are left to dry out.

    • Minimum container size: 8 to 12 inches deep
    • Spacing: 2 to 3 inches
    • Approximate yield: One carrot per plant
    • Recommended varieties: 'Babette', 'Paris Market', 'Thumbelina', 'Scarlet Nantes'
  • 03 of 10

    Cucumbers

    Cucumbers
    The Spruce / Marie Iannotti

    Cucumbers that grow in a clump—rather than a long, sprawling vine—are considered bush varieties. They can still spread out several feet, but they should not require trellising. They grow well in large, wide containers or even hanging baskets. Bush cucumbers tend to start producing earlier than most vining varieties. Vining varieties do best when trellised. The pots can get very top-heavy. To keep them from tipping over, a larger container is recommended for vining cucumbers.

    The leaves of all cucumbers can be very susceptible to fungus disease. So whichever type you choose, make sure the plants have good air circulation.

    • Minimum container size: 10 inches deep; bush variety: 1 gallon, vine variety: 3 gallons
    • Spacing: 12 to 15 inches
    • Approximate yield: Bush: 10 per plant, vine: 12 to 15 per plant
    • Recommended varieties: Bush: 'Bush Pickle', 'Salad Bush Hybrid', 'Spacemaster'; vine: 'Crystal Apple', 'Lemon', Kirby varieties
  • 04 of 10

    Eggplant

    Eggplant vegetables hanging from tree stems closeup

    The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

    Growing eggplant in containers offers several advantages. Eggplants require warm temperatures, even at night, and planting in a dark container will concentrate and hold heat. You can also move the container to wherever the sun is, or place it on a hard surface that radiates heat. Another big plus is that growing them in containers helps to control some common pests, such as wireworms.

    Once the plants start bearing fruits, they will get top-heavy. Some staking might be required to prevent the branches from drooping. They can also tip over if the diameter of the container is not large enough to balance them.

    The slender varieties tend to produce more fruits and can be picked while young, short, and tender. Some of the newer varieties, such as 'Hanzel' and 'Little Fingers', are ready to harvest at 3 inches, and they grow in clusters so they produce more fruits.

    • Minimum container size: 8 inches deep, 4 to 5 gallons
    • Spacing: One plant per container
    • Approximate yield: Slender varieties: 10 to 12, classic varieties: Four to eight
    • Recommended varieties: Slender: 'Bambino', 'Hanzel', 'Little Fingers', 'Ping Tung'; classic: 'Black Beauty', 'Rosa Bianca'
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Green Onions

    Green onion plants growing from the ground closeup

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Full-size onions not only take up space, but they also require a long time in the ground. Green or bunching onions can be slipped into pots with other vegetables or grown on their own. Either way, you can snip what you need and leave the plants to grow more leaves.

    To grow green or bunching onions to full size, you will need to thin the plants to 2 to 3 inches apart, but you can eat all the plants you thin out. And even though they are not forming large bulbs, they still need plenty of water. The soil should be kept consistently moist but not dripping wet. Start your first plants in early spring, and keep succession planting into summer.

    • Minimum container size: 6 inches deep
    • Spacing: 2 to 3 inches
    • Approximate yield: Harvest leaves as they continuously grow, or snip off the whole plant at once.
    • Recommended varieties: 'Beltsville Bunching', 'Crystal Wax', 'Evergreen Bunching'
  • 06 of 10

    Lettuce

    Lettuce plants growing in round pot on wooden floor from above

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    Lettuce loves containers. You can move it into sun or shade as needed, lift it away from pests, and keep it handy for cutting. If you grow looseleaf varieties and cut only the outer leaves, the plants will continue to grow for months. However, sooner or later they will tire out, so keep planting seeds every three to four weeks for a succession of harvests.

    Lettuce does best in cool weather, but containers can be moved to a shady location and grown all summer or moved to a protected location and grown into late fall and winter. Water is essential to keep lettuce happy. Lack of water will cause lettuce plants to bolt.

    • Minimum container size: 6 inches deep
    • Spacing: Leaf lettuce seed can be seeded closely and thinned—and eaten—as you like. If you would like your plants to form heads, thin to 8 inches between plants.
    • Approximate yield: 20-plus leaves or one head
    • Recommended varieties: 'Buttercrunch', red or green 'Salad Bowl', any bibb variety
  • 07 of 10

    Peppers

    Peppers
    The Spruce / Marie Iannotti

    Peppers are tropical perennial plants, and if you bring your potted pepper plants indoors for the winter, they will continue setting fruits. Of course, you can simply enjoy them outdoors during the summer months.

    Both sweet and hot peppers are good candidates for containers. Hot peppers tend to be smaller and more prolific. But both types will enjoy the extra heat a container can provide and both make nice ornamental plants if you choose to keep them on a patio. Large peppers will require staking.

    • Minimum container size: 8 inches deep, 2 to 4 gallons per plant
    • Spacing: One plant per container
    • Approximate yield: Differs by variety. Leaving the peppers on the plant until they reach their mature color will also result in a lower yield than if you pick them while green.
    • Recommended varieties: Sweet peppers: 'Cubanelle', 'Jimmy Nardello', 'Marconi', 'Sweet Banana'; hot peppers: 'Cayenne', 'Fatalli', 'Hot Cherry', 'Jalapeño', 'Robustini'
  • 08 of 10

    Radishes

    Red and white radishes with plant stalks lying on ground with exposed roots

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Radishes are best when they grow quickly, and growing them in containers will provide the cool, damp conditions they love. You could even plant radishes and carrots together, the way it is often done in the garden. The radishes grow quickly and loosen the soil, so the carrots have room to expand when the radishes are pulled.

    Radishes prefer cool weather and moist soil. Move your containers to a shady spot, and keep them well watered if you want to continue growing radishes throughout the summer.

    • Minimum container size: 4 to 6 inches deep
    • Spacing: 1 to 3 inches, depending on the mature size of the radish variety
    • Approximate yield: One radish per plant
    • Recommended varieties: 'Cherry Belle', 'Cincinnati Market', 'Scarlet Globe', 'White Icicle'
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Summer Squash

    Summer squash vegetable attached to plant stem closeup

    The Spruce / Heidi Kolsky

    As with cucumbers, squash plants can be either bush varieties or long vines. You can grow either in a container, but bush varieties make the better choice, remaining much more compact. There are many zucchini and crookneck squash varieties to choose from.

    One problem with growing squash in containers is that you need male and female flowers for pollination, and one plant limits the number of flowers at any given time. But you'll still get a decent yield. Be sure to harvest while the squash ​is small, so the plants will keep producing.

    • Minimum container size: 10 inches deep
    • Spacing: One plant per container
    • Approximate yield: Differs by variety, but at peak times there can be four or more squash per week
    • Recommended varieties: 'Gold Rush', 'Peter Pan', 'Ronde de Nice', 'Sundance'
  • 10 of 10

    Tomatoes

    Tomato plants in black containers with red, orange and green tomatoes hanging

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Growing a full-size ​tomato plant in a container will require a large pot, a strong stake or cage, and lots of water. If you have a favorite variety of tomato, go ahead and try it. Just don't skimp on the container. Crowding it will diminish the yield and can stress the plant, leading to disease problems. A whiskey barrel-size container would work well for beefsteak tomatoes. You could even underplant it with lettuce, basil, or a few flowers.

    If you just want a handy snack, patio variety cherry tomatoes are perfect, and there are dozens to choose from. They can be staked and grown upright or grown in hanging baskets.

    • Minimum container size: 12 inches deep
    • Spacing: One plant per container
    • Approximate yield: Differs by variety
    • Recommended varieties: 'Small Fry', 'Tiny Tim', 'Tumbling Tom'