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Pot and Container Sizes for Growing Vegetable Crops

Container vegetable garden

Container growing vegetablesPots and containers for growing vegetables and herbs on patios, balconies and roof tops must be large enough for the crop to mature. A container must hold the soil and moisture that deliver nutrients to growing plants allowing them to leaf, flower, and fruit. The pot must be large enough to accommodate the plant’s roots. And a pot should be large enough that the height and weight of the above ground growth of the plant does not tip the container.

Some plants are small enough that you can grow more than one plant in a container; other plants grow so large that you would not want to grow more than a single plant in a container.

Soil depth of at least 8 inches/ 20 cm will hold sufficient soil, nutrients, and moisture to support a good yield from almost every vegetable and herb grown in a container. (Expect to water two or three times per week.) Smaller containers holding less soil may require more frequent watering and fertilizing.

pots of herbsSuggested Pot Sizes for Vegetable Crops

The pot sizes listed here are for standard clay or black plastic nursery pots.)

  • Asian Leaves—Mustard and Mizuna: Grow in at least 8 inch (20 cm) pots.
  • Arugula: Grow in in least 8 inch (20 cm) pots. A good choice for growing in window boxes.
  • Asparagus: Grow two plants in a 2-gallon (7.5L) container; grow up to five plants in a 10-gallon (38L) container.
  • Beans: Allow at least 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm) of soil depth for all beans. Plant bush beans at least 9 inches (23 cm) apart and pole beans 4 inches (10 cm) apart. Grow two plants in a 10-gallon (38L) container.
  • Beets: Grow seven plants in a 2- or 3-gallon (7.5-11L) container and up to two dozen in a 10-gallon (38L) container; thin plant to 2-inches (5 cm) apart.
  • Bok Choy: Grow one plant in an 8-inch (20 cm) pot.
  • Broccoli: Grow one plant per 5- to 10- gallon (19-38L) container Start with young plants.
  • Brussels sprouts: Grow one plant per 3-gallon (11-L) container; two in a 5-gallon or 10-gallon (19-38L) container. Start from seedlings.
  • Cabbage: Grow one large head in a 2-gallon (7.5L) container; plant two per 3- to 5-gallon (11-19L) container then thin out weakest in a few weeks; grow three plants in a 10 gallon (38L) container.
  • Carrots: Grow varieties that mature at 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) in 1- to 2-gallon containers (4-7.5L); varieties that mature 5-6 inches (13-15 cm) long use 5-gallon (19L) containers; varieties that mature 7-12 inches (18-30 cm) long use 10-gallon (38L) containers. Keep thinning until 2-inches (5 cm) apart. If root tip touches the bottom of the pot, the carrot will not develop to maturity.
  • Cauliflower: Grow one plant in a 3- to 5-gallon (11-19L) container; grow three in a 10-gallon (38L) container.
  • Celery: Grow one plant in a 2-gallon (7.5L) bucket; grow five plants in a 10-gallon (38L) bucket.
  • Chard: Grow one plant in a 2-gallon (7.5L) container; grow five plants in a 10- gallon (38L) container.
  • Chicory: Grow three plants in an 18 inch (45 cm) pot.
  • Chives: Start seed in a 3-inch (7.5 cm) pot; pot up plant to an 8-inch (20 cm) pot.
  • Collards: Grow two plants in a 2-gallon (7.5L) container and four in a 5-galllon (19L) container.
  • Corn: Grow corn in containers with a soil depth of 8 inches (20 cm) or more. Grow three standard size plants in a 15 gallon (57L) and six in a 30 gallon (114L) container. Six bantam types can be grown in a 15-gallon (57L) container. Space plants 4 inches (10cm) apart.
  • Cucumbers: One compact type in a 5-gallon (19L) container and two to three standard variety plants in a 7- to 10-gallon (26-38L) container.
  • Eggplant: Grow one plant per 5-gallon (19L) container. Grow two or three plants in a 10-gallon container.

See Garden Products Recommended by Harvest to Table

  • Endive: Grow plants in an 18-inch (45 cm) container; thin plants to 8 inches (20 cm) apart.
  • Garlic: Plant cloves 3 inches apart in a 5-gallon (19L) container.
  • Horseradish: Grow one plant in a 5-gallon (19L) container or larger—this is a deep rooted plant.
  • Jicama: Grow one plant in a 3- to 5-gallon (11-19L) container.
  • Kale: Grow one plant in a 1-gallon (4L) container; grow two plants in a 5-gallon (19L) container. In larger containers, thin plants to 16 inches (41 cm) apart.
  • Kohlrabi: Grow one plant in an 8-inch (20 cm) pot.
  • Leeks: Grow 18 plants in a 5-gallon (19L) container; 24 plants in a 10-gallon (38L) container. It’s best to grow leeks in a container at least 14 inches (35 cm) deep.
  • Lettuce: Grow head lettuce in containers large enough to thin plants to 10 inches (25 cm) apart; grow crisp head, romaine, and butterhead lettuce in a container large enough to thin to 10 inches (25 cm) apart.

Containers for herbs and vegetables

  • Mustard Greens: Grow in at least 8 inch (20 cm) pots; thin plants to 4 inches (10 cm) apart.
  • Melons: Grow one plant in a 5-gallon (19L) container or larger and two in a 10- to 15-gallon (38-57L) container.
  • Okra: Grow one pant in a 10-gallon (38L) container or larger.
  • Onions: Grow bulbing onions in a 24-inch (60 cm); don’t crowd your sets or seeds. The container should be at least 10 inches (24 cm) deep. Green onions can be grown in a shallower container.
  • Orach: Grow one plant in a 12-inch (30 cm) pot.
  • Peas, including Snow peas and Sugar snaps: Grow bush and climbing types in a 10-gallon (38L) container, a window, or planter box; space plants 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Put a construction wire trellis in place for them to grow up.
  • Peppers: Grow one large bell pepper in a 3 gallon (11L) container or larger. Smaller chili plants will grow in less space. Space plants 12 inches (30 cm) apart.
  • Potatoes: Grow potatoes in a container at least 12 inches (30 cm) wide and 12 inches (30 cm) deep. Plant four or five seed pieces in a 5-gallon (19L) container; plant 10 seed potatoes in a 15- to 20-gallon (57-76L) container or half whisky barrel.
  • Pumpkins: Grow one vine in a 5-gallon (19L) or larger container.
  • Radishes: Grow plants in soil 8-inch (20 cm) deep pot; thin plants from 1- to 2-inches (2.5-5 cm) apart.
  • Rhubarb: Grow one plant in a 10-gallon (38L) container or larger.
  • Rutabaga: Grow 15 or 16 plants in a 15- or 20-gallon (57-74L) container.
  • Scallions: Grow plants in a 18-inch (45 cm) pot; thin plants to 2 inches (5 cm) apart.
  • Sorrel: Grow in a 12 inch (30 cm) pot.

See Garden Products Recommended by Harvest to Table

  • Spinach: Grow three plants in a 2-gallon (7.5L) container; grow ten plants in a 10-gallon (38L) container; thin plants to about 5 inches (13 cm) apart.
  • Squash: Grow one plant in a 5-gallon (19L) container, larger is better. Plant two vining plants in a 10-gallon (38L) container.
  • Sweet Potatoes: Use a 20-gallon (76L) container or half whiskey barrel.
  • Swiss Chard: Grow plants in 12-inch (30 cm) or larger pots; thin plants to 8 inches apart.
  • Tomatoes: Grow one large variety in a 10-gallon (38L) container–a 15- to 20-gallon (57-76L) container is better. Miniature tomatoes can be grown in a 5 gallon (19L) container. Start tomato seed in 3-inch (7.5 cm) pot then pot up to a 5-inch (12.5 cm) pot, and continue potting up until you set the plant outside
  • Turnips: Grow 15 or 16 plants in a 15- or 20-gallon (57-76L) container.
  • Zucchini: Grow one plant in a 12- to 18-inch (30-45 cm) pot.

veggies in potsContainers Must Be Well Drained

Good drainage is essential when growing plants in containers. Containers less than 10 inches/25 cm in diameter should have a hole ½ inch/ 1.2 cm in diameter to provide good drainage. Containers greater than 10 inches in diameter need two to four holes.

Also of interest: 

Soil and Planting Mediums for Containers

Containers for Container Gardens

Dwarf and Miniature Vegetables for Containers

See Garden Products Recommended by Harvest to Table


Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.


Comments are closed.
    • You can grow cabbage in plastic bags or other grow bags as long as the bag will allow water to pass through the soil.

  1. First of all, thank you for this article! I wish more people would give thanks first before proceeding to post what THEY DO or what THEY KNOW. It’s fine to share knowledge but let’s not forget manners. Thank you again, Mr. Albert, for this information. Very helpful.

    • Nursery pots and containers are measured at the top across, that is the diameter. A 10-inch pot will be 10-inches across at the top and usually about 12 inches deep. A 4-inch pot is 4 inches across at the top and about 4 to 5 inches deep.

    • One pea plant will grow in a 3-gallon container. You may want to set a tomato cage in the container to give the pea vines support.

        • You grow any vegetable in a 20-gallon grow bag. The best use of grow bags that large would be to grow indeterminate tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, as well as melons, and squash if you have room for them to run. The soil and nutrients in the soil in a bag that large will be enough to sustain any fruiting vegetable and smaller leafy and root crops.

  2. Thank you for your site. I have many garden books but your site is full of excellent information compact and to the point. I am looking forward to incorporating your knowledge and skill set in my gardening.

    • I just brought 1 plant of concord grapes. I just planted it in a 5 gallon. Would I need to put it in a larger container eventually? Also should I use a metal, wood, or resin trellis?
      I read that I would need 96 inch, is that right. Are fan trellis good.
      Thanks for your help. Tami

      • You will eventually want your grape in a 10 or 15 gallon container; if you started with a 1 gallon and you just potted up to a 5 gallon, you may not need to pot up again for 2 or 3 years. If your plan is for the grade to cover a 96 inch trellis then it is likely you will eventually want the plant in a 15 gallon container. The composition of the trellis is up to you; choose the trellis you like. Train the grape to the trellis with elastic garden tape or ties.

    • In a barrel you can plant peas 2 to 4 inches apart. Choose a low growing variety such as Oregon Trail, Olympia, or Maestro. If you are planting a tall growing variety, set a tomato cage in the center of the barrel and train the vines up. Again space seed as close as 2 to 4 inches apart.

  3. Awesome info. This’ll be my first year growing veggies in planters on my 17′ balcony. Your article contained all the info I need to get started. One question though, do you recommend soaking bean & pea seeds in water over night to soften them first? Thank you for taking the time to write such an informative article for us new to container planting!! Hugs. Raven

    • Yes, soak pea and bean seeds for 8 to 12 hours in tepid water before sowing seed. This will help loosen the hard seed coat and make for quicker germination.

  4. Hello,

    First off, awesome article! Very informative and eye-opening!

    I am throwing my hat into the arena of container gardening. I have 5 – 18 gallon totes and 6 – 20 gallon totes (the 20 gallon ones are about half the size longer of the 18 gallon ones).

    I would like to grow everything from tomatoes to zucchini. I currently have it planned out to grow Jalapenos, Habanero, ghost peppers, sweet onions, green onions, beets, squash, melon fruits (watermelon, cantelope, honey dew etc), potatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beans, peas and a couple of other things. How would I go about properly planting these all in groups to ensure the best turn out?

    Thank you for your help!

    • Make sure your containers are well draining–so that the soil does not become waterlogged. You want your growing medium to be just moist, not wet. For best results do not plant too densely; sow seed or set transplants so that they can reach near mature size without crowding nearby plants. For large growing tomatoes, you may only want to grow one plant in a container. Choose bush, dwarf, or miniature varieties to get the best use of space. Go to the Index at this site and click on the Miniature Vegetables article for a list of varieties to grow.
      Dwarf and Miniature Vegetables for Containers

  5. Hello Mr. Albert,

    I’m a bit late to the game, and wondering how to best make use of my balcony for growing fruits & veggies.

    I have 3 cherry tomato, 3 spearmint, and 4 bell pepper plants. I bought 3 – 20 gallon containers and 2 – 8 gallon.

    Do I need more containers? In what configuration would you suggest I plant?

    • Use your larger containers for your tomatoes and peppers; use the smaller containers for the spearmint, other herbs, and spinach or lettuce. Fruiting crops such as tomatoes and peppers need plenty of nutrient holding soil–so don’t grow more than one fruiting plant in each container. Set the tomatoes and peppers in full sun and keep the soil just moist. Herbs do not require a full day of sun; you can set them where they get at least a half day of sun.

      • Mr Albert, I believe this person is saying that they have 10 plants and only 5 pots. 3 of the pots being 20 gallons and 2 of the pots being 8 gallons. He could put 1 mint plant in each of the 8 gallon pots. But that leaves 1 mint plant and 3 tomatoes and 4 peppers. Would he be able since they are 20 gallon pots to divide the last mint plant into 3 and plant 1 pepper, 1 tomato, and 1 piece of the mint in each 20 gallon. If so, he will be left with 1 spare pepper. What to do with it?

  6. Thank you very much for this article. Now I’m confident of how to plant in pots.Very informative. I’ll be looking forward to other article like this one.

  7. Hi albert, is there anything you can recommend for 1,2 and 3 gallon pots? I did not read this article before purchasing and now I have a disaster on my hands I have broccoli growing, melons, green beans, corn and lettuce I am a new grower and I made a lot of mistakes after reading this a link or anything will do

    • Your containers are small all of the crops you list except for lettuce. Use your largest pots for the larger crops such as melons and lettuce, but you will want to grow dwarf varieties that have smaller root systems and do not require as much nutrients. Smaller containers are good choices for leafy crops–just don’t overplant. See this post Dwarf and Miniature Vegetables for Containers

  8. Hello, Mr Albert. I was reading your article about container sizes and it says “Potatoes: Grow potatoes in a container at least 12 inches (30 cm) wide and 12 inches (30 cm) deep. Plant four or five seed pieces in a 5-gallon (19L) container; plant 10 seed potatoes in a 15- to 20-gallon (57-76L) container or half whisky barrel.”
    I was wondering about the setup that I have. I have taken a 5 gallon bucket and modified it by drilling about 20 holes in the bottom in a circular radiating pattern and then drilling about 12 holes about 2 and 1/8″ in the side all the way around the bucket. I then planted my seed potato pieces through the holes and three in the top. They are already growing quite well. Will they not produce or why do you say only 4 – 5 pieces in a 5 gallon container? I have about 15 pieces in my modified 5 gallon bucket and it only took them a week to sprout.

    • 5 to 15 seed potatoes or pieces is more than enough for a 5 gallon container. Just one seed potato will grow quite a few new potatoes. Keep a record of your planting and success; your experience will inform how many you plant next season.

  9. I used your information for the first time last year- my container garden turned out wonderfully because of your information. I just wanted to thank you and to tell you that I would not have had the planting success if it weren’t for your guides. Thank you again!

  10. Thank you very much for this article, Mr. Albert. There is a million YouTube videos and other information on the Internet, but this is the first article I encounter that really summarizes the pot sizes for vegetable gardening for those of us who have no open soil available.

    • You can start seeds in a 6cm (2 inch) container, but you will quickly need to pot up the seedling to a larger container. The soil in a 6cm container will be insufficient to support significant plant growth.

    • A better choice would be a 5-gallon pot. The added soil (3 gallons more than a 2 gallon pot) will provide the soil nutrients your plants will need to bear fruit. One pea plant will likely do well in a 2 gallon pot. Choose a bush bean variety to grow. Two gallon pots will likely not be heavy enough to keep your trellis up without tipping.

  11. awesome site. thank you!

    I have 5 15 gal grow bags…. and 5 – 5gal.

    I would like to plant Roma Tomato, Sugar snap peas, sweet peppers, peas, cucumbers, zucc, beans and eggplant…. Im sure im over thinking this… but what would you suggest would be best way to use the bags and seeds… Also trying to space out the harvest as my son will ONLY eat red peppers fresh – so Im hoping to have a few different cycles… Thoughts? Advice? Thank you!

    • Visit the Index here and read articles on Container Gardening. Treat your grow bags like containers. The growing method in grow bags is the same as other containers. Also, take a look at articles on Succession Planting. For successive fresh crops of peppers, start new plants every 3 to 4 weeks.

    • Nearly all vegetables can be grown in containers as long as the containers are large enough. Large crops such as corn, indeterminate tomatoes, artichokes, sunchokes, and pole beans are probably happier in the ground rather than a container.

    • Plant one cucumber plant in 40cm (15inch) pot. The plant will be dependent on the soil nutrients in the container. The soil in a 40cm container will support one cucumber. When the plant is 30cm tall begin feeding it weekly with a dilute solution of fish emulsion.

  12. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the page.

    I bought a pack of chili pepper seeds that had five different types (ie. Serrano, Jalapeño, Anaheim, etc.). I sowed the seeds in a 3-4 gallon pot (approximately 12” wide) in a circular fashion. The sprouts are about 8-9 inches apart and I was hoping to keep two different varieties. Your comment said to space them at least 12” apart. What are your thoughts on keeping two in the pot I described?



    • The best course would be to grow just one pepper plant in your 3 to 4-gallon pots. At maturity, one plant will need all the room of a pot that size. Get multiple pots between 3 and 5 gallons in size and transplant the seedlings to new homes while they are still young.

    • Consider the size of the variety of plants you are growing to determine if a 10-gallon bag. A 10-gallon back will be large enough for 4 lettuce plants; it will be big enough for just one tomato plant.

    • Yes, 6 to 8 inches is deep enough for spinach roots. When the plants begin to grow into one another, you can harvest the outer leaves first, cut-and-come-again.

  13. I have 5- 30 gallon pots. can i put 4 already started vegetable plants per container? I also read that peppers do better when planting a bunch together, true or false? Also, can i group a couple cucumber plants with a couple zucchini plants?

    • Pepper plants are self-pollinating; the only advantage to planting several close together would be that they could support each other as they get larger and hold fruit. The disadvantage of planting plants close together is a possible lack of air circulation or sunlight reaching the entire plants as they grow larger. Zucchini and cucumbers can be planted close together but they will both need a trellis or plenty of room to run. Four plants in each container will likely create a crowded container by mid-summer. If you are paying close attention to watering and feeling they will like do ok; three plants per container would have been closer to optimal.

  14. Thank you so much for this much needed article! I have just started planning my container garden. Can any of the above vegetables be planted together in the same container?

  15. In terms of gallon size, are you referencing nursery gallons or trade gallon? I just learned that these are two different sizes and my 5 gallon nursery containers only hold 3.66 gallons. So I’m feeling a little lost. I have 5, 10, 15 gallon black plastic nursery pots.

    • Double-check your nursery pots– there are 3-gallon nursery pots.
      The post refers to nursery pots used over several years.

    • You can get most herbs and vegetables started in 4-inch pots. You won’t be able to bring vegetables to maturity in a 4-inch pot.

    • If the plant does not suffer transplant shock as a result of the move, the fruits should continue to grow large. Be gentle when you transfer the plant. You may want to give it some B-1 vitamin (at the garden shop) to help ease the move.

    • Yes, you can put straw hay at the bottom of the grow bag; be sure there is enough soil to hold the water and nutrients the plant will need.

  16. I have a question can I grow the following in one planter, long as it gets plenty of light indoors, I have some carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, bell peppers, cabbage, green onion and some summer squash and green squash? I have started all things out in a small green house i got from the dollar tree, and they do well overnight, and then i realize need to replant at some point to transfer. I have Roma Tomatoes and I was wondering it should give a good harvest for the summer to put away for the fall right?

    • The crops you list will need a very large raised bed to grow to maturity and produce fruit–a raised bed 36 inches wide and 8 feet long would like work. If you can not plant in a raised bed, give each of these crops its own large 5 to 7-gallon container.

  17. Thank you Mr. Albert for your article. I have a large pot 18 inches round with two zucchini plants in it. Zucchini plants are growing but what’s happening is they are rotting when the Flower falls off.The plant is very big looks like Elsphant ears. After reading your articles I know only one plant should not be in the container but what’s my problem with the zucchini rotting. Can I seperate to another pot

    • Moving the two plants to separate pots is probably worth the risk since two plants in one pot will be problematic down the road. Feed your plants with a high phosphorus fertilizer that also contains calcium. Early fruits can suffer from end rot which is caused by a low or slow uptake of calcium. Also, be sure the flowers are getting fully pollinated. You may want to hand pollinate the flowers to be sure. See this article: Hand Pollination of Vegetables

    • I have 3 gal nursery bags can I plant each veggie and herb in seperate bags. Also do I need bigger bags for any listed below. I don’t want to keep changing as they grow


      Hiber cabbage
      Collard greens
      Romain leaf lettuce

      • Use a 5-gallon bag for larger crops such as broccoli; your other crops will grow in 3-gallon bags. The greater amount of soil will give each plant a greater reservoir of soil nutrients for roots.

How To Grow Tips

How To Grow Tomatoes

How To Grow Peppers

How To Grow Broccoli

How To Grow Carrots

How To Grow Beans

How To Grow Corn

How To Grow Peas

How To Grow Lettuce

How To Grow Cucumbers

How To Grow Zucchini and Summer Squash

How To Grow Onions

How To Grow Potatoes

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