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THE BEST VEGETABLES, HERBS, & FLOWERS FOR CONTAINER GARDENING

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Have you downsized recently and are looking to start your small space gardening journey for the first time? Or have you been container gardening for years and are sick of planting the same old vegetables, herbs, and flowers that you plant every year? If you’re looking to upgrade your container gardening experience, you’ve come to the right place!

I’ve compiled a list of my favourite plants for pots and containers that I’ve had success with in my cold-climate, short-season garden in Zone 3, Saskatchewan! Want to know the best container plants to plant this year? Keep reading!

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BEST VEGETABLES FOR CONTAINER GARDENING

I have the worst luck with direct sowing in pots, so I always buy starts. Just because this seems to work better for me, though, doesn’t mean it will be the best option for everyone! Every gardener’s experience with growing vegetables in pots will differ slightly, so feel free to direct seed if that’s what works best for you.

Helpful Hint: If you want to make your time gardening tomatoes, squash, and peppers a little easier, try a Kozy Coat. I started using these a couple of years ago and haven’t looked back. Check out the video below to see how much of a difference these can make!

1. CHERRY TOMATOES

For whatever reason, I’ve always had a difficult time growing full-sized tomatoes in pots. Because of this, I look for varieties described as patio, small, baby, grape, or anything that implies the tomatoes will be on the smaller side. Yellow Pear, Sungold, and Sweet Million are varieties I’ve had lots of success with!

RELATED: HOW TO PICK THE BEST TOMATO VARIETIES FOR YOUR GARDEN, DON’T PINCH YOUR TOMATOES! (DO THIS INSTEAD)

2. lettuce

All lettuces work great in containers! Some of my favourite varieties include Buttercrunch, Red Sails, Drunken Woman, Deer Tongue, and Freckles.

3. swiss chard

Our family loves Swiss Chard because it’s one of the few greens that can stand the heat of summer. I love the Bright Lights variety, but Fordhook Giant seems to grow more reliably for me.

RELATED: AVOID THESE 10 MISTAKES FOR A BETTER VEGETABLE CONTAINER GARDEN

4. kale

Make sure you only plant one kale plant per container if you want really big leaves of kale. My favourite varieties for container gardening are Rainbow Lacinato, Winterbor, and Vates Blue Curled Scotch.

5. pumpkins

If you decide to grow pumpkins in pots, make sure they are a mini variety like Baby Boo or Jack Be Little!

RELATED: The Best Pumpkin Recipes

6. squash

Make sure you plant the Small Wonder Spaghetti Squash for container gardening, otherwise, you’ll need a stupidly large container and the most fertilizer ever!

7. cucumbers

Cucumbers work well in pots, and I’ve even had success direct sowing them! One word of caution: you really have to stay on top of the watering! Varieties I’ve enjoyed include Marketmore, Straight Eight, and National Pickling.

8. peppers

My favourite varieties are Carmen, Escamillo, Hungarian Hot Wax and Purple Beauty, but really all pepper varieties are good for pots! This year, I am trying a new variety of bell pepper called Fat and Sassy, which I hope produces better than California Wonder.

RELATED: HOW TO PINCH PEPPER PLANTS FOR HEALTHIER PLANTS AND MORE PEPPERS, 5 SECRETS TO GROWING BETTER PEPPERS FROM SEED, The Best Pepper Varieties for Beginners

BEST HERBS FOR CONTAINER GARDENING

All herbs are good for pots. Grab a larger pot, plant 5-6 of your favourite herbs inside, and place it on a balcony, front porch, or kitchen window for a convenient herb garden for cooking. I’ve included some of my favourite herbs for this below, but have fun with it! Even though it didn’t make the list, if you’re looking for a substitute for cilantro (if you have the soap gene or you just don’t love it), Italian parsley is a good alternative in many recipes.

RELATED: Simple Tips to Easily Air-Dry Fresh Herbs at Home, How to Start an Indoor Herb Garden from Seeds, What I’ve Learned From My First Mini Herb Garden in Zone 7B

1. sage

Any variety of sage will do, but I love anything with multiple colours, so I usually purchase the Tricolour Variety.

2. basil

There are so many varieties of basil it’s hard to pick just one! I always grow one basic sweet basil, but I also enjoy Thai Basil (it smells like liquorice!), Emerald Tower, and Red Rubin.

3. rosemary

Rosemary is so slow-growing, that it’s best to take this one indoors over the winter if possible.

4. thyme

I usually get classic thyme, but if you enjoy lemon flavours, golden thyme is extremely pretty.

5. oregano

We enjoy the basic Greek Oregano, with its lovely little flowers in white or pink.

Another fun thing to do with herbs is to plant a bunch of different tea-friendly herbs in a pot, like mint, lavender, lemon balm, and chamomile. Just watch if you buy lavender that you make sure it’s an edible variety. As for mint, many people have a lot of success with growing it in pots, but for whatever reason, Shifting Roots does not!

Check out the freebie below for more details and specific container gardening plans:

BEST FLOWERS FOR CONTAINER GARDENING

Obviously, all of the annual flowers that are in the local garden centres are meant for containers and they are likely good choices. You can find some of my favourite annuals in these lists: 26 Annuals that Grow in the Shade and 27 Annuals and Perennials That Survive & Thrive in Intense Heat.

Though you can plant perennials with success in pots for summer, in Zone 3, perennial flowers generally do not work in containers over winter. It is possible they could work in a heated garage, but winters are too cold and they still tend to kill perennials in that situation.

Lastly, cut flowers work surprisingly well in containers. They will often grow to full stem length or pretty close. So, experiment and see if your favourite cut flower will grow well! Just don’t expect a ton of production from these cut flowers.

1. snapdragon

Snapdragons meant for cut flowers will grow just as well in a container as those varieties meant for containers. I usually have no problem finding the Madame Butterfly and Rocket varieties at the garden centres.

RELATED: HOW TO DESIGN A CUT FLOWER GARDEN IN RAISED BEDS

2. eucalyptus

Eucalyptus grows really well in containers–sometimes better than in the ground! My favourite varieties are Baby Blue and Silver Drop.

RELATED: HOW TO GROW EUCALYPTUS FOR CUT FLOWERS (EVEN IN A SHORT GROWING SEASON)

3. Ammi

Ammi is a lovely white cut-and-come-again flower, and it looks great in a variety of arrangements.

4. celosia

Celosia can be hard to grow on the prairies–we usually don’t have the amount of heat it likes! However, it’s so pretty, comes in many stunning colours, and looks beautiful in arrangements.

5. cosmoS

If you’re growing a Cosmo in a container and want stem length, only plant one per container. If you plant three, like you normally would for container gardening, the plants will be much shorter.

6. aster

Asters are one of my favourite flowers–long-lasting, cut and come again, and come in a variety of gorgeous colours. Try the Tower Chamois series.

7. lisianthus

I find that Lisianthus actually do better in containers for me than they do in the ground. Lisianthus takes nine months to come to maturity, but the rose-like flowers are so worth it.

RELATED: HOW TO GROW LISIANTHUS FROM SEED

8. feverfew

Feverfew looks like little daisies, and I love them as filler in an arrangement. I especially love the Tetra White and Magic Lime varieties.

There you have it! My favourite vegetables, herbs, and flowers for container gardening. Is there anything you love to grow in pots that didn’t make the list? Find me on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube to join the Shifting Roots community, follow my cold-climate gardening journey, and let me know your favourite potted plant varieties!


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Kristen Raney

Kristen Raney

Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots.  She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden.  She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.

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Grow roots with us

Kristen

Welcome!

Hi, I'm Kristen and I help new gardeners learn to grow their own vegetables and beautify their yards. I also share recipes that use all that delicious garden produce. Grab a coffee (and your gardening gloves) and join me for gardening tips, simple recipes, and the occasional DIY, all from the lovely city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

P.S. First time gardener? You'll want to download the quick start gardening guide below!