The Best Edible Container Plants to Grow this Summer
Container-friendly, edible ornamentals.
Perfect for a balcony or porch garden.
Often times, we think of edible garden plants and ornamental plants as if they were in entirely different categories, but as you'll see below, it doesn't have to be this way! And, all of these beautiful, edible plants can be grown in a container, so you can grow your own food even if you rent!
Not many people know that you can successfully grow Blueberry plant in a container, let alone on a balcony. Blueberries are delicious and have beautiful delicate white bell-shaped flowers that bloom from spring or into the summer depending on the variety. Make sure to get a pot no smaller than a 12" container and keep the soil moist at all times (these also like acidic soil). These do best in full sun, but do great with a little as six hours of direct sun. The Blueberry variety we are growing is a 'Jersey' Highbush.
Tomatoes can do very well in containers, and there are many types that remain compact for small spaces. Cherry tomatoes are one of the best, although you might need to trim it occasionally to keep it your preferred size. Look for the 'time to maturity' on the tag, which tells you how long it should take for you to be able to harvest tomatoes. You want to make sure that it doesn't extend past the average first frost date where you live, as tomatoes are not cold hardy. They are, however, perennial (look for heirloom/non-GMO tomato plants), so you can bring them indoors to over-winter.
Pumpkin vines are fun to grow in containers because they are beautiful all summer, and then well into fall! Plus, you can grow all of your own halloween decorations. Look for seeds or starter pumpkins that will remain compact, and add a trellis or make a simple bamboo tripod (just tie the top) to train the vine upwards. Pictured above is our growing jack-o-lantern pumpkin plant.
Pomegranates can thrive in containers and do fantastic on a balcony or patio. These can be pruned heavily, allowing you to keep them at the size and shape you want. The Pomegranate tree we are growing is a "Russian" These thrive in zones 6-10 so they are both cold and heat hardy. Be sure to keep the soil moist at all times until the roots have time to adjust and mature. Within 3 years you will have big juicy red fruits right on your balcony. Ours will go in our yard one day!
Chamomile is fast-growing and hardy, besides producing fragrant white flowers that are simple to dry for tea. They bring beneficial pollinators to your garden to help your other plants stay healthy, too! The two pictured are of the 'German' variety, and are growing together in a 4" terra-cotta pot, so they don't mind a tight fit.
Chives are a perennial member of the Allium family, related to onions and garlic. You can continuously harvest chives year-round, and they will continue to grow. They grow in clumps, so you can fit a lot in a small container. We started ours from seed in February (that's what those black dots on some of the tips are), and they are almost ready to harvest in early summer.
Oregano is a must-have for your spaghetti sauces, and so much more! These are incredibly fragrant, making them a great pest repellent as well as a delicious herb to cook with. These do well in a 4" pot and do great in hot sunny locations. These can even be grown indoors. The photo above is our Oregano plant.
Miner's Lettuce is a perennial native to the west coast. Their name comes from the California gold rush, where miners would eat these to prevent scurvy (they are rich in vitamin C). They prefer shaded areas, and the leaves, stem and flowers are all edible. Harvest regularly and the plant will continue to grow new shoots. The flavor is light and they make a yummy fresh salad.
The taste of a fresh Strawberry is like no other, especially when you can grow them in a container at home! In-fact, we recommend growing these in pots as these send runners out much like a Spider plant, allowing them to spread and take over your flower beds. These love full sun and require a minimum of a 6" pot to thrive. Ours has a tiny strawberry developing, and it's only June!
Mint is notorious for taking over a yard, so we actually recommend keeping it in a pot! They grow and spread very quickly, so your pot will fill up in no time if you trim the growing tips often. Mint is great at repelling pests from your garden or balcony, and you can enjoy it in cold beverages all summer long.
We love growing lettuce in containers at home for an easy and convenient salad. Many different varieties work well and all have different growing conditions so choose one for your climate and location. Generally these like mild temperatures and can be grown into late fall or early winter. Some can even grow in water!
Rosemary has become our new favorite plant to grow this year (the only one to stay alive this long). These are not cold hardy as one might imagine, and they need full sun so indoors won't do. They don't mind drying out slightly, but do drink a lot of water as they mature. We found that placing them in full sun brings out a stronger aroma. You will want to trim them regularly to maintain a full bushy appearance and encourage branching. With the proper care, Rosemary can thrive in a container as small as a 6" pot! Just be sure to bring them in during the winter and place them by your window.
Thyme adds an interesting texture to an herb garden with their small leaves and dainty trailing branches. These are easy to grow in a small pot, although they can get fussy if they aren't provided enough sun and water (or too much). Thyme starts out with delicate soft branches with a faint aroma, but becomes woody and more flavorful with thyme (pun intended)!
Prickly Pear cacti are a common and delicious ingredient commonly used in some Mexican and southwest cuisines. These do well in containers, especially on a balcony, but requires a lot of full direct sun. These tend to do poorly indoors, and the growth can become weak and straggly. These can be a little prickly, but there are some that are spineless like the Opuntia Ficus-Indica (front left in the photo above). On top of that, they produce beautiful flowers followed by delicious fruit!. These are hardy to zone 6, but obviously they are particular about moisture levels so you need to live in a dry zone 6 + if you would like to plant them in the ground. Otherwise, these will thrive in a pot!
Mini Bok Choy
We grew these mini bok choy plants from seed in 2" terra-cotta pots that we painted. Needless to say, they are great for compact gardening. They also mature in a matter of weeks, so you can produce multiple harvests in a growing season (although they prefer cooler weather, so we grow ours in spring and fall).
Mouse Melons, and
These three plants work well in a container together, as they do not compete for nutrients with each other. Add a compact pea or bean plant to fix nitrogen into the soil to speed up plant growth, too. The pink okra grows 2-3 feet tall, and will shade the more sensitive cucumber plants from the harsh summer sun.
Mouse melons are also known as 'cucumelons' or 'Mexican sour gherkins,' and are small, grape-sized cucumbers that look like watermelons. Lemon cucumbers look like lemons, but they taste like milder cucumbers with thinner skin. Both of these varieties are great for container gardening because they remain compact.
Bonus: Pink Dandelions
Pink dandelions are a 'bonus' plant because they are great for any 'bonus' space you have in which other plants wouldn't grow well. For example, ours is growing happily on top of an air-conditioner unit, which blows out hot air and sits in full, direct sun (we've had a cactus get sunburned in the same location). The flower is like a regular dandelion, except it is pink with a yellow center. There are also white dandelions. Both the pink and white varieties have a milder taste than their yellow relatives, and are much prettier to look at in our opinion.
Cat grass and catnip
And finally, don't forget about your pets! Our cats love to enjoy our turf-lined patio, so we grew them a pot of lemon-scented catnip and a mix of pet grasses to nibble on, next to their bowl of water. We also have found that giving them something that they can chomp makes them much less likely to chomp on something they shouldn't, like our houseplants.
As you can see from our list, there are plenty of beautiful, edible, container-friendly plants that anyone can grow and enjoy. They can enhance your space with shade from the hot sun, provide fresh and delicious food and drinks, and maybe even save you some money at the grocery store!
Comment to let us know what edible ornamentals you grow in containers!