Dwarf and Mini Vegetables for Containers

Try These Tiny Vegetable Varieties in Pots and Small Plots

By Doreen Howard
February 7, 2019
'Blueberries Glaze' Blueberries
Small Creek Farm

Join the move towards minimalism! Mini- and dwarf vegetables provide hefty harvests from small pots and plots! Whether you have a small urban garden or just a small space, try these petite plants with oversize appeal—and yield! These fruits and vegetables are also ideal for the patio or even an apartment balcony.

So many vegetables are good for container gardening! Mini- and dwarf vegetables are especially suited to pots. All of these colorful, palate-pleasing edibles are container-ready! 

(For growing tips, visit our individual plant guides.)

1. Mini Lettuce!

Perfect for containers or as edible edging in flower beds, ‘Pomegranate Crunch’ lettuce is a color sensation. The mini-romaine/butterhead cross produces small, dense heads with cherry leaves and light green hearts dusted with red. Color graduates smoothly from the outer leaves to the heart, creating stunning contrast. You’ll be picking these fast-growing, crunchy heads 45 days after seeds sprout.

Tip: To prevent slugs from damaging lettuce leaves, mulch your soil with shredded cedar bark or sprinkle diatomaceous earth or finely crushed eggshells around the plants.

Credit: High Mowing Organic Seeds

2. Baby Broccoli

Baby broccoli requires very little space. Got a window box—or a windowsill? Bring either one to life with ‘Aspabroc Baby’ broccoli (the original broccolini).  Four plants fit tidily into a 24-inch-long window box or other container. This mild-tasting broccolini (a cross between Chinese kale and broccoli) produces tender, small broccoli heads atop asparagus-thin, tender stems. You’ll be harvesting the center head 50 to 60 days from transplant and snacking on shoots shortly thereafter—and again and again (four or five more times). Oh, and if a flower appears, it’s edible, too.

Tip: Start seeds early, about 3 weeks before planting outdoors. Transplants will tolerate cold days and nights down to 30°F. Broccolini thrives in cool weather.

Image: Pinetree Garden Seeds

3. Swizzle Stick Celery!

Celery is not usually on our list,  but ‘Peppermint Stick’ (Apium graveolens) is no ordinary celery. It’s eye candy and tasty, too. Bicolor, it’s full of sweet flavor (raw and cooked) and perfect for kitchen gardens and pots.

It was so no-fuss to grow, too. We planted it in a large container and left it alone, except for watering and a little granular, organic fertilizer. ‘Peppermint Stick’ is slow to bolt, and its red color is much darker on the outside stalks. Plants grow to about 20 inches tall and are fully mature 85 to 100 days after the seeds are sown. Start indoors 30 days in advance of the gardening season.

The flavor is surprising sweet and intense—and it even holds up through cooking.

Tip: Keep potted celery in the shade during hot summer months to prevent bolting. Then bring the pot indoors, set it in a sunny window, and use the celery during the autumn and winter for seasoning

Credit: Seeds by Design

4. Snack-Size Peppers

Brilliant red, orange, and yellow ‘Hungarian Cheese’ peppers are tidy plants. These 28 inch-tall plants produce quickly—about 60 days after being set out as transplants. (Seed packets are an equal mix of the three pepper colors.) Thick-walled, flat, and fluted, these sweet peppers are great for stuffing or eating out of hand. If  you have a hefty harvest, don’t worry: They store for 2 weeks or more in the refrigerator. Keep peppers picked for continual production, especially in containers.

Tip: Scratch 1⁄4 cup of Epsom salts around each plant after it’s established; the salts will supply a hefty dose of magnesium, needed for plant vigor and numerous blooms that set fruit.

Credit: Burpee

5. Miniature Peas

‘Tom Thumb’ (aka ‘Half Pint’) pea is an old variety from the 1850s that is new again, thanks to the interest in container gardening. A true miniature that grows to only 10 inches tall, it’s a natural for pots. You’ll be picking  plenty of full-size pea pods 50 days after sowing. Most peas can withstand a chill; this one can tolerate  temperatures down to 20°F. More good news: No staking needed!

Tip: In the spring, soak pea seeds overnight for quick germination in cool soil and inoculate them with rhizobia powder. Peas are legumes, which take nitrogen from the air with the help of a rhizobia bacterium that colonizes on pea roots.

Credit: Tom Thumb Peas, Territorial Seeds

6. Pot Blueberries

‘Blueberry Glaze’ blueberry, a 2-foot-tall compact mound, looks like a boxwood and can be sheared as such afterberries are harvested. Perfect for a container on a patio, the shrub has tiny, deep-green leaves, white-with-pink blossoms in the spring, and small, deep-blue berries in midsummer. Their intense flavor is much like that of wild blueberries. The plant needs only 500 chilling hours and grows well in Zones 5 to 8.

Tip: Keep the soil in blueberry containers acidic; scratch sulfur into the soil every spring when you apply granular fertilizer. When planting, use a potting mix that is predominantly peat.

Credit: Blueberry Glaze by Small Creek Farm

7. Strawberries Without Runners

 ‘Pineapple’ alpine strawberries produce tiny, 1-inch-long, yellow berries with the distinct taste and fragrance of pineapples and roses.

The mounding plants are rugged, even from seed, and do not set runners. This is a huge deal because they are easier to maintain! In addition, the plants are putting their energies into producing fruit, not runners.

Alpine strawberries bear during their first season, and plants grow larger every year. We’ve found that ‘Pineapple’ varieties are often the first to germinate with very high germination percentages so it’s vigorous from germination to maturity. Finally, the birds don’t carry away massive numbers of white-yellow fruit like they will red fruit.

Tip: Use them as edible edging for flower beds.

8. No-Prune Berries

‘Sweet Lifeberry’ goji berry is an antioxidant-packed ancient berry from China that thrives in Zones 5 to 9. Purple flowers cover creeping vines in the spring, before brilliant red berries blanket the plants.

Though they sound exotic and are most often found with a high price tag in health food stores, Goji berries are actually easy to grow hardy plants. Goji will do great in a container. Just be sure to choose one large enough (at least 18” in diameter) with drainage hole. For container cultivation, stake three to five strong canes and cut off the remainders.

These berries are exceptionally sweet when ripened on the plant. No pruning is needed, and the plants are disease-resistant. Dubbed the “superfruit” because of the multitude of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids they contain, goji berries can be eaten out of hand, made into smoothies, or dried like raisins.

Image: Goji Berries

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The Old Farmer's Almanac Garden Guide


Reader Comments

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Goji berries and mini veggies

I purchased a 12” goji plant from Park Seed at the beginning of last season. It absolutely exploded with growth over the season, reaching 6’ tall. The branches are very floppy and need the exact support that the article mentioned. Though the plant grows very tall, it still remained narrow and does not take up much room. Very fun. This year I will get flowers and a great berry harvest.
I have also found mini veggie seeds easily on Park, Burpee and Gurney’s. Mini purple broccoli, mini romaines, Toy Choi did excellent in the shade. There is even cucumber vines that remain short, provide small crunchy cucumbers that do really well with minimal support.
I am in zone 5b/6a.

Miniature Vegetables

I am going to try growing a variety of dwarf plants in one planter - dwarf cucumber; dwarf tomato; basil, cilantro, chives, etc.
(found one on QVC - a three-tiered planter with nine separate areas. Bought one just for strawberries and two more for the rest.

Dwarf Plants

Dwarf Cherry Tomato Plant: Tiny Tim - purchased seeds on Amazon and they are doing great
Dwarf Cucumber Plant: purchased seeds on Amazon, haven't received yet - will post an update later.
Climbing Strawberries: Ordered seeds from Amazon
Climbing Tomatoes: Ordered sees from Amazon

Gijo Berries

After seeing Gijo berries in the mini section - I tried to find where I could buy seeds/plants. When I entered the word Goji all I saw were huge trees. Lovely spread but no actual information on availability.

mini and dwarf vegetables and fruits

Yes, I would like to know where you buy these also.

Miniature Baby Vegetables

The Editors's picture

Many seed companies sell mini and dwarf vegetables and fruit. For example, the Burpee seeds web site offers “Miniature Baby Vegetables.”  https://www.burpee.com/

Mini and Dwarf Vegetables

Where do you buy these vegetables? Thank You

Mini vegetables not at Burpee

The only thing is the article about mini vegetables. They dont seem to have any, I specifically searched for the pomegranate crunch lettuce and there is none on their site. If I'm wrong, someone else please include a link for it or other minis. However, a general google search for pomegranate crunch lettuce seeds shows many sites. I guess the next step is to do a general search under the phrase "mini vegetables" and see what you can find.