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This is a question that many people ask as they are starting out with container gardening in smaller spaces, or even when they want to be able to move their containers around from place to place as they find the optimum site for their plants.

This is the question that we found in a container gardening forum we frequent:

What plant should I put in what size container?

I read somewhere that the cherry tomatoes would do well in smaller pots, but then I read somewhere else that they grow very large, and I need a bigger pot. I am confused! I don’t know what to do. I would really like to use the containers I already have, is that possible?

Container gardening: What size containers do I need?

These are the plastic containers I have:

– 12″ (31 cm) Round (6)
– 10″ (25 cm) Round (4)
– 12″ (30 cm) Square (1)
– 15″ (38 cm) Round (2)
– 18″ (45.7 cm) Square (1)
– Several flower boxes (like 10-ish)


The answer is maybe.  You want to discover the total volume of the containers that you have.  We have some larger diameter containers, but they are not very tall, so they do not work well for some of our larger plants.  We are currently growing tomatoes in containers as an experiment to see which size container produces the best produce in the same environment.


We have Cherry Tomatoes in one, and Heirloom beefsteak tomatoes in another.  We are also growing the same tomatoes in our garden as a comparison.


I have listed different sized containers and what they are best for, to my knowledge as well as some of my friends who also grow using containers, for you to choose which will work best for you.


Before I give you these container sizes though,  The first step is to ensure that you have proper container gardening drainage:


  • Planting containers must have drainage holes for root aeration.
  • When planning a container garden, the first step you should take is to look at what drain holes are present. While most store bought planters will have a hole or several holes present, many are insufficient.
  • If you have a planter that keeps moist soil for long periods of time, check your drainage. Roots that are allowed to set in water will rot quickly!!
  • If they’re there, great! No work is to be done!.
  • I like to see around 6 to 8, 3/8″ drainage holes in the bottom of a 14″ planter. The bigger the planter, add more. The smaller the planter, add less. A planter with only one drainage hole has a larger risk of clogging than a planter with numerous small holes.
  • If extra drainage or any drainage needs to be added, simply add the amount of holes necessary for good drainage


The following information Is from e-how.

It is great information, and I use it to help myself as a reference when I am trying new containers and different plants for the first time:

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1-Gallon Container

One-gallon container pots vary in shape and material. These smaller vegetable-growing containers may be in the form of a simple hanging basket, or plain plastic. One-gallon containers are typically 6 inches in diameter. Gallon plastic milk jugs make excellent planting containers if you cut the top off and make drainage holes in the bottom. Spacemaster cucumbers grow well in this size container as long as you only plant one per container. Hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, two to three plants of baby carrots, spinach, parsley, radish and three to five plants of bunching green onions also grow well in 1-gallon containers. All 1-gallon containers must contain well-draining soil so the roots of the vegetable plants do not rot from standing water. Always check the vegetable seed or seedling package for planting depth and spacing needs.

5-Gallon Container

Five-gallon containers will hold more plants, resulting in a higher yield at the end of the growing season. These containers can hold bigger plants in smaller quantities, or smaller plants in larger quantities. Five-gallon containers have close to 12 inches in diameter of space. The 5-gallon size make for good variety gardens such as cherry tomatoes and herbs, or a mixture of leaf lettuces. Vegetables suitable for 5-gallon containers include various beans, one carrot plant if the container is at least 12 inches deep, one plant of the smaller eggplant variety, one to two plants of hot peppers, one plant of patio tomato or one plant of squash. Various 1-gallon vegetable plants may grow in larger quantity in 5-gallon containers. Five-gallon containers require well-draining soil.

15-Gallon Container

The 15-gallon containers will hold a larger variety of vegetables, perfect for growing salad or salsa vegetable mini-gardens. This larger size container has a diameter of close to 18 inches. For any plant grown in the 5-gallon container size, the 15-gallon size will hold two to three plants more. Suitable vegetables include two plants of Brussels sprouts, three plants of Chinese cabbage, two to three tomato plants—depending on the size of the variety, five pepper plants and three to four leaf lettuce varieties. As with all container planting, the container must have well-draining soil.

Read more: The Best Size Containers for Growing Vegetables |
One of the  best things that I have found, is to research as much as possible,  but set a time frame for research, then take action.  Even imperfect action you will learn new things.

Thomas Edison when he was asked why he continued to experiment with electricity when he continued to fail answered:  “ I have not failed, I just learned another way on how NOT to make it work.”


Be adventurous, experiment and have fun.


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Chris Downs  ————-The Caretaker