How Many Plants Per Container?

Posted on Mar 21 2012 - 1:29am by Mike Lieberman

You are getting ready to start your seeds.

Or you might be making your wish list of seeds to buy… 3 sources to buy your vegetable seeds.

…but you’re not sure how many can fit into a container.

That’s exactly what some of you told me that you were going through.

You don’t want to have a tray filled with 30 nicely labeled kale seedlings and only three containers to put them in.

That would be a waste of your time and money.

To help you out, I created a simple to follow chart.

Know how many plants per container

From the survey you filled out a few weeks ago, I took the vegetables that you said you wanted to grow and noted approximately how many of that plant can fit into a 12″ container.

Download the chart (pdf).

Now you can know how many seeds to start or plants to buy in seconds.

I chose 12″ because that’s the same size as the 5-gallon containers used to make self-watering containers.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the highest yield, it’s just the approximate amount of plants per container.


Your Turn

Did this information change how many plants you planned on having? After you downloaded the chart, in the comments below let me know how many containers you will have in this year and what you will grow in them.

Photo courtesy of MissMessie on Flickr.

50 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Karen R. Davis March 21, 2012 at 8:10 am -

    awesome information, thanks!

  2. RaeEvans March 21, 2012 at 8:18 am -

    I’m thinking about 1 grape (or maybe cherry) tomato, 1 roma tomato, 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, 1 orange bell pepper,  2 cukes, 1 zucchini, 1 yellow crookneck, 1 fingerling eggplant, 1 brussles sprout, 3 or 4 herbs (rosemary, basil, mint, thyme, sage…how many of these and what combinations to you recommend in a 12″ container?)

  3. Dawn in NYC March 21, 2012 at 8:56 am -

    What about berries? I’ve got 2 raspberry plants and 2 blueberry plants. Can I do 2 in each bucket?

  4. Danika March 21, 2012 at 9:35 am -

    This is so awesome, thanks Mike!

  5. seattlelite March 21, 2012 at 9:38 am -

    Yes, I too would love to know more about berries. 

  6. Insanad March 21, 2012 at 9:47 am -

    If someone taped  your hands to your hips would you go nuts and not be able to talk?  Thanks for the great tips. I’ve been guilty of overcrowding my plants many times because they start off so small and the empty space around them LOOKS like it needs to be filled but they do so much better and yield a healthier crop when they have plenty of root and top space. 

  7. Susan Allen March 21, 2012 at 11:04 am -

    I have a container about 8 inches wide and 24 inches long that has 20 or so spinach plants (my favorite veggie) in it. These plants have been growing since last summer — in a greenhouse to overwinter. I’ve had fresh spinach every couple of weeks all winter from the same plants. I cut off the outer leaves making sure to leave at two inner leaves on each plant. In a couple weeks I harvest the same plants again in the same way. Definitely getting my money’s worth out of those few seeds!  I plan to get a couple more similar containers and plant them a week or so apart so I can have fresh spinach every week next winter.

  8. Yankee_rose1955 March 21, 2012 at 11:08 am -

    I had problems with my garden soil last year,(nematodes) and am planting less in the garden and more in pots this year. I’ve already overplanted the tomatoes, lol I have at least 12 different kinds-I went nuts on the Heirloom seeds-so many unusual tomatoes, so little time!

  9. Susan Allen March 21, 2012 at 11:10 am -

    I also have chocolate mint, peppermint, tarragon, rosemary, parsley, oregano, and lemon balm that spent the winter in the greenhouse — this is the first winter that I’ve had one. It’s only 6×6, but it’s better than nothing. I will have three or four containers with tomatoes, a couple with cucumbers, one with cantaloupe, and will probably try one with broccoli — never thought of trying that before. I’ll also have a few with lettuce. Sometimes I wish I still lived in the Mojave Desert so I could grow veggies pretty much all year!

  10. Mike Lieberman March 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm -

    Great assortment.

  11. Mike Lieberman March 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm -

    I hear that.

  12. Mike Lieberman March 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm -

    Word. Will get on that.

  13. Mike Lieberman March 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm -

    Hahaha. Possibly. I’ve been overcrowding for a while too.

  14. Mike Lieberman March 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm -

    Word. My pleasure.

  15. Mike Lieberman March 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm -

    The larger and vining vegetables are best one per container.

  16. Mike Lieberman March 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm -

    Glad you found it useful.

  17. Micron Cat March 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm -

    Hey Mike, I downloaded your chart for my 2nd grade teachers, who are starting to garden for the first time – with children – and don’t have a clue.  🙂  I’ve got the raised bed put together for them, and I showed them how to grid it off for square foot gardening – this list will be excellent for that purpose.  Thanks!

  18. LindaJean March 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm -

    I am trying potatoes, marigolds, carrots, Paris lettuce, tomatoes, mini bell peppers, tom thumb peas, strawberries, pineapple sage, globe basil, peppermint , sweet mint and lavender.  Thinning seedlings has been the hardest thing.  I have given away several tom thumb pea plants to interested children and parents in my apartment complex. It looks as if I will be doing the same thing with the tomatoes, and bell peppers. Right now I am in the hardening process for most of the plants.  The fun part is setting on the patio in the evenings.  Now that I have an idea of how many plants per container I know how many starter plants to give away.

  19. Mike Lieberman March 21, 2012 at 11:52 pm -

    Word. My pleasure.

  20. Mike Lieberman March 21, 2012 at 11:52 pm -

    That’s awesome.

  21. Dixied35 March 22, 2012 at 5:27 am -

    I am going to show this chart to my son who built me two 2′ x 10′ raised gardens lat year, and then was disappointed when I planted very few veggie plants in each.  He thought there should be more after all his work!  Well, to appease him, I doubled the amount and wound up with too many veggies competing with each other-lol! This year, I’m going to go by the 12″ sq. method and he is agreeing – but not very enthusiastically.  This chart will be proof that we (you and I) are correct. Thanks! ((((hugs))))) ♥

  22. Mike Lieberman March 22, 2012 at 7:13 am -

    Break the news to him gently. No one likes being told they are wrong 😉

  23. why_me March 25, 2012 at 1:03 pm -

    i’m no expert but garden on a roof terrace in central europe. i plant multiple plants per container – for instance : carrots with mange-tout  i.e.  some things that grow into the soil and others that grow into the air.

    i’m sure i could get better crops but i am lazy and what i get has been enough to see us through the summers

    the table was a great help – i will try to apply it but include my vertical concept

  24. Dragonden1 March 25, 2012 at 3:30 pm -

    Thank you you have no idea how i have searched for this info 🙂

  25. Mike Lieberman March 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm -

    Yes. Can definitely plant multiple things together. I wanted to keep things as simple as possible to make it practical and actionable.

  26. Mike Lieberman March 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm -

    Same here. That’s why I created it — to benefit you.

  27. Kitcia Amaya March 25, 2012 at 6:36 pm -

    This is wonderful imformation… thank you so much.

  28. Mike Lieberman March 25, 2012 at 11:06 pm -

    glad you likes.

  29. Redwallmom March 26, 2012 at 3:36 am -

    This is great info.  I wish I had known since I started about 40 tomato plants.  As a first time gardener I had no idea how many would grow.  I’m going to scrounge around and find more containers.  Also, I have a small plot in my tiny backyard and this has helped me to decide what to put in the ground and what in containers.  Thanks so much.

  30. Patth9 March 26, 2012 at 7:29 am -

    Thanks, this is most helpful.  I may have missed the answer to my next question, but how tall should a 12″ container be?

  31. Mike Lieberman March 26, 2012 at 9:11 am -

    Get on that. Keep me updated.

  32. Shayna March 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm -

    Would like to know how you came up with the chart?  How do you know 9 bok choy plants will work in a 12″ container?  Trial and error?

  33. Mike Lieberman March 26, 2012 at 9:14 pm -

    Yes and through approximations based on how they grow in raised beds.

  34. Emmaleejune325 April 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm -

    this is super helpful! thanks 🙂

  35. Christina David June 14, 2012 at 10:27 am -

    Oh, lifesaver! This is just what I was looking for. I know I could fit a ton of carrots, radishes and mixed greens in each of those ginormous buckets but no clear cut info based on experience. Can’t wait to see the fall planting ideas

  36. Mike Lieberman June 14, 2012 at 8:25 pm -

    Word. Make sure you sign up for updates because I’m going to be releasing an online fall gardening course soon!

  37. Mrf9871 June 16, 2012 at 10:26 am -

    Excited to have found your blog/s.
    I’ve just planned a ‘square-foot’ garden this year.  I’ve two 4×10 rows.  stringing off 2’x2′ sections in each.  I didn’t plan to leave much space between plants but, didn’t want to overcrowd to the point of reducing crop/s.
    Your info is excellent.  Kudos

  38. Mike Lieberman June 17, 2012 at 12:54 am -

    Word. Glad to connect!

  39. Jen McNew February 27, 2013 at 10:20 am -

    Hello, we just moved to St Maarten in the Caribbean and are starting a container garden on our porch. SO we are basically summer ALL year. We get sunlight in various places all day. One side AM and one side PM. There is one area that gets light all day.

    We have (due to budget) just the black plastic containers for now. One giant (i think its 24-36″ not sure)pot with cucumber and squash which are both doing FANTASTICALLY.

    Other than that we’ve had some problems.

    Radishes that didnt yield very well.

    Mustard Greens that just look like junk.

    And we’ve started some cherry tomatoes and snap peas which are all off to a great start but i am not sure how many plants i should keep to a pot. They are in 12″ and 16″ pots.

    Any suggestions would be AWESOME!

  40. tai wayne May 31, 2013 at 11:34 am -

    I’m just starting my garden- I found this site last weekend, bought a ton of seeds, and planted- without knowing anything more than it IS possible to produce vegetables without a “normal” garden! Now, I’ve got lots of sproutlets and am realizing I have no idea what I’m doing!
    My first question is: I’ve got a few beans (both green and yellow) sprouting in glass baby food jars (again, lots of excitement and zero knowledge). I have read beans don’t like transplanting so what’s your recommendation for doing so? Also, do I need a stick in the new pot for them to grow on?

  41. Rachael May 31, 2013 at 6:01 pm -

    I wanted to start growing my own food, but had zero clue of how to go about it. I started from seed and had lots of baby plants without any idea of what to do with them. I live in a loft without a balcony or patio. Basically it’s all growing in my windowsill. I planted a lot of herbs and veggies from seed. I was slowing collecting milk cartons and small containers to transplant. I also bought planter boxes about 5″ deep and 36″ in length. I am wondering if I am overcrowding my veggies? I planted a few beet plants in a 5″ area (eeks). as well as a bunch of sprouted cucumber plants 2″ apart about 12 of them in a row. (uh oh). and a few kale sprouts in a 5″ area. ;/ Will they not grow like this? Also, I have about 10 tomato plants 5″ in height that I just transplanted into 2 self watering containers of 12″ high and 12″ in diameter. How many mistakes am I making right now. I’ve heard herbs don’t need much room or depth and found cinnamon and neem oil to be my best friend to fend of fungus gnats. please help!
    P.S. I live in downtown los angeles so I get plenty of sun and warmth. I have huge windows that face east.

  42. Gardendog January 1, 2014 at 1:49 pm -

    Want to grow Tomato for size not quantity. I need to grow inside the house because of weather. Any suggestions?

  43. nathan March 24, 2014 at 7:28 am -

    how many carrots to a 16 inch square container 15 inch deep carrots arnt baby carrots ther purple haze carrots

  44. Vodin May 20, 2015 at 4:37 pm -

    If you have more sprouts than the required space,dirt, time etc.. you can eat the sprouts. Transplant the bean sprouts or eat them that is the only choice. The baby food jars are to small for them.

  45. Vodin May 20, 2015 at 4:40 pm -

    Check in with your bakeries to see if they have used 5 gallon buckets. I am able to get for free 5 gallon buckets from the bakery dept in grocery stores.

  46. joe July 24, 2015 at 9:47 pm -

    you can plant many many more cucumbers. the can be planted in hills of 4-6 plants the same sizing should be used for containers

  47. Megan September 21, 2015 at 7:23 am -

    Don’t forget your companion planting! Depending on the amount of people you are trying to feed, and what they will eat, it may not do you any good to plant so many vegetables or lettuces. I use 18″ diameter pots, about 12″-15″ deep and always include a pepper plant in my herbs, or a sunflower with my low growing lettuces, and zinnias with my tomatoes ( they grow tall and use the same cage). You are able to successfully mix and match your seeds in the same planters and because they are companions, they help each other grow beautifully.

    Hope this helped.

  48. Blkqwn7 May 6, 2016 at 11:58 am -

    Yes, this article does change my mind about how many plants to put in my large sized container. I put 9 cucumbers in one container and am praying that I won’t lose them, as i just transplanted all of them! They were not as large, green or healthy as I am use to seeing and as the sun rise the plants were withering. I started over with the container and have planted two, but am planning to take one out after it takes root and become mid size. My biggest lessons are being learned through experience and a whole lot of mistakes!

  49. Lisa M. Hassan May 23, 2016 at 11:15 am -

    Hi. First time starting veggies from seed. I have 3 beautiful radish plants ready to plant. Can I plant all 3 in ac16″ pot?
    And only one cucumber plant per pot?

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