How to Grow Zucchini in Containers

Last updated 08/8/2020 | |

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Yes, you can grow zucchini or summer squash in pots or containers! This family favorite is easy to grow and will give you a huge harvest. Here’s everything you need to know to grow zucchini in containers. 

zucchini plant in pot

Zucchini (also called summer squash) is a great vegetable for small-space gardeners. In fact, it's one of my 5 Favorite Vegetables for Container Gardening. Zucchini is nearly guaranteed to grow, it produces tons of veggies all summer long, and comes in lots of fun shapes and colors.

Are you a brand new gardener? Not sure what to plant and how to plant it? I can help. Check out the Ultimate Beginning Gardener Bundle and you'll have a great garden in no time!

wicker basket full of vegetables

Summer squash has a mild flavor that makes it a family favorite, whether breaded and fried, grated and turned into zucchini fritters, added to soups, or made into zucchini bread. This popular garden vegetable has a good combination of nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, folate, manganese, and potassium. Most of these nutrients reside in the skin--and the darker the zucchini, the more nutrients it has.

You'll have the most success growing the compact, "bush type" zucchini in containers. Here are my favorite varieties of container zucchini plants. Let's get growing!

zucchini plant

Planting Zucchini: Sun, Water, Soil

The great part about growing zucchini in containers is that you can place your pots anywhere in your yard, to get the best sunlight. Zucchini needs 6 or more hours of sun each day for maximum growth. 

zucchini plant

When planting in containers, the soil can dry out fairly quickly. It's a good idea to mulch the soil to conserve water, as in the picture above.

You may need to water daily--stick your finger in the soil before watering. If the soil is damp or wet about two inches below the surface, you don’t need to water. If the soil is dry, then water the base of the plant gently with a rain wand (I love my Dramm Rain Wand) or a watering can. Don’t water the leaves because it can encourage powdery mildew (see below), which can ruin your plants. 

The leaves may wilt on a hot day, but this doesn’t mean they need to be watered right then--it’s how the plants conserve water. The leaves should be refreshed by the morning. 

man in garden

Please don’t scoop up a bunch of dirt from your yard for your container of zucchini. Garden soil is too dense and could have fungus, microbes, seeds, bugs, or other critters that will damage your plants.

It’s important to choose the right soil for your container garden, so your vegetables will grow well. Because the plants are growing in a confined space, you want to be sure the soil is the very best it can be. Here’s how to choose the best soil for your container garden.

Planting & Spacing

Because zucchini has relatively shallow roots, you’ll need a container with drainage holes that’s about 12 inches deep and at least 12 inches across (approximately 15 gallons).

I particularly like this planter from Bloem which has a self-watering insert. If you think you'll need to move your pots during the growing season, you can also get this nifty rolling saucer to put under the planter.

blue planter pot

Plant your zucchini seeds or seedlings in the spring, when soil temperature is between 70-85°F. Not sure when you should plant? You need a vegetable planting schedule that's customized for your area and climate. Click the image to get one for your garden.

vegetable planting schedule

If you’re planting from seed, make a hole about 1” deep, plop the seed inside, and pat the soil over gently. Your seeds will sprout in 7-10 days. If you’re planting a seedling, make a large hole about 2” deep, loosen the roots of the seedling, and place into the hole. Fill the hole with soil and pat gently. 

All squash plants have large leaves and really like to spread out. Plant one zucchini per pot, so there’s room for the roots to grow and for the leaves to spread. 

Zucchini plants need pollinators. If you don’t have a lot of bees in your garden, plant some early-blooming flowers like borage or alyssum near your squash. You can plant them in the same pot, or in a neighboring pot. The bees will find their way regardless. 🙂

bee on borage flower

Pests & Diseases

Unfortunately, there are a handful of bugs who like to eat zucchini. The most common ones are squash bugs, vine borers, and cucumber beetles. Most of these can be controlled or managed by natural methods.

Squash bugs are common in the garden, because they like to eat zucchini, pumpkins, winter squash, even cucumber. They lay tiny eggs in neat little lines on the underside of leaves--if you see these, squish ‘em. In fact, if you see them at any stage of their life cycle, it’s best to squish them.

man in garden

You can spray them with neem oil or horticultural soap, but these sprays don't kill the bugs--they just keep the bugs from reproducing.

squash bugs on leaf

Vine borers spend the winter in the soil and lay their eggs at the base of the stem. Then the caterpillars hatch, bore a hole into your tender seedling, and eat it to death. Because you’re using fresh soil just for container gardening, these shouldn’t be a problem for you. 

Cucumber beetles look like ladybugs, but they’re yellow and black instead of red and black. They spread disease, so if you see them you want to get them under control ASAP. Spinosad is a soilborne bacterium that is helpful for this. 

Powdery mildew is a fungus that could infect your plants (usually near the end of the season). The leaves look like they’re covered with a white or gray powder. Treat infected plants with neem oil spray or--believe it or not--milk. Mix 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of water; add a few drops of dish soap and spray the plant 1-2 times per week. Do not compost the plants after harvest. 

powdery mildew on leaf

When & How to Harvest Zucchini

Your zucchini will be ready to harvest about 6-7 weeks after planting. Pick them when they’re small to ensure tender fruit and small seeds. Cut the stem of the zucchini with scissors or pruners, rather than pulling it off the plant. Cutting the stem prevents damage to the plant and delays mold developing on the zucchini. 

zucchini plant

Summer squash plants grow like crazy. I’ve had a single zucchini plant grow as many as 15 squash over one gardening season! They are the vegetable that just keeps giving. 

Harvest zucchini frequently; it seems they grow from “normal size” to “baseball bat size” overnight. At the height of the season, check your plants every day. They’re still edible when large, but will be mealy with large seeds. This is an example of a squash that got way too big.

giant zucchini plant

Preserve Your Harvest

If you’ve grown more zucchini than you can eat, there are several ways to preserve your harvest. I like to grate the zucchini and freeze it in 2-cup amounts. Then it’s ready for zucchini bread, or adding to homemade spaghetti sauce or soup. 

You can also dehydrate summer squash, but canning is not a good idea. You may read different articles about water-bath canning or pressure canning zucchini--but no safe guidelines have been established, and botulism is no joke. Play it safe and freeze or dehydrate instead. 

Don’t feel like freezing or drying your harvest? Share your bounty with your local food bank! Food banks don’t often get donations of fruits and vegetables, and their clients will welcome the fresh food. You can find your local food bank at Feeding America.org.

Learn more about growing zucchini in containers

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You can also give a bit to your friendly local tortoise, as a yummy treat.

sulcata tortoise eating summer squash

summer squash

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22 Comments

  1. Jean I Harris on October 30, 2020 at 1:15 am

    Thanks so much for the info. I planted zucchini for the first time this summer. In fact, I didn’t know how to even prepare them.. I only planted one plant.. It has produced abundantly.. I had to find a recipe.. Now I like them.. Oh, for your info. the method I used is to slice thinly, season with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, (for a better taste–be stingy with the salt and instead use a sprinkle or two of chicken bullion…I baked them uncovered in a 325 degree oven (turning over one time) for approximately 1-hour or until tender.. They were delicious. I will definitely plant again next summer.

  2. Kathy on October 12, 2020 at 7:55 am

    Can you prune zucchini plants so they don’t grow so big and get sunlight to the base?

  3. Uzma Qureshi on August 14, 2020 at 3:33 am

    I started gardening this year so I have no much knowledge about how to protect my Vegas from bugs such as catterpillers, snails and lady birds. Recently my turnip and radish plants all the leafs been eaten by the bugs. I am very disappointed so what my happens with my Vegas under the ground they are also destroyed or I can do something to protect my Vegas please advise me what should I do?

  4. Linda on July 25, 2020 at 7:35 am

    I planted in a container and the plants grew great and had lots of blooms but no squash at all, and I dont know why it would never grow. I finally pulled the plants up.
    Anyone know why

  5. Stephanie on July 19, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    How many seeds do you plant in pots at a time? Thank you

    • Pam on July 22, 2020 at 7:06 pm

      One seed per 7+ gallon container. This is a 5-gallon and I’m testing it to see if it will work.

  6. Donna Clements on July 9, 2020 at 10:40 am

    I have grown zucchinis to TWICE the size of the one you have pictured that is overgrown. That was way back in the ’70’s, when I was a teenager and didn’t know any better. I thought they were SUPPOSED to get that big, lol! That size was SO perfect for scooping aout all the seeds and still having a good bit of flesh for making sturdier zucchini boats. I live on a really shaded lot now, so, no real gardening going on. Yet.

  7. Karen Stonebraker on June 29, 2020 at 7:24 am

    Help!! My zucchini plant has tons of flowers on it, but no zucchinis yet. I have another type of squash that is near it and doing extremely well. I also have bell peppers and another pepper plant that are doing well nearby Am I doing something wrong??? My plants are in pots on the front porch, east facing.

  8. Marti Johnson on June 6, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    I am fascinated by your photos that show the squashes growing right up at the center of the plant. Is that because it’s intended to be planted in pots? My gardening partner and I long to have plants that have all the zucchinis at the base of the plant, like the ones in your first photo and the photo you used with your website name.

  9. MaryAnn Coy on June 3, 2020 at 11:02 pm

    Zucchini makes great pickles and marvelous relish. The vinegar makes it safer to can. I pressure canned mine to be safe. Very successful and tasty. Ball canning had a recipe last I knew. Fertilizer for zucchini, compost, a low nitrogen fertilizer like 5-10-10 or 5-10-5. Plantone works well ( Espoma brand) available on Amazon and at Garden Centers. Diatomaceous Earth ( a calcium) sprinkled on leaves deters Cucumber beetles. Good Luck.

    • Dee on October 11, 2020 at 7:03 am

      I can bread and butter pickles with zucchini as my mother and grandmother. They are a family favorite. We have always water bathed them with no problem.
      De

  10. SAHNDRA Chavez on May 27, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    Very interesting. I was wondering about how to grow and if could be. It’s getting hard to find plants in piney packs, guess they r a thing of the past these days. Hate spending $ 3-4 dollars for one tiny plant, so this info is especially helpful.

  11. Linda Otto on May 17, 2020 at 12:10 pm

    Thankyou for very useful tips.

  12. Linda Otto on May 17, 2020 at 11:59 am

    Thankyou very much. The information I was looking for badly you have provided.

  13. Cindy on May 16, 2020 at 10:58 pm

    I was told to cut stems off that are not flowering. I do this on my tomatoe plants too. Is this good for plants?

    • Camilla on May 25, 2020 at 2:57 pm

      Hi, can use the end of a zucchini to grow new ones? Thank you very much

      • Pam on May 26, 2020 at 11:02 am

        No, you need to have a seed or a seedling to grow zucchini.

      • Jean Dudley on October 19, 2020 at 8:08 pm

        I used the end part of zuchini and yellow squash. Look on youtube
        Jean

  14. Sara on May 8, 2020 at 6:10 am

    Omg. Thank you so very much for all this info, I’ll keep coming back for more. Love your page.

  15. Rachael on May 1, 2020 at 4:57 am

    This has been a very informative page, I appreciate the abundance of tips. This new gardener Thanks you for sharing your thoughts!

  16. Peg on April 27, 2020 at 8:27 am

    How do you fertilize and how often?

  17. kunzuntie on April 17, 2020 at 9:23 am

    great info i will use info of zuks in my garden this year. thank u

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