Perennial vegetables are those that you plant once to have them come back year after year. Here are five perennial vegetables to grow in any space you have. We’ve included some general potted vegetable advice for care and maintenance of your successful potted vegetable garden.
Do Perennials Come Back in Pots?
The beauty of a perennial vegetable pot is that you don’t have to plant it year after year. This is true even when planting perennial vegetables in pots.
Annual Vegetables, in contrast, begin and complete their life cycle in one growing season. Lettuce and radishes are examples of annual vegetables.
Click here to learn more about growing annual vegetables in pots–>>
However, you will need to take especial care to repot your perennial veggies when their root systems get too big for their containers. If the plant or its root system gets too large for the container, then you’ll need to transplant it into a larger one or divide the roots, creating new plants.
However, apart from careful feeding, these perennial veggies will just keep going and going.
Will Perennials Survive Winter in Pots?
If you live in an area with particularly cold winter temperatures (zone 5 and below), be prepared to pay special attention to the roots of your perennial veggies.
Here are some things to do to protect perennial veggies in pots over the winter:
- To avoid freezing the roots, bulbs or tubers you can relocate your potted perennials to a basement or cold storage room as the frosts of winter come on.
- If you don’t have the space for that, wrap your potted perennials in some kind of insulating material, grouping them together for warmth.
- Be sure to remove the material in spring as the weather warms to avoid cooking your roots.
Perennial veggies take some maintenance in the container garden, but they’ll reward you with rich flavors and continuous harvests.
Other Things to Consider for Perennial Vegetables in Containers
There are some potential issues to growing perennial vegetables in pots. Being aware of these will help you make an informed decision about whether you want to grow a perennial veggie garden in containers.
Here are a few things to consider:
Perennial vegetables need a stable environment when grown in pots. Even though you’re not growing them in the ground, perennial veggies do need a dedicated space when you’re growing them in containers. It shouldn’t be a place with damaging foot traffic where people are apt to knock off branches or fruit. Keep it close enough to interact with, but tucked in its own space.
Perennial vegetables require very, very rich soil. You must keep on top of feeding them with compost, whether in the soil or applied as foliar sprays.
On the same note, because they stay in the same soil all year, soil-borne diseases can build up and cause health issues. For this reason, it is a good idea to get in the habit of renewing the potted soil each time you pot up the plant. Toss the older soil onto your compost bin where it will incorporate
Also related, perennial vegetables grown in pots must be replanted in larger pots as they grow. This is typically done annually, at which time you can change out the soil and refresh it with compost.
Perennial Vegetables to Grow in Pots
Here are several perennial vegetables to grow in pots for your consideration. At the end of this article, we’ve listed several more articles with many more suggestions for perennial vegetables to grow.
Carefully consider each suggestion and begin with those veggies that you think you’ll eat steadily. There’s no sense growing something you just don’t like to eat!
Begin experimenting with growing these perennial vegetables in containers and learn the rhythm of the process.
Sorrel to Grow in Pots
Sorrel (Rumex acetosa is common sorrel; Rumex scutatus is French sorrel)
- Sorrel is related to the tasty, but very-difficult-to-grow-in-a-pot, rhubarb.
- It is a tart, lemon-flavored herb whose leaves are easy to enjoy in soups, stews, salads and sauces.
- High in Vitamin C, the leaves are a great cool season crop but, like lettuce, the leaves turn bitter once the weather turns warm.
Fun Facts About Sorrel
- Like most herbs, sorrel requires little extra care or fuss.
- Sorrel is a cut and come again plant that can be continually harvested until the season ends.
- Remove flowers unless you want to save the seed as they’ll cause the flavor of the leaves to turn bitter.
- Plan to divide the plants every two to three years, which is standard for potted, perennial plants.
Incidentally, most herbs make fantastic potted plants so while you’re mastering tomatoes, be sure to toss in a basil plant or two to make your gardening life complete.
How to Care for Sorrel
- Pot Size: Grows just fine in a 6” pot but can use larger.
- Sun: 6-8 hours, but it doesn’t care for intense heat.
- If birds are bothering your seedlings, cover the pots with lengths of hardware cloth or bird netting until they mature.
- Once cut, sorrel leaves can wilt rapidly, like loose leaf lettuce, so be sure to use them quickly after harvest.
- Store any leftovers in a cool place like the fridge. You can dehydrate and powder sorrel leaves for some extra greens in winter smoothies.
Jerusalem Artichokes to Grow in Pots
Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus); sometimes called Sunchoke.
- Planted in the cool weather of winter or early spring, these are a tuberous rhizome crop that look like an iris tuber/ginger root/potato cross.
- The tops produce sunflower-like stalks whose flowers die back every winter, popping right back up in late spring.
Fun Facts About Jerusalem Artichokes
Be aware that Jerusalem artichoke tubers proliferate easily and abundantly. This can be a great thing for an edible garden because you can easily produce a large crop.
The tubers that you harvest each fall can be knobby, which gets annoying when you’re trying to clean them and prepare them for eating. Try the Fuseau variety for fewer knobs.
How to Care for Sunchokes
Pot Size: Start with one five-gallon pot per planted tuber and it will produce many more during the season, like a potato. Unlike a potato, though, you do not need to hill the plant as it grows.
Sun: 6-8 hours or full sun.
Special Notes: Jerusalem artichoke tubers look a bit like a ginger root crossed with a potato. Like a potato, they have eyes (or buds of growth). But like the ginger root, there are quite often multiple branches of tuber all connected. Sometimes you’ll get individual tubers that look like single, small potatoes.
To prepare a tuber for planting, break apart the branching arms and each one becomes a seed tuber to plant into a single, large pot. You can also divide particularly large, single tubers by cutting them in half, leaving several eyes on each side—just like you would with a potato.
Starch-Free Potato Substitute
Jerusalem artichokes taste like a cross between a potato and an artichoke when cooked; which is probably how they got their name since they’re in no way related to artichokes.
They taste a lot like a water chestnut when raw.
Without the starch content of a potato, these veggies are often used by diabetics to re-create their favorite potato dishes. You can peel them for boiling and mashing or leave their skins on for sautéing.
Jerusalem artichokes can cause stomach upset in some people, especially in large quantities. So, be sure to go easy with them in the first recipe you try, just to observe how your gut responds.
If you have gas or bloating, reduce the amount you consume at one time and be sure to mix them with other vegetables, like with stir fry.
FYI, Jerusalem artichokes are not GAPS-approved.
Stack Functions with Jerusalem Artichokes
In permaculture, we say that a plant “stacks functions” if it performs more than one function or fills more than one need. Jerusalem artichokes are just such a plant!
- The flowering stalks, which can reach up to six feet and beyond, are quite useful in the container garden providing forage for pollinators.
- They also create a wonderful privacy screen for any patio, low-lying fort, or fairy house.
- Once the stalks have died back (at which point you know the tubers are ready to harvest), they make excellent play swords for backyard imaginings and great kindling for the fire.
- The biomass this plant produces makes it a useful green mulch source. Chop up stalks and leaves of Jerusalem artichokes and place them around your fruit trees as you would wood chips.
- They are a quality forage for livestock, too.
- Cut the strong Sunchoke stalks from the tubers before you harvest them by forking them out of the dirt. FYI, you won’t get quite as many tubers if you let your Jerusalem artichokes flower but, trust me, they’ll still produce very, very well.
- There are so many Sunchokes every year that it’s almost impossible to find and gather every single tuber in the fall. This means that you end up leaving behind seed tubers for next year’s harvest.
For these reasons, it can be a wise garden decision to confine their exuberance to pots, even if you have space for Jerusalem artichokes in your in-ground garden.
Store the Tubers
- The best place to store tubers is in the dirt because they don’t last nearly as long as a potato once harvested. Two months in cold storage is all I’ve ever managed before the tubers begin to go soft.
- After cutting the flowering stalks off, bring your pot of Sunchokes into the garage or interior room that doesn’t freeze during winter. Dig out tubers as you need them during the winter, keeping the soil damp but not wet.
- You can dig up all your tubers to inspect them for rot or bugs and simply put them back into the soil for storage.
Garlic to Grow in Pots
Garlic (Allium Sativum)
We grow this vegetable as an annual because we dig it up every year, but the bulbs technically function as perennials.
If you’ve ever grown garlic before, you know what a delight it can be; if you haven’t, you’re in for a real treat.
- Healthy garlic bulbs should be gently split into individual cloves and planted in the fall, flat bottom-side down, into any suitable container.
- During winter the clove will mellow in the cool soil and by the next spring send up a slick, green stalk that very much resembles an onion (they’re from the same plant family).
- As the shoots begin to die back in the fall, you know it’s time to harvest the garlic that has now developed an entire bulb from that one clove you planted clear last year.
I never quite get all my garlic bulblets out of the soil at harvest time and end up with random baby garlics the next spring, which I consider a great bonus. This process creates a perpetual garlic harvest.
Each year you can dig up and then replant mature bulbs for a new year’s harvest. Any baby garlic bulbs that are left behind in your container can serve to deter pests for other plants.
It does take a full year to grow a crop of garlic, but it is indispensable in the kitchen for flavor and nutrition.
Hard Neck or Soft Neck – Which Do Garlic Do I Want?
There are two kinds of garlic to choose from: soft neck and hard neck.
- There are a lot of nuances of difference between the two but, basically, soft neck garlic is considered milder in flavor and stores a bit longer (up to a year if conditions are just right).
- Hard neck garlic is rich in flavor and will store from 3-9 months in the proper conditions.
Hard neck garlic makes an interesting show piece in the garden, too, because it sends up a seed head called a scape. You want to clip scapes as soon as you see them shoot up because they will interfere with the garlic bulb development.
However, while they’re up, scapes look wicked cool; the stem of the scape curls back on itself, ending in a delicate bulbous shape. Once harvested, scapes provide a tasty addition to any stir fry, pesto or baked dish.
How to Care for Garlic
Pot Size: Pick a container that is at least 18” deep and 12” wide; you plant each garlic clove about 5 inches apart.
Sun: 6-8 hours or full sun.
Special Notes: Garlic can be susceptible to fungal root diseases. Be sure to add a light soil-less mix, like peat, to your pot, along with your favorite potting soil mix, so as not to bog down the growing garlic with too much moisture.
Don’t let it dry out, though; garlic likes even moisture.
Remember, as with all perennials, if you live in extreme winter areas, plan to insulate your containers or move them indoors for protection from freezing.
New Zealand Spinach to Grow in Pots
New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragoniodes); also known as Botany Bay spinach
- New Zealand spinach is a this tender perennial green that is grown as an annual due to its sensitivity to frost.
- The plants grow vigorously and produce seed easily, meaning it will reseed quite often on its own.
- I think of any plant that does this as a perennial. If I don’t have to mess with planting seed, that’s good enough for me.
If you empty your pots of soil each winter, you may not want crops that reseed, FYI.
Fun Facts About New Zealand Spinach
New Zealand Spinach isn’t intimidated by heat and pests rarely bother it. The texture of New Zealand spinach is completely different from the spinach you’re probably used to, (Spinacia oleracea).
New Zealand spinach is a bit rough on the surface and the dark, green leaves have a slight rubbery texture and a triangular shape.
How to Care for New Zealand Spinach
- You can go ahead and direct sow your seed right into a pot. Be prepared for it to happily cascade over the sides of containers and troughs with its sprawling growth habit.
- You’ll probably only need two to four plants for a family of four to have it produce throughout the season and keep you in spinach, depending on how much you eat each week.
- It will die back at the first severe frost but will reseed, producing that perennial effect.
- Like true spinach, New Zealand spinach is digested best after it’s been rinsed and wilted under low heat.
- For the mildest flavor, pick young leaves. Dry the leaves and powder to add to smoothies, homemade pastas and soups.
Pot size: A five-gallon pot will hold one to two plants.
Sun: 6-8 hours, but it can take partial shade.
Special Notes: New Zealand Spinach is drought tolerant, although the leaves won’t be as tender if the plants are dehydrated. For best results, keep the soil mulched and damp.
Succession Sow with Regular Spinach
Unlike true spinach, New Zealand spinach is not frost tolerant and must be planted when the temperature is at least 65°F/18°C. However, true spinach won’t perform well in the warmest months of the year, unlike New Zealand spinach.
To stay in spinach all year round:
- Plant true spinach in the early spring and late fall.
- Alternate with New Zealand spinach in the late spring and summer garden.
- In areas with intense summer heat, provide some late after-noon shade for your New Zealand spinach.
If you let it reseed, it will come back on its own, like a perennial.
Bonus Wild Plant – Grow Lamb’s Quarter in Pots
Lamb’s Quarter (Chenopodium album)
This is a reseeding annual that functions as a perennial. Considered a weed with many names, this weed is one of the very first things to start popping up in the garden and we love it.
- With silvery green leaves and taste like nutty-flavored spinach, lamb’s quarter is a welcome sight come early spring when we’re all starved for leafy greens.
- The baby shoots of lamb’s quarter are wonderful in salad or added to stir fry, and the more mature leaves can be wilted with butter and lemon exactly as you would spinach. My kids think it’s groovy when we cook weeds from the garden.
It reseeds very, very easily and prolifically and so some people do battle with it. Believe me, it’s not afraid of your winter and will be back in spring.
However, I’ve known several wild foragers who deliberately planted the seed in their yard, so they could harvest it. In abundance, the seed can even be collected and cooked up like quinoa or amaranth.
- You can gather seed and re-plant it or, if seed is left in your pots, it pops up quickly in early spring and is usually the first food you can harvest from the garden.
- If you don’t want to deal with saving the seeds yourself, cut back the seed stalks when they appear.
- You can find lamb’s quarter seed for sale from seed and local food enthusiasts but it’s not very common, so be sure to look around online.
If you want to treat this plant as an annual, just pull lamb’s quarter from your pots and replant with spring peas, radishes or lettuce.
To grow as a perennial, pull the stocks from your pots, but allow mature seeds to fall in the soil so that it will reseed.
To Care for Lamb’s Quarter
Pot size: Really anything will do since these are weeds and they’re biologically designed to grow anywhere. A standard pot that’s 18” deep and 12” across will do just fine.
Sun: 6-8 hours, but it can take partial shade.
Special Notes: Lamb’s Quarter is also known as ‘Fat Hen’, which indicates to you that it can be used to feed your poultry or really any livestock on the homestead. I use my wild crops of lamb’s quarter around my property as an early spring forage crop for the animals. The goats eat it like it’s candy.
Bear in mind that the stalks are edible, too, but once they’re thicker than a bamboo skewer, humans tend to find them a little tough. Your livestock won’t mind them at all, though.
Can I Grow Perennial Veggies in Pots Indoors?
A typical vegetable requires six to eight hours of sunlight to produce food for both it and you. If you have a sunroom, enclosed patio or other indoor area that receives that much sun per day and it’s the only space you have to grow food, I say, go for it!
However, to grow indoors, you MUST follow the rules of container growing even indoors.
Container Gardening Rules:
- Each food producing plant must have 6-8 hours of light per day. For example: you may have one spot in your bedroom that gets that much light, so you place the plant there, turning it once a day to expose both sides to the same amount of sun.
- Each plant must be fed according to recommendations for that plant. For example: a tomato will usually need to be fed once a month during production, depending on what kind of food you choose to use. Food producing plants are typically heavy feeders themselves—think of how hungry a pregnant woman is. Since potted vegetables aren’t planted in the garden, their roots are limited in food and water to what you provide in their container.
- Each plant must be given adequate water for its own growing requirements. For example: tomatoes like a long drink that dries out in between watering sessions, but beans like to stay evenly moist.
- Each plant must be provided the correct temperature. For example: tomatoes really do love some heat to ripen well and quickly, and do not tolerate frost.
- Air circulation must be maintained, and fresh air must be introduced from time to time. Don’t overcrowd your plants in their pots. Overcrowding increases the chance that you might have fungus and bacteria problems. Be sure to open a window now and then.
There are some lovely ideas in here! I would love to grow some of these.
Homestead Lady says
So glad it was helpful – thank you for stopping by!
What a great resource. I am saving this. I think I will try the JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES next year. I have a confession, I forgot/lost/they ran away some shade tubers this year and when I found them I decided to pot them in the greenhouse instead of planting in the ground. They are just breaking the surface now and I bet I can transplant them out in the fall. Thanks for a whole lot of great information.
Homestead Lady says
So glad it was helpful! I never, ever get all my sunchokes out of the ground. That’s why I started planting them in pots, and also in places where it doesn’t matter if they take over the world. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by!
I think I’ll put these on my back porch next year. I’m hoping to create an edible eden back there
Homestead Lady says
Wonderful! There are many more perennials that are worthwhile, too – you should have great success.
I’ve always been curious about sunchokes. Might have to get some for next year! Thanks for the great information!
Homestead Lady says
Certainly, thank you for stopping by!
I have sorrel growing now. It is a wonderful was to add zest to your food. That’s a great idea to grow them in pots.
Homestead Lady says
Thanks so much for sharing that! It is so zesty, that’s a great word to describe sorrel.