Do you want to grow zucchini in containers but are unsure where to start? We compiled the following guide to help guide you through the entire process from seed to harvest. Growing zucchini in pots isn’t difficult so long as you have all the information you require to get those plants fruiting!
Can you grow zucchini in containers and have a healthy harvest?
You can grow zucchini right in your backyard or patio. Be sure to start compact bush varieties. Plant your seedlings in a well-draining container of adequate size. Add full sun and plenty of fertile, well-draining soil, and you will have an excellent zucchini plant.
Editors note: This post was first published on April 15, 2022, and updated on October 6, 2023, to address formatting and grammar issues.
When Growing Zucchini in Containers, be Sure to Choose Suitable Varieties
Zucchini plants can grow exceptionally large. Some varieties are long and vining sprawling plants, while others are compact and bush-like. But even some bush varieties will require an ample growing space of at least 3 feet. That’s a big pot!
You will want to look for compact bush varieties suitable for pot use. These types of zucchini are recommended for small garden spaces, making them ideal for containers.
Look for the Following Varieties to Grow Zucchini in containers:
Black Beauty – Black Beauty is an heirloom squash that produces 6 to 8-inch-long fruits. The skin is a dark green-black, with a creamy white inner flesh. Each plant grows to a mature height of roughly 12 to 18 inches tall.
Busy Baby – Bush Baby zucchini are dark green with stripes. These small zucchini only grow 4-6″! The plants also reach maturity in only 35 days from transplant.
Patio Star – A very compact variety, ideal for use in containers and pots. Spine-free plant. The patio star produces a heavy crop of dark green, standard-sized fruits.
Raven – Gorgeous glossy dark green fruit.
This list is not exhaustive! These are just the top varieties that we have grown and recommend. Raven is our favorite!
Step 1: Choose an Adequate-sized Container With Drainage Holes.
When growing zucchini in containers, you will want to choose a container made from a porous material. Terracotta pots are suitable for growing zucchini because they provide extra drainage. The challenge with terracotta is that it can dry out quickly, so you must closely monitor your moisture levels. You can use plastic containers, but add a few extra drainage holes in the bottom to ensure good drainage.
If you’re growing one of the compact bush-type zucchini, you will need a pot at least 15 inches wide and 15 inches deep. Bush-type zucchini plants grow very well in 5-gallon buckets.
If you choose a bush-type cultivar well-suited to growing in a pot, you can get away with selecting something as small as a 5-gallon container.
Step 2: Start Zucchini Seeds Indoors 2-3 Weeks Before The Last Predicted Frost Date
Starting zucchini squash plants indoors will give you a head start on the growing season. Use a new, clean, sterilized starting mix to ensure healthy seedlings when starting seeds early indoors.
Starting zucchini seeds indoors
- Summer squash seeds will not germinate at a soil temperature below 60°F (15°C).
- Plant zucchini seeds indoors 2-3 weeks before your last spring frost date to get an early start.
- Start summer squash seeds indoors in peat or coir pots filled with sterilized seed starting mix.
- Sow seeds half an inch deep.
- Summer squash seeds germinate in 7 to 10 days if the temperature is above 85F. You can use a heating mat to ensure even temperatures.
- Keep the seedlings well watered until it is time to plant out.
- You can plant your seedlings two weeks after the last predicted spring frost.
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Direct sowing of zucchini seeds
You can directly sow your zucchini seeds in your container so long as the outdoor temperatures are warm enough; usually 7-14 days after your area’s last predicted frost date.
I find it easier to start growing zucchini indoors to ensure quick germination, but zucchini plants sown directly will grow just as well. The only disadvantage is waiting a little longer for harvests.
Step 4: Prepare your Container With New Potting soil (Not Garden Soil)
When growing zucchini in containers, it is best to use fresh potting soil. Squash plants like zucchini are heavy feeders and require lots of nutrients, which you will find in new soil.
A good quality potting soil for growing zucchini should be loamy with lots of organic matter and good drainage.
It is essential not to use soil pulled from your outdoor garden in your containers. Garden soil will likely have weed seeds that can germinate in your containers. Weeds will compete with your zucchini for both nutrients and water. In addition, your garden soil can contain pathogens and diseases.
Step 5: Plant One Zucchini Plant Per Container
Spacing is essential to consider when growing zucchini in pots. Adding 2-3 plants per container might be tempting, but those little seedlings will quickly turn into large, bushy plants.
Crowded plants are more susceptible to diseases and pests. Overcrowding reduces air circulation. Good air circulation will prevent moisture from creating welcoming environments for diseases.
Overcrowded plants also become stressed, which is a bullseye for pests.
Be sure to plant only one zucchini plant per 15 inches.
Step 6: Consider Adding a Support System
Although compact bush varieties do not tend to vine, they can still grow out well past the edge of your planter.
You may want to consider adding a stake when you plant your zucchini seedling so it has support for when it needs it most.
It’s best to add your support system when you plant your starts. However, adding a support system after the plant has grown considerably can harm the root system and stunt the continued growth and health of the plant.
You can also use a simple tomato cage as a support system.
Step 7: Place The Zucchini Container in Full Sun
Zucchini plants like to bask in the sunlight, so be sure to place your planter where they can receive 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.
They can handle a bit of late afternoon or morning shade, but they fruit best in full sun.
- Learn More: Although zucchini requires full sun for the best results, there are many vegetables you can plant successfully in the shade. See our article on the 28 best vegetables for shady spots.
Step 8: Ensure your Zucchini Plants Receive at Least 1 Inch of Water per Week
Water your zucchini thoroughly, frequently, and consistently, with at least 1 inch per week. Water diligently when fruit forms and throughout their growth cycle. The soil needs to be moist at least 4 inches down, so long soakings are best.
Container gardening has many benefits, especially for the space-challenged gardener, but the most significant disadvantage is how quickly pots can dry out.
In hot summer weather, you may find your zucchini needs frequent watering. You will want to watch the plants to ensure they are not wilting or becoming stressed due to lack of moisture.
Step 9: Fertilize Your Container Grown Zucchini Once Every Week
Zucchinis are heavy feeders and will require supplemental nutrients throughout the growing season.
You can feed zucchinis with quality liquid or granular fertilizer once a week.
An ideal zucchini plant fertilizer will contain nitrogen. An all-purpose water-soluble fertilizer like 10-10-10 is generally sufficient for zucchini plant needs. The fertilizer should have plenty of nitrogen to facilitate healthy growth and necessary potassium and phosphorus to boost flowering and fruit production.
Do not use heavy nitrogen fertilizers. Excess nitrogen is known to attract aphids.
Step 10: Prune your Zucchini Plants During the Growing Season
Growing summer squash is easy, but its large leaves can quickly occupy the garden and prevent fruits from receiving adequate sunlight. Although it’s not required, pruning zucchini can help alleviate overcrowding or shading issues. In addition, pruning can help stimulate additional zucchini growth.
Step 11: Consider Adding Companion Plants in Nearby Containers.
Consider planting zucchini near a few smaller containers of companion plants.
Pots of nasturtiums and marigolds, for example, can help deter insect pests that will want to feast on your squash leaves and plants. The brightly colored flowers will also invite pollinators to your squash plants – more pollinators mean a bigger harvest. Finally, the flowers add a charming cottage touch to your container gardens.
Benefits of Companion Planting
- Attract beneficial pollinators: Growing flowers around the garden will help encourage pollinators to visit your plants.
- Attract helpful insects: Aromatic herbs and colorful blooms will also help beneficial insects such as lacewings, spiders, hoverflies, ladybugs, and ground beetles.
- Deter Pests: Plants, garlic, and onions will repel common insect pests, such as aphids, beetles, flea beetles, and mites.
- Can help shade out weeds: Densely planting with greens like spinach or low-growing flowers such as nasturtiums can create a living mulch blanket that will help shade weeds.
- Can help control diseases in your garden: Diseases can be spread quickly through gardens in extensive mass plantings.
- Learn More: Companions for the Veggie patch
- Learn More: We have an entire article about zucchini plants’ best companions. Check it out if you’re planning your container garden this summer.
Step 12: Deal with Pests and Diseases as Soon As They Appear.
Many diseases impact the growth of zucchini plants, but the two most common are powdery mildew and blossom end rot.
Zucchini can also host several insect pests, but there are ways to control and help prevent infestations.
Powdery mildew – Powdery mildew is easily recognizable. It will present as a whiteish powder covering your zucchini leaves on both the top and bottom. Although powdery mildew will not affect production, it looks unsightly and will quickly spread to the rest of your garden.
To help prevent powdery mildew, do not water from above, and cover the soil with mulch or black plastic. You can use a milk spray (yes, milk, I swear, I’ve done it, and it works). Use a ratio of 40% milk to 60% water and spray the mixture over the leaves of your infected plant. Repeat every 11-14 days until the disease is under control.
Blossom end rot – Squashes like zucchini are prone to blossom end rot. Blossom end rot will cause fruits to rot at the end before they can mature.
The primary reason for blossom end rot is inconsistent watering. In a container-grown zucchini, it is essential to have a consistent watering schedule to avoid under or overwatering.
Blossom end rot can also be caused by poor calcium uptake. In addition, a lack of magnesium and phosphorous can be one of the significant contributors to the development of blossom end rot.
There are several pests you may need to control during the growing season in your zucchini container garden; here, we have listed the top 3 insect pests and control methods to prevent heavy infestations:
Aphids are tiny pear-shaped insects less than 1/10 inch long. They will suck plant juices causing leaves to turn yellow and curl. To help prevent aphids, clean up any debris around your plants—spray plants with a hose to kill the aphids. You can also gather and disperse predatory insects like ladybugs.
Cucumber beetles are a significant pest for zucchini crops because they spread bacterial wilt. Unfortunately, there is no cure for bacterial wilt, and the result is a spent plant that will need to be destroyed.
Cucumber beetles overwinter in debris, so it is good to make sure there is no debris lying around your growing area. Lay down dark landscaping fabric around plants to discourage adult cucumber beetles from laying eggs.
Squash bugs like to congregate under objects, such as boards and tarps, during the active season. You can set these objects in the garden near cucurbit crops and then destroy the squash bugs that hide under them. Also, check plants regularly for eggs and destroy any egg masses you find on the plants.
Step 13: Try Hand Pollinating if Pollinators are Scarce
If your area isn’t a good pollinator host, you may have a challenge pollinating your zucchinis. If your flowers are drying up and falling off, it’s likely due to a missed pollination opportunity.
You may need to start hand pollinating if you notice poor fruit development in your zucchini plants. The process is not difficult if you know how to do it:
- Locate freshly opened male and female flowers. Male flowers will have a stamen filled with pollen, and a female flower will be flat inside (see image below)
- Cut a male flower away from the plant and remove all the petals.
- Gently roll the stamen from the male flower into the center of the female flower.
- Repeat the process for any open female flowers
This method is not always 100%. My estimation is this method works about 60% of the time.
Step 14: Cover Zucchini Plants if an Early Frost Threatens
You can bring your container-grown zucchini indoors until the frost passes when cold temperatures dip. If that is not possible, cover your plant with a frost cover until the air warms.
Step 15: Harvest Zucchini When the Fruit is at least 6 Inches Long
About 45 to 55 days after planting, you’ll begin to see blooms, soon replaced with fruit. Harvest zucchini when the fruits are at least 6-8 inches long.
Store the summer squash in a paper bag with one end open for air circulation, and drop them in the crisper drawer. Zucchini will keep for 1 to 2 weeks, though you’ll probably see the skin wither over time.
Can You Freeze Zucchini?
You can freeze zucchini, but it takes a bit of preparation. You will need to blanch your zucchini first to keep the color and texture. If you place a whole zucchini in the freezer, the result will be a weepy watery soggy mess.
To blanch zucchini, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water, and place a strainer inside—Blanch the zucchini for 45 to 60 seconds.
Scoop up the blanched zucchini and plunge it into the ice water for 2 minutes. Pat the zucchini dry and place in freezer bags. You can store zucchini for up to 3 months in the freezer. If you use a vacuum sealer system, you can keep your blanched zucchini for six months.
Try growing zucchini in containers!
We hope growing zucchini in containers this summer is a fruitful adventure! There are so many beautiful vegetables and fruit you can grow on decks and patios or in any small space you can fit a container. We have several gardening guides you may find helpful:
- Growing Blueberries in Containers
- How to Grow Large Harvests of Strawberries in Pots
- Growing Lettuce in Containers
- How To Grow Peas In Containers
- Growing Beets in Containers
- Growing Pumpkins in Containers ( yes, you can!)
- Growing Kale In Containers: A Comprehensive Guide (2022)
- How to Dehydrate Jalapeno Peppers Easily At Home
- How To Care For and Fertilize Pepper Plants For Big Harvests
And here is a link to my FAVORITE thing ever to make with zucchini; it’s a lemon zucchini bread, and it’s incredible. My mom makes this for me every time I visit, and If you like lemon, I highly recommend trying this zucchini bread recipe – it’s unique and delicious!
Looking for more Container gardening resources?
We’re big into gardening books to have on hand as a resource. We’ve found two absolutely wonderful gardening books about container gardening that we highly recommend.
- The Container Gardening Bible by Edward C Smith
- How to Grow Vegetables in Pots and Containers by Luke Potter