How to Grow Carrots in Containers

The humble little carrot, in Latin its name is Daucus carota. Carrots of any type or colour are a great way to get yourself or the kids started in gardening. They require little skill, minimal care and minimal effort. You’re almost guaranteed a delicious harvest in the late summer and fall.

Carrots are high in beta-carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin C, niacin and calcium. A carrot is actually the young root of a plant that looks a lot like Queen Ann’s Lace.

Queen Anne's Lace or Wild Carrot - Wikipedia

There are many unusual colours of carrot, such as Purple Haze that you’ll sometimes see in the stores. The yellow, white and red carrots look beautiful too but harder to find. Farmer’s markets or in the specialty organic markets you may see some purple carrots or maybe a bag of mixed colour rainbow carrots. However, I have recently started finding bags of full size rainbow carrots in some stores. Pretty much all of the other varieties you’d have to buy seeds and grow them yourself, unless you have a very diverse market nearby.

Long ago, in the days when everyone had a backyard garden, carrots were always multi coloured and that was normal. Somewhere along the way though we decided that carrots should be orange and the other colours fell into obscurity for several decades.

As usual, everything old is new again at some point. Now with the benefits of eating local organic food becoming so important, the other colours of carrots are making a bold reappearance.

Certified Organic Seed, White SatinPlanting

If you’re starting from seed, then pick up the seed packages labelled Kaleidoscope mix. It’s a seed mixture of white, yellow and different shades of orange carrot in one package. 

It’s a bit more interesting than just orange carrots on their own. 

Here’s a fun idea: before planting, mix some of the purple carrot seeds and the multi coloured seeds in a dish before you put them in the seeder (buy a seeder here). Then stir them together, put them in the seeder and start planting.

This makes it super fun when it comes time to pick the carrots, especially for kids because you never know which colour is going to pop up next! Could be red, yellow, purple, white or orange.

Carrot Wheel from the Farmer's AlmanacGourmet Garden Salad using Purple & Yellow CarrotsThere are so many different, delicious and beautiful types of carrot that you can grow. You can use the harvest on a summer veggie platter in a gorgeous rainbow and amaze your guests.

Types of Carrot

There are many varieties of carrots, all with different sizes and characteristics meant to suit a multitude of growing conditions and needs. The main types are: Imperator, Chantenay, Danvers and Nantes.

It’s not pictured here but the Danvers carrot looks like a short. stumpy Imperator. For container gardening you’ll want to choose a smaller type with a smaller mature size and fewer days to maturity.

Main Types of Carrot

Purple Dragon carrots are thicker and a bit stumpy with a thick purple ring

Purple Haze is longer and slimmer like the imperator with a thinner purple ring

I prefer Purple Haze because they are slimmer and have a softer texture and when you pick them young, they’re so sweet and delicious. Yellow and white ones are dynamite too because they are a sharp contrast to the purple ones and look beautiful mixed together in any carrot dish you choose to make.

Soil Needs

Carrots prefer a looser, lighter soil, this makes it easier for the roots to grow long and straight down. The ideal pH for them is 6.0 to 6.8. Carrots don’t like fresh manure, the carrots will become misshapen but will still be edible,

I don’t (ever) recommend digging up existing garden soil to put in a container. It’s too dense and will be very hard packed and an unfavourable environment for the carrot seeds (or any seeds) to sprout. If the soil is rocky, the carrots will struggle to grow through it. They will be shorter, more stumpy and sometimes growing in odd directions with two or three legs. Sometimes they can grow into some pretty funky formations!

For a small number of tubs or containers then I recommend buying good quality bagged potting soil for vegetables in containers. Buy it here.

After about 3 years of reusing soil for carrots, it’s best to change it out and start fresh again.

Early Nantes Seed TapeType of Container

All varieties of carrots will be happy growing in any container that is a decent size and more than 12″ deep. I usually use toy tubs for growing. (Buy one herePlanting in a raised bed is a good method too. (Raised bed gardening info here)

These types of containers offer plenty of depth for them to grow. It’s very likely that you’ll be harvesting them early anyway. Remember to not over seed, none of the carrots will develop if they don’t have the room to expand. The maximum is four seeds per square inch, if you’d like larger carrots then space them out even further. 

Carrots usually take 60 to 75 days to harvest depending on variety. They are a cool weather crop and prefer the cooler weather of spring and early fall. This is why in most areas carrots can be grown in to the fall. They grow well in zones 4-10.

If you have the space, you can plant successive crops every three weeks or so in the spring and late summer (not in the hot part of middle summer) as long as you have enough time before the winter freeze. This is why choosing varieties that have fewer days to harvest will allow more time to get in more crops per season.

McKenzie - Pelleted SeedsTo figure this out just subtract the days to harvest shown on the seed package from the expected frost date in your area. This will tell you if there’s enough time to see the seeds through to the harvest.


Carrot seeds are tiny and hard to manage. Once they’ve been sprinkled on the soil they are quite hard to see so it becomes difficult to know when you’ve planted the right amount. It’s very, easy to over plant a carrot container.

If this happens and you accidentally put down too many seeds, if that happens just leave it and allow them sprout. Let them grow to about 1″ – 2″ tall. Then carefully cut the tops off the smaller sprouts with scissors (don’t pull them out). Pulling them out will damage the young roots of the neighbouring sprouts and they might die.

The remaining root will die off and feed the soil while allowing the stronger seedlings room to grow. Plant approximately 4 seeds per square inch. If you don’t do this you’ll end up harvesting lots of  little stringy roots that should have been carrots.

Pelleted Seeds

There are a small variety of seeds that are available in “pelleted” form like the one pictured above for peppers. The term pelleted means that each seed has been coated in an inert, organic clay material. This makes them much larger and easy to handle and they’re also really easy to see once sprinkled on the soil. The coating quickly dissolves in the rain and the seed sprouts normally.

Seed tape is another good way to simplify the task of planting the tiny little seeds. The drawback is that only a few selected varieties are available in tape form. However, learning to make your own seed tape is a great way to get around that problem. Read more about making seed tape.

Buy a Seeder

Buying a seeder will save a lot of time and wasted seeds. These inexpensive little gadgets called “seeders” that you can buy easily right here that will help you sprinkle a controlled amount of seeds. Over seeding is very easy to do.

The one seen here is effective by offering a succession of holes starting very small and each one increasing in size for sprinkling larger and larger seeds. It’s simple but it works.

 Tenax Precision Air Suction Seeder

This seeder design is very precise. The Tenax Precision Air Suction Seeder will allow you to pick up one seed at a time to have complete control over how many seeds are applied to the soil. This would make using pelleted seeds even easier. 

Planting the Seeds

One package of seeds will go quite far and will be enough for 2 large 18″ containers. I can never resist wanting to put more seeds than that in to two containers.

Nom-nom-nom…more beautiful carrots! Right? It’s really important to resist doing this, too many seeds in one container is not better. I’ve learned this from experience!

Once they’re planted and covered with a thin layer of soil, pat it down just a little. Then use a gentle sprinkler to water them so as not to turn up the soil and disturb the seeds. Use a watering can with small holes or a handheld hose wand with a soft spray.

Days to Sprout

Purple Haze CarrotsThey don’t need tons of water but it does need to be consistently moist. If there is no rain, keep them watered by hand enough so that the surface doesn’t dry and form crust.

It’s important to keep the top few inches of soil moist until they sprout. Then if the outside temperature is right, you should see sprouts popping up in 14 – 17 days. 

It’s important to know that the seeds will lie dormant, grow very slowly or stop growing completely right where they are if the temperature dips after planting or isn’t high enough to meet the required temperature to sprout. The optimum temperature for them is a consistent 13º C or higher. 

They will resume growing as though nothing happened when the temperature rises again. They don’t like to be too hot either, the seedlings begin to suffer in temperatures higher than 30º C.

Keep them lightly watered but not too wet while they grow. The top few inches of soil should stay moist all the time.

Once the days to harvest have mostly passed you’ll be able to start to picking the size carrots you can use for dinner and snacking on. It’s really hard to wait that long though!

What’s with the green shoulders?

As the carrots grow it may happen that they will push up out of the soil a little bit. This exposes the top end of the carrot (the shoulders) to the sun and causes it to turn green. This isn’t unhealthy it’s just not very nice looking. When you see the shoulders starting to show, just hill up soil to cover them again to block out the sun.

Hugging Carrots

When picking select the ones with the largest, thickest greens and then gently pull them up, sometimes they need a wiggle.

Wash or brush off the soil and enjoy. You won’t even have to peel them, they′ll have a deliciously irresistible, earthy flavour. This should be enough instruction to get you going with learning how to grow carrots in containers or raised beds yourself.

Carrot Facts Summary

*Very tiny seeds
*Easy to grow
*Cool weather crop
*Seeds sprout at about 13ºC
*Suffers in temps above 30°C
*Prefer loose, loamy soil
*pH of 6.0 to 6.8
*Nearly pest free when grown in containers and raised beds

Please leave a comment below if you need additional help getting your delicious, colourful carrot garden started.

46 thoughts on “How to Grow Carrots in Containers”
  1. For Grow Carrot:
    Fluff up the soil and remove debris, twigs, and rocks. You can use minimal fertilizers because carrots do not do well in fertilizer rich soils.

    Space the seeds around 1 inch apart and the rows about 2 inches apart. These will give the carrots space to nourish as they grow. The seeds are tiny and sometimes they may be closer than recommended. Wait until they are 3 inches tall then space them. You can uproot those that do not meet the spacing recommendation.

    1. That’s great info, thank you for the comment.

      The only thing I recommend is to use scissors and snip off (rather than pull out) the little carrot sprouts that are too close to each other. Do this right at the soil level, the root will die off and the remaining sprout will take over the space. Snipping rather than pulling them removes the chance of damaging the roots of the carrot you do want to keep.

  2. Just found this article. Saw the cover with a paper towel until sprouted method. My mother taught me that when I was a child. It works every time. She said her family used moss before paper towels were invented in the kitchen garden. Keeps the seeds from floating away when watering.

    1. That’s a great idea, I love some of the old methods. I didn’t realize that moss was originally used and would do the same thing as paper towel. I still remember the sprouting of bean seeds in paper towel when I was in elementary school. Now my kids have done it too, it’s a very good method that really works but I’d like to try moss sometime.

  3. I sowed carrot, kholrabi, cabbage & beet root seeds but only 3 beetroot has germinated. I am in chennai india. Please advise how to make them germinate

    1. There are many, many factors that could cause issues with germination.

      My first question would be about the source of the seeds. Where did you get them? Was it online or locally in your neighborhood? Some seed sources are of poor quality and the seeds have no hope of germinating no matter what you do.

      If the seed source is good and the seeds are healthy then I’d look at the sprouting conditions that they were in at the time of expected germination. We’re they sowed outside? or indoors?

      Then the questions would be around what condition the soil is in…the questions could go on and on.
      Tell me a little bit more about how you tried to germinate them and I’ll be able to narrow it down and hopefully find a likely cause.

  4. Hi,

    I live in NYC in an apartment with an east facing window. This summer, the temperatures have been soaring to 90 F. I would love to try out growing carrots in a container in my apartment. Do you think I can start by end of August and maybe I can harvest them by fall ? Or should I plant the seeds in September ? Also, during winters can I leave the pot outside in my balcony or do I have to bring them indoors? But if I did that am worried they will not get enough sunlight. Which variety of carrots do you think will give me best results ? Thank You !!

    1. I think you should be able to grow a crop on your balcony before winter sets in. You just need a solid 2 months time before the first frost is expected. I would plant at the end of august, then you still will have the 2 months (all of September and October) of cooler weather before the winter turns too cold. Just keep them evenly watered while it’s hot, but not soggy.

      For the variety, it’s best to choose a small type, with the fewest number of days to harvest. Aim for ones that have 55-75 days to maturity. They can be picked at any time before the number of days are reached, they’ll just be a bit smaller than the full mature size. This is ok because they are usually sweeter when they are younger. You can choose from many different types, including purple and red and yellow carrots. The ones listed below are good types too:

      Bolero (65-80 days)
      Cosmic Purple (70 days)
      Danvers Half Long (55 days)
      Little Finger (55-60 days)
      Royal Chantenay (60-80 days)
      Rumba (65-85 days)

      The pot can just stay outside for the winter, because your harvest will be done by November and it’ll be too cold to plant again until the end of February beginning of March. Let me know how it goes!

  5. I cut off the top of a relatively fresh store bought carrot and planted it, and unexpectedly, it sprouted. Unfortunately it is in a small pot, since i wasn’t expecting it to grow. Should I replant it or let it be?

    1. That’s great! I think if you upgrade the size of the pot a little to maybe a 6″ container then it’ll be fine and the soil will be easier to keep moist. It’s not going to grow a new carrot down in the soil so you don’t need to worry about the depth.

  6. i have got little white spots on my carrot tops growing in aveg trug , what is this please

    1. This sounds like it’s probably a case of powdery mildew. Has it been there a while or is this a new development? Do your carrots have good air circulation? This sometimes happens if there are too many seedlings in one container.

      There are several remedies to choose from, but a very easy one is to make a solution of 1 Tablespoon Baking Soda in 1 gallon of water along with a couple of drops of dish soap and a teaspoon of vegetable oil. Shake well and spray this mixture on the affected greens. The solution changes the pH of the surface of the leaves and makes it inhospitable for mildew to form.

      Let me know how it goes for you!

  7. Im just starting container gardening. It should be fun. My grandkids are looking forward to it.

    1. That’s fantastic! I’m so glad you’re starting that with them! I know you’ll all have a great time together and have so much fun doing it. Let me know how it goes!

    2. Hi! I have 2- 18 inch deep containers for carrots. How much soil do i use? and how far down do i plant the seeds?
      Thank you!!

      1. Hi there! I recommend starting by filling the container up with nice quality planting mix or container potting soil, but leave a couple of inches below the top edge of the pot. Then, deeply water the soil before planting the seeds. “Pelleted” seeds are the easiest to plant.

        Once you’ve watered the soil, plant the seeds only about a 1/4″ deep (4 seeds per 1″ is the recommended spacing). Then cover them with another layer of soil about 1/2″ thick and pat it down firmly but not too tightly. This layer of soil needs to stay moist for the length of the germination period which is 2-3 weeks long. You should start to see the new sprouts coming up after about 18 days or so.

    1. Yes you can. I’ve done it many times. It’s good though to have a bit of close look through the soil before replanting it and make sure there are no obvious critters/larvae or other icky things in the soil. Don’t reuse the soil if you find things that shouldn’t be there.

      The most important part to remember with reusing the soil from year to year is that it becomes depleted of nutrients very easily and quickly. The soil will need feeding to be able to support the seeds. Use a good quality organic vegetable fertiliser like this one. Choose one with a low Nitrogen number (this is a low first number in the set of 3). Too much nitrogen will cause the carrot to grow only large green tops and no carrot below.

      Kelp meal, fish and seaweed emulsion are also good too. Fertilise the sprouts when they are about 3″ tall.

  8. Something I read That worked for me with great success, is to put a paper towel yo-you can double the paper towel- over your seeds after you plant them. Water the paperwork and keep it damp. I tried that last year and all of my carrot seeds pushed thru the soil and came up. Before that, I had trouble with them pushing the the soil, no matter how loose it was. After they sprout, just take the damp paper towel off and they will stand up. All of my seeds sprouted like this!

    1. That’s a great idea, thank you for the tip!
      I’ll have to try it soon. I’d never heard of it before but it makes sense.

  9. I am planning on growing carrots in my classroom this year. I have a 40 gallon aquarium. My classroom has florescent lighting and 1 wall full of Windows. Any suggestions about lighting? Can I plant them throughout the year?

    1. You definitely can grow carrots in the aquarium, it’s a great idea and should make it interesting and easy to see them grow.

      Does your classroom get any direct sunlight? The more sun or very bright light the better, southern or western exposure if possible. They’ll grow with indirect natural light but additional “grow” lighting would definitely be helpful and would speed the growth of the seedlings.

      Their preferred sprouting temperature is 70 – 80 degrees so they should do that quickly in the classroom. During the sprouting season, I recommend sprinkling the soil surface with cinnamon to help prevent “damping off” which is a common fungal disease of the soil that kills new seedlings quickly. Also, water your seeds and seedlings with chamomile tea, it has disease killing properties in it that will help your sprouts stay healthy and avoid damping off.

      You should be able to sprout them for a good part of the year but maybe not in the dead of winter…you can certainly try though! It would be interesting to record the findings and see growth progress (or lack of) for each month of the year.

      Keep an eye on the airflow too. If your seedlings are sitting in stagnant air that doesn’t move then that will breed problems and disease as well. This is a scenario that might happen if the soil level is set part way down in the aquarium. The easiest solution is just to have a fan nearby, set on low, gently blowing a breeze across the carrot “patch”, just enough to stir up the air around the sprouts.

      Good luck, let me know how it goes!

  10. I started growing scarlet nantes carrots on March 25 2015 in a large clay pot. The stems are only about 2 inches. And seem to have stop growing.any idea that will help. I wish I could send a pic.i water them every 2 days.the stems seem to wilt over.

    1. Hi, how are things going now? Did the sprouts survive?
      The sprouts usually stop growing when the temperature isn’t quite right for them, usually happens when it’s too cold. It could be too much water that is causing them to wilt over. Watering every two days is probably too often.
      If the sprouts didn’t survive, you still have time to plant another crop if you wish.

  11. Hi, I’m growing red and Yukon gold potatoes in 5 gallon buckets. I hope it works! this is my first time trying this. I was wondering can I grow carrots in the 5 gallon bucket? By the way I just found this website and so far loving it. Thanks

    1. Hi, I’m so glad you like the site, I hope it helps you. It’s great that you’ve gotten started gardening! The carrots will grow just fine in there, just don’t put down too many seeds in it. It would be easy to over plant and end up with too many sprouts.

  12. Hi, this is my third year gardening, this year I’m trying red potatoes and Yukon golds in 5 gallon buckets. I was wondering if I can’t grow carrots also in the buckets? Thank you in advance. I just found this website and so far love it

    1. So glad you’re liking the site! 🙂 Definitely, you can grow carrots in that type of bucket too. They’ll grow well there, just be careful not to plant too many seeds in each one. Ideally, there should be 2″ of space between seeds to allow each one room to grow but I can never seem to resist planting a few more.

  13. I’m pleased to find a current gardening website since this year I will be trying /carrots and beets to my garden for the first time. I’ve often grown greens beans,cucumbers,tomatoes and peppers. Last year I added okra for the first time after a friend introduced me to eating fresh uncooked okra and I saw how yummy it was. Not the least bit slimmy just crisp and good. This year I will be doing a lot of 5 gallon pot growing and mulching to conserve water since it is no longer reasonable here in my Texas community to do so much watering like in the past. I will grow the beans in the soil only and everything else inpots. I’m glad to see that carrots do well grown in pots. Also expect the mulch will prevent the. Weeds from taking over. I’ve already got my carrots sowed and I am just learning I can’t just pull them up a and space them as I had believed. I’m growing regular orange ones now but have plenty of red seeds ordered
    To start on next. It gets quite hot here and I am looking for advice about my ideal to place my carrot pots on the west side of my house under a huge oak tree that would defend them from direct sunlight while providing filtered south sun.

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you found it helpful! It’s great that you’re growing so much food already and want to learn to grow new veggies as well. The carrots will be an easy addition and delicious too. They’ll grow just fine in pots, you’ll be surprised.

      Watering can be an issue in some areas, setting up a mini drip system is a good way to use minimal water most effectively. It has a very low gallons per hour usage. Mulching will help a lot with conserving water and it will also slow the weeds down a bit too.

      The seedlings are very delicate, as you found out. If you seed too many in a certain area it’s best to let them all sprout for a few weeks or a month and then carefully cut out the smallest ones with scissors to allow space between them. This will allow the larger, faster growing sprouts the space they need to develop into a healthy carrot. Use a “seeder” if you aren’t already and that will help avoid over-seeding.

      I’ve got a rainbow mix of seeds planted now, but would like to try a whole crop of red ones! The biggest thing is making sure they get enough water, they should be able to handle any area that you put them in that gets mostly sun or bright filtered sun.

  14. I have just planted my carrots today. Never grown them before but getting into gardening heaps. Growing tomatoes, dwarf beans, eggplant, peas and strawberries too

    1. That’s awesome! So glad to hear you’re getting into gardening up to the elbows! Carrots are fun to grow, I’m sure you’ll be happy with the results 🙂 What variety have you chosen?

      What’s the name of the dwarf beans that you’re growing? I’d like to try those.

      Do you live in a rainy area? I like to grow strawberries too, but have to fight the slugs to get my harvest before they do! The sweet strawberries are so delicious!

  15. I’m going to plant my carrot seeds in a container/planter. I just want to know what is the best type of soil to use to plant the seeds in the wooden whiskey barrels? Potting soil or a vegetable mix? Thanks

    1. Excellent, the whiskey barrels are perfect containers and I would pick the “vegetable mix” bagged soil.

    1. I store carrots in a plastic bag in the bottom drawer of the fridge. If you’ve grown the carrots yourself or bought them with the greens still attached then cut that part off before storing them, the greens will speed up the wilting process. They should last quite a while and stay crisp.

  16. this article has me pumped up to start growing! this will be my first time growing carrots! it’s still too warm in central FL for them right now, but hopefully the weather will cool down soon (we’re finally in the high 70s-low 80s). happy gardening!

    1. Glad to hear it!! It’s fun and easy to grow them, I’m sure you’ll enjoy doing it and eating the harvest too! What seed types are you going to choose?
      You’re right, waiting for it to get a little cooler would be better. Let me know how it goes!

    1. That’s wonderful! I’m so glad they enjoyed it and had fun with it 🙂 Eating carrots is so much more fun when you grow them yourself!
      What seed variety (or varieties) are you planning on trying?

  17. I just recently planted some veggies in pots. My cukes are already ~5 1/2 inches long. I also have two tomato plants, parsley, carrots, pepper, kale and dill.

    1. 90 degrees might be a touch too hot for them, they prefer the temperature range of 50 – 85 degrees.
      The ideal temperature for them to sprout is 80 degrees.

      You can definitely try to sprout them while it’s hot, but you’ll likely will get better results after the weather cools a little bit.
      In most areas, there’s enough time before winter and carrots can be planted as a fall crop as well.

    1. That’s awesome, glad to hear you’re giving carrots a try! They will be just fine, they still have lots of time to grow.

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