15 Easy Plants New Gardeners Should Grow
Are you new to gardening or thinking about growing a garden for the first time? Have you wondered which plants are best — or easiest to grow — for beginners?
If so, I’d like to help.
When deciding what to grow, you have many factors to consider, including growing conditions and your personal food preferences. (This garden planning guide addresses those topics and more.)
But if you’re just dipping your toes into the rewarding adventure that is gardening, one question may be more important than the rest: Which plants are virtually impossible to kill?
I get it. My goal when I first started growing food was simply to keep the plants alive. (I mostly succeeded.)
There are a few things you can do to improve your odds of success, such as using quality seeds, growing a Tower Garden, and, as we’ll cover in this post, picking the right plants.
Best Plants for Beginners
The following plants will thrive without much attention. In fact, you could be downright neglectful and most of them would probably survive.
And — from vibrant peppers to spicy greens — they’re pretty fun to grow, too. Because it’s important to have fun, right?
I’ve grouped plants that share common qualities into the three following categories.
Greens and leafy vegetables
Talk about nutrient-dense foods! These guys pack a lot of healthy stuff into a little package: vitamins, minerals, and disease-preventing phytochemicals. And there’s evidence they can even improve brain function.
Greens and leafy vegetables generally grow best in cooler temperatures. So you can think of them as ideal spring and fall crops. They also flourish indoors, and most will tolerate (a little) less light than fruit-bearing crops, which we’ll get to in a moment.
Confession: I didn’t know what arugula was until I grew it. Before that time, it was simply another leaf in the grocery store’s spring salad mix. (That’s one thing I love about growing food — you become much more knowledgeable about what you’re putting into your body.)
Now arugula is one of my favorite foods. Its peppery punch takes salads, wraps, and even pesto to another level. Arugula is resilient and grows well in a variety of conditions.
Chard is perhaps the most flexible plant on this list. You can grow it pretty much any time of year, indoors or out, and it will do well. And with spinach-like leaves and celery-like stalks, it’s also really versatile in the kitchen. Learn more about growing chard in this guide.
Has a plant ever been as polarizing as kale? I’ve found that people either love it or hate it. (I’m a fan — what about you?) The flavor of kale may be debatable, but one thing is certain: it’s dead simple to grow. And it’s one crop that doesn’t mind a frost or two. Here are a few best practices for growing kale.
There’s a reason lettuce seeds ship with every Tower Garden. This low-maintenance crop can be ready to harvest in a month’s time. And lettuce isn’t picky about growing conditions — it grows well virtually all year (though it prefers spring and fall) outdoors in full or partial sun and indoors with grow lights. Get more lettuce growing tips here.
Pungent and peppery, mustard greens are a treat to eat. (I like to stir-fry the giant leaves or use them in place of tortillas for vegetable wraps.) They’re among the healthiest greens you can eat, too.
Fun fact: I’ve been growing new mustard plants for six seasons from the seeds of one plant. (I collected and saved its seeds when it bolted.)
When most people think about growing a food garden, these heartier crops come to mind. The heirloom tomato, the abundant squash, the cool cucumber — these are trademarks of American gardens.
With fruiting plants, you must address a few critical requirements:
- Light. Fruit-bearing crops need at least eight hours of direct sunlight every day. If they get less, yields will be lackluster, and you may struggle more with garden pests. Fruiting plants also require a specific spectrum of light—which the sun provides naturally — to develop flowers (that produce fruit). This makes them a little trickier to grow inside.
- Pollinators. Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are largely responsible for helping plants produce consistent yields. You can encourage pollinators to visit your garden by following these steps. Like light, this requirement makes fruiting crops a little more challenging to grow inside (in which case, you’ll have to resort to hand pollination).
- Space. Some fruit-bearing crops (e.g., indeterminate tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, pole beans) get big. Whether they sprawl or climb or simply grow enormous leaves, they take up space. Accessories like this support cage can help you manage growth. And pruning can prevent overcrowding.
Most of these plants are sensitive to cold weather. So you’ll want to wait to grow them until all danger of frost has passed.
With that out of the way, let’s have a look at the best fruit-bearing crops for beginners.
Whether you eat them in a salad, with hummus, or in a wrap, cucumbers — crisp and refreshing — are a delight.
Typically, the biggest problem people encounter when growing cucumbers relates to water. Inconsistent watering can result in bitter cukes. (Luckily, Tower Garden eliminates the need for watering!) Otherwise, just give cucumbers lots of sun and they’ll be content.
There are two primary types of green beans you can grow: pole and bush. Pole beans grow as vines and can get a little unruly. But they typically produce more than bush beans, which stay relatively compact. Whichever you choose, both are easy to grow. You can read more about growing green beans here.
With so many varieties to pick from, peppers are a pleasure to grow. Whether you grow spicy or sweet (or both!), just be sure your pepper plants receive lots of sun. Check out this helpful pepper guide for more growing tips.
These backyard garden legends are amazingly tenacious. One day as I was pruning (you can learn what that means and get more tomato tips here), I lazily dropped a few of the suckers and other plant material on the ground. A few days later, I noticed those pruned parts had rooted in the soil and started growing as new plants. Pretty unbelievable, right?
(In)famous for their prolific nature, zucchini plants are capable of yielding a lot of food. The thing to remember about squash, though, is that their leaves get huge, and they’re pretty heavy feeders (i.e., they suck up a lot of water). Learn how to grow happy zucchini plants here.
From culinary to medicinal, the uses of herbs are wide and varied. Most herbs grow compactly, and often a small harvest goes a long way. This makes the following plants excellent choices for urban gardeners strapped for space. Herbs also tend to grow really well indoors.
The first plant I ever grew, basil continues to be a mainstay in my Tower Garden. The aromatic herb grows well both inside (with grow lights) and outside. But basil is a bit of a wimp when it comes to cooler weather. If you’re going to grow it outside, wait until the temperatures are consistently above 50˚F.
Like kale, cilantro tends to come with a little controversy. Some people adore it. Others think it tastes like soap. I like it, but my favorite thing about it is coriander — the plant’s citrusy seeds.
Cilantro complements spicy foods, and it’s a cinch to grow in most conditions. But when you’re buying seeds, look for the slow bolting variety. (Cilantro tends to bolt as soon as weather warms up.)
Having used (and enjoyed) dried dill sparingly, last year I decided I’d try growing it. Why not? Well, it grew like mad. Soon I was adding dill to everything I could — eggs, fish, popcorn — in attempts to keep up with its explosive growth. (I even experimented with dill pesto, which as it turns out is quite delicious!)
The moral of the story: dill is almost too easy to grow. The hardest part is finding ways to use it. If you grow dill outside, consider letting it flower. Bees and other pollinators love it!
You may have heard (or experienced) horror stories involving mint. In soil, it grows like a weed, sending out runners to start new plants and prospering despite harsh conditions. This aggressive growth can be a positive characteristic as long as it’s kept in check.
If you’re growing with Tower Garden, the risk of mint taking over is lower because each plant has its own growing port. (So it’s harder for plants to spread.) But you should still harvest and prune mint often to keep your garden balanced.
It’s more than just a garnish! Not only is parsley is great for you — it acts as a natural breath freshener and is a key ingredient in many delicious dishes. And in the garden, parsley is pretty forgiving, tolerating a range of temperatures and partial sun.
How to Grow a Beginner’s Tower Garden
If you’re growing with Tower Garden and want to give these plants a shot, you may be wondering how you should arrange them. In general, you should aim for a pyramid structure — bigger plants at the bottom, smaller ones up top.
Here’s what that might look like:
Not yet growing with Tower Garden? It’s arguably one of the fastest, easiest ways to get growing — particularly if you’ve never grown a garden before.
Tower Garden uses advanced aeroponic technology, allowing you to grow more food faster (while using less space and water) than you would with a traditional garden. Plus, there’s no weeding and fewer pests. Learn more about Tower Garden here.
Additional Plant Recommendations
I hope you found this post helpful! If you’d like to check out other themed plant suggestions like this, here are a few ideas:
- 21 Plants to Grow Indoors
- 10 Crops to Grow with Kids
- 28 Plants to Grow for a Chef’s Garden
- 35 Cool Weather Crops
- 20 Plants Salad-lovers Should Grow
Can you think of any good beginner plants I left off this list? Questions about getting started? Let’s chat in the comments below.
Otherwise, happy growing!
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