Top 10 Immune Boosting, Vitamin-C Rich Plants You Can Grow in Pots

Grow these vitamin-C power packs to combat flu season

Credit: Terry Guscott | Stylist: Heather Cameron

Vitamin-C power packs you can grow in containers

As flu season approaches, it’s the perfect time to talk about how to grow immune-boosting vitamin C in your very own garden. And so this experience is not limited only to those with large spaces, I’ve focused this column on container plantings for the front porch or patio.

This past summer I worked within my local university community to share planting experiences with students interested in learning about sustainable organic gardening. Together, our goal was to design, plant and tend a small garden and three containers that would provide enough food for us to host a “salad party” for about 80 students. My goal was to ensure the students learned the how and why of our gardening: Why did we topdress with leaf mould? Why companion plant? And, lastly, why grow vitamin C-rich plants? In short, we topdress to supply nutrients and minimize watering, companion plant to reduce pests, and grow vitamin C to boost our immunity and lessen our susceptibility to colds. 

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, plays a protective role in our bodies, helping us to detoxify and absorb iron, and acting as a strong antioxidant to protect our bodies from free-radical damage. Our joints and cardiovascular and lymph systems are all dependent on healthy levels of vitamin C to function, and a diet high in this valuable vitamin is believed to reduce inflammation, asthma and the risk of cancer, particularly of the prostate, colon, cervix and bladder. 

Vitamin C is at its highest level in fresh fruits and vegetables. Cooking for just five minutes reduces it by 25 per cent, for 10 minutes by about half.

Topped up with local leaf mould, construction-site soil and composted chicken and pig manure, our vitamin-C containers – soon overflowing with bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, peppermint, parsley and other culinary delights – were located at the university in a common area with a kitchen where students socialize and cook. The concept was simple: supply pots of edibles to improve the nutrition and taste of student meals, while inspiring sustainability, a love of gardening, and a little community spirit. 



Any columnar variety will work in a container. Enjoy fresh, just harvested and with the skin on for the most nutrients. Underplant with mint. Apples highest in vitamin C include ‘Gala’, ‘Northern Spy’, ‘Fuji’ and ‘Granny Smith’. One apple a day will provide 15 per cent of the needed daily dose of vitamin C. 


Bell pepper ‘King Arthur’

Plan to start this sweet bell pepper inside next spring, then pot up in your greenhouse or outside once it heats up next summer. A 250-mL (1-cup) serving of fresh peppers provides almost three times the daily-required amount of vitamin C, along with loads of vitamin A. Let your peppers mature to red to also enjoy the benefits of lypocene, believed to reduce cancer.



Plant up a large container with two different varieties to enhance pollination and extend harvest time. Nibbling on 250 mL (1 cup) of fresh blueberries a day will fulfill 35 per cent of your requirement for vitamin C. Underplant with strawberries.


Kale ‘Blue Curled Scotch’

Used as a microgreen (tender and delicate) this decorative curly blue kale, which lives right through the winter in coastal gardens and with protection in most northern gardens, adds flavour and beauty when tossed into soups and fall salads. Added benefits are protection of the colon and increased digestion. For increased sweetness, allow the light frost to touch it. Just 250 mL (1 cup), cooked, provides 90 per cent of our daily vitamin C.


Mustard greens ‘Giant Red Organic’

A wonderful winter-hardy mild green with burgundy foliage best served raw to spice up salads or lightly steamed in soups or stirfries. Short season, ready in 45 days. An added benefit is that it is said to help with smooth-muscle relaxation, relieving stomach aches and asthma. Just 250 mL (1 cup), cooked, has 60 per cent of the daily value.


Parsley ‘Italian Flat Leaf’

Serve this cut-and-come-again herb fresh in salads, as a detox tea or simply tossed onto the plate alongside a meal as edible decoration. As just 30 mL (2 Tbsp.) provides 20 per cent of our daily requirement of vitamin C, a little garnish goes a long way. An extra benefit of parsley is flavonoids, which help to cleanse the blood and act as an added anti-inflammatory. This biennial will thrive year-round in coastal gardens if you plant it every second year.



Grow a dwarf peach as a cold-hardy container fruit tree that will bloom with hot-pink blossoms, followed by sweet fruits, each of which provide eight per cent of the C you need. Protect from winter rains. Underplant with parsley. 



Fragrant mint leaves are wonderful in salads, desserts, ice cubes, garnishes, jellies, iced tea or cooked with lamb. As this can be invasive, it truly is best only in a container. Just 30 mL (2 Tbsp.) will provide 10 per cent of your daily vitamin-C requirement.


Strawberries ‘Berries Galore’

An everbearing runner variety of strawberry with large fruit summer through fall, this ornamental edible features shiny green leaves and early blooms. Enjoy 190 mL (¾ cup) of fresh berries for your daily requirement of vitamin C.


Tomato ‘San Marzano’

Provide this large indeterminate tomato with a stake and a container at least 60 cm (2 ft.) deep and wide. A mild-flavoured heirloom paste tomato from Tuscany that is great served fresh, just 250 mL (1 cup) will fulfill 60 per cent of your daily vitamin-C requirement. Ready in 80 days; start in spring along with your peppers.