Growing Gourd Plants: Learn How To Grow Gourds

By: Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

Growing gourd plants is a great way to add variety to the garden; there are many types to grow and just as many things you can do with them. Let’s learn more about how to grow gourds, including tips for homegrown gourd care, harvesting gourds, and their storage.

Growing Gourd Plants

Gourds are a warm season crop in the same family as squash, cucumbers, and melons. Native Americans used gourds practically for dishes and containers as well as ornamentally. Growing gourd plants is an interesting pursuit mainly because there are so many different types from which to choose. In fact, there are over 30 different large, hard-shell gourd varieties and over 10 ornamental varieties.

When to Plant Gourds

Plant gourds in the garden after the danger of frost has passed. Gourds can be started inside several weeks earlier to give them a head start, if desired.

It’s important to plant gourds in a location where they will receive plenty of sunshine and have well-drained soil. Gourds are hardy vines that can take up a lot of space to allocate space according to the variety you’re planting.

Provide plenty of rich organic material for gourds and a light layer of mulch to retain moisture.

Homegrown Gourd Care

Gourd plants are prone to attack by the cucumber beetle, which can kill the plant. Keep a close eye on the plant during the growing season and use either organic or standard methods to control disease and pest damage.

A good sprinkle of diatomaceous earth every couple of weeks is an excellent preventive tool as is companion planting.

Young plants require plenty of water, but unless there is very little rainfall, it isn’t necessary to water as much once plants mature.

Harvesting Gourds

Gourds should be left on the vine until the stems and tendrils begin to brown. Gourds should be lightweight, which is an indication that the water inside is evaporating and the pulp is drying.

Removing a gourd from the vine too early will cause it to shrivel and rot. As a general rule of thumb, remember that you can never leave a gourd on a vine too long, but you can take it off too soon. When you cut the gourd, leave enough of the vine or stem that can be used as a handle.

Storing Gourds

Store gourds in a well ventilated, dry space such as an attic, garage, or barn or on a drying rack in the sun. It can take anywhere between one and six months for a gourd to completely dry.

Wipe off any mold with a very weak bleach and water solution if you are going to store the gourds inside. If using for crafting purposes, the gourds should be brown and dry, and the seeds should rattle inside.

This article was last updated on

Grow Your Own Birdhouses with These Decorative Gourds

What is a bottle gourd?

Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) aka. calabash is a type of plant that produces versatile, edible fruit. The fruit grows on vines that spread out from the bottle gourd root, which dies at the end of the season.

These vines wrap around anything upright and seek the sun but can also crawl along the ground up to 150 feet away. Once the vines find enough sun, they sprout leaves and flowers that turn into bottle gourd fruit.

Depending on the bottle gourd type, the calabash fruit can look like a stick, bottle, snake or any other item.

The skin of a calabash bottle is strong enough for you to make other objects out of it, such as:

  • tools
  • kitchenware
  • smoking pipes
  • musical instruments
  • containers (water gourd)

Not to be outdone, the flesh of a bottle gourd is also versatile, with a nice taste and few calories. You can eat it raw, cook it or use it in recipes but also munch on the seeds too, which you can roast or dry.

Even those bottle gourds that don’t make it through the winter have a purpose as compost fodder. Don’t mistake a bottle gourd with the bottle gourd tree (Crescentia cujete), a related plant but not a vine.

Bottle Gourd Growing Instructions

The following step-by-step instructions will show you how to grow and take care of your bottle gourd plant.


It is easy to grow bottle gourd if you follow the guide and tips given below:

Bottle Gourd Seeds
Bottle Gourd Young Plant
    Growing Bottle Gourd in Pot or Ground: Bottle gourd can be grown in ground in your garden or in pot. If you plant lauki in a pot, select a wide and deep pot, at least 50 cm diameter, also you can plant a bottle gourd type that grows very slowly or remains short.

If you have only small place to grow bottle gourd, you can grow it in a pot, spread the vine on trellis or roof. If you are growing it on your terrace, then spread the plant on the fencing (the outer wall on the terrace).

Last year I put one seed in a pot and another in ground. While the bottle gourd in the pot produced good number of gourds, the one in ground was not very rewarding.

The problem with bottle gourd in ground was that it grew to very long distances climbing on to a nearby high tree, from where I could not hand pollinate the bottle gourd flowers. On the other hand, the bottle gourd in the container grew to a manageable distance.

  • Buy lagenaria siceraria gourd seeds from any garden shop or you can use the seeds prepared from last year's crop.
  • When to Plant bottle gourd: Bottle gourd is a summer growing vegetable. Raise the seedlings in a 4 inch pot indoors (growing vegetables from seeds) or in a hot frosts free place (temperature at least 20 deg C) in ground by sowing 2 seeds, half inch deep. Keep the pot moist.
  • Germination: The bottle gourd seeds are slow in germination,may take from 7 to 25 days to germinate depending on the soil temperature. You can soak the seeds in water overnight to speed up germination. Use only the seeds that go to the bottom of the soaking bowl. When the seeds germinate and the plants grow to 2-3 leaves, transplant them to the final place. Discard the weaker plants. (In cold regions of USA, plant the seeds in small pots and keep them inside in the hottest area of the house. Move the baby plants outside when the danger of frost is over, may be in mid May.)
  • In late spring, transfer the bottle goyrd seedling plant to the prepared bed containing compost (how to make compost at home) and manure. Water regularly. They need plenty of water in the growing season but hate wet feet.
  • When each main vine grows to about 6-8 feet long, cut off the growing tip. This will force the plant to produce side branches that will produce fruit much sooner, more flowers and more fruits.
  • Spray seaweed solution or liquid fertilizer or comfrey tea fertilizer regularly every 3rd week.
  • The plant can grow to over 15 ft, so they need a solid support to climb by the tendrils or trellis along the stem.

  • Bottle Gourd Male & Female Flowers
    I made a cross string net between two papaya trees and guided the plant.

    The leaves of the bottle gourd are up to 15 inches wide and have a velvety texture because of the fine hairs.

    Bottle Gourd Male and Female Flowers

    After about 45 days of planting, both male and female flowers will start to emerge. The plant produces white flowers, up to 4 inches in diameter.

    The male and female flowers look similar, the males on long peduncles and the females on short ones. You can identify the female flower which has an ovary of the shape of the fruit.

    Bottle Gourd Pollination

    Sometimes your bottle gourd plant may have flowers but no fruits. This happened to my bottle gourd vine.

    I was very sad to see that none of the female flowers were producing fruits, they were dropping without growing into a bottle gourd. This was due to the failure of pollination as there was no bee activity in the garden area. As there were no bees in my garden, I pollinated bottle gourd by hand.

    Hand Pollination of Bottle Gourd Flowers
    If you see that the female flowers of your bottle gourd do not grow and drop down, then you should pollinate them by hand.

    How to hand pollinate them?

    When the flowers open, rub a soft brush first in the male flower and then in the female flower.
    I also got success by just rubbing softly the inside of both the flowers together.

    You could spray the vine with sugar water to attract bees.

    Why Bottle Gourd Vine Fails to produce Flowers

    Sometimes the bottle gourd vine produces less or no female flowers and no fruits. To increase the flowers, you may cut off the growing ends of the branches when they are about a 3 feet (1 m) long. The new growth will produce more flowers. A fertilizer high in nitrogen produces leaf growth with very less number of flowers. Feed the vine with a fertilizer high in phosphorus and potassium to produce more flowers.

    Fertilizer For Bottle Gourd

    1. Bottle gourd needs a fertilizer high in phosphorous and potassium than nitrogen. Bottle gourds need nitrogen to grow vigorously, but excess nitrogen will encourage more leaves instead of fruit. A NPK fertilizer with ratio of 6:10:10 or 4:8:5 can be used. Add about 20 g in the soil for each plant before planting.
    2. Feed every 2 weeks with a liquid fertilizer or comfrey tea fertilizer.

    Pests and Diseases

    When to Harvest bottle Gourd

    It is very important to harvest bottle gourd at the correct time. When the bottle gourd begins to change color or becoming yellowish, it is time to harvest it. You should be able to pierce your nail in it easily. Harvest the gourd with at least one inch of stem attached. If the fruit becomes very hard and you cannot pierce your nails in it, it is over-ripe and not good for cooking but good for decoration purpose. Over-ripe bottle gourds are good for making seeds, which can be used to grow gourds next year.

    For ornamental gourds or decorative gourds, harvest them when the stem attached to the gourd begins to turn brown and the leaves on the vine are all dead.

    Very Long Fruit (Giant Bottle Gourd)

    I wanted to grow a very long fruit, so when the gourd started to grow, I just plucked away all new female flowers. This allowed all the food and energy of the plant available to the only one fruit.

    I also tied a soft poly-tape at the bottom of the fruit and hanged a small weight. This way my bottle gourd reached to a length of 1.23 m and weighing 10 kg. It could have grown even bigger had I not plucked it, if I would have decided to grow it for making seeds.

    Many of my friends and neighbors had come to see this huge bottle gourd (long melon).

    Very Long Bottle Gourd Grown,
    1.23 m long weighing 10 kg

    It was very difficult for us to consume so much so I distributed it to four of my friends.

    There are some varieties like New Guinea Beans and Bhim bottle gourd which grow about 3-5 feet long.

    Bottle gourd makes very healthy and tasty curries like lauki channa dal and lauki kofta curries. A popular north Indian dish is lauki channa dal curry, (channa dal and diced gourd in a semi dry spicy gravy). It can also be used to make bottle gourd halwa.

    Video of Growing Bottle Gourd from seeds

    Continue reading all the comments
    Get all the Questions and Answers on Gourds . If you have any question on bottle gourd, please go to this questions and answers page.

    How to Build a Gourd Home for Martins

    A Southern tradition and a fun hands-on summer project

    Wind along country roads in many parts of the South, and you’ll see clusters of white gourds hanging high on poles. Those are bird hotels, housing for purple martins who migrate from South America into the region each spring and choose homes to nest and raise chicks.

    David Shaddix scanning the sky for birds.

    David Shaddix is one of the many Southerners who has developed a special fondness for purple martins (read the full story, from the June/July 2018 issue of G&G here.) He spent nearly a decade perfecting his martin-house habitat and now sees some 135 nesting pairs flock to his property in Shelby County, Alabama each year. Although plastic “gourd” birdhouses are available at hardware and tractor supply stores, the homes have a special charm when they’re grown and crafted by hand. Here, Shaddix shares how to do it.

    Grow and Dry (or Buy)

    If you grow gourds from seed, look for packets marked specifically for “birdhouse gourds” (botanical name Lagenaria). Sow after last frost and let the vines spread out or crawl over a trellis all summer. Harvest in the fall, when the gourds have fully matured and the stems turn brown. “Hang them up in a shaded area—I hang mine in my barn—all winter to dry out and become usable,” Shaddix says.

    If you’re in a hurry or want to skip planting all together, seek out a farmer or nursery with dried gourds. “Out in the country, you’ll sometimes pass road signs that say ‘gourds for sale,’” he says. “Those stops are where some of my first gourds came from, and I saved seeds from year to year.” When the dried gourds are brown, hard, and fully dry, shake them to hear the seeds rattle around. That means they’re ready.

    Make an Entrance

    Drill five small drainage holes (David uses a ¼-inch or 5/16-inch drill bit) at the bottom of the gourd and another small hole in the top for attaching a hanging wire. Next, as you work on the doorway, shake out the dried pulp and seeds to save for next year’s crop.

    Shaddix starts a gourd entryway.

    Shaddix recommends cutting a crescent-shaped entrance that is resistant to invasive starlings, which can edge out other birds. He cuts a crescent with a jigsaw and then uses a hand file to get the precise dimension and shape of a 1 ½-inch radius arch with 1 3/16-inch height at its apex. “I’m converting my holes to crescents, because the starlings started harassing the martins,” Shaddix says. “Sometimes, the birds will live side by side, but if you’re hanging just six or fewer gourds, the starlings will pester the martins to the point that the martins won’t stick around.” More information on crescent-shaped entryways can be found here.

    Paint for Chill Factor

    Birds are like us—the summer heat gets to them. “It’s important to paint the gourds white outside to keep the inside a little cooler,” Shaddix says. “We had trouble one year when we kept a few gourds their natural color and the babies started jumping out when it got hotter.” Baby birds leaping Kamikaze-like from their nests is not a pretty sight. Shaddix uses white spray paint, but he says any white exterior paint will work.

    Finish and Hang

    Stuff a little pine straw or other fibrous nesting material in each house. Shaddix loops electrical copper wire through the top holes to hang gourds together eight to twelve feet off the ground. You can find poles at many home-repair stores. “I recommend starting with a group of eight gourds, so the birds can see them more easily when they fly by,” Shaddix says. “And a lot of people think they should hang them twenty feet high, but the higher you hang them, the harder it is to maintain them, and they are more likely to blow down in a thunderstorm.”

    Birds appreciate their homes.

    Hang the gourds near your home or barn with sixty to eighty feet of clear open space around them. “The birds like an open area, but they don’t like to be long distances away from human housing,” Shaddix says. “They’ve learned to feel a bit safer from predators around people.” And for extra protection, install an animal baffle (Shaddix wads up netting and attaches it a few feet up the pole) to discourage snakes, raccoons, and possums from climbing and reaching the birds.

    Wait and Hope

    It can take years for purple martins to recognize your bird houses as safe havens. Shaddix knows a thing or two about patience (his first nesting pair didn’t arrive until seven years after he hung his first gourds), but it’s worth the wait, he says. “This is their summer home,” he says, “Where they come to have their babies and raise them.”

    If you act quickly, you can still hang a few homes this year. “The first or second week of June is the end of the time when birds would come through to start a new nest,” he says. “But even if you don’t get any, keep your nests hung up a while. The birds will notice where they could make a home next year.”

    How to Harvest Luffa

    If you are growing for the luffa “sponge”, leave the gourd on the plant until it feels lightweight and the skin begins to shrivel and turn yellow. It’s best to peel it at this stage, when the skin is easily removed. Cut the luffa from the vine and cut off one end, and shake out seeds. (Save the seeds from your largest luffa to share and plant next season.) Cut off the other end, roll the luffa on a table to loosen skin, rip skin apart at seam, and remove all skin. Let luffa dry completely in the sun before storing to prevent mold.


    Previous Article

    Correct budding of fruit trees

    Next Article

    Acid: definition and meaning