Growing pumpkins is exciting as you watch the plant go from a small seed to a lovely, large ripe pumpkin. Have you ever wondered how this happens? What are the various growth stages that a pumpkin plant goes through?
As you know, pumpkin plants start as pumpkin seeds. That is those same seeds that you scrape out of the pumpkin as you prepare it for dinner. The plant then goes through various stages until the end result is a nice big pumpkin that you can have for dinner again.
So, let’s explore the different growth stages of a pumpkin plant.
Pumpkin Growth Stages
1. Seed Sowing
The first step in the life of a pumpkin plant starts with sowing the seeds. Pumpkin seeds should generally be sown in late spring to ensure that you have pumpkins to harvest in the fall.
Plant your pumpkin seeds around 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep into the soil. Bear in mind that pumpkins do need a lot of room to grow, so make sure you’ve chosen a large plot that your pumpkin vine can scramble over.
2. Seed Germination
The next stage in the pumpkin growth journey is seed germination. This should take around 5 to 10 days from when you sowed the seeds. When you witness this germination, you’ll see two small leaves appear that are green and oval in shape.
These are the seed leaves or cotyledons and look nothing like normal pumpkin leaves. These seed leaves are just the start of the plant and will help the plant to start using the sun’s energy for photosynthesis.
3. The Growth Of The True Leaves
After a few more days, the first true leaves will appear. Although these will be tiny, to begin with, they now resemble proper pumpkin leaves. They will have a rounder shape with crinkled or serrated edges.
4. The Beginning Of The Vines
After a few more days and around two weeks after seed germination, you should start to see the vines growing from the stems of the new plant. These vines will now start to grow quite quickly and will produce more vines as they stretch and snake over the soil.
You might know that pumpkin vines can grow incredibly long, some as long as 20 feet. However, it is possible to restrict the growth of these really long vines if you don’t want them encroaching onto other garden crops.
Ideally, you want to let the main vine reach a length of around 10 to 15 feet and then trim off the growing tip. You can also do this with the secondary vines that grow at intervals along the main stem. These can be clipped back when they’re around 8 to 10 feet long.
It’s also a good idea to remove any new vines that start to grow from the secondary vine to encourage the plant to put its energy into fruit production rather than just foliage growth.
5. The Flowering Stage
The next stage in the life of your pumpkin plant is the flowering stage. There’s no way you can miss this stage as you marvel at the large yellow flowers that start to appear along the vine.
What you might or might not know is that pumpkin plants have two types of flowers, male and female. It’s the female flowers that will produce those lovely big pumpkins.
When you start to see your pumpkin vine flowering, you might like to apply a little extra fertilizer. Choose one that is higher in potassium to encourage more flower and fruit formation. However, even a little extra compost is good at this stage.
In order for the female flowers to produce fruit, they first need to be pollinated with pollen from the male flowers. This is an important stage in the life cycle of a pumpkin plant because, without this vital step, your pumpkin vine will not produce any pumpkins.
In most gardens, pumpkin flower pollination is carried out by bees. The bee will visit a male pumpkin flower to collect the nectar. As it leaves, it will also pick up some of the male pollen. Then, if the bee visits a female pumpkin flower to collect nectar, some of the pollen will rub off onto the female flower and fertilize it.
This is one of the fascinating functions of nature and how plants are able to survive and thrive. It’s also precisely why you should grow other flowering plants around your vegetable garden because they will attract lots of bees and other pollinators.
However, if you’re not fortunate enough to have lots of bees visiting your garden, you may have to do this pollination yourself. To do this, you want to use a small paintbrush to transfer pollen from the male flower onto the female flowers. You can identify the female flowers easily because they’ll have a swollen base, while male flowers do not.
7. Fruit Formation
The next phase in the pumpkin life cycle is probably the most exciting one. It’s when you’ll start to see the growth of tiny pumpkins. This usually starts to happen around two to three weeks after pollination has occurred.
The pumpkins will be tiny and green at first. But from then on, they’ll start to grow quite quickly. In fact, a pumpkin can increase in size by one to two inches every day. In addition, the pumpkins will start to become rounder, and their skins will start to thicken and become harder.
You’ll also notice the color changing on your growing pumpkins from green to orange. In general, it will take around 45 to 55 days for a pumpkin to reach its full size.
8. Pumpkin Maturation
Once the pumpkins have reached their full size and are mature, the vine will start to brown and die off. This is a normal part of a pumpkin plant’s life cycle and nothing to be worried about.
9. Harvesting Mature Pumpkin
When you notice that the pumpkins have reached a good size and the vine is starting to die off, your pumpkins are ready to be harvested. Other telltale signs include the hardening of the pumpkin stem and a hollow sound when you tap the skin of the pumpkin.
But that’s not the end of the story. Once your pumpkins are ready to harvest, they should be left out in the sun for a couple of weeks because this will help them to develop their full flavor. So, don’t be in a rush to bring your pumpkins indoors as soon as you think they’re ready.
Leave them out to bask in the sunshine for a few weeks so that they can develop their delicious flavor. During this time, their skins will harden even further, and you’ll be able to store them for the longest time.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to grow a pumpkin from seed to harvest?
Generally speaking, it takes around 90 to 120 days for a pumpkin to go through its full life cycle from seed to a pumpkin that is ready to be harvested.
How many pumpkins can one seed produce?
One single pumpkin seed can end up producing around 2 to 5 pumpkins. However, if you’re growing one of the miniature pumpkin varieties, you could end up with as many as 12 pumpkins per plant.
Should you cut back pumpkin vines?
Pumpkin vines can be cut back once they reach a length of around 10 to 15 feet. This will encourage the plant to start producing its flowers and fruit rather than putting its energy into vine growth.
Do pumpkins keep getting bigger after they turn orange?
Once your pumpkins turn orange, they won’t grow any larger. However, their skins will harden further, and their flavor will continue to develop as they lie out in the sun.