How Long Do Pumpkin Seeds Take To Germinate? How To Speed Up


If you are planting (or have already planted) pumpkin seeds, you are probably wondering just how long they take to sprout.  You may also be curious about how you can speed up the seed germination process.

So, how long do pumpkin seeds take to germinate?  Pumpkin seeds take 3 to 10 days to germinate.  Pumpkin seeds germinate faster with optimal soil temperature, humidity, and air circulation.

Of course, you can germinate pumpkin seeds indoors and transplant outside later, but it is preferable to germinate pumpkin seeds directly in the soil outdoors.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that affect how long pumpkin seeds take to germinate.  We’ll also see how we can optimize these factors to encourage faster seed germination.

How Long Do Pumpkin Seeds Take To Germinate?

Normally pumpkin seeds take about a week to germinate, with a range from 3 to 10 days.  The University of Michigan suggests that pumpkin seeds can germinate in as little as 3 days, while the University of Maryland suggests that pumpkin seeds can take up to 10 days to germinate.

pumpkin seedlings
Pumpkin seedlings should emerge 3 to 10 days after planting, assuming ideal conditions such as soil temperature and moisture level.

It will all depend on various factors that affect time to seed germination – let’s get into some of those now!

What Factors Affect Seed Germination?

The time a seed takes to germinate depends on several important factors, such as soil temperature, humidity levels, and air circulation.  Let’s dive into more detail on these factors that affect seed germination.

Soil Temperature

***Note: You can find the germination rate on the seed packet itself.  For example, if the germination rate is 95%, then you would expect 95 seeds to sprout out of every 100 seeds that you planted.***

The minimum temperature for pumpkin seed germination is 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 degrees Celsius).  If the soil is any colder than this, you will see low germination rates – that is, if you can get any seeds at all to germinate!  This is nature’s way of protecting pumpkin seeds from sprouting at a time when they will be unable to survive.

The maximum temperature for pumpkin seed germination is 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.6 degrees Celsius).  If the soil is any warmer than this, germination rates will decrease.  Combined with high humidity, high temperatures can encourage the growth of mold, which is another threat to your plants.

The ideal (optimal) temperature for pumpkin seed germination is between 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4 degrees Celsius) and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius).

Keep in mind that these temperatures refer to soil temperature, not air temperature.  If you want to find out the soil temperature, use a probe-type thermometer to check.

If the thermometer reads a temperature that is too low, then you have some options.  One option is to wait until the sun warms up the soil.

To speed up this process, clear away any debris, such as leaves or grass clippings, from the soil surface.  Also make sure to choose a location for planting that gets plenty of sun, so that it can warm up the soil faster.

If you are worried about a short growing season, you can also use a cloche (a plastic or glass cover) to trap some heat and warm up the air and soil near your pumpkin seeds.

water bottles
A cloche can be made from a plastic water bottle to trap heat and moisture in a small area to help seeds germinate faster.

For more information, check out the table below, and check out this article from the University of California on ideal seed germination temperatures.

Seed
Germination
Temperature
Temperature
(degrees
Fahrenheit)
Temperature
(degrees
Celsius)
Minimum 60 15.6
Ideal 85 to 95 29.4 to 35
Maximum 105 40.6

Humidity

Humidity is another important factor to consider when germinating pumpkin seeds.  If the air is too dry, then the soil will dry out faster, and the seeds will have trouble germinating – they may even die!

If the air is too humid, then the soil will stay too wet, especially if you over water the soil.  This can lead to damping off, which occurs when mold or other pathogens affect seeds or seedlings.

pumpkin seedling
Soil moisture and air humidity is another important factor in seed germination. Dry soil will prevent seeds from germinating well.

Damping off is more likely with high humidity levels, in moist soil, and at cooler temperatures.

For more information, check out this article on damping off from Wikipedia.

If you find that you have trouble keeping the air and soil humid enough, you do have some options.  One option is to use a cloche (mentioned earlier).

A cloche, if sealed, traps moisture in the air and soil so that seeds have the humid environment they need to germinate properly.  A cloche will help your seeds to germinate faster, increase germination rates, and cut down on the time and effort needed to keep soil moist.

Air Circulation

Seeds need air, just like seedlings and established plants.  If the soil is too wet and there is too little air circulation, it can spell death for your seeds before they even have a chance to sprout.

To keep your seeds from suffocating due to lack of air, there are two key things you can do.

pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds will suffocate without proper air circulation, so do not compact your soil after planting!

First, keep the soil moist, but not wet.  Do not over water the soil, and consider using a cloche to help you to get the right moisture level.

Second, keep the soil loose.  Do not compact the soil by pushing down on it either before or after planting your seeds.  When there is more space between soil particles, there is more space for air and water, both of which are necessary for seed germination.

How Do I Make Pumpkin Seeds Germinate Faster?

If you want to make your pumpkin seeds germinate faster, there are several important actions you can take.

pumpkin seedling
Follow the steps below to help your pumpkin seeds germinate faster and at higher rates.

First, protect your seeds from extreme heat and cold.  As mentioned earlier, temperature is one of the most important factors that affect seed germination.

If it is too cold to plant seeds outside, then start your seeds indoors.  This gives you a head start on the growing season, and minimizes the danger of late spring frosts killing your seedlings.  This is especially helpful if you live in an area with a short growing season.

Second, ensure that the soil is moist (not wet!) and the air is humid.  Seeds will not germinate if there is not enough moisture in the soil and air.  Consider a cloche for this purpose.

Third, make sure that the soil has enough air circulation.  This means that you should avoid compacted soil both before and after planting.  It also means that you should avoid over watering your soil.

Fourth, remember that pumpkin seeds do not need light to germinate. If you start pumpkin seeds indoors, give the seedlings bright overhead lights after germination.

LED lights
Pumpkin seeds do not need light to germinate, but you should give them bright overhead light, such as from an LED, after the seedlings emerge.

Fifth, make sure to plant your pumpkin seeds according to the proper depth and spacing.  Pumpkin seeds should be planted at a depth of 1 inch (2.54 centimeters).  If planting in rows, put 1 seed per 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters).

If planting pumpkins in hills, the seeds should be planted in groups of 4 to 6 per hill, with hills 4 to 8 feet (1.2 to 2.4 meters) apart.

Note: when the seedlings emerge, you will need to thin down to 2 or 3 plants per hill, to allow each seedling its own space in the soil to grow roots.

Finally, you can scarify (scratch the surface) of your seeds in order to encourage germination.  This can speed up germination and also increase germination rate (the percentage of seeds that sprout).

For more information, check out this article on seeds and seedlings from the Penn State University Extension.

Should Pumpkin Seeds Be Soaked Before Planting?

You can soak your pumpkin seeds before planting to encourage faster germination.  Put them in clean water and let them sit for a few hours before planting.

However, this is not required – as long as the growing medium is moist and warm, the pumpkin seeds should germinate well.

Can You Germinate Pumpkin Seeds In A Paper Towel?

Yes, you can germinate pumpkin seeds in a paper towel.  The paper towel holds moisture and allows the seeds to breathe, serving as an alternative growing medium.

paper towel
You can germinate pumpkin seeds on a moist paper towel as an alternative to using soil. However, you will eventually need to transplant the sprouted seeds into soil – be gentle with the seedlings!

To germinate pumpkin seeds on a paper towel, wet the paper towel until it is damp (not soaking wet).  Then, lay out the pumpkin seeds so that they are separated (not touching).

Be sure to keep the paper towel and seeds in a warm place, to encourage faster germination and higher germination rates.

The only drawback of this method is that you will need to transplant the sprouted seeds into soil by hand, since they will soon need nutrients from the soil to grow and establish stronger roots.  Be gentle when handling the tiny sprouted seedlings!

Germinating pumpkin seeds in a paper towel may be helpful if you live in an area with a short growing season.

Why Are My Pumpkin Seeds Not Germinating?

There are a couple of possible reasons that your pumpkin seeds are not germinating.

Your Pumpkin Seeds Are Too Old

One common reason for a lack of germination is that the seeds you are using are too old.  In that case, the germination rate may be low, or even zero.

seed package
Your seed package should tell you about dates and how long the seeds will last.

Pumpkin seeds tend to last about 4 years, and germination rates will naturally decrease with each passing year.  For more information, check out my article on how long seeds last.

Your Soil Is Too Cold Or Too Dry

Another reason your pumpkin seeds are not germinating has to do with soil conditions.

If the soil is too cold, then your pumpkin seeds might not sprout right away (whether you are growing indoors or outdoors).  They may sprout when conditions improve and the soil warms up.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests waiting until soil temperatures are 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1 degrees Celsius) before sowing seeds outdoors.

frost
Wait until after the last spring frost has passed to sow your pumpkin seeds in the soil outdoors.

However, you might not want to wait that long, and you might not want to risk killing your seeds.

In that case, start the seeds indoors, and use a heat lamp or heat mat to keep the soil warm enough so that the seeds can germinate.  Just be very careful when transplanting to avoid damaging the roots.

Finally, remember that if the soil is too dry, then seeds will not germinate, and they may even die before you have a chance to correct the problem.  Keep the soil moist, and consider using a humidity dome to help maintain the proper moisture levels in the soil and air.

How Big Should Pumpkin Seedlings Be Before Transplanting Outdoors?

Johnny’s Selected Seeds suggests that you should start pumpkin seeds indoors about 3 weeks before it is time to transplant them outdoors.

Usually, you should aim to transplant pumpkin seedlings outdoors after the last frost date, since seedlings will not survive a frost.

To find out the last frost date in your location, check out this frost date calculator from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Conclusion

By now, you have a good idea of how long it takes pumpkin seeds to germinate.  You also know about the factors that affect time to germination, how to optimize for faster germination, and how to troubleshoot a lack of germination.

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.  If you have any questions about pumpkin seed germination, please leave a comment below.

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jonathon. I’m the gardening guy (not guru!) who is encouraging everyone to spend more time in the garden. I try to help solve common gardening problems so that you can get the best harvest every year!

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