If you planted pumpkins in your garden this year, you may not have any fruit on the plants just yet. In that case, you may be wondering when your pumpkin plants will produce fruit, and if there is anything you should do to help them along.
So, when does a pumpkin plant produce fruit? A pumpkin plant produces fruit in the fall, usually in September or October. When growing pumpkins from seed, it will take 90 to 120 days to produce mature fruit. Pumpkins are annuals and only live for one year, meaning that they die after producing fruit for the season.
Of course, depending on the variety of pumpkin plant you choose, it may take a longer time for your plant to begin producing fruit. Other factors such as improper pruning, over fertilization, and environmental conditions can all delay the growth of fruit on your pumpkin plant.
Let’s take a closer look at pumpkin plants, when they bear fruit, and the factors that can affect your harvest.
When Do Pumpkin Plants Produce Fruit?
Depending on the variety, a pumpkin plant can produce fruit 90 to 120 days (3 to 4 months) after planting from seed in the garden. It is recommended to start pumpkins directly from seed, from late May in northern regions to as late as early July in the far South.
However, if you start seeds indoors and transplant seedlings outside, you can give your plants a head start of 4 to 5 weeks. This can be useful in northern regions with short growing seasons.
Either way, you should wait until soil temperatures are 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) before planting seeds or seedlings in the ground.
For more information, check out this article on growing pumpkins from the University of Missouri Extension.
Your pumpkins will be ready for harvest when the rind is hard, and the fruit has a solid color (usually orange, but there are varieties with other colors).
Size is not a reliable indication of ripeness. Miniature pumpkin varieties bear fruit that weighs less than 1 pound, while jumbo varieties can produce fruit that weighs 300 pounds.
You should wait until after the last spring frost before putting seeds or transplants in your garden. To look up frost dates in your area, check out this frost date calculator from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
You can choose either vine or bush pumpkin varieties. If you have a tiny garden, you can grow your pumpkins on a trellis to save ground space. For more information, check out my article on trellises.
How Much Fruit Does A Pumpkin Plant Produce?
A pumpkin plant can produce 1 to 12 fruits per plant, depending on the variety. Pumpkin plants with smaller fruits, such as miniature varieties, will produce more pumpkins per vine.
If you are looking to grow state-fair jumbo pumpkins, you may want to thin the fruit to one per plant.
The fruit on a pumpkin plant is normally orange when ripe, although there are varieties with brown, yellow, or green coloring.
Do Pumpkin Plants Die After Harvest?
Yes, pumpkin plants will die after harvest. Pumpkins are an annual plant, meaning that they only survive for one year – long enough to produce fruit and spread seeds to reproduce.
Keep in mind that an early fall frost can kill pumpkin plants before their time.
What Kind Of Pumpkin To Grow?
You have some decisions to make when deciding which pumpkins to grow. First, you will need to decide on the size of pumpkins that you want to grow.
Miniature pumpkin varieties will yield more fruit, and they are easier to harvest and manage. Jumbo varieties can be hard to handle when harvesting.
Also, you can choose either vine or bush pumpkins. Vine pumpkins grow tall and are ideal for growing on a trellis. Bush pumpkins grow much wider than vine pumpkins, and do not require support, since they crawl along the ground.
Here are some different varieties of pumpkins you can try.
- Musquee de Provence Pumpkin – this pumpkin plant produces deep brown fruit (20 pounds) that matures in 100 to 110 days. This variety grows to a height of 24 to 30 inches, with a spread of 72 to 96 inches. For more information, check out the Musquee de Provence pumpkin on the Burpee website. https://www.burpee.com/vegetables/pumpkins/pumpkin-musquee-de-provence-prod001896.html
- Early Sweet Sugar Pie Pumpkin – this pumpkin plant produces orange fruit (6 to 7 pounds) that matures in 90 days. This variety grows to a height of 24 to 30 inches, with a spread of 72 to 96 inches. For more information, check out the Early Sweet Sugar Pie pumpkin on the Burpee website. https://www.burpee.com/vegetables/pumpkins/pumpkin-early-sweet-sugar-pie-prod001154.html
- Connecticut Field Pumpkin – this pumpkin plant produces orange fruit (15 to 25 pounds) that matures in 120 days. This variety grows to a height of 12 to 18 inches, with a spread of 72 inches. For more information, check out the Connecticut Field pumpkin on the Burpee website. https://www.burpee.com/vegetables/pumpkins/pumpkin-connecticut-field-prod000860.html
- Jack Be Little Pumpkin – this pumpkin plant produces small yellow fruit (4 to 8 ounces) that matures in 95 days. This variety grows to a height of 12 to 18 inches, with a spread of 48 inches. For more information, check out the Jack Be Little pumpkin on the Burpee website. https://www.burpee.com/vegetables/pumpkins/pumpkin-jack-be-little-prod000861.html
- Small Sugar Pumpkin – this pumpkin plant produces orange fruit (5 to 8 pounds) that matures in 100 to 105 days. This variety grows to a height of 12 to 18 inches, with a spread of 48 inches. For more information, check out the Small Sugar pumpkin on the Burpee website. https://www.burpee.com/vegetables/pumpkins/pumpkin-small-sugar-prod000867.html
- Atlantic Giant Pumpkin – this pumpkin plant produces orange fruit (up to 200 pounds) that matures in 100 to 120 days. This variety grows to a height of 24 to 36 inches, with a spread of 96 to 144 inches. For more information, check out the Atlantic Giant pumpkin on the Burpee website. https://www.burpee.com/vegetables/pumpkins/pumpkin-atlantic-giant-prod001981.html
For more information, check out this article on pumpkin production from the Penn State University Extension.
Do You Need Two Pumpkin Plants To Grow Pumpkins?
No, you do not need two pumpkin plants to grow pumpkins. A single pumpkin plant has both male and female flowers.
The key is that the pollen must move from the male flower to the female flower. Usually, bees or other pollinators do this. However, you can also do it by hand if you pick off a male pumpkin flower and touch it to female flowers on the same (or other) pumpkin plants.
Keep in mind that male flowers often show up first on pumpkin plants, with no female flowers to be seen for days. The male flowers will drop off after one day, but this is nothing to be concerned about.
More male flowers will continue to appear. When a female flower appears, it will only be open for pollination for a few hours in the morning on one day. You can tell a female flower by the swelling at the base of the flower.
It is a good idea to watch your pumpkin carefully once they start to flower. If it is too hot or cold for bees on any of those days, make sure to pollinate your pumpkin flowers by hand, as discussed above.
For more information, check out this article on pollinating pumpkin flowers from North Dakota State University.
What Other Factors Affect Fruit On Pumpkin Plants?
The quality of care that you give your pumpkin plants will help to determine how much fruit you get each year. Some of the most important factors are temperature, watering, fertilizing, and pruning.
Temperature For Pumpkin Plants
Early fall frosts or late spring frosts can spell death for both young and mature pumpkin plants. Soil temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) early in the season may delay germination of pumpkin seeds.
Young pumpkin plants are very sensitive to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). Mature pumpkins can withstand a frost or two, but be sure to plant early enough so that you can harvest before you start getting frost every night.
In general, this means planting in late May in the Northern U.S., up to early July in the Southern U.S. This will allow you to harvest your pumpkins for Halloween (October 31).
For more information, check out this article on pumpkins from the University of Illinois Extension.
On the other hand, excessive heat can also cause problems for pumpkin plants. Daytime temperatures in the 90s or nighttime temperatures in the high 70s can cause pumpkin plants to drop both flowers and fruit.
The ideal temperature range for growing pumpkins is 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 32 degrees Celsius).
For more information, check out this article on pumpkins from the University of Delaware.
If you already planted pumpkin seeds outside and a frost is threatening your plants, check out my article on how to protect plants from cold and frost.
Watering For Pumpkin Plants
Pumpkin plants have deep roots, so they can handle some drought stress. However, avoid letting the soil dry out too much when the plant is still young and developing, or when fruit is forming.
If you find that you have a problem with dry soil, check out my article on how to treat dry soil.
On the other hand, over watering your pumpkin plants can lead to root rot and eventual death. Since pumpkin vines grow along the ground (unless trellised), moist soil also poses the threat of rotten vines and leaves, along with disease from the soil.
The best way to decide when to water is to feel the soil with your fingers. If the soil feels dry 2 or 3 inches below the surface, then go ahead and water.
For more information, check out my article on over watering your plants.
Try to water early in the morning, rather than at night, to allow water to soak into the soil. Avoid getting the leaves wet to prevent rot, mold, and diseases.
Fertilizing For Pumpkin Plants
Before you sow pumpkin seeds or put transplants in your garden, add some compost to your soil. It will provide organic material and nutrients for your plants as they grow. The best part is that you can make compost yourself from ordinary yard and kitchen waste!
For more information, check out my article on how to make compost.
It may be necessary to use fertilizers as a supplement to compost, in order to provide extra nutrients if your soil is lacking. The best way to tell if you need fertilizer is with a soil test.
For more information, check out my article on soil testing.
Finally, remember that it is possible to harm or kill your pumpkin plants by over fertilizing them. For example, too much nitrogen can prevent your pumpkin plant from producing any fruit.
For more information, check out this article from the University of Connecticut on maximizing pumpkin production.
Pruning For Pumpkin Plants
Some gardeners choose to pull off some of the early female flowers on a pumpkin plant. This allows the plant to conserve energy so it can produce fewer but larger fruit.
If you are going for championship pumpkins, then you might want to thin to one fruit per plant!
By now, you have a much better idea of when your pumpkin plant will produce fruit. You also know a bit more about how to take care of pumpkin plants and how to avoid the problems that can affect your harvest.
I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information. If you have any questions or advice about pumpkin plants, please leave a comment below.