Plain and simple, gourds are fun to grow and if you are growing gourds next year, it’s time to start planning. We grow about six different types of gourds each summer, starting the seed indoors in mid-spring and moving the plants to the garden once the risk of frost has passed in May.
There are two main types – hard-shell (Lagenaria siceraria) and ornamental (Cucurbita pepo). The vines of hard-shell gourds have pretty, white flowers that open at night and produce green or mottled fruits in an assortment of shapes and sizes. The gourds can be dried after harvest, turning a soft tan colour, and kept indefinitely. The cured fruits of hard-shell gourds have been used for centuries in crafts, as musical instruments (for example, maraca’s), and put to more practical uses as bottles, dippers, bowls, bushels, birdhouses, and baskets.
Ornamental gourds, on the other hand, are related to pumpkins and squash and are best enjoyed in autumn, fresh from their vines and used for seasonal décor. The plants produce golden yellow blooms, much like their pumpkin cousins, which mature into colourful fruits. Unlike hard-shell gourds, these fruits do not dry well, but they can be waxed or shellacked after harvest to help extend their lifespan. Like hard-shell gourds, there is a wide mix of fruit shapes and sizes, but ornamental gourds have a much larger colour range that includes yellow, gold, green, orange and white.
Gourds are nutrient pigs and when growing gourds, you’ll need to find a sunny spot with rich, well-drained soil. Work in a generous amount of compost or aged manure and add a few handfuls of organic fertilizer before setting out your seedlings.
Gourds can be grown on the ground, where their long vines will sprawl in every direction, but I prefer to grow them up a sturdy A-frame trellis. Growing them vertically keeps their rampant growth under control, uses up less precious garden space and keeps the fruits clean. Plus, it helps my snake gourds grow long and straight.
Gourds to Grow:
Here are a few of my favourites – and the kids think they’re pretty cool too!
- Spinning Top Gourds (top photo of gourds in bowl) – Also called Tennessee dancing gourds, these cute little fruits are produced on extremely vigorous and productive vines that can yield up to twenty per plant. The 2 to 3 inch long gourds are shaped like miniature bottles and have eye-catching green and white stripes. Because they can be spun like a top, they make a great homegrown toy! These are ornamental gourds, not hard-shell, but I’ve found that the fruits can be successfully dried. The kids love to paint them as mini maracas.
- Speckled Swan Gourds – Speckled Swan gourd plants bear large fruits, up to 2-feet long, with a distinctive shape that resembles its namesake, the swan. The bottom of the fruit is the rounded body, followed by a long elegant neck and topped with a small head. The skin on the fruits is deep green and heavily speckled with gold and white flecks. If grown on the ground, the necks will curve, while trellised vines will yield long, straight necks.
- Snake Gourds – Snake gourds are the most popular gourd in our garden for their sheer size! If allowed to grow along the ground, the fruits will curl up like a coiled snake, but if grown on a sturdy trellis or fence, they will mature long and straight, sometimes reaching lengths up to 4 1/2-feet! Each plant will give you 2 or 3 gourds of various sizes, but if you want super-long fruits, allow only one per plant. Unlike most gourds, snake gourds are edible, but need to be picked while still immature and tender. We harvest them at 10 to 12 inches and cook them like zucchini.
Are you going to be growing gourds in your garden?
Doris kay says
I just bought a speckled gourd. Do you think it would be good in pot in sunny area on patio with a trellis of course and I was thinking two up the trellis and 1 some what on the ground .just to see the difference. A rich soil and sun . Does it like a lot of water or more drought resist
Niki Jabbour says
Great questions Doris! Yes, they should be fine in a pot, but it should be a very big pot – ideally 1/2 potting soil and 1/2 compost. They’re very greedy plants. They will do best in ground though. My gourd plants can get 8 to 15 feet long, depending on the soil type and gourd type. I typically water weekly if there has been no rain, but you will need to water much more in a container. Hope that helps! Niki
Hello, I’m new to gardening and started my gourds indoors at the end of February. I live in Kansas. They are blooming nonstop here in the house. Is that ok? Should I pop off the blooming stem? I’m learning so much and I’m sure I’m doing it all wrong this first year! I’m hoping you see this question. Thank you and God bless!
Niki Jabbour says
Great question Shanna!! I have been guilty (many times!) of starting my seeds indoors too early. Plants that are already flowering indoors will likely not transplant well and live up to their potential. You still have time to start more seeds though so I would do that now. Sow them inside and move them outside when your risk of frost has passed.. even beyond as they prefer warm weather. They’ll catch up quickly 🙂 – Niki
Shirley Lu-Bataglio says
I am growing Japanese winter melon (wax gourd). My vine is long and healthy. It’s been about 3 months (more or less). No flowers what so ever. Otherwise, very healthy. What happened?
Hi, I am planning on growing decorative gourds and was wondering what to expect for plant yield…
Rick Allen says
I have 6 snake gourd plants. blooming like crazy. no fruits… what do I need to do? Rick in Waco
Niki Jabbour says
Hey Rick, great question! It helps to hand pollinate. If the weather has been very hot or humid it can affect pollination. Pop off a male flower and use it to pollinate the female flowers. New gourd flowers usually open up in the afternoon so pollinate then or in the evening. Details on how to hand pollinate here – https://savvygardening.com/pollinating-squash-cucumbers-pumpkins/ Good luck! Niki
I am growing long stemmed dipper gourds. All they do is grow up. I have tried to train them and prune them and the keep growing up. Should I continue to prune? Or just let the grow. Also lots of male flowers and few female. Thanks,AP
Niki Jabbour says
I just let them do their thing – they’re rather vigorous vines! 🙂 Once you’ve set a few fruits, you can pinch back the growing tips of the plants/branches to concentrate on ripening the existing fruits. Good luck! – Niki
I have soft gourd plants growing from seeds I planted. The plants are large with lots of yellow blooms, but so far no gourds. I live in zone 9 lots of sun but also lots of rain every afternoon but soil drains rather quickly. What am i doing wrong? some of the smaller flowers seem to break off part way and shrivel up.
Niki Jabbour says
Hi Michele, it sounds like pollination isn’t happening. Rain and heat can both affect pollen quality and transfer. I’d recommend going out in the morning to hand pollinate – use a male flower to transfer pollen to a female flower. That should do the trick! 🙂 Good luck. Niki