Pumpkins are one of the most popular elements of fall, and it seems like they’re hitting the stores earlier every year. Pumpkin pies, pumpkin lattes, and even pumpkin Poo-Pourri are taking over the season. Even my family is now interested in growing pumpkins. But, we weren’t sure where we could get the seeds. That is until we looked at the jack-o-lantern we had on the kitchen table…
So, we set out to answer it. Can you plant the edible pumpkin seeds from a store-bought pumpkin? Here’s what we found.
The seeds from most store-bought pumpkins will grow other pumpkin plants. However, they might not be “true-to-seed” and can fruit a different variety. For best results, choose large and full seeds from an heirloom pumpkin.
I recently tested this with acorn squash and it worked! I scooped out and planted 10 seeds into the ground, and 6 of them grew into seedlings. We’re planning on doing the same thing again this year, but with pumpkins.
Are you interested in using your fresh or carved pumpkin to grow pumpkin plants? If so, I put together these few tips to get you started.
When Do You Plant Pumpkin Seeds?
Pumpkin plants are sensitive to the cold and take a few months to grow, so choosing when to start your pumpkin plants is important. Timing it right can help you get more pumpkins than you bargained for (that’s a good thing, trust me). So, when should you start planting pumpkin seeds?
Early June to late July is a good time to plant your pumpkin seeds as the soil will be warm enough to start their germination. Use well-draining soil and if you’re planting in the ground, space seeds 8-12 inches apart in rows 6-8 feet apart.
Normally, the summer months are a good time to start your pumpkin plants as they’ll need soil that’s 70ºF or above. As long as the soil is warm enough and the spring frost has passed, you should be good to plant.
How Do You Germinate Pumpkin Seeds?
Next, we can start to germinate your fresh pumpkin seeds and get them primed for planting. Here’s a quick step-by-step on how to get started germinating the seeds from your store-bought pumpkin:
- Cut open the pumpkin
- Remove a large handful of the seeds and place in a colander
- Wash the film off the seeds
- Remove remaining pulp from the seeds
- Select the large and full seeds
- Dry them overnight by storing them on a paper towel
- Place in a damp paper towel and a zip-lock baggie
- Store in a cool, dark place for 5 days
Once you follow these steps, your pumpkin seeds should have started to germinate. If you open the baggie and find they’re not germinated, consider leaving them in for another few days.
However, if you see mold at the 5-day mark, I’d recommend removing them from the baggie and start planting the non-moldy ones. Germinating with the paper towel and baggie method can be a balance of letting some seeds germinate while letting others get moldy. This is why it’s a good idea to try to germinate more seeds than you need.
If your seeds have germinated, but you’re not ready to plant the seeds just yet, put them back in the baggie and store in the back of the fridge to help preserve them for a short time.
How to Plant Pumpkin Seeds or Seedlings From a Store-Bought Pumpkin
Whether you’re planting your fresh pumpkin seeds straight into the ground, or you decided to germinate them first, knowing the right growing conditions will help you in your pumpkin growing journey.
When planting pumpkin seeds, check the area for full sun and soil that’s 70ºF or above. Then plant 1 inch deep. Space seeds 8-12 inches apart with rows 6-8 feet apart. If you’re transplanting pumpkin seedlings, space them 3 feet apart.
Getting the right conditions can mean a much easier time for you and a more fruitful time for your pumpkins.
Here are some steps that can help you plant the seeds and seedlings from your store-bought pumpkin:
- Space pumpkin seeds or seedlings into a hole 1-1.5 inches deep
- Make sure there is enough space for each placement
- Cover lightly with soil
- Water, but don’t soak the soil
- Place in full sun (or by the windowsill if starting your seeds inside)
- Ensure the soil stays a consistently warm temperature
Let’s expand a bit more on these steps and exactly what pumpkin plants need.
Pumpkin vines can often grow extensively and can suffocate other plants, so it’s important to remember to properly space pumpkin seeds or seedlings. They’re also heavy feeders when it comes to fertilizer, so spacing the pumpkin plants out allows them to each have more available nutrients.
If your ground has weeds, consider placing down sheets of cardboard to suppress the weeds a few weeks before planting your pumpkin seeds or seedlings. Remember to space seeds 8-12 inches apart with rows 6-8 feet apart and transplanted seedlings 3 feet apart.
Pumpkins prefer moist, well-draining soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. If you have soil with a high amount of clay, it might be too alkaline for the pumpkins to grow. Since the plants require rich soil full of absorbable nutrients, consider mixing in 1-2 inches of compost every growing season.
Pumpkin plants like around 1 inch of water per week. When watering your pumpkin plants, try aiming for an early morning or late afternoon watering. The less sun there is the less evaporation and the more the plant will be able to absorb the water. Make sure to water only the soil, and not the foliage or pumpkin fruit as it can cause issues and spread diseases to other plants.
For better water efficiency, consider using drip irrigation. Also, mulching around the edges of the pumpkin patch is a good practice as it will help divert and retain water for the patch, and decrease the amount evaporated.
Check the top 2-3 inches of soil for dryness every week or so. If it’s bone dry you might want to increase the amount or frequency of the watering. If the soil is still soaking wet long after watering, you might want to slow the amount or frequency.
Full sun (6-8 hours) is good to have for pumpkin plants, but they can make do with moderate sunlight. I wouldn’t consider this partial shade, but if there’s a slight shading a few hours of the day, it shouldn’t be a big deal.
If the sun is particularly strong, and the soil is bone dry, the roots and part of the pumpkin plant can quickly die. Make sure to cool the soil with more water on excessively hot days.
Pumpkins are not tolerant of the cold and will wither and die if exposed to cold temperatures or frost. For this reason, it’s best to start the pumpkin seeds after the last spring frost has passed. If you’re willing to start the seeds indoors, you can do so 2-4 weeks before the last frost. The higher soil temperature will increase their germination rate. While 70ºF is the suggested minimum, pumpkin seeds can germinate in soil temperatures up to 95ºF.
If you’re starting your pumpkin seeds indoors, don’t forget to harden them off and gradually get them used to the cold.
After some pumpkin fruits have started to develop, start pruning a few of the fuzzy ends of the vines. Pruning these occasionally will help conserve space in the patch and also encourage the pumpkin plant to focus its energy on fruiting its existing fruit and less on branching out. Continue to prune vines if they interfere with spacing.
Pumpkin vines are delicate, so take care you’re not stepping on or damaging other vines while pruning.
For the best pollination results, consider growing multiple pumpkin plants. The more there are, the better chance their flowers will cross-pollinate from insects and other pollinators.
Avoid pesticides or herbicides as these can kill beneficial insects and pollinators, including bees.
When pumpkin seedlings first start out, you may want to supplement the soil with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. The nitrogen will encourage more vine growth and health.
However, when the vines are full-grown, and the fruits are starting to develop, switch to a high-phosphorus fertilizer. The phosphorus will help with the blooming and fruiting process. Fertilizers high in nitrogen will continue encouraging vine and plant growth, so switching can be helpful to have a proper pumpkin harvest.
You can start fertilizing pumpkin plants when they are 1 foot tall, right before the vines emerge.
How Long Do Pumpkin Plants Take to Grow?
If you plant your pumpkin seeds in the early summer, you can expect them to fruit by the early fall. This process takes about 2.5 to 3.5 months. Growing in this window is the best approach since most pumpkins will ripen before frost arrives.
You can tell when your pumpkins are ripe when the stem shrivels and starts to dry. The pumpkin will also be bright in color and have a hard surface.
If your pumpkins are still on the vine, and you’d like them to ripen faster, consider exposing them to more sun if possible. Cutting back some of the foliage to expose more of the fruit is one way of doing this.
When the pumpkins are ripe and ready for harvest, cut the stem about 2-4 inches above the fruit. Try not to tear the stem. Instead, make a clean cut with shears.
Ripe pumpkins can be stored for up to 3 months in a cool, dry space. The optimal temperature to store is about 55ºF. If your weather isn’t that cold, try to store your pumpkin in the garage or the cellar where it can be cooler. Store pumpkins carefully as they can easily bruise or break, increasing their rate of rotting.
If you want smaller pumpkins, it’s best to buy a smaller variety than it is to harvest a larger variety earlier at a smaller size. Harvesting early will result in the pumpkins not being ripe and often, not edible. It’s best to pick them when they reach full maturity.
Following these tips can help you plant pumpkin seeds straight from your store-bought or carved pumpkin. While pumpkin plants may seem like a lot of maintenance, if you plant them during the early summer and provide them with enough space and water, it’s hard to go wrong.
Hopefully, you found this guide helpful and will sow fresh pumpkin seeds on your backyard homestead!