Growing Guide
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Vegetable (Warm Season) - Cucurbit

Cucurbita maxima, C. pepo, C. moschata, C. argyrosperma
Cucurbitaceae Family

With fertile soil and a long enough growing season, it's easy to grow your own Jack-o-lanterns -- if you have enough space. Choose varieties bred for flavor if you want to make pies.

Site Characteristics
  • full sun

Soil conditions:

  • requires well-drained soil
  • requires high fertility
Prefers well-drained, fertile, loose soil, high in organic matter with pH between 5.8 and 6.8. Plentiful and consistent moisture is needed from the time plants emerge until fruits begin to fill out.
Plant Traits

Lifecycle: annual

Tender annual

Ease-of-care: easy

If you have plenty of space, good soil and a long enough growing season, pumpkins are easy to grow.

Height: 1.5 to 3 feet

Spread: 5 to 15 feet

Most varieties grow on vines that spread 8 feet or more. Even smaller bush types spread 5 feet or more.

Bloom time:

  • mid-summer
  • late summer

Flower color: yellow

Foliage color: medium green

Foliage texture: coarse


  • low and trailing
  • climbing / vine

Shape in flower: same as above

Special Considerations
Special characteristics:
  • native to North America - Originated in Central America.
  • bears ornamental fruit - Usually orange (sometimes mottled with green), but some varieties, such as Lumina and Valenciano, are white.
Growing Information
How to plant:

Propagate by seed

Germination temperature: 60 F to 105 F - Will not germinate in cold soil. Wait to plant until soil reaches at least 65 F -- preferably 70 F or more. Germinates best at 95 F.

Days to emergence: 5 to 10 - Should germinate in less than a week with soil temperature of 70 F and adequate moisture.

Seed can be saved 6 years.

Maintenance and care:
Pumpkins like warm soil and are very sensitive to frost. So don’t be in a rush to plant early in spring. Wait until danger of frost has passed and soil has warmed to about 70 F, or about 2 weeks after the last frost date.

Unless you are trying to grow a long-season variety in an area that gets early frosts, there’s really no need to start pumpkins inside. Instead, direct seed 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep into hills (which warm and drain earlier in the season) or rows. Sow 4 to 5 seeds per hill. Space hills about 4 to 8 feet apart, depending on the size of the vine. (Even some of the mini-fruited pumpkins grow on very large vines.)   When the plants are 2 to 3 inches tall, thin to 2 to 3 plants per hill by snipping off unwanted plants without disturbing the roots of the remaining ones. In rows, sow seeds 6 to 12 inches apart in rows 6 to 10 feet apart. Snip off plants to thin to one plant every 18 to 36 inches.

If you need to start plants early, plant inside in 2- to 3-inch pots or cells 3 to 4 weeks before transplanting outside. Sow 3 or 4 seeds per pot and thin to one or two plants by snipping off the weaker plants to avoid damaging the roots of those that remain. Harden off by cutting back on water and reducing temperature before transplanting. Plant transplants out in the garden at the same final spacings above after all danger of frost has passed.

Black plastic mulch can speed growth, especially in cool, short-season areas. At the end of the season, remove or till in vines to reduce mildew. Use row covers to protect plants early in the season and to prevent insect problems. Remove before flowering to allow pollination by insects or when hot weather arrives.

Mulching plants helps retain moisture and suppress weeds. Mounding soil around the base of the plants can discourage squash borers from laying eggs.

Aphids - A hard stream of water can be used to remove aphids from plants. Wash off with water occasionally as needed early in the day. Check for evidence of natural enemies such as gray-brown or bloated parasitized aphids and the presence of alligator-like larvae of lady beetles and lacewings.

Squash bug - Handpick and destroy. Bury or compost plant residues after harvest.

Spider mites - Wash off with water occasionally as needed early in the day. A hard stream of water can be used to remove many mites from plants.

Squash vine borer - Remove by hand.

Striped cucumber beetles - Construct tents of fine netting or cheesecloth or use floating row cover over young transplants and seedlings. Put in place at planting and remove before temperatures get too hot in midsummer. Control of beetles will help to prevent bacterial wilt.

Powdery mildew - Avoid wetting foliage if possible. Water early in the day so aboveground plant parts will dry as quickly as possible. Avoid crowding plants. Space apart to allow air circulation. Eliminate weeds around plants and garden area to improve air circulation.

Bacterial wilt (Erwinia tracheiphila ) -
Remove and destroy infested plants. Control any beetles which may spread the bacteria.

Scab - Avoid wetting foliage if possible. Water early in the day so aboveground plant parts will dry as quickly as possible. Avoid crowding plants. Space apart to allow air circulation.

Other diseases:
Viral diseases
Downy mildew

Browse pumpkin varieties at our Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners website.

Whether they are Cucurbita pepo (the same species as summer squash) C. moschata, C. argyrosperma or C. maxima, most pumpkin varieties produce sprawling vines. If space is tight, there are a few bush or semi-bush varieties that take less space.

If you plan to make pies rather than Jack-o-lanterns, look for varieties bred for flavor (most are C. moschata). Ornamental types (most are C. pepo) range from tennis-ball-sized novelties (great for kids to decorate with paint) to behemoths weighing hundreds of pounds (most are of these giants are C. maxima). Lumina is a white pumpkin that is also great for painting.

Some varieties, such as 'Triple Treat, are hulless, making them a great choice if you plan to toast the seeds for snacks.

Some larger varieties require long growing seasons and may not mature in cooler areas of New York.

Some varieties recommended for New York include:


Baby Boo


Baby Bear
Baby Pam
Lil' Ironsides
Small Sugar

Medium to Large:

Autumn Gold
Gold Rush
Howdy Doody
Magic Lantern
Tom Fox


Atlantic Giant
Big Max