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The Life Cycle of a Pumpkin Plant

Updated on March 9, 2010


The Life Cycle of a Pumpkin Plant

Pumpkins are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. Different varieties range in size from only a few ounces, to several hundred pounds; in color from white to bright orange, and in flavor from bland to sweet. All varieties grow on vines that are similar in both appearance and growing conditions, following the same basic pumpkin plant life cycle.


Pumpkins like warmth and sun; they thrive in zones 4 and warmer. Seeds shouldn't go into the ground until after last frost. They can start indoors 2-3 weeks prior to this in individual pots and then transplanted once seedlings have become established. (Peterson) Soaking seeds overnight before planting speeds germination by softening the outer shell and allowing the sprout to break through easier(Levenson). Covered with about an inch of moist soil to block sunlight, the seeds do the rest.


Once seeds sprout, two small round leaves will emerge first and then the "real" leaves will begin to appear. It takes about 7-10 days after planting for this to happen, and two more weeks before seedlings become established.


Pumpkins enjoy rich soil and are heavy feeders. Broad leaves shade out most weeds once plants begin to vine. Vines can grow up to 6 feet per day and can reach up to 30 feet in length, so they need lots of space in which to sprawl. Vines have tendrils that curl tightly around any obstacle in their path and allow them to climb, so they are easily trained to grow where you want them to. (Levenson)

The first flowers appear ten weeks after planting. Each bloom lasts for one day. Male flowers appear first, on long, thin stems, while female blooms sit closer to the plant. After pollination, the female flower withers and fruit appear. Pumpkins take 100-140 frost free days mature. (Levenson).

Pests and Diseases

Collapsed plants indicate squash borers if prior to setting fruit, and wilt disease, which is spread by cucumber beetles, if collapse occurs before fruit ripens. Floating row covers can deter these garden pests. Remove covers when plants bloom to allow pollination. (Peterson) Straw mulch also helps to deter cucumber beetles, as does interplanting with oregano or nasturtiums. Companion plants that repel squash bugs are garlic, dill, lemon balm and tansy. (“Companion Planting”) Adequate spacing between mounds to allow for good air circulation may prevent mildew (Peterson).


Harvest pumpkins when shells have hardened and their color has deepened, or after frost has killed the vines. Cut stems a few inches above the fruit and allow to cure in the garden for 10 days (Levenson). Pumpkins can be stored in a cool, dry area for several months before losing flavor (Peterson).


Peterson, Cass. “Rodale’s Successful Organic Gardening Vegetables”. Emmaus: Rodale Press, 1993. p. 134.

Companion Planting. Golden Harvest Organics. September 27, 2009.

Levenson, George. “How to Grow Pumpkins”. Pumpkin Circle.


“Use of Peat Moss in New Plantings”

“Flowers that Repel Garden Pests”



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    • profile image

      Shyloh Gardening  7 years ago

      Thank you for this article! I have been dying to learn a little bit about gardening pumpkins. I want to grow our own for Halloween this year so I figure, start now! Thank you again!

    • profile image

      summertime8 7 years ago

      I think I'm going to try and plant some for next Halloween.

    • kj8 profile image

      kj8 8 years ago from Australia

      I love pumpkins! I don't have to worry about planting them because they pop up where ever I put compost.

      The vines spread in the garden beds and provide a nice shady live mulch for my other plants. The yummy soup later on is an added bonus. Keep hubbing.