Planting Pumpkin Seeds

Learn how to plant pumpkin seeds with our expert advice—and you can grow your own pumpkins for pennies a pound.
Save Pumpkin Seeds to Eat and to Plant Next Year

Save Pumpkin Seeds to Eat and to Plant Next Year

Pumpkins grow fast and take up a lot of space. Use the seeds to roast and save for planting next year.

©2010, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2010, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Planting pumpkin seeds is garden fun at its best. Tuck one little seed into soil, and in a few months you’ll be rewarded with an armful of fall’s iconic fruits. Whether you’re growing miniature pumpkins for tabletop displays or a beefy fruit for spooky carving, learning how to plant pumpkin seeds will improve your odds of success. It’s also critical to know when to plant pumpkin seeds, especially if you’re aiming for a larger-than-life harvest.

Like all seeds, pumpkin seeds need just a few things to get growing. Soil and water jump-start the process. Light is pivotal once leaves appear. The trickiest part is knowing when to plant pumpkin seeds.

If you’re growing a giant that needs 140-plus days to reach its mammoth size, sow seeds from April 25 to May 15. If you garden where those dates still have a frosty feel, start seeds indoors. Most giant pumpkin seeds have a very thick seed coat. You’ll get better germination if you file the edges of the seed. Just don’t touch the pointed tip. Use a piece of sandpaper or a nail file to file the seed edges gently. After filing, soak seeds for an hour or two in hot water before planting. These steps help seedlings to emerge easily from within the hard seed coat.

Sow traditional field pumpkins or jack o’lanterns into garden soil from May 15 to June 15. For an earlier harvest or perhaps a slightly larger pumpkin, you can start seeds indoors up to two weeks before these dates. Miniature pumpkins don’t need as long a growing season to reach their full potential. Tuck these seeds into garden soil from May 25 to July 1.

Pumpkin-palooza! 10 Pumpkin Varieties

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'Jack-Be-Little'

'Jack-Be-Little' pumpkins will have you jumping at just how adorable they are. These tiny pumpkins grow to 3-inches in around 85-90 days: plant a couple rows for a bountiful, bright harvest.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

The First Pumpkin

Old Timey Cornfield pumpkins are an heirloom variety, used early on as feed for cows. Nowadays they serve as delicious pie pumpkins.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

Jack-o'-Lanterns

These round, medium-sized pumpkins are perfect for carving. Growing your own is fun and rewarding (especially for kids), but requires careful planning: these season-sprawlers take 90-120 days to mature, so start planting in late spring to early summer.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'Sugar Pie' Pumpkins

'Sugar Pie' pumpkins are a smaller, sweeter variety used for baking cookies, cakes and pies, of course. 'Sugar Pie' is also easy to handle, weighing in from 6-7 lbs.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'Baby Boo'

These ghostly-white pumpkins get their "Baby" title from their size: they grow to a mere two-inches tall and 3-inches in diameter, and retain a bright, white color if picked before they mature.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'Prizewinner'

Watch out county fair, this pumpkin's a big one! Cucurbita maxima 'Prizewinner' can produce pumpkins that weigh anywhere from 75-150 lbs, and with proper care and conditions can grow even larger.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'New Moon'

'New Moon' is a large, white pumpkin with thick, white flesh. The vines grow vigorously and can produce fruits that are 35-75 lbs.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'Goosebumps'

These medium-sized pumpkins have true Halloween spirit: 'Goosebumps' start off with smooth skin and develop ghoulish "warts" as they age.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'Porcelain Doll'

'Porcelain Doll' features fruits with an unusual, beautiful pink hue. This medium-sized squash has a bright orange flesh that can be used for baking and cooking.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jessica Yonker

'Lumina' Pumpkin

Like 'New Moon', 'Lumina' produces smooth, white pumpkins that are great for carving or decorating. 

When planting pumpkin seeds—indoors or out—place seeds into soil one-half to 1 inch deep with the pointed end facing down. Indoors, place seed-starting pots under artificial lights or in a bright south-facing window. Pumpkin seeds germinate best in soil that’s 80 to 85 degrees. Use a root-zone heating mat to warm soil in pots. Remove the heating mat once seedlings appear to avoid damaging roots.

Pumpkins dislike cold of any kind, so don’t plant pumpkin seeds directly into garden soil until after all danger of frost is past. It’s a good idea in cooler areas to cover your pumpkin planting spot with black plastic for a few weeks prior to planting. This helps concentrate the sun’s rays to warm soil. At planting time, cut a small X-shaped slit in the plastic and sow seeds through that opening. Watch for seedlings to appear; make sure they’re not hindered by the plastic.

Indoors and out, pumpkin seeds usually germinate within 10 days. If 10 days come and go and you see no signs of growth, consider making a second planting. You can gently try to excavate planted seeds, but if the seed has germinated, you risk damaging emerging roots. In the garden, use a large garden trowel to lift soil gently and inspect it for any sign of the seed or seedling.

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