How to Grow Large Pumpkins

Learn how to grow big pumpkins to carve a homegrown jack-o’lantern or stage your own autumn harvest display.
Pumpkins

Pumpkins

Once fall is here that can mean only one thing: pumpkins, pumpkins and more pumpkins.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Image courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Master how to grow big pumpkins, and you can trim some fall expenses from the family budget. Pumpkin vines are productive, and you’ll have ample fruit for carving and creating seasonal decorative displays that can last all the way through Thanksgiving—and fill a pie or two along the way. Discover how to grow large pumpkins with these simple steps.

First, decide what you want: a large pumpkin for carving or decorating or a ribbon-earning giant. Large pumpkins may not earn you fame at the local pumpkin festival, but they’ll score big points with your family—and likely make your house the envy of the neighborhood for its homegrown harvest.

To grow a big pumpkin, purchase seed that promises the harvest size you want. For modestly large pumpkins in the 25- to 35-pound range, search out seeds of the varieties Ol’ Zebs, Cinderella, or Gold Rush. If your sights are set on a 40- to 50-pound pumpkin, get seeds for Mammoth Gold, Burpee Prize Winner, or Big Moon.

Follow planting instructions on the seed packet. As soon as vines start running or spreading, along the ground, make sure your plants have enough water. Pumpkins are thirsty, and when you’re growing bigger fruits, you need to provide water if it doesn’t rain. Avoid using an overhead sprinkler, because that can spread diseases. Instead, use a soaker hose. As vines fill in, you won’t be able to see the hose, so don’t worry if it’s not the prettiest sight early in the growing season.

Pumpkin-palooza! 10 Pumpkin Varieties

See All Photos

Shop This Look

Check plants regularly for any signs of diseases or pests. Each leaf is very important and vital to producing large pumpkins. If you spot a problem on one leaf, it most likely will spread to another. Diagnose and treat problems as soon as you see them.

At each point along the stem where a leaf appears, a pumpkin vine can also produce secondary roots. Encourage these roots by heaping soil over stems beside leaves and watering for a week or two. Do this in a few places away from the main stem. Secondary roots help your vine support multiple large pumpkins simultaneously.

Pumpkin vines grow with one main vine and several branches. Keep an eye on the branches, and prune the tips of these vines when they’re 10 to 12 feet long. Bury the cut tips. Pruning the vines tricks the plant into sending more water and nutrients to the developing fruits.

To grow only a few large pumpkins, thin ripening fruit. An easy way to do this is to allow only one or two pumpkins to remain on each main branch of the vine. Use hand pruners to snip away stems of smaller pumpkins. Bury these in your compost pile or vegetable garden to feed worms and enrich soil.

Consider slipping a wafer of straw or an inverted terra-cotta saucer beneath young pumpkins to protect the ripening side from attack by soil insects. Harvest pumpkins when rinds show good color all over or just before frost, whichever occurs first.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Growing Pumpkins

These autumn favorites are one of gardening’s most fun plants to grow—and they’re really a cinch. Set your sights on growing a bumper crop of pumpkins.

Where Do Pumpkins Grow?

Transform your yard into a pumpkin paradise. Get started by learning what kind of soil pumpkins like to sink their roots into.

Growing Pumpkins in Containers

Raise a crop of pumpkins on a deck or patio—with no garden bed in sight. Learn how to grow pumpkins in pots no matter where you live.

Growing Giant Pumpkins

Harvest tons of fun by growing giant pumpkins in your own backyard. Learn secrets to success from our garden experts.

Pumpkin Growing Tips

Follow our easy-grows-it tips to take the guesswork out of growing everyone’s fall favorite: pumpkins.

When to Harvest Pumpkins

Learn the secrets to harvesting pumpkins so they’ll stage a strong holiday display—and last long enough to fill a pie, too.

Storing Pumpkins

Grow your own pumpkins, and you’re raising food you can store for up to three months. Learn tips for curing and storing pumpkins.

How to Grow a Giant Pumpkin

Tips from giant-pumpkin experts Christy Harp and Jamie Johnson on growing a major gourd.

How to Plant a Three Sisters Garden

Native Americans devised the ingenious Three Sisters garden, a method whereby beans grow up corn stalks while squash plants serve as ground cover.

When to Plant Pumpkins

Get the scoop on when to plant pumpkins in your garden. The right timing depends on where you live and what kind of pumpkins you’re growing.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.