So you’ve planted your mini, standard, or large pumpkin vine this year and you’re looking forward to fall! But how many pumpkins per plant should you plan on harvesting?
Here’s the short answer:
- Mini pumpkin plants produce up to 12 pumpkins
- Standard pumpkin plants produce between 2 and 5 pumpkins
- Jumbo pumpkin plants usually produce only 1 pumpkin
However, this is a very general overview. There are plenty of variables that can affect your overall yield, even within a size category. In this article, you’ll learn more details about different pumpkin size classes and also some tips to help you get your optimum yield.
Let’s get started!
How Many Pumpkins Per Plant by Size Category
The size of the pumpkin is the single greatest factor that determines how many pumpkins per plant you’ll get.
Even for miniature varieties, pumpkins are fairly substantial fruits that take quite a bit of energy for a plant to grow. After all, they’re much larger than a green bean or bell pepper, for instance.
And the larger the pumpkin, the more resources are required to support the fruit and bring it to full maturity. Thus, you’ll see pumpkin numbers decrease as the size class gets larger.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown by the size:
Aren’t they just the sweetest?
Mini pumpkins, like Jack Be Little, typically weigh anywhere from less than half a pound up to about 2 pounds.
Expect to harvest up to 12 mini pumpkins on a single plant. They grow on creeping or climbing vines and come in bright orange, creamy yellow and white.
Small pumpkins typically weigh in at around 3 to 5 pounds apiece. Expect to harvest about 8 to 10 small pumpkins from the average plant.
These are often referred to as “pie pumpkins,” and they tend to have sweeter, less-stringy flesh that lends itself well to cooking. A perfect example of a small variety is Sugar Pie.
Large pumpkins are your standard jack-o-lantern varieties, and they usually weigh anywhere between 15-30 pounds.
Either way, large pumpkins are great for Halloween as well as cooking and baking. You should expect anywhere from 2 to 5 large pumpkins from a single plant, with 3 being about the average successful crop.
Jumbo pumpkins are anything bigger than the average large pumpkin, and weight can vary greatly. If grown to giant size, jumbo pumpkins can weigh anywhere from 50 pounds to over 2,000 pounds. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Company, the heaviest pumpkin on record weighed 2,624 pounds!
If you’re growing any pumpkin that’s larger than your standard jack-o-lantern, expect to get 1 pumpkin per plant. That’s especially true if you’re going for a whopper as big as the one in the photo.
How to Plant Pumpkins for the Best Yield
Thankfully, as versatile as they are in cooking, baking and festive autumn decoration, pumpkins can be grown successfully in many areas worldwide.
And a good harvest starts many months beforehand with a good planting strategy. Here are some tips to help you best ensure the success of your pumpkin crop:
- Plant at the right time
- Ensure proper spacing between plants
- Choose a full-sun location
- Pay attention to the soil
- Companion planting for pumpkins
1. Plant at the Right Time
Begin planting in late spring or early summer once all frost danger has passed and the temperature is consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
For many gardeners in the United States, that will usually be in late May or early June. However, you can plant faster-maturing varieties all the way up until early July and still have a crop for fall.
If you live in a warm climate with a long growing season, you should be able to direct sow your seeds outdoors with no trouble.
If you live in a colder climate with a shorter growing season, start your pumpkin seeds indoors just a few weeks before your last estimated frost date. Then transplant outside when all danger of frost has passed.
This comprehensive resource page from the University of Minnesota is a great resource for indoor seed starting, so check it out if you have any questions.
2. Ensure Proper Spacing Between Plants
Pumpkins are susceptible to quite a few plant diseases, with the most common being:
- Fungal infections, including powdery mildew, downy mildew and anthracnose
- Bacterial infections, including bacterial leaf spot
- Fruit rot
Many of the microbes that cause these problems thrive in damp, warm air. One of the best ways to keep your pumpkins healthy is to give each plant plenty of space.
The variety you choose will determine how far apart to plant pumpkins. Some are bushier and therefore more compact, while others form long vines that need plenty of space to stretch out.
When planning for your spacing, remember to consider both the space between each row and the space between plants within those rows.
For row spacing:
- Vining varieties: 10-15 feet
- Bushy varieties: 8 feet
- Mini varieties: 6 feet
For spacing between the plants within rows:
- Vining varieties: 5-6 feet apart
- Bushy varieties: 4 feet apart
- Mini varieties: 2 feet apart
Here it is in visual form:
3. Choose a Full-Sun Location
Make sure your pumpkins get plenty of sun. Regardless of the size of your plant, all pumpkins require at least 6 hours of direct sun daily, and preferably more.
The more sun your plants get, the more pumpkins you’ll get!
4. Pay Attention to the Soil
Pumpkins thrive in warm soil that drains well and has a pH level between 6.0 and 6.5. You can use a soil test from Luster Leaf to assess your current pH level and test for several other key nutrient levels. If your test indicates it, you can use a soil acidifier, like this one from Espoma, or an alkalizing product, like this garden lime from Jobe’s, to adjust the pH.
Soil that’s high in organic matter and has a light, sandy texture is ideal. If your soil is on the heavier side, mix in a generous amount of compost or well-rotted manure to improve your soil structure and drainage.
5. Companion Planting for Pumpkins
Companion planting for pumpkins is all about increasing the fruit yield. This means using plants that will attract pollinators, repel pests or even aid in your pumpkin plant’s growth. Here are some good companion plants for pumpkins:
You may have heard a common piece of garden advice: Don’t plant squash and pumpkins near each other since they could cross-pollinate. Squash and pumpkins are indeed close relatives and cross-pollination can occur.
But according to the University of Illinois Extension, it usually won’t affect this year’s fruit one way or the other. (It would, however, affect the seeds, and if you save/plant any cross-pollinated seeds, you could wind up with some pretty odd-looking fruit.)
So if you want to plant both crops and you don’t have a ton of space to work with, go ahead and plant them near each other with no fear.
But then there are those plants that are not good to grow with pumpkins:
These root crops take up precious soil space, and the harvesting process could potentially disturb your pumpkin’s sensitive roots, decreasing their yield. So keep these plants a safe distance away from your pumpkins.
Caring for Pumpkins to Get the Best Yield
Now that you’ve planted your pumpkins appropriately, it’s time to focus on the care routine that can help you maintain healthy plants and pumpkins:
- Give plenty of water
- Provide adequate nutrition
- Prune away excess foliage
- Avoid using harsh chemicals
- Apply mulch
- Support the fruits
- Turn the pumpkin carefully
1. Give Plenty of Water
Water your pumpkins generously, aiming for about 1 inch of water weekly. And keeping up on watering becomes especially critical during those hot summer months, so don’t let your routine slide!
However, be sure to water the soil, not the plant’s stems or leaves. The roots need water, not the foliage, and damp leaves are a breeding ground for diseases and pests.
A soaker hose is a fantastic option that both spares you from having to hold a hose for long periods and also puts the water right where it’s needed. This 50-foot soaker hose from Melnor is a good one to consider.
2. Provide Adequate Nutrition
Your pumpkin plants are working hard to produce those hefty fruits, so they need your support in the form of fertilizer about once a month after you spot those first flowers. This formula from Organic Plant Magic is a great all-around option. Compost or well-rotted manure are other excellent choices.
But some people prefer to fertilize a little more strategically throughout the growing season in hopes of producing the largest, healthiest fruits:
- Nitrogen to help young plants produce plenty of foliage (like this blood meal from Down to Earth)
- Phosphorus during the blooming phase (like this bone meal from Down to Earth)
- Potassium + phosphorous once your pumpkins start growing (like this seaweed extract from Nature’s Pure Edge along with bone meal)
3. Prune Away Excess Foliage
Pruning pumpkin vines will help with space requirements and channeling the plant’s energy where it needs to be- on the fruit!
Gardener Scott has an excellent video on pruning pumpkins to keep overgrown vines in check and grow bigger fruits. You can check it out here:
4. Avoid Using Harsh Chemicals
Don’t use pesticides to detract pests since this can affect pollinating bees as well.
Instead, preventing soggy soil, fertilizing correctly and ensuring enough sunlight can all help prevent and manage pests naturally.
5. Apply Mulch
Mulching around the base of your pumpkin plant helps to deter pests, maintain moisture and control weeds.
Using compost as mulch can be a great idea here. Not only will the compost serve the protective purpose of mulch, but it will also help feed your always-hungry pumpkin plant.
6. Support the Fruits
Placing your growing pumpkins on cardboard or wood or even some fabric elevates it slightly off of the soil, helping to prevent excessive moisture build-up and rot.
You can do this as soon as you see fruits forming, but it doesn’t become critical until the pumpkins start gaining some significant weight, usually midsummer or later.
7. Turn the Pumpkin (Carefully!)
This one’s more for looks than anything, but if your pumpkins are for decorative purposes, how they look is a key consideration.
To prevent a flat side on your growing pumpkin, gently turn it on the vine every few days. Just move it a small amount at a time, being careful not to turn so much that you damage the stem.
Follow your careful turning routine faithfully, and you should end up with a nice, rounded pumpkin.
When Pumpkins are Ready to Harvest
So how long does it take to grow a pumpkin from start to finish? On average, it takes about 100 days for a pumpkin to grow from germination to harvest.
To break it down a little further:
- Mini pumpkins take 90-100 days
- Standard pumpkins between 100 and 120 days
- The giant varieties take upwards of 130-160 days
As long as you’ve planted them after the last frost in warm soil, they’ll hopefully be ripe before the first frost in your area.
Otherwise, protect the plants and pumpkins from freezing temperatures to prevent them from hardening and rotting on the vine. You can use sheets, quilts, blankets or even cardboard boxes.
Here are a few ways to tell if your pumpkins are ready for harvest:
- The pumpkin skin is a deep, solid orange (depending on the cultivar)
- The rind is hard when you thump it and the pumpkin sounds hollow
- You can’t puncture the skin with your fingernail
- The plants or vines are dying back
And when you’re ready to harvest, put on protective gloves and use a sharp, strong knife to cleanly cut the stem a few inches above the pumpkin.
Do not hold the pumpkin by the stem or you risk snapping it off entirely. Not only does a missing stem make your pumpkin less attractive, but it can also be a site for rot to set in prematurely.
Then enjoy your home-grown pumpkin in whatever way you want!
Under the right conditions, pumpkins can be pretty easy to grow with a great return. Whether it’s for decorating your front porch at Halloween, baking a pumpkin pie or cooking pumpkin soup, this plant is a definite winner!
If you found this article helpful, we’d love it if you shared it with your friends on social media so they know what to expect from their pumpkin plants, too!