Pumpkins are a fun fruit to grow- they come in so many different sizes, shapes, and colors! They’re great for Halloween carving, seasonal decorations, and even cooking and baking. They can, however, take up a great deal of space in your garden. Thankfully that’s where growing pumpkins on a trellis can save the day (and your garden space)!
Using a pumpkin trellis allows you to grow your plants vertically instead of creeping across the ground. Trellising also helps improve airflow to the fruits, leaves and roots, and makes it easier to spot early signs of pest damage or disease. Popular options for pumpkin trellises include traditional upright wooden structures, A-frame structures, arbors or metal cattle panels.
In this post, you’ll learn more about the benefits of growing your pumpkins on a trellis, the best types of pumpkins for vertical growing and different structures you can use. We’ll also cover how to train your plants to grow vertically and answer some common questions.
Let’s get started!
How a Pumpkin Plant Grows
If you’ve ever grown pumpkins or other vining garden plants, you know a single vine can take up a huge amount of garden space. As a group, pumpkins are large plants with broad leaves, creeping vines and, of course, sizable fruits.
Given the number of different pumpkin varieties, vine length varies quite a bit. In general, the average pumpkin plant can grow somewhere between 10 and 20 feet long. However, some of the larger varieties can grow long as 30 feet.
According to The University of Illinois Extension, pumpkin vines for large or giant pumpkins require at least 50-100 square feet for proper growth. For small or medium pumpkins, you’ll usually need about 32 square feet for healthy growth and fruit production. For miniature and bush-type varieties, you can usually get by with 15-20 square feet.
No matter which way you slice it, that is a lot of real estate- especially if you want to grow other fruits and vegetables in your garden!
Can You Trellis Pumpkins?
Yes, growing pumpkins on a trellis or other support structure is a fantastic option for many gardeners, and it works for a wide range of pumpkin varieties.
I think it’s pretty obvious that the biggest reason to use a pumpkin trellis is to save space in the garden or maximize on small areas. When your vines grow upright instead of horizontally, you can reduce the footprint from 1-100 square feet down to just a few.
But using a pumpkin trellis or growing pumpkins vertically has many other wonderful benefits beyond saving your garden space. Here are just a few reasons why we recommend using a pumpkin trellis:
- Growing vertically provides better air circulation for the pumpkin plant
- Hanging pumpkins are potentially healthier (and prettier)
- Elevating pumpkins away from soil means reduced risk of fungal diseases
- Keeping pumpkins away from the ground keeps many pests away
- Easier access means easier harvesting (no bending over or crawling on the ground)
Pumpkin Trellis Ideas
There are many different methods to grow pumpkins vertically, and you can create and build your own trellis or buy one already made and ready to go with minimal assembly (if any).
For a DIY strategy for a lightweight trellis, drive metal fence posts at least one foot into the ground and string twine between them. This is a good option for mini varieties that don’t need much support:
Here are some other ideas for a pumpkin trellis:
- These wooden A-frame trellises from GreatTrellis on Etsy are sturdy and attractive.
- For mini pumpkins, a metal A-frame trellis, like this one from Gardeners Supply Company is a durable option.
- An overhead arbor like this one from LeJoy Garden is pretty and long-lasting. Thanks to its bulk and strength, it’s ideal for medium-size pumpkin varieties.
- A pea fence is suitable for mini pumpkins. Gardeners Supply Company has a nice folding option.
- You can use plant ties and train pumpkin vine directly on a chain-link fence
- Attach wooden lattice sections, like these from My Gift, to a wooden fence or structure.
- Tomato cages are great for mini and small pumpkin plants. Choose a heavy-duty one, like this one from Gardener’s Blue Ribbon at Home Depot.
- Cattle/hog fence panels can be used vertically or in an arch shape. These are heavy-duty metal panels, and they provide reliable support that holds up to the elements.
With so many options, it can be hard to choose! Daniel Akins, writer/editor at Theyardable, says his top choice is the A-frame. “This plant does best on a-shaped trellises. Their two sides provide a robust foundation support that keeps the plants in place and lets you direct the vines to produce pumpkins.”
Best Pumpkin Varieties for Growing Vertically
So there are plenty of good reasons for using a pumpkin trellis. But can you grow any pumpkin vertically? No, but it’s really not as limited as you might think!
As you probably already guessed, you just can’t grow some pumpkin varieties vertically due to their size. And not just the mammoth 100+ pounders, but also some large varieties like Aladdin and Cinderella (25 to 35 pounds each).
The best pumpkin varieties for growing on a trellis are the miniature and small ones. We’ve covered the topic of awesome small and mini pumpkins in more detail, but here’s a quick rundown:
- Jack Be Little (mini) will grow about 12 pumpkins per plant at 4-8 ounces each
- Sugar Pie (small) produces about 8 pumpkins weighing 6-8 pounds apiece.
- Hooligan (mini) grows up to 12 pumpkins at about 8 ounces each
- Hot Chocolate (small) has unique tan-colored fruits that weigh about 5-8 pounds.
- Casperita (mini) weighs between 8-16 ounces and grows about a dozen pumpkins per plant
- Baby Boo (mini) also grows up to a dozen pumpkins per plant
- Black Kat (mini) pumpkins have nearly-black rinds and weigh 1/2 to 1 pound.
You’ll notice most of these pumpkins weigh less than 15 pounds- which is ideal for growing on a trellis.
Now, there are gardeners out there who grow heftier pumpkins vertically. To do that, you’ll need a very large, sturdy framework, like a metal cattle panel or a thick-beamed arbor, along with support slings to distribute the ripening fruit’s weight.
If you’ve got the right set-up, you can probably support fruits as heavy as 25 pounds. But that may be hard to achieve in the average home garden, so in general, larger varieties will do best on the ground.
How to Train a Pumpkin Vine on a Trellis
Once you’ve got your trellis or support structure picked out and your pumpkin seeds/seedlings in hand, how do you train the vine to climb vertically?
The number one tip for successfully growing your pumpkin on a trellis is to start early.
Pumpkin vines are pretty amazing, and they’re definitely built to handle the large fruits they produce. But the vines can be surprisingly brittle. I found this out the hard way when I waited a little too long to gently shift a vine into a better direction- and I got a big split right down the vine’s side! Fortunately, the plant carried on and produced well, but damage like that could leave the door open to pests or disease.
So learn from my experience and don’t put off training your pumpkin to grow the way you want it to.
Place your trellis where you want it immediately after planting your seeds or seedlings. That way you won’t disturb any delicate roots and you’re ready to train as soon the plant gets large enough. Typically, when the vine reaches about 6 inches in length, it’s a good time to attach it to the support structure.
Use twist ties or garden ties to gently attach the vines in the direction you want them to grow on the trellis, being careful to leave a bit of slack on the vine to prevent any damage as they grow. The vine will also gain width as it grows, and tying too tightly could cause it to snap or become constricted later on. So be sure to tie it up loosely.
You’ll also notice that the vine sends out mini tendrils, known as tertiary vines. If you were growing your pumpkin on the ground, you could prune these off since they don’t contribute to photosynthesis. But when growing vertically, tertiary vines are our friends. They will wind themselves around anything in reach, and they’ll help your plant climb the trellis more securely.
After that, the pumpkin vines will start to climb on their own and you’ll have a wall of leaves!
How to Support Hanging Pumpkins
For any pumpkins weighing 10 pounds or more, a support sling for each fruit is a wise idea. The sling fits underneath an individual pumpkin and attaches to the trellis/support structure, taking the fruit’s weight off the vine. This helps prevent vine breakage and promotes healthy fruit development.
You can either make or buy fruit/vegetable slings. Some common materials for pumpkin slings include cotton netting, towels, fabric, and even old pantyhose!
This video from Cali Kim demonstrates how to make a sling with materials you probably already have at home:
But if you’d prefer to buy your pumpkin slings rather than make them, here are some excellent options:
Frequently Asked Questions about Pumpkin Trellises
Growing pumpkins on a trellis sounds like it could be difficult to achieve. But as long as you pick the right size pumpkin, utilize a sturdy trellis or fence panel, and use support slings for the larger pumpkins it is actually very doable.
You’ll find you save garden space and make room for other fruit and vegetable plants. Your pumpkins may also grow better and have fewer pests, and they’re even easier to harvest when the time comes. What’s not to love?
We want to hear from you! Are there any other questions about growing pumpkins on a trellis that you’re still wondering about? Or maybe you’ve tried the method before and have some insights to share. We learn best as a gardening community, so please let us know your thoughts in the comments!