One of the things I love most about growing vegetables at home is watching the fruits of my labor as they grow and develop. The cucumber is one of those fruits that is easy to grow and goes through several distinct stages, each one unique and identifiable.
The seven stages of a cucumber plant are:
- True leaves appear
- Vines and more leaves form
- Flowers bloom
- Fruit and seeds form
In this post, I’m covering each stage in detail, including photos that show the identifying characteristics so you can tell when your plant hits each one. You’ll also learn some of my best care tips to help your plants thrive at each step in their growth.
Let’s get started!
7 Stages of a Cucumber Plant
Each step is critical: If there’s a problem anywhere, the life cycle stops and there will be no cucumbers. Besides that- every one of the cucumber growth stages is fascinating in its own right!
If you want to see the whole process in just a couple of minutes, watch this incredible time-lapse video from Amazing Tube:
NOTE: In the video, it looks like a seedless cucumber variety that only produces female flowers and doesn’t need pollination. That’s the best kind for growing indoors, but it’s not what’s in the average home garden.
Like any plant, it all starts with a seed. Most cucumber seeds are small, light golden in color, and have smooth seed coats.
There are over 100 varieties and 3 categories of cucumbers, ranging in size and use. Depending upon the variety of cucumber seeds, it takes anywhere from 45 to 80 days for them to be ready for harvest. Bush varieties like Hybrid, Picklebush, and Salad do well in pots due to their compact size, so consider these if you don’t have the garden space. Great slicing cucumbers including Ashley, Fanfare, and Early Pride are common for growing in ground gardens.
Cucumbers love soil that’s neutral or slightly acidic on the pH scale. Enrich your soil with compost for nutrition and moisture retention. Pick a spot that provides full sun for at least 6 hours daily and prepare a trellis or support system before planting cucumber seeds.
All cucumber seeds can be started indoors and transplanted later, but seedlings don’t always tolerate transplanting. So direct sowing is often the best course. Once all threat of frost has passed and soil is 60 degrees Fahrenheit minimum, sow cucumber seeds 1 inch deep and 12 inches apart. Plant two seeds at each site, and thin to one plant when they reach 1 inch in height.
The next cucumber plant stage, germination, is when the first leaves break out of the seed and up through the soil. Germination typically occurs between 3 and 10 days after planting. Cucumber sprouts appear as cotyledons, the first two oval-shaped leaves.
Germination of cucumber seeds is dependent upon moisture, soil temperature, and seed quality, with warmer soil and consistent moisture bringing faster germination. In my experience, optimal soil temperatures for the best germination rate are between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
3: True Leaves Appear
Approximately 1-2 weeks after germination, the cucumber seedling’s true leaves will appear. The true leaves are the first that appear after cotyledons and appear triangular, lobed, and toothy-edged with a fuzzy surface. This marks the beginning of the seedling stage.
If compost is not present in garden soil, consider fertilizing cucumber plants every 2 weeks from this point on with an organic vegetable and herb fertilizer. My absolute favorite veggie fertilizer is Home Grown by Dr. Earth.
4. Vines and More Leaves Form
The next cucumber plant stage begins after the plant has formed five or six leaf nodes on the main stem. Over the next 4-6 weeks the cucumber seedlings focus on developing stems, leaves, and roots.
Growth occurs rapidly at this stage- it seems like you can notice how much longer the vines are every day! If you’re growing your cucumbers on a trellis or support structure, gently guide and secure the vines to the structure every day or two to encourage a good growth pattern and provide airflow for future cucumbers to grow.
Cucumbers need lots of nutrients, sunlight, and water to fuel their rapid growth. Ensure plenty of water, sun, and fertilizer for healthy growth during this stage.
You want healthy green for all your cucumber leaves, but yellowing leaves can be a common problem. I’ve written a post on treating yellow cucumber leaves, so stop by to learn more details.
5. Flowers Bloom
It depends on the variety you’re growing, but you should see flowers appearing on your cucumber plants somewhere between 35 and 50 days after germination.
Male flowers appear first- they have stamens for producing pollen. Female flowers sprout 7-14 days later. These flowers have pistils containing ovules, plus there is what looks like a tiny cucumber at the base of female flowers.
Depending on cucumber plant variety and pollination, flowers bloom for 2-4 weeks.
Most of the time, pollinating insects take care of the pollen transfer for us, but you can also pollinate your cucumber flowers by hand. Use a small paintbrush or a cotton swab to pick up pollen from a male flower, then rub it onto the pistil of a female flower.
NOTE: I’ve gone into a lot more detail in recognizing male and female blossoms and how to care for them in my post on flowering cucumbers– don’t miss it!
6. Fruit and Seeds Form
After the female flowers have been successfully pollinated, the fruits (with seeds inside) start to form. This occurs between days 50 and 70 from seed planting, depending on the variety of cucumber planted. Cucumbers grow quickly and take 10 to 20 days from pollinated flowers to harvest ready.
Cucumbers are considered fruits due to the fleshy pulp surrounding the seeds. There are also seedless varieties of cucumber available from which to choose.
The number of cucumbers that you’ll harvest from each plant varies depending on the variety, but I’ve compiled some estimated cucumber yields.
Cucumbers are harvest-ready about 8-10 days after first seen growing from pollinated flowers. The production timeframe varies quite a bit depending on the plant variety- some plants will keep producing a small, steady stream of fruits for several weeks, while others will produce a lot all at once.
Harvest pickling cucumbers when 3-4 inches long and smooth, and slicing cucumbers at 7-8 inches long, uniformly dark green, and firm.
Don’t make the mistake of waiting too long to harvest- cucumbers can get very bitter and the seeds can be tough once it starts getting overripe. Cucumbers turning yellow on the vine is a classic sign of overripening. The University of Minnesota Extension states the best time to pick cucumbers is at the first sign of ripening, rather than when they become large or bitter.
Frequent harvesting of cucumbers encourages more production and prevents overripe cucumbers. Cut ripe cucumbers from the vine using sharp scissors or a knife and leave a short stem. Be careful not to disturb the vine as roots develop along the length.
Frequently Asked Questions about Cucumber Plant Stages
I hope this post has given you a better understanding of the stages of growing cucumbers. I love watching each stage of cucumber development- they’re all so unique and easy to identify once you know what to look for. And knowledge is power- recognizing each stage can help you make the best decisions with planting, fertilizing, watering, and harvesting for the most productive harvest.
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any more questions about cucumber plant stages? Are there any care tips you’ve discovered that are especially helpful at specific stages? There’s no better way to learn than from one another’s thoughts and experiences, so please feel free to share in the comments!