bitter gourd won't grow??

purplelotusApril 8, 2007


I had a seed finally sprout first two leaves looked nice, and now they are all dead and the tiny leaf that was coming seemed to be almost dead. this has happened twice so far. Do you have a bitter gourd that you grew successfully? any advice? thanks

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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Purplelotus, were you planting the seed indoors (in pots) or outdoors? I have grown Bitter Melon successfully here in Wisconsin, but I need to start the seedlings as transplants.

The seed is very hard, and gently nicking the side (with a file or sharp knife) and soaking overnight will improve germination. They need warm soil temperatures to germinate, around 80 degrees F. if possible, at cooler temps germination could take several weeks.

I would need more info, but the problem you describe sounds like "damping off", which is a fungus disease that kills the young seedling. If used for starting seeds, potting soil frequently has this problem. Planting the seed in a sterile starting mix might prevent this.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 12:24PM
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Purplelotus, our bitter melon seed was soaked overnight and planted out in small pots in the greenhouse about 4 days ago. The seeds are already breaking out of the soil.

These things like warm temperatures - just as Zeedman says. If damping off is the problem, water-logged soil may be a cause. Cooler soil temperatures allow the fungus more time to develop. After the soil is thoroughly moistened prior to planting the seed, it shouldnÂt require more water if the seed can pop open in just a few days. A few days after that, the pots can be placed in water so as to pull it in thru the bottom holes.

IÂve always been a little apprehensive about starting cucurbits indoors because of their susceptibility to damping-off. But, a short season requires it with some things.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 8:16PM
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I agree with you guys. It looks like damp-off which is soil born. I start my seed indoor using seed start mix and the seedling grows very well. It is slow to germinate, but once it break the soil, it grows continuously. Bitter melon has very few pests, as long as you water it and give enough fertilizer(organic perfered)and have bees around, it will flower and set fruit all summer.
I suggest you change to sterilized germination soil and sterilized the whole area with bleach. Do not use the same pot. Warm temp. will help the plant grow faster and less susceptable to the damp off. using copper based fungicide might help.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 4:51PM
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hi guys
I was growing it in a pot indoors near the vent for warmth. the soil was new bag of miracle gro potting soil. out of 8 seeds one germinated and now is dead. I haven't seen the seeds in store here to buy more. it was sunny and I put it outside for sometime, it was warm too that day. after that the leaves dried and now ..I am waiting for otheres to germinate. thanks for your inputs though

    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 12:54AM
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Purplelotus, could the plant have been damaged by sunburn?

Altho' the bitter gourd was started in a warm greenhouse because we've had a good number of sunny days, nearly all or our seeds are started earlier and on top the refrigerator. It is always warm up there.

I use clear plastic cookie boxes (like you get from the supermarket with oatmeal raisin cookies ;o). As soon as the plants begin emerging from the soil, they go to a south window here in the house. After a few days, they go out into the greenhouse.

That first day in a sunny window, I often just open the lid on the box so that the plants aren't cooked. But also, I can turn the box so that the sunlight passes both thru the window and the plastic before reaching the plant. It cuts down quite a little on the light.

I've just moved a big, healthy lemon verbena out of the greenhouse because it has a few aphids and I need to spray it with insecticidal soap. It's a sunny morning and the soap works best if it can dry quickly - it's dehydration that kills the aphids. But, since it is a chilly morning, I'm delaying wetting down the plant . . . so, now I'd better NOT forget that plant and leave it all day sitting in the sun. The only light it has received this Winter has been thru the greenhouse plastic. A day in full sun will damage it.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 1:02PM
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another one just germinated today. I am not going to put it out in sun til it is atleast a foot long. keeping m fingers crossed :-)

    Bookmark   April 13, 2007 at 1:58AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Actually, if you have a place to do so, you should get it into the sun as soon as possible after germination. Cucurbits (including bitter melon) do poorly under low-intensity artificial light, or in partial shade. The longer that the seedling is allowed to grow in reduced light, the more time will be required to harden it off, and the greater the chance of sunscald once planted.

Purplelotus, since you have confirmed that the seeds were planted in potting soil, this increases the odds of your dead seedlings being caused by damping-off disease. As recommended by Digit, you should take great care to avoid over-watering.

Bitter melon seeds have fairly long germination times as a rule, and tend to germinate erratically, especially in cooler soil. But if they have not germinated in three weeks, I would _carefully_ dig up any remaining seeds (stop immediately if you find a root). If the seed appears to be in good condition, you may still be able to nick the seed coat and give it one more try.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2007 at 4:28PM
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so this one had 6 leaves, so I thought now it is time to move it out. put some shade too. nope, just got burnt in one day. I was so happy counting each leaf as it came, but in the end...:((

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 1:35AM
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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

This has nothing to do with your question just thought I would add a funny to this thread. I mentioned on another board that I was interested in growing bitter melon and asked if anyone knew it or grew it....A friend said...something to the effect....Bitter Melon tastes like cat pee smells....

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 8:17AM
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Fortunately this is not true for the hundreds of thousands of people who utilize this food crop as part of their staple diet. I've met people who've said the same about a tunafish sandwich. It's difficult for people who were raised with limited exposure to different foods to be open to trying new things which are not new to those cultures where it is normal.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 8:19PM
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Growing up in India, we used to eat bitter melon at least twice a week. And for what it's worth, I don't think it ever came even remotely close to smelling like cat pee. But of course that is just my opinion and I could be biased :-)

Here in California I grow bitter melon every year and love to brush up against the leaves, it brings fond memories of growing up with so many wonderful vegetables and the tantalizing aromas when they are being cooked. Where I grew up, people sort of lived outdoors for the most part, because the weather is so good. The doors and windows were always kept open during the day and you could smell what the neighbors are cooking.

Sorry about going on and on .... just could not resist.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 1:09PM
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ruthieg-tx, Bitter melon is in the diet of Millions of people in Asia and it is entering in the diet of western countries.These Millions do not have any problem with taste or smell of Bitter Melon.

You wrote Bitter Melon tastes like cat pea smells----
Does cat pea taste like Bitter Melon smells--?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 3:06AM
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Ripe bitter melon seeds have Polysaccharide coat and at the same time there is some uneven space between seed and hard outer coat which will trap the water.Polysaccharide allows the water gradually to enter into seed for germination.At lower temp. below 70 to 80 degree F this extra trpped water will enter into seed and rot the seed instead of starting germination.I have observed this with many seeds which failed to germinate.This is one of the reasons in my understanding for poor germination of seeds.
I sow seeds in the garden soil in the begining of Month of June for good germination.Temp. in June is good enough for germination.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 3:33AM
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I've always started bitter melon and winter melon seeds with damp paper towels. Just keep it damp and fold it over the seeds. Works every time. Never had a problem with germination.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 8:45PM
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This year I soaked the bitter melon seeds overnight. Then sowed them in styrofoam cups filled with potting soil+seed starting mix. I placed the styrofoam cups on a heating pad set on low. Covered the styrofoam cups with plastic that I would take out for a few hours so there is no excess condensation or damping off.

All seeds sprouted within a week. This is my second year doing this successfully. I did the same thing with eggplant, chili and bottle gourd seeds. The only diff is I did not soak them first. They also sprouted within a week for me.

bottle gourd: (long variety)

bottle gourd: (round variety)

bottle gourd: female flowers - round variety

My little girl posing with the veggies :-)

Thin long eggplant:

mix of veggies I harvested couple of days ago


    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 12:52AM
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This was my solution for providing sufficient heat to allow bitter melon to grow (& Malabar spinach, luffa & snake gourd, for that matter). In another month, the bitter melon especially will have turned this into a "vine-enclosed" tunnel.

The plastic was kept on the tunnel until the temperatures really warmed up the first few days of June (of course, ventilation was provided earlier). The mustard plant kept for seed is, well, a bit seedy. The small plants (besides a few weeds) are mostly more Asian mustard. The plants in the right foreground are basil.

This is the most protected part of my growing areas - fences and buildings enclose it but there is a southern exposure. (And, if you think that the neighbor's yard is cluttered, you should be on her side looking my way. ;o)


    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 9:18PM
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Hi Saila,
thanks for sharing the photos. Wow, those look awesome. where did you get the seeds for bitter melon and bottle gourd? I have been searching for these and curry leaf seeds, haven't found anywhere.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 12:03AM
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Please read the FAQ for this forum. It will tell you where to look for sources.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 12:39AM
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Hi Purplelotus,

Glad you enjoyed the photos. I got the seeds from evergreen, seeds of India, and some from Kitazawa.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 1:48AM
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Bitter gourd needs lot of water and sunlight. try watering it three times a day. If the seeds are old they will not grow. Also try planting fresh seeds which have to be dried out at least for a day in the sun.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 5:20AM
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Do you have bitter gourd seeds?
Do you have any other Asian/Indian veg seeds, we can exchange.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 3:38PM
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Bitter gourd seeds can be bought from Seeds of India.
Ask for RAVI. He has quite a mix of asian/indian vegetable seeds for sale at reasonable prices.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 9:39AM
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Hi, i have hybrid seeds of all kinds of vegetables , if you need please tell me.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 4:27AM
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lokidog(Z5 UT)

Harden Off! You are not properly hardening the seedlings off. You can not just put a seedling out in the sun after it was grown inside, no matter how bright you think it is where you were growing it. The sunlight is MUCH brighter and is composed of ultraviolet light (invisible to us) that will harm plants that are not adapted to this. So you must harden them off - slowly expose them to more and more direct sunlight each day for several days. I've had no problems growing these this way. It does not sound like damping off (you can look for tell-tale rings around the stem - that look dead before the leaves start to die - google image this). Sterilize the pots too if you have damping off (at leas 5 minute soak in a weak bleach solution). Also, too much fertilizer can do this too - not sure what you are using if anything. Lastly, I've had 'bad' bags of soil. Try new seed-starting soil, another brand.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 5:24PM
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I am growing bitter gourd this year in Southern CA both in ground and in a container.

Quick question: The container I am using is a 15 gallon fabric pot. Would it best for me to grow only one plant per container or two per container?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 1:22AM
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I have grown bitter melon in ground and 5 gallon container but not in fabric pot.The yield on 5 gals. is a lot less than in the ground so I stop doing it on 5 gals.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 7:49PM
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