Pumpkin plant doesn't bear fruit

Erin24August 17, 2005

I've had this problem the past couple years. I moved the seeds to a very sunny location this year, thinking that may have been the problem in the past. I get vines and lots of big blossoms, but they never bear any fruit -- any ideas? TIA

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Don't you need to pinch off some of the blossoms earlier in the year?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 11:58AM
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I never heard of that before -- anyone else?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 6:02PM
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Rosa(4ish CO Rockie)

No me either but it makes sense as most of this family produces a flush of male blooms before producing any female blossoms.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 6:31AM
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It's been tens of years and millions of brain cells since I've had pumpkins, so definately get a second opinion on this one...

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 10:00AM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

I've never pinched off any flowers and usually get loads of fuit.
This year has been a funny year though - both my neighbor and I have noticed that the female flowers on our pumpkins, cukes, winter squash and gourds are unusually late this year. On the other hand, my yellow summer squash is going crazy with squash. Some of my other fuit was quite late this year - gooseberries were about three weeks later than usual.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 11:19AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

I've been watching this thread, and I still hope maybe somebody will have an answer! I'm having this problem with a pumpkin and 4 kinds of summer squash. They all have LOTS of flowers, and there are bees for pollination, and I've actually hand pollinated a few times (and that's not easy with the pumpkin because to do it I need to climb up my compost pile which is where it's growing from last years Halloween pumpkin!), and there are absolutely NO pumpkins developing, or zucchini, or patty pan, or spaghetti, and only a very few of the yellow. My tomatoes completely quit setting fruit when our temps were over 90 every day, but they're doing well again now that it's cooled, but still nothing on the squash or pumpkin! I don't care so much about the pumpkin since it was a volunteer anyway, but I sure was hoping for some good squash! Two of my cuke varieties were pretty late, but they're producing (too) well now!

They've been well watered all summer, so I really wonder if the unusual heat had something to do with it.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 11:29PM
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I was having this problem once and was told to quit fertilizing. Lots of vines, no pumpkins. After I quit fertilizing, the fruit came like mad. Since then I've used the same methods - fertilize early and once the vines are big and healthy, quit and reap the harvest. I get comments from people on my street how they love driving by and seeing the pumpkins. This year we had lots of early cold and the fruit is a good 2 or 3 weeks behind.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2005 at 12:27PM
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I've never grown pumpkins, but would love to try someday. Pardon my ignorance, but do you only hand pollinate if the bees aren't doin' their thang? When do you do this, and how? (Now that I'm curious, I'll be surfing for awhile...)

And Skybird, last year's heat was a doozy for sure. My poor container garden on my west-facing balcony suffered greatly! (Although we did get a few tomatoes and cucumbers.. I'm hopeful for a better year weather-wise this year!) Did you ever get pumpkins you were happy with, by the way?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 3:09PM
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I missed this the first time around, but too much nitrogen can cause a plant to flower but not fruit.

That's not usually a problem in this area, but it can be if you overfertilize.

We got pumpkins last year even though the electric company dug up a section of the lawn and dumped most of it on top of the pumpkin patch.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 9:21PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi lavenderminns,

I never got any pumpkins at all! If overfertilization can mess them up, that could definitely have been the problem with the pumpkin since it was growing right in the middle of a humus pile! It was in my well decomposed compost pile! But I got VERY little squash too, and they were in good old Colorado clay and not fertilized, so I still think the heat may have been what messed them up. The rest of this week is supposed to be near 90 already here in Denver! I sure hope it's not a premonitor of the summer to come! We had enough 90+ days last year to last me for a LONG time! Are you in the metro Denver area?

To hand pollinate you just take a little (cheap) child's watercolor paint brush and go from flower to flower brushing over the center of it. You shouldn't need to if there are enough bees to do the work for you, but even when I have bees I usually go over my tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers every now and then just to ensure as much production as possible. Last year, since I wasn't getting any squash, I started hand pollinating them too---but it didn't help!

Let's all keep our fingers crossed for a more moderate summer this year---
and lots of goodies from the garden,

    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 10:54PM
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Yes, last year's heat was somewhat odd and unwelcome! I don't think I'd mind it as much if we just got more rain. It's so DRY here. I don't think I'll plant any pumpkins anytime soon, not until my husband and I buy a house... When that happens, we'll definitely try pumpkins and squash and all those fun veggies. For now, our little container garden on the balcony is growing pretty well, but I hope today's heat doesn't hinder their progress! (I'm a beginning gardener, this being my second year now that I've propagated seeds, and have been happy to learn with containers. My main issue right now is watering and keeping the plants properly moist.)

As for hand pollinating--all you do it brush the centers of the flowers, eh? Are these flowers from different plants, or from the same plant? (Just to make sure I'm completely clear. :)

Thanks. Minns.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2006 at 11:44AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Minns,

I think you can use the same brush for everything---after all, the bees go all over the place---but since I have a bunch of brushes with different colored plastic handles, I usually use one for tomatoes (red), one for eggplant (purple), and one for cukes (green). But then I use the same brush for ALL the tomatoes, and the same one for ALL the eggplants, etc. All you need to do is move the pollen around to get it "from where it is to where it needs to be." Then I just leave the brushes laying on a shelf in the shed until the next time I use them. I never wash them or anythiing! Do bees take baths?

Does that answer your question? If you're not sure when you do it the first time, just ask.

Have you discovered yet that you can get "patio size" (a/k/a pot size) varieties of tomatoes, and cukes? And in the past I've grown eggplants in very large pots too! As long as your pots have drainage holes in the bottom you shouldn't have to worry too much about overwatering now that we're getting into summer. You'll probably have more trouble keeping them wet enough. When I was growing tomatoes in pots I usually had to water them every day, if not twice a day, once they started getting big. And be sure you don't let them dry out once they start producing fruit. Some flowers will be more sensitive to overwatering, so if something's not doing well, don't just assume they need more water.

Glad to answer questions if it's something I know,

    Bookmark   May 18, 2006 at 12:47PM
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Thanks for your helpful suggestions, Skybird--I love the colored handle idea. (Anything to simplify life even just a tad rocks.) I currently have two Spacemaster cucumbers sprouting, and plan to repot them this weekend. They did great for us last year. (I propagated them differently this year in that I used egg cartons filled with soil-less dirt, misted the dirt, and kept them in a sealed plastic bag. They sprouted within two days...! Big ole healthy leaves... I was nearly dancing I was so surprised.)

We tried a few different tomato plants last year and really didn't care for them as we should have. But this year will be different, I'm determined! I planted 3-4 different kinds of tomatoes last year, including some sort of exotic green zebra variety, which didn't do too much; right now I only have two little yellow pear tomato plants growing, and might look into some container-savvy tomatoes, too. They seem to be loving the sun, which I'm happy about, and I need to get larger containers for them soon.

I'm doing a combo of flowers and veggies this year, but I tend to think I prefer growing veggies. I'm more patient with them as I understand they need to develop whatever the vegetable is--I can see it growing, and enjoy checking in on its growth. With flowers, all I want is for them to BLOOM and find myself restless if they take a long time! lol So I'm learning a good deal about patience through this gardening business. :)

Are there any patio-friendly squash or pumpkin varieties? Minns.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2006 at 4:14PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Minns,

You'll need to wait for the pumpkins and squash until you have an in-the-ground garden---and even then, they take up a lot of room---especially the pumpkins. Many years ago I tried squash in a very large pot--3' in diameter--and it just didn't work.

Since you're new to gardening here's something you may not know yet. When you plant your tomatoes up to a bigger size pot, take off a few of the lower leaves and plant them burying the stem all the way up to the remaining leaves. If you plant them into bigger pots a couple times, plant them deeper each time. Tomatoes will develop roots all along the stem that's buried, making them a stronger, healthier plant. Don't do it with other things. Burying most things too deeply will kill them! When I buy most things I look for nice short, compact plants, but when I buy tomatoes I tend to look for taller ones because there's more stem to bury!

Also, the bigger the pots are that you have them in, the better they'll probably do--and the easier it will be to keep the soil fairly evenly moist. Tomatoes will produce better tomatoes if the moisture is pretty constant. Constantly going from wet to dry to wet soil can cause lots of problems. The "patio" varieties are usually much smaller plants than "regular" tomatoes, and therefore produce less fruit. You can grow any of the regular varieties as long as you have a big enough pot and a cage or trellis tall enough to support it (tie it as it grows).

You could try lettuce and/or spinach in pots, but if it stays this warm it's probably too late for spinach and lettuce may or may not work depending on the heat too. And green or wax beans would be possible in big pots. You wouldn't get a whole lot of beans, but last year was the first time I was able to grow a real veggie garden in many, many years, and I couldn't believe how wonderful it was to eat something I had grown myself---even if there wasn't very much of it! I don't know if it would be possible to grow root crops--carrots, beets, parsnips--in pots or not, but if you have enough big pots you might just try a few. With a trellis of some sort you could also grow peas in pots, but they're a cool season crop too, so if it doesn't cool down they might not fare too well either. The news is on and it sounds like it might cool down next week. I hope so! I'm just not ready for it to be this hot already!

Enjoy your "garden,"

    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 12:19AM
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Hi Skybird,

Wow, no, I didn't know that about tomatoes. VERY cool! I will heed this advice when I move the babies to a larger pot. Thanks for being so helpful. :)


    Bookmark   May 19, 2006 at 11:03AM
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Reading this thread seems to explain why nothing is happening with my pumpkin plants. They decided to grow in my potato bin, which is full of home made compost...including last year's pumpkin seeds...

They totally took over, and as they were flourishing so well, I left them to it. Only now they seem to be doing lots of flowering and nothing else. It looks to me as though the plants are now starting to wilt despite lots of watering too.

It would seem that using home made compost neat is the wrong thing to do - too much nitrogen? Please could someone please send me the recipe for turning my home made compost into something that plants will actually grow in?!

With regards to pumpkin seeds, I read somewhere else that pets love them, so this year the rabbits are in for a treat.....and hoefully I will get some potatoes instead!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 9:51AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Freddie,

You don't need to turn your compost into anything! It should have turned itself into humus! Is it all nice and black and crumbly, without any identifiable pieces of anything left in it anymore? If so, then it's ready to be used! Anytime you plant anything, mix 2 or 3 big handfuls into the hole and soil before you backfill (usually about 1 part compost to 2 parts soil). Homemade compost is some of the best stuff you can use in the garden, and it's far, far, far better than any bagged compost you may buy, or than Canadian peat, which adds organic matter, but no nutrients. If you have a veggie garden, and have lots of compost, this fall after you clear all the plants out of the garden, spread a layer of your compost on top of the soil and then turn it over, mixing it into the soil.

Whoa! I was just about to say that if you do this every year, even in Colorado you will eventually have wonderful, rich soil, and then I looked to see where you were! How on earth did you find your way to the Rocky Mountain Gardening Forum? You should already have some pretty decent soil in the UK! But adding homemade compost to your soil is a GOOD thing to do no matter where you live!

I think your growing season if very similar to ours, and if it is, if you don't have pumpkins starting yet, you're probably not going to get any! Just FYI, if your plants are looking wilted, when you water them, do they perk up or do they keep looking wilted? If they keep looking wilted, then they're slowly dying from too much water. If they need more water, they'll perk up fairly quickly after you water them. With most plants overwatering does far, far more serious damage than underwatering. Since compost piles usually hold a lot of water, that might be why they're looking wilted. Roots need both water and oxygen, and if the soil is kept too wet, there's no oxygen and the roots begin to rot. If you're ever having a problem with something, and not sure what's going on, ere on the side of keeping it too dry until you figure out for sure what the problem is. If most things are too dry, they won't look good and won't grow much, but at least they won't die like they will if kept too wet. And whether plants perk up or not after watering is one of the easiest ways to start figuring out what's going wrong.

Welcome to RMG,

    Bookmark   August 19, 2006 at 1:27AM
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I have a volunteer pumpkin plant and I have never had a garden before, so when it was growing so fast and "beautifully"; gorgeous big leaves and long vines I thought for sure life was good. The flowers came, and I thought I was well on my way to having pumkins for the fall decorating. But now that it is August and almost September and no fruit set I am bewildered. Reading this thread I am quite confused as to what I did wrong. I watered, but didn't leave it muddy, the plant is in a morning sun area, and the leaves never look wilty, and I have had a huge amount of bees and other pollinating insects through the area.

So, what happen to the fruit?

    Bookmark   August 29, 2006 at 9:05PM
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Hi Skybird,

Thanks for the reply - my vine finally did produce some fruit, about six pumpkins. They are tiny, which I expected because of the overcrowding in a barrel.

The plant got covered in powdery mildew, which I tried to treat with some fungicidal spray. I think I was too late taking action, though a couple of vines do still have rich green leaves.

As the vines are dying, a rain storm this week has knocked three of the pumpkins off. Two are still green, one is half green & half orange.

What do I do with these pumpkins that have fallen off?

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 9:18AM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

If there is any orange on the pumpkin, it'll ripen off the vine. And I've had rather green ones ripen off vine too. Keep them somewhere cool that won't freeze.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 10:19PM
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singcharlene(Zone 5)

Hi Freddie3,

This was my first time with pumpkins too. We planted five plants in large tractor tires. My vines also got powdery mildew a while ago.

Out of the 5 plants, I got five pumpkins: one fairly large, one medium, and 3 baby small. A few were slightly green with a bit of orange when I picked a few weeks ago as I thought there might be a frost to kill them. I put them in my garage on the cold floor where it won't freeze but stays dark and cool. They are now almost completely orange so hopefully they'll stay good until Halloween!

Good luck,

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 10:49PM
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This is my first year with pumpkins.
The fact is that my garden has only 4 hours sunlight,in early afternoon.
The pumkins grow very fast but are not setting well. Two plants and I only have one fruit; there was another but rot because this summer has been cool and wet. I do have great tomatoes and cucumbers, but the squash is also not so great.
I think it's due either to the reduced sunlight or the COOL summer.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 3:20PM
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I just wanted to add that I've been having the same issue with my pumpkins, and can't figure out the cause of it either. The plants are vining like mad, even though I've trimmed them back several times. They're in a small yard garden that gets lots of sun. It's been warm here this summer, but nothing over the top. They get regular water, have not been fertilized and have beautiful leaves and blossoms, but just no pumpkins. A few small ones started, but all turned brown and dropped off before they got much bigger than a cherry. In fact, the only one that made it to any notable size was one that launched itself into the hedge along the back side of the garden. It got to almost cantaloupe size before it became too heavy for the hedge to support and met its bitter end. My cukes have been similarly funny - I got a couple of small ones that died on the vine and a couple more that ballooned out in very strange ways, but nothing like what I was expecting. Given that it is end of August already, I"m guessing I'm out of luck for this year, but I'd sure love it if anyone had suggestions for things to do differently next year!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2010 at 1:01AM
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mstywoods(z5, Westminster, CO)

Wow - I guess we have been very lucky with our pumpkins! We started ours on a whim (had a package left at our house by the former owners, and thought it'd be fun to see if they grew) by seed in small peat pots in the garage back in May, and they took off like crazy. We planted them in the ground sometime in mid-late June. They were the first of all our plants to really take off once in the ground as well. As far as I know, my husband hasn't done anything special to care for them. We have a soaker hose for the entire garden, so they get the same amount as all the other plants. He uses some kind of organic fertilizer for all the plants, but not sure if he's used that on the pumpkins since they have been so prolific on their own.

Our garden gets sun for most of the day - about 9am to 5pm. And it gets the heat as well.

Wish I had suggestions/answers as to why ours have been so successful. Maybe it's the wasps/bees we have - I have a bunch of bird houses that I hung on the fence behind the garden, for decoration. Couple of weeks ago, when my husband was putting some nails and strings on the fence for the gourd vines to grab hold of, he discovered that the birds didn't like them, but the wasps sure did - they started to swarm him as they didn't like him being so close to their "nest"!!! Needless to say, we sprayed the houses well with some wasp spray!


    Bookmark   August 16, 2010 at 10:09AM
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This is the second year in a row that my pumpkin plants have plenty of blossoms but no pumpkin develops. Frustrating!

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 5:06PM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

Lynne- Do you have both male and female blossoms? Bee activity? Have you tried hand pollinating?


    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 5:30PM
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Definitely hand pollinate them. Just use a cotton swab or something to transfer the pollen from the male flower to the female flower.

You can also try attracting more pollinators to your plant by adding some flowers in ground or in pots next to it.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 8:23PM
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