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Ornamental gourd, beautiful but not for eating!

Ornamental gourd

Ornamental gourd are eye-popping “decorative veggies”. Not edible, though.

Key Ornamental gourd facts

NameCucurbita, Lagenaria
FamilyCucurbitaceae (gourds)
Type – ornamental vegetable
Height – 8 to 20 inches (20 to 50 cm)

Exposure: full sun  –  Soil: rich and well drained  –  Harvest: fall

Fruits come in surprising colors and shapes. After drying, they make excellent ornaments for fall and winter.

→ Often confused with true colocynth.

Sowing and planting ornamental gourd

Ornamental gourd is grown just like pumpkin, they both come from the same family.

Planting ornamental gourdGrown as an annual, sowing starts in the month of March in a sheltered spot and is then transplanted in May, or is directly sown in place starting in May.

  • Sow at the foot of a fence, lattice or pergola since it tends to climb. Fruits will wow passersby!

When transplanting the seedlings or sowing the seeds directly, provide for 3 feet (1 meter) growing space on all sides to give each decorative gourd plant enough room.

  • This type of squash loves growing in a well-lit place.
  • It thrives in hot weather and doesn’t tolerate frost.
  • The richer your soil and the better the drainage, the more abundant will your harvest be.
  • Feel free to add fertilizer or decomposed manure upon planting.

Pruning and caring for Ornamental gourd

Ornamental gourd careYou can pinch off stems after the 3rd or 4th leaf to stimulate plant growth.

  • This will give you a better harvest and higher productivity.

To avoid keeping each gourd fruit in close contact with the soil which could lead it to rot, it is better to add a layer of mulch or plastic between the fruit and the ground.

  • The mulch also prohibits the growth of weeds. Weeds greatly slow ornamental gourd growth, so the less, the better!

Harvest, when is ornamental gourd ripe?

Ornamental gourd harvestUnlike pumpkins for which keeping and ripeness are important, the harvest period for colocynths is much less critical.

The only factor that counts is the size and color you are aiming for. The longer they stay on the plant, the larger they grow and the more pronounced colors become.

However, there are three things you ought to know:

  • In any case, harvest all ornamental gourds as soon as leaves dry up.
  • Fruits must be very hard to keep longest.
  • Don’t let the fruits experience frost: this will make them softer.

Keeping ornamental gourd

Typically, ornamental gourd is harvested in fall. It keeps for several months when protected from moisture in a rather cool spot.

  • keeping ornamental gourdIt is important to harvest these bizarre squash before the first heavy frost spells.
  • Best is to store them in a cool, dry and ventilated room.
  • Use the gourds as ornaments, especially around the Christmas season when they can decorate tables. Hang smaller ones on the Christmas tree!
  • Rubbing clean beeswax on the peel will increase both beauty and longevity.

All there is to know about Ornamental gourd

Ornamental gourd and pumpkinsOrnamental gourd, sometimes called colocynth (in France especially), is only grown for its beautiful fruits. Colors range from orange to yellow to cream.

Dried and heaped in a basket, they are perfect to decorate a kitchen without needing to replace fruits as they rot.

You can also surprise your friends and children if you use smaller fruits as a Christmas tree decoration, it is beautiful and quite original! Of course, it’ll work wonders for Halloween, too – even carved!

A single plant will produce fruits that have a similar shape, but may differ greatly in color. If you want different shapes, you must plant different varieties (and even other species).

Usually, ornamental squash isn’t edible in that it doesn’t taste good and requires a lot of effort to prepare. But it’s not toxic or dangerous.

Ornamental gourd basket

Smart tip about ornamental gourd

Don’t let too many fruits develop on a single plant (at most 5 or 6). Having too many fruits might reduce the quality of the entire harvest overall.

Images: CC BY 2.0: Kim & Forest Starr; Pixabay: Agnès, James DeMers, Julita, Wiatraczek NL; shutterstock: nicepix
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