Cucumbers are a popular choice for home gardens because they’re relatively easy to grow and result in tasty fruit. However, achieving the perfect fruit requires knowing how to take care of your plant as it evolves through each of the cucumber plant stages.
Keep reading to find everything you need to know about the stages of cucumber plant growth, including what occurs in each phase and tips for caring for your plant.
Types of Cucumbers
Before diving into the cucumber plant stages, it’s important to understand the different types of cucumbers.
Different varieties of cucumbers grow in different ways. Some are vining, and others are bush. Vines spread out horizontally (and vertically, if you use a trellis), while bush varieties are more compact.
Bush cucumber varieties are better suited for small spaces, but they don’t produce as much fruit as vining cucumbers.
Cucumber plants are also usually classified as slicing, pickling, or burpless.
Like they sound, slicing cucumbers are best for slicing and eating fresh, whereas pickling cucumbers are smaller and better for making pickles. Burpless cucumbers contain less cucurbitacin, which is what makes pickles bitter and can cause some people to burp.
When selecting a type of cucumber, make sure to understand its specific needs for growth and care.
Cucumber Plant Stages
Despite the many different varieties of cucumbers, cucumber plant stages are relatively predictable, including sowing, germination, seedling, growth, flowering, fruit, and harvest.
Below, you’ll find information about each stage and growing tips. However, for more details and a step-by-step guide to planting the fruit, visit this post about How to Plant Cucumbers.
1. Sowing the Seeds
Sowing the seeds isn’t a true cucumber plant stage, but it’s an important first step in the process that begins the plant’s life and allows it to germinate.
Cucumber seeds can be planted indoors or outdoors, and which option you choose can depend on your personal preferences, climate, and timing.
These seeds need warm weather, so if you are planting them outdoors, do so after the risk of frost has passed. The temperature of your soil should be at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s much colder than this, your seeds won’t germinate.
Plant your seeds in rows or mounds, or if you’re planting a vining cucumber variety, consider using a support structure. The number of seeds per site and the distance between them will vary depending on how you plant them.
If you’d like to plant your seeds earlier and while the weather is still cooler, you can do so in a pot indoors.
Whichever option you choose, plant your seeds one to one-and-a-half inches deep. Ensure your soil is rich and fertile, in a sunny spot, and can drain well.
For more tips about seed starting, including caring for your plants in the germination and seedling stage, check out this blog about Seed Starting Tips!
Germination is the first true cucumber plant stage. This is when the first stem and roots break through the seed’s outer layer.
Germination depends on the temperature of the soil. If the soil is on the cooler side, below 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it can take up to 10 days (or longer) for seeds to germinate. However, in temperatures above 80 degrees, seeds can germinate more quickly, sometimes in as little as three days.
Because cucumbers prefer warmth, they also do best when planted in locations that get plenty of sunlight.
The next stage of a cucumber plant is the seedling stage. In this stage, your cucumber will start to sprout small, immature leaves.
If you planted your seeds indoors, now is the time to transplant them. To do so, dig a small hole or create a mound where you wish to transplant each seedling. Rows should be about a foot apart, and mounds should be about 18 inches apart.
Separate the seedlings and plant one in each hole. Cover the roots with soil, and water.
For more step-by-step instructions to transplant seedlings, visit this in-depth guide on How to Transplant Seedlings.
4. More Plant Growth
As your cucumber plant continues to grow, it will produce leaves. And if you’re growing a vining cucumber plant, the vine will start to grow, too.
Once your cucumber plant reaches this stage and grows leaves, do your best to water it at its roots, rather than watering from above or soaking the leaves. This precaution will help reduce the chance of mildew and other diseases that can be common among cucumbers.
If you are growing a vining cucumber plant, this is also a good time to tie it to the trellis. Make sure to keep the ties loose, so they don’t cut into the vine.
In the next cucumber plant stage, your plant will start to grow flowers. These flowers are bright yellow, and they may appear at the end of very early fruits.
Most cucumber plants grow both male and female flowers. The male flower appears first, followed by female flowers approximately two weeks later.
Cucumber plants with separate male and female flowers are not self-pollinating, so they require insects (such as bees) or hand pollination to produce fruits. However, a few cucumber varieties do not have separate male and female flowers and may not require pollination.
When your cucumber plant begins to flower, add more fertilizer. Doing so will help give the plant the energy it needs to continue growing and producing fruit.
6. Fruit Growth
During the summer, cumber plants will reach the stage where they produce fruit.
Fruits grow from the female flowers, and as the fruit growth stage of the cucumber plant approaches, male flowers will fall off. The fruit that grows is typically green, long, and oval in shape.
Generally, if you started your cucumber plant from seeds, fruit production occurs 45 to 70 days after planting. However, this time can vary depending on the type of cucumber you’re growing, the climate, and how you care for your plant.
Water is especially important during this cucumber stage. Providing moisture and hydration will make your cucumbers taste less bitter.
The final cucumber plant stage is harvest.
Cucumbers are generally harvested before they are fully mature, when they are dark green and reach the desired size (often six to eight inches, though this can vary depending on the cucumber type).
If your cucumbers start to turn yellow or get too big, they will taste bitter, so it’s best to harvest before they reach this stage.
To harvest your cucumbers, use clippers or a knife to remove the fruit from the vine. Be careful not to twist or pull, as doing so can cause damage to your plant.
Store your fresh cucumbers in the refrigerator, and enjoy!
Tips for Taking Care of Your Cucumber Plant at Each Stage
1. Use a Soil Thermometer
Using a soil thermometer is a great way to get an accurate read on soil temperature. This way, you can ensure that your soil is warm enough to plant your cucumber seeds.
Begin by checking the soil temperature in the morning and afternoon for two to three days. If it’s consistently above 65 degrees Fahrenheit, then it’s a good time to plant your cucumber seeds. If the temperature is not yet reaching 65 degrees consistently, wait until the soil warms a bit more.
2. Consider Soaking Your Seeds
Soaking your cucumber seeds isn’t necessary, but doing so can speed up the germination process.
To soak your seeds, wet a paper towel, and lay your seeds on top. Then, take a second moist paper towel and cover the seeds. Leave them to rest overnight, and then plant the seeds.
3. Give Your Cucumber Plant Plenty of Water
Cucumbers need a lot of water to grow. If cucumber plants get too dry, the fruit will taste more bitter.
Make sure to give your cucumbers an inch of water every week. If you live in a hot or dry climate and the soil does not remain moist throughout the week, you may need to water it even more frequently.
Add mulch to help the soil retain moisture, too.
4. Use a Trellis
A trellis helps save space by allowing your cucumber vines to grow vertically, instead of horizontally.
Additionally, trellises can help keep your cucumbers clean and free of diseases, like mildew.
5. Avoid Insecticides When You See Flowers
When you reach the flowering cucumber plant stage, you should stop using insecticides. Insecticides can kill important pollinators, which may hinder pollination.
Cucumber plants that aren’t sufficiently pollinated may result in decreased fruit production, deformed fruits, and other issues.
Where to Get Cucumber Seeds
If you’re ready to start growing cucumbers, you can find seeds online or in person at your local plant retailers. Below I have included a few varieties and seeds I recommend.
Burpless: Tasty Green Cucumber
Produces eight- to ten-inch-long cucumbers. Its disease resistance means you won’t have to worry about powdery or downy mildew.
Pickling: Boston Pickling Cucumber
An heirloom variety from the 1800s yielding five- to six-inch-long cukes that make for perfectly-sized pickles.
Slicing: Hossinator Slicer Cucumber
A prolific cucumber that can be grown for spring or fall harvests. Cukes average more than eight inches long at picking. Highly disease-resistant plant.
Wrapping Up Cucumber Plant Stages
From sowing the first seeds to harvesting your cucumbers, there are several cucumber plant stages that require specific steps and care. Understanding the stages of a cucumber plant will help give you the perfect refreshing cucumber.
For more information about growing and caring for cucumbers, visit our Cucumber Plants page on the website!