S EXTENSION VEGETABLE CROPS AUGUST 1966
,/ ,,MIMEO REPORT 66- JUL 1 1 1972
Prepared by I.F.A.S. Univ. of Florida
James M. Stephens
Assistant Vegetable Crops Specialist
Florida Agricultural Extension Service
Ornamental gourds are the gaily-colored, oddly-shaped, squash-like
fruits of plants belonging to several genera and species of the Cucur-
bitaceae family. They are closely related to the edible squashes and
pumpkins, but belong to a different group of genera and species such as
Lagenaria siceraria, Luffa cylindrica, Benincasa hispida, and others.
It is usually the fruit that is considered ornamental rather than
the growing plant. These fruit are generally most useful and attractive
as ornaments when the pulp dries and the shell becomes hard. There are
many, many shapes and colors of these fancy gourds--some are warty, some
are smooth, some long, some round, some striped, and some banded. For the
most part, they are not considered edible; however, some are edible if
eaten at an immature stage, such as the luffa gourd sometimes called
running okra. Furthermore, a few of the edible squashes are quite orna-
mental when mature. Two such examples are the yellow crookneck squash
and the turban (Turk's-cap) squash.
Most all of the fancy gourds have long, climbing, creeping stems.
They can be grown on trellises, arbours, or fences, thus making rather
attractive display plantings.
While the number of varieties is almost unlimited, with new kinds
being constantly raised from seed, the following kinds are probably more
Turks Cap--This 5-10 pound edible turban squash has a round orange
bottom with top one third a protruding cream colored "acorn" or "navel."
Rind is relatively soft and fairly smooth.
Club gourds--are shaped somewhat like a bowling pin.
Luffa gourds--Also called running okra and dish-rag gourd. Pods
have sharp ribs running lengthwise; from 1 to 3 feet long; best eating
quality when 1 to 2 inches diameter; when mature, pulp dries to con-
sistency of rag.
Siphon gourds--have a large, 8 to 12 inches broad base and a long
neck which curves back alongside the base toward the ground. These should
be grown on the ground rather than trellises to prevent breaking the neck.
Calabash pipe gourd--are shaped much like a summer crook-neck squash,
but are smooth skinned. They are often painted and made up into penguin
Bird house gourds--these jug-shaped gourds are often made into bird
Pear gourds--Most of this kind are pear-shaped, but differ in color
and markings..- Some are white and smooth; some have dark and light green
stripes; some have two colors, one half of which is yellow and the other
green; some with two colors have bands; others may be found-with these
different variegations in various combinations.
Apple and orange gourds--These are round with slightly flat ends,
smooth textured, and either white or orange colored.
Flat fancy gourds--These pumpkin..shaped gourds are small, only 2-3
inches diameter, and are striped or marbled with various shades of green.
-Warty-skinned fancy gourds--Small round gourds with warty surfaces
colored white, green, yellow, or orange.
Bottle gourds--Typical shape is a combination of a broad round base,
a bottle-neck, then a smaller round neck. There are many sizes, some
holding as much as two gallons.
Where greon--Since they are so closely related to squashes and pumpkins,
ornamental gourds may be grown throughout Florida with some degree of success.
Planting time--In North and Central Florida, plant as soon as the
danger of killing frost is past; in South Florida, they may be planted
September through March.
Seeding--If a trellis is to be used, hills (1 to 2 seed each) may be
spaced every 12 to 24 inches at base of trellis. If planted in open garden,
allow 4 feet between vines in the row and 4 feet between rows. Plant seed
1 to 2 inches deep. Gourds do best if grown on a trellis.
Fertilization--In addition to organic or animal manures used, apply at
planting time about two pounds of 6-8-8 fertilizer per 100 square feet of
area planted. You may broadcast this amount over the entire area and work
well into the soil; or, you may distribute it around each hill in a ring
about 4 inches out from the plants.
Diseases--It is probable that the diseases downy mildew and powdery
mildew will be encountered while growing these plants; in fact, these two
diseases may even determine the successfulness of growing these gourds in
Florida. To control downy mildew (yellowish brown spots on leaves), dust
or spray with maneb or zineb. To control powdery mildew (infected areas on
leaves show whitish, powdery substance on surface), spray or dust with
Insects--At some time or other various insects might attack the leaves,
blossoms, and fruit. Lindane or Malathion (dust or spray) should be used,
preferably on a preventive basis. Since bees are needed for pollination,
apply these insecticides late in afternoon to avoid bee injury.
Harvesting and Curing--Unlike edible squash which are picked in an
immature stage, gourds should be allowed to mature and dry on the vine if
possible. Use sharp shears to harvest the gourds; never twist them from
the plant. Cut specimens with a few inches of fruit stem attached.
Once harvested, the fruits may be washed in mild, warm soapy water
then rinsed and dried. Lay gourds out to dry in a warm, sunny, well-
Uses of gourds--As ornaments, the gourds may be used with natural
colors and shape unchanged; or, they may be sanded and painted in
imaginative colors and designs. Odd shapes of gourds often inspire
certain modifications making them into figurines (for example the calabash
gourd is often called penguin gourd since it is easily made into a penguin
figurine). In addition to ornamental value, many practical uses are made
of them,--such as: hanging baskets, vases, fruit bowls, dippers, smoking
pipes, bird houses, and toys.
Preparing gourds for decorations--Shells should be dry and rough spots
sandpapered. During curing, the thin film-like outer skin may be scraped
off. Sometimes during curing, mold growths form on the shell in attractive
patterns and may be left on.
Preparing dish-rag from luffa--Peel the brown skin from the fibrous
interior. It will separate quite readily if the fibrous interior is still
moist. After peeling, remove the seeds by shaking, then wash the "sponge"
in warm, soapy water. If the fibers are to be whitened, place the sponge
in solution of bleach, rinse and dry in sun. It can be used as is or
moistened and dried again between papers with weights on top.
Seed sources--Some local seed garden supply stores may sell gourd
seed; the Florida State Department of Agriculture's "Florida Market
Bulletin" often has ads from in-state gourd growers offering seed for
sale; seed company catalogs (Kilgore, Burgess, Burpee, and others) list
ornamental gourd seed for sale, usually as a mixture of various kinds in
The listing of trade and store names here does not imply their
recommendation to the exclusion of others of similar characteristics.