Not only do pumpkins look good propped up on your front porch, they’re also good for you, since they’re loaded with vitamins A, C and E, beta carotene and fiber—at only 49 calories per cup to boot. Plus, they work in so many different seasonal dishes. So really, you have no excuse not to go all in on decorating, cooking and baking with gourds this fall. And if you’re going to go all in, you might as well grow your own—it’s not nearly as difficult as you might think. Here’s what you should know before buying seeds, as well as the top types of pumpkins to grow, whether your end goal is whipping up a killer pie, carving an unforgettable jack-o’-lantern, tricking out your stoop or, well, all of the above.
20 Types of Pumpkins You Can Grow at Home (Because You’re Better Than Faux Decor)
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The main requirement is plenty of space. Some types of pumpkins grow up to 20 feet long, so read the package to make sure you can accommodate them. Newer, more “compact” varieties take up about half that space. Here are the basics:
1. Plant seeds directly in the garden in early to late July, depending on where you live, for a Halloween harvest. Most pumpkins mature in about 90 to 100 days. Read the package and count backwards to ensure they’ll be ready before the first frost (find your average first frost date here through your local university coop extension).
2. Plant three or four seeds per hole in full sun, which is out about 6 or more hours per day. Keep them watered, especially when they’re setting fruit, and weeded so the baby plants aren’t competing for nutrients and water.
3. Most importantly, don’t forget to plant pollinator-friendly flowers nearby! Pumpkins, like other types of squash and melons, require pollinators to produce fruit. Otherwise, your pumpkins won’t form or will turn out misshapen.
Read on for 20 of our favorite types of pumpkins.
The Best Pumpkins for Cooking and Baking
2. Small Sugar
These are on the smaller side, around ten inches in diameter. As the name suggests, these pumpkins boast sweet, fine-grained flesh that’s ideal for roasting or making pies. To make puree, wash the rind, clean out the seeds and strings, then roast at 350°F for about an hour, checking frequently. It’s done when you can poke a fork into the rind easily. Scrape out the cooked pumpkin with a spoon and puree for use in pies and quick breads.
This Italian heirloom has a dark green, warty rind that’s eye-catching in autumn displays. But its sweet flavor makes it delectable in traditional Italian dishes such as gnocchi and ravioli. If you’re lucky enough to find one of these beauties, add it to your shopping cart—or consider growing it yourself next year.
White pumpkins might not be what comes to mind when you're thinking of what to use in the kitchen, but it turns out these ivory-skinned beauties have thick, delicious orange flesh that's great for eating. They'd be a stellar addition to pies or baked goods, but they're just as useful perched on your front porch, whole or carved.
This is the mac daddy of pumpkins. It grows up to 200 pounds with a spread of at least 12 feet, so you’re going to need an extra-large garden to contain it. These pumpkins are grown primarily for show, as they’re seedy and not very tasty. But they’re a fun project if you aim to enter the county fair or harvest festival.
If you had a fairy godmother, she’d turn this deep reddish-orange pumpkin into your coach, no question. This heirloom variety makes a beautiful display, especially with several stacked on top of each other. With its semi-sweet flavor and lovely hue, it’s also a good choice for pie.
These warty pumpkins look awesome in displays, lending character that other pumpkins lack. They’re also sometimes called “peanut pumpkins” because of their appearance. This variety is delicious in pies and soups because the flesh is sweet, not stringy.
For a gourd that's going to wow every trick-or-treater on the block, look no further than the Turk's turban squash. They vary in color, shape and size, but they're most noteworthy for the prominent blossoming end that pokes out on the top. It sort of looks like a pretty, colorful small pumpkin trying to come out of a bigger orange one.
This is the “classic” pumpkin shape that’s just right for carving or painting. It has very smooth orange skin, distinctive grooves, and extra-sturdy stems on seven- to nine-pound fruits that make for perfect “handles” when carving jack-o’-lanterns. It’s also resistant to powdery mildew, which is a common pumpkin disease.
You know this one’s ideal for carving from the name alone. These pumpkins typically weigh around 20 pounds and have a solid rind with an oval or roundish shape. Although not often considered a pie pumpkin, it's edible and can be roasted for use in pies, muffins and soups.
14. Autumn Gold
This hybrid pumpkin is special, namely because of its "precious yellow gene" that turns it golden weeks before other pumpkins (in other words, they skip the green stage). Picturesque ribbing makes these gourds prime for your front steps or backyard, but they're also wonderful to use in pie. Carve one up and save the seeds—toasting your own pepitas is easier than you think.
Luminas and their ghostly appearance can do it all. Their smooth skin makes them prime for carving or painting, but they're also beautiful as part of a fall lawn display. (And they're great for baking, too.) They're a popular variety that averages between 10 and 15 pounds when fully grown.
16. Blue Prince
This gorgeous pumpkin has a slightly flattened shape and lovely pale grey-blue rind with a bright orange interior. Its vines reach about five-ish feet, so it takes up less room in the garden than many other types. They typically come in around seven to nine pounds and are gorgeous to display. Also, the flesh is creamy (not stringy) and sweet for cooking and baking.
17. Baby Boo
Aren't they adorable? They're great for decorating or eating, plus can hold their own against sunlight and frost alike. Technically a type of acorn squash, Baby Boo pumpkins are a vining plant, so be sure to leave space for them to grow on a trellis or fence. Paint them, carve them or stuff them for a pretty fall appetizer.
They're great for carving, thanks to their powdery mildew-resistant qualities, but they're also pretty easy to grow. Charisma pumpkins have shorter vines, slender, tough handles and a gorgeous deep-orange color, making them a durable, pretty addition to your autumn garden.
Consider these the O.G. Halloween pumpkin. It was first grown by Native Americans in the New England area, and is hailed as one of the oldest species of pumpkins. They have round bodies and flat bottoms, which makes them great for carving once they're fully grown. (They're basically foolproof to harvest.)
20. Baby Bear
The smaller the pumpkin, the more you'll be able to grow in your garden. Even better than their compact size is their tolerance to frost and their fine-grained flesh, which tastes great in baked goods. They'll only grow to about two pounds and four inches tall, so feel free to plant as many as you can fit in your yard.