How to Grow Pattypan Squash

Patty pan squash plant on stem with yellow flower in front

The Spruce / Heidi Kolsky

Pattypan squash has a scalloped flying saucer shape that makes the vegetable a bit of a novelty and a little difficult to slice. While the vines and leaves look much like any other squash plant, the fruits of pattypan squash look like flattened balls with scalloped edges. They can be almost white, green, yellow, or some combination of those colors. The leaves are lobed and somewhat abrasive, which is typical of squash plants.

Like any summer squash, pattypans are normally planted in the spring with a possible second summer planting. The plant sprouts quickly and vines grow fast; Germination-to-harvest takes 45 to 70 days for the first fruit to be ready, depending on the variety.

Common Name Pattypan squash, scallop squash
Botanical Name Cucurbita pepo var. clypeata
Family Cucurbitaceae
Plant Type Annual vegetable
Size 2 to 3 ft.; 3- to 5-ft. spread
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Rich, well-drained loam
Soil pH Slightly acidic (6.1 to 6.5)
Bloom Time Summer
Hardiness Zones 2-11 (USDA, annual in all zones)
Native Area Mexico

How to Plant Pattypan Squash

When to Plant

Plant pattypans when the soil has warmed up to at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit. It is best to direct seed the squash in the garden. Early plants can become exhausted due to heavy fruit sets, so a second planting in mid-summer will keep your garden producing into fall.

Selecting a Planting Site

Squash is often planted in hills or clusters. Choose a site with full sun and rich, well-draining soil.

Spacing, Depth, and Support

Space the hills 2 to 3 feet apart, place two to three seeds per hill, and plant them about 1 inch deep. Each hill can be thinned to one or two plants once the seedlings are 2 to 3 inches tall.

If planting in rows, space plants around 10 inches apart, with 3 feet between rows. Give your plants plenty of room to roam. Although pattypan vines are not as long as some squash vines, they can still spread up to 6 feet. They are fairly sturdy and won't need support.

Pattypan Squash Plant Care

Patty pan yellow-green squash plant on stems closeup

The Spruce / Heidi Kolsky

Patty pan squash plant with large leaves in garden

The Spruce / Heidi Kolsky

Patty pan squash plant with large leaves on thick stems

The Spruce / Heidi Kolsky

Light

Summer squash grows best and sets the most fruit in full sun, but they can handle part shade locations.

Soil

Pattypan squash does best in rich, well-drained soil. Pattypan will grow in most good soils but prefers a soil pH that is slightly acidic, from 6.1 to 6.5.

Water

Keep the vines well watered with 1 inch of water a week (including rain), especially when producing blooms and squash. If they experience too much drought, pattypans will drop their flowers and fruits. Mulching helps keep the shallow root system cool and moist. Straw is great to use as a mulch to keep the fruits dry and clean, but any mulch will do.

Temperature and Humidity

Summer squash grows best at temperatures from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Even more important is that soil temperature has reached at least 65 degrees before planting. Summer squash, including pattypans, may slow down their production in the hottest days of summer, resuming vigorous production in early fall.

Fertilizer

Side dress with compost or with a balanced 10-10-10 granular fertilizer every four weeks while the plants are producing flowering and fruiting.

Pollination

Squash plants have both male and female blossoms and they both need to be present for pollination to occur. Having multiple plants will increase the chance of pollination. Male blooms carry the pollen which needs to make its way to the female blooms.

Types of Pattypan Squash

Pattypan squash, also known as scallop squash, is a lesser-known cultivar of the summer squash (Cucurbita pepo), the species that also includes zucchini and crook-neck squash. If you think you'd like to add some pattypan plants to your garden, you can start by checking out the following varieties:

  • ‘Pattypan/scallop’ is the name given to the pure species variation; it is a very dependable choice. The fruit is usually pale green.
  • ‘Flying saucer’ has fruit with green centers with a ring of yellow. The fruits are dense with a nutty flavor.
  • ‘Pattison panache’ is a pale green French heirloom. It is best picked young.
  • ‘Sunburst’ is a former All America Selection. Fruits are bright yellow and very tender, especially when picked early. Seedling to harvest requires 52 days.
  •  'Peter Pan' has a meaty fruit that is light green. It takes 50 days to grow and harvest.
  • 'Scallopini' has dark green speckled skin similar to a zucchini, with a sweet, nutty flavor. It requires 52 days to grow and harvest. 
  • 'Sunny Delight' has butter-yellow fruit that is especially flavorful. This hybrid requires 45 frost-free days to mature.

Pattypan Squash vs. Zucchini

These cousin vegetables are in the same Cucurbitaceae family, and they look nothing alike, nonetheless, the two seem to be interchangeable in terms of inner flesh texture and use in recipes. Many farmer market vendors assure buyers they can substitute pattypan squash for zucchini and vice versa, but that's not always the case. Pattypan squash's skin is sometimes inedible while zucchini can always be eaten, skin and all. But, if you harvest young pattypans, you can indeed treat them in the kitchen just like zucchini, because the skin is thin, tender, and easy to slice through.

Harvesting Pattypan Squash

Check the days to maturity for the variety of pattypans you are growing, but most types are ready to harvest in 45 to 70 days. The fruits can start to be picked when they are about 2 inches in diameter and they will remain tender until they reach a 4-inch diameter. Each squash weighs less than 1 pound. Check your summer squash daily, as they can reach harvest size within four days of flowering. It's advisable to wear gloves when harvesting if your hands are sensitive.

Keep pattypan squash dry, unwashed, and stored up to three or four days in an open plastic or paper bag in your crisper drawer at about 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Kids are sometimes more tempted to try pattypans, because of their fun shape. However, the odd shape of pattypan squash can confound cooks. You can avoid the whole problem of how to slice this type of squash by cooking it whole. Whole squash can be steamed over boiling water until tender, which takes about four to six minutes, depending on size.

You can also roast pattypans, although they cook more evenly if you slice them in half first. Place the pieces on a baking sheet and roast on the top rack for about 10 to 15 minutes at 420 degrees Fahrenheit until tender. You can coat with olive oil or butter and season to taste beforehand if you choose.

If you want to be brave and slice your pattypans, feel free to slice them any way you like. You can slice through the diameter, dice them into chunks or simply scoop out the cooked flesh. There’s no right or wrong way to slice this vegetable. Pattypan squash also makes great little edible serving bowls. Scoop out the centers, either before or after cooking, and fill with a stuffing of your choice.

How to Grow Pattypan Squash in Pots

Pattypan squash is fairly compact when it grows, and even more so if placed in a pot, which is perfect if you have limited space but want to plant summer squash.

  1. Choose a somewhat roomy container of any material and with a drainage hole, or even a large grow bag, that is 10 to 12 inches wide and 10 inches deep to give the plant room to grow male and female blooms.
  2. Fill the pot with compost, potting soil, a handful of sand, and some perlite to create a light and well-draining mix.
  3. Place one or two germinated seeds about 1/2 inch into the soil and lightly cover, then lightly mulch the top. Add 1 inch of water and place the pot in a sunny or partly sunny location. (If one of the seedlings looks like it's failing to thrive, you can cut it down to give the other seedling more energy.)
  4. Water the container 1 inch a week (including rain). Make sure when the plants begin to flower they are not experiencing any drought or dry conditions. Once every week or two use a balanced fertilizer and in eight weeks, you can likely harvest your first squash.

How to Grow Pattypan Squash From Seed

Pattypan squash is grown by starting seeds indoors four to six weeks before your transplant date, but direct-seeded plants will quickly catch up. To germinate seeds, you can soak seeds in water for 24 hours before planting. Or you can use the following method and then plant them in the ground or containers:

  1. Place four pieces of paper towels on top of each on a flat surface.
  2. Sprinkle the layers of paper towels with water until they are moist, but not sopping wet.
  3. Spread seeds on the top layer of the paper towel so they are 1/4 inch apart. Only cover half of the paper towel with seeds.
  4. Fold the paper towels in half so that moisture is touching both sides of the seeds. Press lightly to ensure contact.
  5. Gently slide the paper towel into a plastic bag that can be zipped closed. Closing it traps the moisture.
  6. Place the bag in a dark, warm spot that is consistently between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Check seeds daily for germination. As soon as you see a sprout, it's time to plant in the ground or a pot.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Like other squash, pattypans can be subject to some common pest and disease problems:

  • Cucumber beetles feed on seedlings and mature leaves, blossoms, and fruits. They can also spread bacterial wilt and mosaic virus. They will overwinter nearby and can produce several generations per season. Rotate crops to prevent major infestations.
  • Squash bugs are small gray or brown insects that feed on leaves, causing them to wilt. Although they prefer winter squash, squash bugs will also kill young summer squash vines. Neem oil is a good organic treatment; Diatomaceous earth sprinkled over the soil also keeps them away.
  • Squash vine borer larvae bore into the base of the stem and feed there until mature, cutting off the vine circulation. There is no cure once the plant is affected, but squash vine borer can be prevented by spraying plants with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), a natural bacteria.
  • Powdery mildew can affect the leaves of the plants during humid summers. It won't kill the plants, but it will weaken them and diminish fruiting. You can use either the baking soda spray or milk remedy to get rid of it.
FAQ
  • Is pattypan squash easy to grow?

    Yes! Summer squash, such as pattypan, basically grows itself, but only if they successfully pollinate. You can help pollination happen by transferring pollen from male flowers to female flowers. You can tell them apart because male flowers grow on longer, thinner green stems off to the side of the female blooms which grow on thicker stems located more in the middle of the plant.

  • Can you grow pattypan squash indoors?

    Although most summer squash grows long vines, pattypan squash is a smaller, bush-type plant that doesn't need as much space to grow. Pattypan is one of the only summer squashes that can grow indoors in a pot as long as you have space for a large container and a spot with sun.

  • What are the best companion plants to grow with pattypan squash?

    Good neighbors for pattypan squash include cucumbers, radishes, peas, beans, pumpkins, corn, marigolds, and nasturtium flowers. The flowers help to repel garden pests.