How to Harvest and Dry Ornamental Gourds

Yellow and white gourds in wooden box with burlap next to sunflowers

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 12 - 26 wks
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $20

For thousands of years, people have turned ornamental gourds into tools and utensils. Today, many people use gourds to make various seasonal crafts. Soft-skinned gourds from the genus Cucurbita are typically orange, gold, and green and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They're often used in fall cornucopias, as well as carved into luminaries, flower pots, dishes, and more. Meanwhile, the larger hard-skinned gourds from the Lagenaria genus work well for birdhouses, bottles, and ladles. There is no shortcut to drying gourds for crafts. While the outside of a gourd dries rather quickly, it typically takes several months for the inside to cure.

Growing Ornamental Gourds

Ornamental gourds can be grown in most climates. However, gardeners in cold zones might have to enlist the help of a greenhouse or row covers to protect the plants from fall frosts.

Start ornamental gourds indoors from seed or outdoors as small plants in the early spring after the last frost. Provide well-draining soil that receives full daytime sun. Make sure to give each plant plenty of space, as most gourd varieties grow unruly. (Some vines can reach 15 feet long.) This can make them unsuitable neighbors to other garden plants.

Most gourd varieties produce fruit in approximately 180 days. But you must wait until the vegetable has ripened on the vine before harvesting. A ripe gourd that is colorful and has a hard-to-pierce exterior will yield the best results for drying.

When to Harvest and Dry Ornamental Gourds

Gourds are ready for harvest when the stems dry out and turn brown on the vine. Cut the gourds from the stem before freezing temperatures hit, as the cold can ruin their skin. Even a light frost can alter the color of hard-skinned gourds and affect their ability to dry. Discard any gourds that are bruised or spoiled. They will decay in storage, and the rot might spread to neighboring gourds.


Click Play to Learn How to Dry Ornamental Gourds

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Gardening gloves
  • Garden shears


  • Dish soap
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Screened shelving or twine
  • Ornamental gourds of your choosing


Materials and tools to harvest and dry ornamental gourds

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  1. Harvest the Gourds

    If you're harvesting the gourds (rather than purchasing), cut them from the vine, leaving a few inches of stem intact. Make sure to cut instead of pull, as you might damage the stem. This can allow a fungus to move in and decay the vegetable.

    Yellow and white gourds cut from the vine with gardening shears to be harvested

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Wash and Sanitize

    Wash your gourds in soapy water, and allow them to air dry. Then, wipe the gourds with rubbing alcohol to further ensure that the surface is clean.

    White and yellow gourd being washed in white bucket of soapy water

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Let the Outside Dry

    Place the gourds in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight for about one week. The skin will begin to harden and change color. After a week, the outside of the gourd should be dry.

    Yellow and white gourds placed outside on tabletop to dry in shade

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Cure the Gourds

    Move the gourds to a dry, dark area where they can remain for three to six months. Store them on a screen or vented surface in a single layer, and make sure no gourds are touching. Alternatively, hang each one with twine, allowing for ample airflow under and around the gourd.

    Yellow and white gourds hung by twin in closet to cure in darkness

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  5. Rotate Every Couple of Weeks

    Unless you hang them, you'll have to turn your gourds every couple of weeks. This will allow them to dry evenly, and it should prevent rotting.

    Yellow and white gourds hanging on twine in closet closeup

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  6. Check on the Gourds

    Check your gourds every few days. Discard any that begin to decay, shrivel, or become soft. A gourd is ready for use when it feels light, it becomes hard to the touch, and you can hear seeds rattling inside when you shake it. Then, you can carve, paint, wax, shellac, or decorate it any way you wish.

    White and yellow gourd vine and top closeup

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Tips for Harvesting and Drying Gourds

  • If mold appears in the curing process, wipe it off with a dry cloth or a cloth dipped in bleach. If the gourd is still hard, it should be fine.
  • Some people recommend cutting a hole in hard-skinned gourds to drain the insides and facilitate the curing process. However, this is highly inadvisable, as piercing the protective outer layer invites disease and rot.
  • Once cured, a hard-skinned gourd may be peeled, smoothed, and polished with steel wool or fine sandpaper to make a birdhouse or other craft that will last for a long time.

Turn Gourds Into the Prettiest Autumn Vases