You can grow cucumbers even if you do not have a lot of land. Cucumbers can be grown in containers with a little care.
This guide tells you how to do that.
Types of Cucumbers to Grow in a Pot
Cucumbers can be either pickling cucumbers or slicing cucumbers. Pickling cucumbers have bumpy skin. They produce for two to four weeks and are harvested when small. Slicing cucumbers have smooth, thin, skins. Small slicing cucumbers can be used for pickling as well as slicing. Slicing cucumbers produce for four to twelve weeks.
In addition, while all cucumber plants are vines, they are divided into bush and vining types. Bush types only get two to three long and do well in hanging baskets and pots. Vining cucumbers grow from six to twelve feet and need a trellis or other support to grow well in a container.
Popular Bush Cucumbers:
Here are some good varieties to grow in pots.
Salad Bush – gets two feet long and produces full-size slicing cucumbers. Pick these when they are six to eight inches long. Produces in 57 days.
Patio Snacker – is another bush variety. It produces lots of four-inch slicing cucumbers. Produces in 57 days.
Picklebush – vines get to two feet and have lots of 4.5-inch pickling cucumbers. Produces in 52 days.
Popular Vine Cucumbers:
Here are some good vining cucumbers to grow in pots.
Lemon cucumber – produces round, yellow slicing cucumbers in 62 days. The fruit should be harvested when pale yellow or light green. This variety can be invasive if not planted in a pot.
Diva – is a slicing variety that does not need to be pollinated, so it is good for tunnels or covered porches, or where there are not many bees. Harvest when the fruit is five to seven inches long, which takes 58 days.
Pick a Bushel hybrid – is a semi-bush vine that produces lots of three to six inches long pickling cucumbers. Produces in 50 days.
Different Ways to Grow Cucumbers in Pots
You can grow cucumbers in pots from seed or from transplants.
With transplants, you have to be careful not to disturb the root ball. You can use a hanging basket and let the vine trail over the edges or use a pot on the ground with a vine support.
What To Prep for Success?
You will need some things at hand when you begin to grow cucumbers in pots.
The best pots are ceramic or plastic. They need to be at least 16 inches deep and at least 14 inches in diameter.
Make sure any pot you use contains holes in the bottom so excess water can drain out. You can use a cloth grow bag but be aware that any water in it will drip out constantly.
Planter boxes and winter boxes work well as long as they are deep enough. They also need drainage holes.
You need a potting mix with lots of organic matter in it for cucumbers. If possible, buy one that is designed for vegetables. If you buy a general potting mix, use a mixture of half potting soil and half compost.
You will need a slow-release fertilizer for vegetables like a 5-10-15 to mix into the soil before you plant your seeds. Since the soil nutrients are quickly used up by the cucumber plant, you will need fertilizer for vegetables to add more nutrients. Most fertilizers will need to be added every four weeks. Some liquid fertilizers will need to be used every two weeks. Follow the instructions on the label for amounts and frequency.
Trellised or supported cucumber vines get fewer diseases and have fewer pests. Even a bush-type cucumber benefits from support. Vine-type cucumbers either have to be trained up a support, or they will sprawl over the area around the pot. For a bush cucumber, a large tomato cage makes an excellent support. For a vining cucumber, a trellis, panel of welded wire, or a pea net of string will work. The support needs to be ten feet tall and needs to be strong enough to support a long vine filled with cucumbers. If you use a pea net, use one with four-inch-wide openings, so the fruit doesn’t get stuck in them.
How To Plant Cucumbers in a Pot?
Planting cucumbers in a pot is not hard. In general, you will want one plant per pot up to a 24-inch pot. If you have a long planter or container, you can plant one vine every three feet. It is better to have too much space between the vines than not enough.
You can start your seeds in the pot you intend to grow them in. Fill the pot full of the potting soil and slow-release fertilizer. Plant four seeds one inch deep in the middle of the pot. Water the seeds after you plant them. Put the support in the pot near the seeds.
When the seedlings come up, pinch off all but the strongest plant. Do not pull the plants out, or you will damage the survivor’s roots.
Fill the pot with potting soil and slow-release fertilizer. Dig a hole deep enough to hold the root ball and twice as wide. Remove the plant and roots from the small pot. Set the root ball into the hole. Fill in the hole with more potting soil. Water the plant in well. Put the plant support in the pot beside the plant.
How To Care for Cucumbers in a Pot?
Once you have planted your cucumbers in your pot, here is how to keep them healthy.
Sunlight or Artificial Light
Cucumbers need at least six hours of sunlight a day. They do better with at least eight hours of sunlight. If you are growing your cucumber plants inside, you will need to provide eight hours of bright, indirect sunlight.
You can use a grow light for twelve hours a day if you do not have a place with bright, indirect sunlight. Place the light about four inches above the plant and adjust the light upward as the cucumber plant grows, so it stays four inches above the top of the plant.
Consult my article if you want to know more details about the amount of sunlight or artificial lights for cucumbers.
How much water do cucumbers need? Cucumbers need a lot of water. Cucumbers in pots need more water than cucumbers in the ground because the soil dries out faster.
Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy to prevent overwatered cucumber plant problems. If the soil gets dry, the cucumbers will be bitter.
Do not get the foliage or fruit wet when watering it, or the plant might get diseases. Always water your plants in the morning.
Cucumbers in pots need regular fertilizer. Once the plant is four weeks old, you will need to start using a fertilizer for vegetables. You do not want too much nitrogen, or the plant will grow lots of foliage and have few blooms or fruit. Follow the directions on the fertilizer label. Use the fertilizer with the frequency listed on the label.
Once the cucumber seedlings are growing, place three inches of mulch around the plant and cover the soil. Do not actually touch the plant with the mulch. This will help conserve moisture, keep the temperature stable, and prevent weeds.
There is no need to prune a cucumber plant.
When To Plant Cucumbers in a Pot?
Cucumbers need warm soil and warm air. The seeds will not germinate if the soil is less than 60 degrees F. They germinate better when the soil was between 70-80 degrees F. You can start your seeds inside about four weeks before the soil temperature reaches 70 degrees F. You can then move the pot outside into the sun or transplant your seedlings into a larger pot when it is warm enough.
How Long Do Cucumbers Take to Grow in a Pot?
The exact time it takes to get cucumbers depends on the variety of cucumbers you are growing. Most cucumbers take between 50-65 days from planting to harvest. If you are curious about the number of cucumbers one plant produce, read my article – How many cucumbers per plant you can harvest on average?
How To Harvest Cucumbers In Pots?
To harvest, cut the stem one-quarter inch above the cucumber to harvest. Never pull the vine, as you will damage it. Pickling cucumbers should be harvested when they are three or four inches long. Slicing cucumbers can be harvested when small and pickled. Some slicing bush cucumbers have small cucumbers that are harvested when they are three to four inches long. Other slicing cucumbers have cucumbers that should be harvested when they are six to eight inches long. Do not let cucumbers get big and yellow, as they will be filled with fibers and hard black seeds. Lemon cucumbers should be harvested when light green or light yellow. These cucumbers are not edible when they get dark yellow.
Common Pests and Diseases for Cucumbers in Pots
Cucumbers grown in containers do not have as many pests or diseases as cucumbers grown in the ground. Supporting your vine, so the cucumbers do not touch the ground, and air can circulate around the leaves, reduces diseases even further.
Downy mildew and powdery mildew are problems in container cucumber vines. Powdery mildew is a white powder that covers the leaves of the cucumber and blocks photosynthesis. It can kill the foliage it infects. To prevent powdery mildew, support the cucumber vine, leave plenty of air space around the leaves, and plant resistant varieties. To treat powdery mildew, use a copper fungicide.
Downy mildew symptoms are pale green to yellow spots on the leaves. The spots grow together and become dry and brown. A dark purplish-grey fuzz forms on the underside of the leaf in high humidity. The leaves die. Downy mildew is wind-borne or in soil. To prevent downy mildew, do not get the foliage or fruits wet when watering the vine, trellis, or cage the vine and leave enough space between vines so that there is good air circulation. Copper fungicides will help downy mildew but will not eradicate it. Destroy badly affected vines, so the downy mildew doesn’t spread. Do not compost sick vines.
Cucumber beetles are a big pest problem. These striped or spotted beetles not only eat the leaves, but they also spread bacterial wilt. Because these beetles like to hang out in the flowers when not eating, control must be done carefully to avoid killing the bees that pollinate the flowers. Spray pyrethrum, sold under many names, on the plants, including the flowers, at dusk after the bees have quit foraging. Make sure you spray the underside of the leaves, too. Crush any of the orange eggs you find stuck to the underside of the cucumber leaves.
Squash bugs are also a problem. These are slow-moving bugs that are grey or brown. Squash bugs can be picked off and dropped in a jar of soapy water. If you must spray, pyrethrum or neem oil will kill them. Be careful using neem oil when it is hot. The oil can cause burns to the leaves then, so follow the label directions for temperatures at application.
For anything related to cucumber pests and solutions, read our article.
Bonus: Tips to Grow Cucumbers for Maximum Harvest Based on My Experiences
Here are some tips to increase your cucumber harvest.
- Either buy transplants or start your seeds indoors about three to four weeks before all danger of the last frost passes. This gives your cucumber plants a head start on growing, and they will produce faster.
- If you start your seeds indoors, buy a full spectrum rod-shaped LED light to use as a grow light. It will be cheaper and more efficient than a grow light. Keep the LED light directly above the seeds so they will grow straight and true. The light should be adjusted, so it is always four inches above the top of the seedlings. Using a chain to hold the light means you can adjust the height easily.
- Wait to put your cucumbers outside until all danger of frost has passed and the air temperature is at least 70 degrees F. Cucumbers are semi-tropical, and even a little frost will weaken or kill them.
- In the fall, plant your cucumbers at least 100 days before the average first frost date. This will give your vines time to grow and produce for several weeks before the frost kills them.
- As soon as you transplant your cucumbers, or put them outside, put three inches of mulch in the pot. Don’t let the mulch touch the vine but cover the surface of the soil. Use hardwood chips or straw. Hardwood chips last longer than straw, which will rot during the season. As mentioned above, mulch will help stabilize the soil temperature and soil moisture. It also keeps weeds from growing in your pot.
- Buy premium potting soil. Cheap potting soil breaks down quickly. When that happens, there is not adequate space for air and water around the roots.
- Never use garden soil in a container. It compacts too much and does not leave space for water and air around the roots.
- Buy premium fertilizer for vegetables coated for slow release to add to the potting soil before you plant your cucumbers. Buy premium fertilizer that is fast-release for vegetables to add to your soil once the vine is a month old. Premium fertilizers use better ingredients and do not rely on things like sewage sludge for nitrogen. You want 5-10-15 or something similar.
- Make sure your vine supports can hold the weight of a big cucumber vine covered with cucumbers. A cheap string or a bamboo stake is not strong enough. Even though it is more expensive, use metal that can be sanitized between growing seasons, so your trellis does not become a reservoir of diseases.
- If you live in an apartment, you can attach bean netting with four-inch holes to the balcony above you and let it hang down. Train the cucumber vines to grow up the netting for easy harvesting. The large holes keep cucumbers from getting stuck in the holes. They also allow plenty of air circulation to reduce diseases. Buy a new netting each season since string doesn’t sterilize well.
- Check your cucumber vines weekly for signs of pests or diseases. These things are much easier to deal with when they are just starting than when they start causing major symptoms.
- When your cucumber vines start having cucumbers, harvest them daily. Don’t go more than two days without checking your vines for cucumbers that are ready to harvest. The vines will slow down production if the cucumbers get too ripe before being harvested.
- When making pickles, harvest cucumbers that are the same size so they will cook evenly and taste good.
- If you have hard water, filter it before using it. The minerals will build up a crust on the soil, which can make the cucumber vines sick, make it hard for water to penetrate, and keep air out of the soil.
- If you see a crust on your soil, take purified water and pour it on the soil until the crust washes away. This crust is due to hard water or fertilizing without using enough water to water the fertilizer in.
- Cucumbers have male and female flowers (the ones with the small fruit at the end). Male flowers fall off after fertilizing the female flowers. If your female flowers are falling off, they are not getting pollinated. You can pollinate them by picking a male flower, peeling off the petals, and swiping the ends with pollen into the center of the female flower. Each male flower pollinates about five female flowers this way.
- Extra male flowers can be picked and deep fried, then eaten. There are lots of recipes on the internet. Be sure you leave enough male flowers to pollinate your female flowers.
- If you don’t have many bees or are raising cucumbers in a greenhouse, choose one of the Parthenocarpic cucumbers that have all female flowers and do not require pollination. You will get lots of cucumbers without having to hand-pollinate your cucumber flowers.
- Plant another cucumber plant a month after you plant the first one in early summer to have cucumbers for longer.
- Harvest your cucumbers in the morning before they have gotten hot, and they will last longer in the refrigerator.
- Pick up the dead leaves and flowers that fall off your cucumber plant. They provide a place for pests to hide and increase the chance your cucumber will get diseases if left around the cucumber.
- When the cucumber vine is spent, remove the vine and the other contents of the pot and wash the pot out with bleach water. Rinse the pot and let it dry in the sun for a few days before using it again. At the same time, clean the trellis or tomato cage with bleach water and set it out in the sun to dry for a few days. Doing this will help keep diseases from lurking in the pot, soil, and mulch and infecting next season’s cucumbers.
- It may be tempting to grow a cucumber vine from seeds you save from a store-bought cucumber. The store-bought cucumber is almost certainly a hybrid and so will not produce a cucumber like the parent. In addition, store-bought cucumbers rarely have mature seeds, so the seeds may not germinate. Buy your seeds or transplants from a reputable place that certifies them as disease-free.
- If you start seeds indoors, be sure to harden them off before planting them outdoors. The seedlings need to get used to the sunlight, temperature, and wind outside, or they will go into transplant shock and die. It takes about a week to harden off seedlings. On the first day, place them in the shade for two hours, then bring them back inside. The next day, the seedlings stay in the shade for four hours. On the third day, place the seedlings in the sun for two hours, then place them in the shade overnight. The next day, place the seedlings in the sun for four hours, then back in the shade. Finally, place the seedlings where they will stay in the future.
- Harvest damaged cucumbers as soon as you notice them, so your vine doesn’t waste resources growing an inedible cucumber. Harvest overripe cucumbers as soon as you notice them for the same reason.
- When watering your cucumbers, add water until water runs out of the drainage holes. If you are using a saucer under the pot, wait 15 minutes and empty the water out of the saucer. Leaving the water in the saucer long-term encourages root rot.
- It is easy to overestimate the amount of sunlight an area gets. The best way to tell how much sun an area gets is to check at about 8 a.m. and write down if there is sun in the area. Check every two hours and write down the results. Do this for two or three days and then add up how many hours of sunlight that area gets.
- Shield your cucumber vines from strong winds. They will catch the vines and shred them. Choose a place where a wall or fence cuts the wind.
In conclusion, you can easily grow cucumbers in pots. The pot should be at least 14 inches in diameter and 16 inches deep. Cucumbers have deep roots. Use a potting soil made for vegetables. Be sure and use a tomato cage to support bush-type cucumbers and a trellis or other large support to support vining cucumbers.